Europe boasts some of the most stunning lakes and lagoons in the world, and they attract tourists from all over the globe. These lakes are not only great places to visit during the summer months, but they also make ideal spots to spend your winter holidays as well. One of the best aspects of staying at these lakeside hotels is that you can enjoy boating or water sports on the lake, whether you’re swimming, water skiing, or fishing.
1. Lake Balaton
What makes Lake Balaton special is its unique shape: long and slender, it runs from southwest to northeast like a long snake. It’s bordered by a mountain chain to protect it from cold winds, which keeps temperatures warm all year round. Beaches ring almost its entire perimeter and water sports are incredibly popular. Villages hug its shores, giving you plenty of options for dining and shopping (and partying). The largest freshwater lake in Central Europe, almost 200 miles long and 45 miles wide, Balaton has been attracting vacationers since Roman times; today it’s not just popular with Hungarians but also with Western Europeans seeking respite from their busy lives.
2. Lago di Garda
Lago di Garda is a large, beautiful lake that’s nestled between Italy and Switzerland. It’s fairly easy to get to from both countries (though you do have to climb some high mountains). As a plus, it’s relatively close to Venice, so if you want to take a day trip during your vacation, you can visit one of Italy’s most famous cities. Lake Garda has many beaches where you can sunbathe or swim—depending on how hot it is. In addition, there are several quaint towns along its edge where you can explore restaurants and shops or just relax by the lake itself. It’s also home to many outdoor activities—from kayaking and sailing to horseback riding and hiking.
The Wörthersee (in German, [ˈvœɐ̯tɐˌʃeː]) is a lake at Wörth a der Donau, Carinthia, Austria. At an elevation of 372 m above sea level, its surface area is 3.2 km2. It is fed and drained by the Radlbach River, which flows into its eastern end. At its northern tip lies a small town called Villach.
This lake is located in a mountainous part of France, which means it’s not a good idea to head here for watersports; however, there are plenty of activities you can do once you’re out of your kayak or paddleboard. Avoriaz is known for its natural beauty and hiking trails. There are also restaurants along the lakefront that serve local specialties. One tip: The snow-capped mountains on either side of Lac Léman create fantastic reflections at sunset, so plan an early dinner on your first day there. This will give you time to explore before watching a pink sun sink below Mont Blanc.
5. Neusiedler See
Set on an island, Neusiedler See is one of Europe’s largest lakes. Near Vienna, Austria features serene beaches that are great for swimming and sunbathing. It also has several beautiful wine-producing regions and small villages to explore. Renting a boat is a great way to travel from village to village and enjoy views from both land and water. Neusiedler See is home to more than 600 plant species, including blue poppies and yellow irises. The lake itself measures 871 feet at its deepest point, while two islands—Konradin Island and Inselberg—rise as tall as 500 feet out of its surface.
Traunsee is one of Austria’s best lakes for summer recreation. Its mild, pleasant climate and shallow, sandy shores make it ideal for families with children. The area’s many outdoor activities include swimming, sunbathing, sailing, and windsurfing. Hiking trails are plentiful and lead to several attractions like St Bartholomä-Kapelle (St. Bartholomew Chapel), an old wooden chapel built on a steep slope above a wild beach where visitors can take in spectacular views of Traunsee and its surroundings.
It’s a little tricky to get to Massenzell. Located near St. Gallen, Switzerland, you’ll need to take a boat across Lake Constance (the Bodensee) or drive through Liechtenstein and Austria. This picturesque town has over 350 listed buildings that have been well-preserved since medieval times and are an excellent base for exploring nearby Rothenburg ob der Tauber and other parts of Germany and Austria. For more information on visiting Massenzell, see.
8. Lacs d’Annecy
With over 70km of hiking and biking trails, beautiful views of glaciers and surrounding mountains, lakeside swimming, water sports like kayaking, and even golf. Annecy is a wonderful city to visit. There are many beaches on its shoreline that stretches for miles around the glacial waters of Lac d’Annecy. The town itself has an amazing old town with parks, fountains, and buildings reminiscent of Paris; however, these are not real! They were built as movie sets for movies such as Jean de Florette starring Gerard Depardieu and Yves Montand or later in Cyrano de Bergerac starring Gérard Depardieu.
9. Lac du Der
Lac du Der is a lake of glacial origin at an elevation of 1,870 feet above sea level. Lac du Der is popular for summer and winter sports and also makes a great place to launch rafting trips. The only downside is that it doesn’t have its camping sites; however, hikers can pitch their tents next to their caravans. There are no restaurants around so you will need to take food with you if you want to stay overnight.
10. Barcelonnette Lakes
Located high in the French Alps, Barcelonnette Lakes is only accessible by cable car or a challenging drive through mountain passes. However, it’s worth it; with crystal clear water and stunning views of surrounding peaks, these lakes are a sight to behold. And don’t forget to pack a swimsuit: The town of Barcelonnette is right on top of one of these natural wonders, so you can take a dip before lunch (or anytime during your stay).