This article was written for Annabel & Grace, which is now part of Rest Less.
Some people really love the beach, which is understandable. But, for others, it isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Some may feel that the swell is a bit too aggressive, and the water too salty for swimming. Of course, the sand is sometimes lovely, warm, and mostly soft – great for digging your feet into! But when the wind picks up, it can be pretty ‘whippy’ and stingy, don’t you think?
Even if only a tiny part of you agrees, it might be worth reading on. Below, explore five of Europe’s most idyllic lakes, where you can spend all day right by or in the water and not come away covered in sand and salt…
1. Lake Lucerne
One of the great pleasures of travelling around Lake Lucerne in Switzerland is that this long, curling lake offers many opportunities to round a headland and be stunned by an incredible view. Expect glaciated mountains to rise suddenly above you and dazzlingly pretty resorts to spring from nowhere.
Simultaneously dramatic and serene, Lake Lucerne bursts with life – and there’s loads to do here. Of course, you’re close to the lovely city of Lucerne, but there are also peaks to climb, a beautiful coastline to tramp, and an ever-changing array of piers and promenades to relax on with a beverage.
Choosing to stay by a lake instead of the beach often means cooler temperatures. Lake Lucerne is sunny and warm during summer, but even in July and August (the hottest months), this area’s maximum daily average is 24°C.
Where to stay in Lake Lucerne
Park Hotel Vitznau
If you want a luxury lakeside experience, why not kick back at the Park Hotel Vitznau?
As well as private lake access, this five-star deluxe hotel has tranquil gardens, a Finnish sauna, and a heated infinity pool with brilliant views of the surrounding snow-capped mountains. There’s also a spa offering full-body and facial treatments. So, if you’re interested in unwinding during your lakeside retreat, there are plenty of opportunities to do so.
For food lovers, the multiple on-site restaurants at Park Hotel Vitznau boast several Michelin stars, and the hotel is home to one of the largest wine cellars in Switzerland. It’s a perfect spot for a gastronomical adventure!
2. Lake Millstätt (aka Millstätter See)
Lake Millstätt is a stunning lake in Carinthia, Austria, with water so clean you can drink it and a charming story behind it.
As the tale goes, in the seventh century, the heathen Duke Domitian vowed to convert to Christianity if God would help him find the body of his son, who’d drowned in the lake. When he found it, the duke threw a thousand statues of pagan gods into the water. It’s said that the name Millstätt comes from the phrase ‘mille statue’ meaning ‘a thousand statues’.
Lake Millstätt is a perfect spot for watersports, and the surrounding terrain is popular among hikers and mountain bikers. However, if you’re simply interested in treating yourself to clear waters, warm sunshine, and good food, you can’t go wrong with Lake Millstätt.
Like Lake Lucerne, you can expect daily maximum temperatures of around 24°C during the hottest summer months.
Where to stay in Lake Millstätt
Romantik SPA Hotel Seefischer
Romantik SPA Hotel Seefischer is right on the shore of Lake Millstätt. It’s a chalet-style hotel retreat with an excellent spa and 40 cosy rooms, all with large private balconies.
The décor is fairly traditional, with neutral colour schemes, parquet floor, and the odd exposed beam. A charming restaurant serves international cuisine to a gourmet standard, and guests can enjoy facilities like a heated indoor and outdoor pool, private beach, and sauna on the lakefront.
3. Lake Constance
While it might not be the most familiar name, Lake Constance is actually the third-largest freshwater lake in Europe.
Because it sits neatly between three alpine beauties – Germany, Austria, and Switzerland – Lake Constance offers holidaymakers plenty of variety. There’s certainly a charm in waking up in Germany, popping over to Switzerland for lunch on your bike, and heading over to Austria for some Sachertorte for pudding.
Plus, because Lake Constance is so big, there are 10 picturesque islands to explore and even some sandy shorelines to kick back on. The largest and most famous island is probably Reichenau, known for its Benedictine abbey, but Lindau and Mainau are charming places to visit too.
Lake Constance is known for its breeze from the Alps, making for excellent windsurfing conditions. It’s also one of the few places in the world where you can ride in a Zeppelin, and in winter, you can head up to the peaks for a spot of skiing.
Lake Constance’s climate is somewhat regulated by its vast body of water, so despite the sunshine, temperatures during summer don’t often get much higher than 25 or 26°C.
Where to stay in Lake Constance
Located in the city of Konstanz, right on the waters of Lake Constance, this former Dominican monastery-turned-hotel is ideal for a luxury lakeside escape. One reason for this is that it combines the joys of a lake on your doorstep with the perks of a small city break – with plenty of restaurants and cultural spots like museums to discover.
As well as being located near Konstanz’s historic old town, the hotel offers a restaurant serving rustic seasonal meals and a splendid lakeside terrace where you can take in the sweeping panorama while sipping refreshments.
4. Lake Annecy
Many lovers of Lake Annecy’s peace and stillness, the surrounding hills and mountains, and the wider region’s rural charm argue that this is one of the most beautiful parts of France.
Certainly, the town of Annecy itself – with its little canals, graceful mansions, and stunning old town – should appear on any list of France’s most charming spots. In a region this beautiful, you’ll want to spend plenty of time outdoors – whether strolling through one of the tranquil lakeside parks or enjoying some al-fresco dining.
As well as its world-famous cuisine (specifically its fish, cheese, and chocolate), Lake Annecy is also known for its clarity (many hail it as the cleanest lake in Europe) and its beauty. The lake’s stunning vistas have drawn lots of artists to its banks over the years – for example, the famous impressionist Paul Cezanne.
As with all our lakeside destinations, summers at Lake Annecy are somewhat cool. In the hottest months (July and August), the maximum temperatures are around 26/27°C.
Where to stay in Lake Annecy
Rivage Hôtel & Spa Annecy
Described as providing “sheer luxury and comfort” and “radiating elegance” by Tripadvisor reviewers, the Rivage Hôtel & Spa Annecy offers quality accommodation with breathtaking lake views.
Situated in Annecy town, guests are perfectly located – whether they’re setting off on an outdoor adventure or heading into town for an authentic dining experience. The interior is sleek and modern, but the hotel offers all the creature comforts you need to feel at home.
And if you’re in the mood for some pampering, the Rivage Hôtel is home to the biggest spa in Annecy, where you can enjoy anything from treatments to tea rooms.
5. Lake Iseo
Italy’s Lake Como and Lake Garda are well-known postcard-perfect destinations. But if you want to avoid the crowds and maybe find a cheaper Italian lake holiday, why not check out Lake Iseo?
Lake Iseo is the smallest of the major Lombardy lakes, but it’s no less lovely. And it’s been favoured by locals, probably because it’s cheaper and less touristy. Its wooded shores have escaped the over-development of some stretches of the larger lakes, so it’s very green, and the three main towns and a sprinkling of smaller ones around its banks feel very Italian.
Ferries cruise all over the shimmering waters, heading to and around Monte Isola, the forested island in its centre. You get the best view of the colourful towns and surrounding mountains by boat, so the ferries are one of the best ways to see the sights. However, there’s also a very pretty shore-side road to explore.
Lake Iseo is my warmest lake recommendation, with maximum averages in July and August of 29°C. But there’s still a nice breeze most afternoons.
Where to stay in Lake Iseo
The Hotel RivaLago is in a peaceful and beautiful lakeside spot. Complete with a private beach and a simple yet elegant pool terrace, its 32 rooms are comfortable, airy, and decorated in an elegant colour palette. For a truly immersive lakeside experience, you can even splash out for a private balcony overlooking the water.
Are you thinking about a lakeside escape? If so, where are you leaning towards? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.