Oktoberfest is the well known German beer festival held in Munich from mid September to early October each year. Oktoberfest like events have become popular in the UK over the past few years but the real German experience has been on my bucket list for a while. However, I was introduced to the perfect alternative which I think everyone should consider – Cannstatter Volksfest or Wasen.
This autumn “beer” festival is the 2nd largest after Oktoberfest and is held in the German city of Stuttgart from late September to mid October. One of the girls I met on my Central America tour earlier this year (read all about it here) was from Stuttgart and so it made sense to catch up with her and check this out at the same time.
My friend Sarah and I visited Stuttgart from the 12th – 14th of October and we went to the festival on Saturday 13th. Stuttgart is easily reached from London via EasyJet for half the price it would cost to go to Munich during the same period. And only taking the essentials in a carry on will be make it even cheaper… I discovered a very helpful travel packing list on foreignlemonade.com to help with this!
The price of accommodation was also much more affordable, with a fairly central Airbnb for the weekend costing us €88 each.
The S and U Bahn trains will be your best way to get around town (and in and out of the festival). The VVS Mobil app is useful for planning your trip and checking out train times. It can also save you almost €1 per ticket. This didn’t work for me so it’s worth checking this before you board in case you need to use the machines on the platform instead.
Things to do in Stuttgart
- Get lost in Castle grounds
European countries boast some incredible castles and Germany is no exception to this rule (Neuschwanstein castle anyone?!) but there are many closer to Stuttgart which are incredible to explore.
Ludwigsburg Castle (looks like a palace but all the Germans called it a castle) is a short train ride away on the S4. Entry is $9 which is well worth it as you’ll see below. I can imagine its stunning to visit all year round but during autumn time, they host a pumpkin size contest which was cool to see. Honestly, I had no idea pumpkins could grow so big!
On the other side of the castle, we found an actual pumpkin city. There were various statues made out of pumpkins, stalls showcasing different types of pumpkins, pumpkin taster stations, all the pumpkin flavoured food you could imagine and a gift shop, mostly filled with…pumpkin memorabilia!
Also found in the grounds of this castle are real life fairytales. As in, they have recreated well known fairy tales and brought them to life with great animations for kids (and “big kids”) to enjoy. You start on a boat ride into the whale where you’ll find Pinocchio and eventually end up at the bottom of Rapunzel’s tower!
The second castle we saw was New Palace (Neues Schloss) which is in the centre of Stuttgart in Schlossplatz. You can’t normally get a tour of it as it holds a lot of government offices but its gardens are nice to sit in and you may see a wedding photo shoot happening outside as we did!
2. Schlossplatz – is a great place to spend a day wandering around the fountains, or doing some shopping nearby. At night, people sit on the steps and drink beers bought from the supermarket. This is allowed and people are civilised with it. To recycle the cans, you leave them next to a bin and it will be picked up by people (who appeared to be migrants to Germany) who wonder around looking for them. When returned to supermarkets, they are given a small amount of money per can which can add up if you take in enough!
3. Fernsehturm Stuttgart is the TV tower which offers gorgeous views over Stuttgart and beyond. It costs €7 to enter and you proceed to the lift, which takes you up 150m in 36 seconds. Here you’ll find the viewing points for a full 360 degree experience. When it gets too windy or crowded, you can appreciate the views in the cafe instead.
Where we ate and drink:
Claus Deli – is perfect for brunch or an ice cream break. The portions are generous and the food is so tasty. It’s popular with locals so I knew it would be good!
Bären – for tapas style of traditional German food! There are no descriptions of what the dishes are so just trust the waiters’ recommendations for this! And a pint of German beer to help it all go down of course.
Schwaben bräu – a outdoor bar. The bar itself is in a little hut and then everyone sits outside around it. It sounds simple but is very popular!
Babel – this is a hipster café where for €12.80, you get an all you can eat buffet brunch (drinks are extra). It’s worth going back a couple of times as new dishes appear just when you think you’ve tried everything. And to keep yourself entertained, there are various board games and books lying around.
The festival is held in a huge fairground with rides, stalls and the beer tents all in one place. The tents are named after the different beers that are served and hold thousands of people inside them!
Wasen is easily reached by train and entry to the grounds are free.There are 2 times of the day to visit if you’re planning to go to the beer tents – the morning session which finishes late afternoon and the second session which starts from 5.30pm until closing time (11pm).
In order to get into a beer tent, you will need a wristband. We hadn’t bought wristbands prior to going but luckily our German friends managed to buy them from some people in the crowd. We paid €15 each for a Klauss & Klauss tent wristband . This is just for your entry! Once inside, 1 mass of beer is €10.80 and you can also buy food too. Forget your cards as cash is king here.and exact change if possible is better! We didn’t eat in the tent but had lined our stomachs before and ate after too..in this case, eating is definitely not cheating as the beer will destroy you otherwise! Also I’m not a beer drinker but this tastes really good. And if you’re still not convinced, you can order the beer that comes mixed with lemonade which goes down too well!
The tents are filled with tables which will all have been prebooked. This is worth it for big groups/not wanting the stress of not knowing where to sit. But if you don’t secure this beforehand, quickly try sweet talking people who have space on their tables and you may be in luck!
The other important thing to sort out in advance is your costume! It’s great to wear the traditional Bavarian clothing – dirndls for women and lederhosen for men but some women wore these too. We were lucky to borrow dirndls from Laura as I’ve heard they can be very expensive. They are magical dresses with pockets so you don’t need a bag (or only a bumbag if you must) to cut down security check time and minimise the risk of losing/having your things stolen. And wear casual shoes as you’ll be on your feet all night! There’s a live band playing traditional German tunes mixed in with a DJ playing more well known tracks. Stay close to a German nearby so they can teach you the steps to some of their songs!
Stuttgart is a lovely city to visit and coinciding this with Wasen was even better! I hope to make it to Munich one year for Oktoberfest as I can imagine it would also be so much fun! If you’re planning to visit the 2019 festivals of either, I would advise starting to plan it…now! We were lucky to have locals guiding us through it, otherwise it would’ve been quite stressful at that short notice. Get your wristband the minute you know you’re going and consider booking a table too. Then you can start searching for the best deals for the traditional clothing.
During the 3 weeks, there are also parades and various activities that occur so you can tailor which week to visit in. For Munich especially, I would look at getting accommodation and flights as early as you can. The weekdays are a bit quieter if you don’t want to experience too big a crowd, or if you’re the opposite, go on the closing Saturday for a big party. Either way, you’ll likely only need one day to experience everything. It’s best to check out the festival in the day then do the beer tents in the early evening so you end your night on a high and have the next morning to recover!
Is Oktoberfest/Wasen on your list? Or have you been before? Let me know below!