When the world thinks of beer festivals they think of the obvious choice Oktoberfest…but if you’re after a slightly less crazy but equally awesome option head a little further south to Stuttgart, Germany. Stuttgart is the home of Cannstatter Volksfest, or Wasen. A large beer fuelled festival that runs at the same time as Oktoberfest.
I’d say that Wasen has a slightly more family feel to the event, less stag do’s and more work parties. We saw everyone from teenagers to pensioners in the traditional clothing, stein in hand. The event is HUGE, with at least 7 beer tents seating approximately 5000 people per tent (based on some slightly tipsy calculations) and a fun fair to boot.
The three week festival is held on the Bad Cannstatter region of the city easily reachable by the S and U Bahns. The trains fill with people in full traditional attire drinking beer from early afternoon through into the evening.
The festival came about due to King Wilhelm and his wife bringing grain to the people in celebration of a harvest and overcoming famine, traditionally a 1 day harvest festival it’s expanded into the second biggest beer festival in the world running over 16 days. There is a throwback to the harvest festival days with a fruit column in the centre of the site.
Along with the beer and the harvest festival is a huge fun fair with 2 ferris wheels and tons of rides. Mix this in with food and gift stalls and you have an awesome event.
We visited the event during the day and in the evening, both of which had a different feel. During the day we had lunch and beer in one of the tents with intermittent singing from the festival goers and in tent bands. We wandered around the event and enjoyed the atmosphere.
We then went back in the evening of the next day to experience life outside of the tents. It’s fairly easy to get into the tents during the day without a reservation but in the evening they are packed to the rafters. The heavens opened in the evening and we got drenched but it was a good laugh. With bratwurst, steamed corn and lebkuchen it was an awesome evening.
Would I recommend attending the festival?
For couples or groups of friends: Yes I would! I think a small group of 4-6 people would be an ideal number to get in and out of the tents easily and enjoy the atmosphere. We were a couple of 2 (obviously) and had an awesome time but I can see how a group could be beneficial.
For families: Yes during the day. It is of course filled with beer but the rides and attractions are great for teenagers. I’d say very young kids you might struggle to keep them entertained but we did see a few youngsters around.
Would I recommend dressing up?
Yes!!! It is so worth it, even if it’s just a check shirt and some braces. Almost everyone dons some form of traditional wear so it would be rude not to and you would look so out of place! We worried about wandering around the rest of Stuttgart but we didn’t need to as everyone looked the same!!!
Is it safe?
This is the ultimate question now and I would wholeheartedly say yes. Despite this event being the first time terrorism entered into my head whilst abroad it wasn’t because I felt unsafe. There are plenty of staff around and everyone is really friendly.
Large bags aren’t allowed into the tents (you can pay for a locker, cheap from what I can remember), bottles or your own alcohol aren’t allowed into the site at all and there are plenty of medical staff should you take a tumble. I never felt unsafe at any point, even at night slightly inebriated. Nor did I worry when catching the train back to our apartment.
But what is even in Stuttgart?
Going for longer than a weekend or want to do something other than drinking beer? Well so did we, Stuttgart is a wonderful compact city. There is loads to see (post to follow) and it’s all within easy reach. Autumn is a wonderful time to visit Germany – we also made it to a Squash (Pumpkin) festival to add to the harvest theme!!
Is it expensive?
It’s one of those events that can be as expensive as you want it to be. I don’t know exactly how much we spent but it wasn’t a lot. The steins are around 9 euro’s per one which seems a lot but it’s a litre and will keep you going for a while! It is a festival at the end of the day so it’s not rock bottom prices but the event is designed for locals so it’s not over the top. There are also lots of options for other drinks and small sizes so you can make it work within your tolerance and budget.
As I’ve mentioned above it is 100% worth getting some or all of the traditional clothing, this can be pricey but just buy within your means. Stuart opted for a check shirt and braces and I went for a off the shoulder check top and flower headband. We were at the more reserved end of the spectrum as the locals were in full Lederhosen and Dirndl dresses but they go every year so it’s worth the investment!
Accomodation in the city is inflated during Wasen so it can be hard to find an affordable place to stay but I’d check out Airbnb as we got a great deal (although not a great location above a bar which played music until 2am but it can’t always be perfect!!!)
All in all I’d say book those flights and get yourself there for 2018!! You won’t regret it.
I suppose it would only be fair that I checked out Oktoberfest next! 😉