Tranquil travels: 5 lakeside escapes in Europe

Nothing says peaceful like a lakeside escape. The gentle lull of the lapping waters, sunbeams dancing along the ripples – and the promise of a cooling dip any time you fancy.

When the sun is shining, the waters beckon. Indeed, it’s a rare feat to find a lake in Europe where watersports aren’t on the agenda. Sailing, diving, water skiing – you name it. These destinations may be tranquil in their surroundings, but there’s no shortage of things to do.

Coupled with the quiet charm and elegant terraces of waterfront towns, where you can clink glasses at sundown, the romance of a lakeside escape really starts to tempt.

The question is, which one will you visit first?

Lake Annecy, Haute-Savoie, France

Lake Annecy

Gleaming bright like a topaz gem, the famously pristine waters of Lac d’Annecy lure visitors to the French Alps for a dose of lakeside luxury.

Just two hours’ drive from Lyon Airport you’ll find palatial mountain hotels alongside indulgent restaurants serving up the best French cuisine.

Parts of Lake Annecy’s 30-mile shoreline hum with activity, where families splash in the spring-fresh water, and pedalos bob around on the small waves. Elsewhere, you’ll find nothing but blissful seclusion.

At the head of the lake is Annecy itself, a gorgeous town where buildings are painted in powder pink, blue and lemon, and humpback bridges hop over the canals. The perfect setting for coffee and a croissant.

Lake Como, Lombardy, Italy

Lake Como

It’s on the map as an A-list favourite, but you don’t have to be a star to lap up the beauty of Italy’s Lake Como.

This luxurious lakeside retreat is instantly recognisable for the villas, villages and towns that nestle between the lake and steep, forested hills.

Wind and kite surfers glide on the brilliant-blue water. On the shore, restaurants spill out on to sun-kissed patios, where fresh pasta and the catch of the day make your taste buds sing.

For shopping, the lakeside village of Bellagio calls. Breeze through the cobbled streets, chancing upon silk shops and boutique cafes, with the occasional glimpse of Como’s waters in the background.

And all just 45 minutes’ drive from Milan Malpensa Airport.

Lake District, Cumbria, UK

Lake District

You don’t have to go overseas to find tranquillity by the waters. In north-west England the Lake District charms with slate and limestone cottages and country pubs, winding roads and grassy mountains – and 16 lakes, meres and waters in scooped-out glacial valleys.

The largest of all is Windermere, which stretches out for more than 10 miles. Take your pick of sightseeing vessels – from canoes to luxury dinner cruises – or breathe the fresh air on a bracing hike.

Sunshine isn’t guaranteed – but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. There’s something curiously beautiful about the clouded mist hanging over the lake waters. Get here from Lancaster, Barrow-in-Furness or Carlisle.

Lake Constance, Bavaria, Germany

Lake Constance

It teeters on the border of Switzerland and Austria, but the vast majority of Lake Constance is Germany’s pride. You’ll find Bavarian castles and perfectly preserved old towns on the shores of this colossal lake, with the snow-capped Alps providing an epic backdrop.

The historic city of Konstanz is a popular place to stay, with luxurious hotels, Michelin-starred restaurants and natural, bubbling springs to help you unwind. In the summer, the city’s lakeside lidos become the hot spot, while sailing boats and yachts invite you to enjoy views from the water.

Catch the car ferry from Konstanz to Meersburg, home to clifftop castles and sandy beaches. Further down the east coast is the pier at Friedrichshafen, topped with a viewpoint tower that gives you the ultimate view of the lake in all its glory.

The nearest large airports are in Stuttgart and Munich.

Veerse Meer, Zeeland, Netherlands

Veerse Meer Lake

Though lesser known than the other destinations, the emerald waters of the Veerse Meer lagoon in the southwest Netherlands deserve some of the spotlight.

Bicycle rides and picnics on the grassy banks are popular ways to pass the time during the warm months. The lakeside town of Veere invites you to explore historical Dutch streets and enjoy the cool sophistication of its restaurant scene – rounded off with a crispy stroopwafel, of course.

The full range of watersports are yours to enjoy – as well island-hopping, which is an additional treat. Lush, green islets are sprinkled in the waters of Lake Veerse, where forests grow wild. If you’re quiet, you could catch sight of local deer prancing in the shadows.

Hiring a car is the easiest way to reach these effortlessly beautiful pockets of Europe. From France to Germany, Italy to the Netherlands, we have hundreds of pick-up locations across the continent. Start planning your tranquil travels today.