Is it a bird…? Is it a plane…? No, it is the Zeppelin that has seen Friedrichshafen soar to fame ever since the high-minded Count Ferdinand Graf von Zeppelin – a retired, Prussian army officer - launched the first giant cigar-shaped airship here way back in 1900. The town’s museum now whisks you through the history, with impressive numbers including the Graf Zeppelin, which breezed around the world in just 21 days in 1929. Should this float your boat, you can take to the skies yourself on a mini Zeppelin flight.
But there’s more to Friedrichshafen than monster-sized airships. Home to a modest population of 59,000, this nicely chilled town on the shores of Bodensee, or Lake Constance, has a flowery promenade threading along its lakefront, as well as pedal boats, a lido and a beach bar adding to its summery vibe. Cafes and restaurants line up along the main drag, Karlsstrasse, where you can sample the local Felchen (whitefish) and pinot blanc.
Friedrichshafen is perfectly poised year-round for exploring – sidling up to medieval towns, spas, vineyards and orchards along the Lake Constance. The Bodensee Radweg cycling trail does a loop of the lake, taking in all three countries – Germany, Austria and Switzerland – that border it. Or you can just hop on one of the many boats that zip across the water. In winter, the slopes of the German, Swiss and Austrian Alps are just a snowball-throw away.