The Stuttgart Beer Fest, formally known as the Cannstatter Volksfest. I have wanted to attend the Cannstatter Volksfest ever since I heard of this beer festival, i.e., the second best beer fest in all of the World (or best, depending on who you are talking to…)! And I finally made it last year, in 2016 (oddly enough…on the same trip where Dan and I got engaged…). Dan and I paired our weekend at Cannstatter Volksfest with a few days at Oktoberfest (and a few days in the Alsace), so it was a great opportunity to drink a lot of beer and compare the two festivals!
The first thing I noticed in planning my trip to the Cannstatter Volksfest is that a visit can be downright difficult to plan. There is not an abundance of English information online, and few travel bloggers have covered the Cannstatter Volksfest (at least in English). As such, here is all of the information that I wish I had known in planning my trip!
For starters, Stuttgart is a decent sized city in Baden-Württemberg, Germany, about 1.5 hours from Frankfurt and 2.5 hours from Munich by train. Stuttgart was largely destroyed and rebuilt after the World Wars (and therefore lacking historic architecture), and is now home to a modern buildings, a large university and Mercedes-Benz and Porsche. Aside from the Cannstatter Volksfest, there are not many bucket list sites but Stuttgart not a bad place to spend a few days.
The Cannstatter Volksfest is located on the outskirts of the Stuttgart near the Mercedes-Benz arena in an area called Bad Cannstatt. A subway runs from the center of Stuttgart directly to the festival grounds, called the Cannstatter Wasen. I found all of Stuttgart to be quite safe and the subway easy to use. Most of Stuttgart’s residents are fluent in English and happy to assist visitors, including when we got lost stumbling home from the Cannstatter Volksfest…
THE CANNSTATTER VOLKSFEST
Like Oktoberfest (read my post here if you are unfamiliar with Oktoberfest!), the Cannstatter Volksfest is a family fun festival, complete with numerous parades, rides, lots of food, balloons, and beer tents! The Cannstatter Volksfest runs for three weeks around the same time as Oktoberfest, usually starting and last one week later. The center of the festival (and where all the branded Cannstatter Volksfest souvenirs are sold) is the below fruit column!
The Cannstatter Volksfest is open from 9:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m. for its duration, and it is completely free to enter. Be sure to check its website for specific information on parades and agricultural events – there are a lot of both!
While the Cannstatter Volksfest is a “family fun fair,” it certainly has its fair share of booze, including seven beer tents and countless stands throughout the festival selling beer, spirits, and wine all day, every day. Seriously, this was one of the most striking things about the Cannstatter Volksfest (especially compared to Oktoberfest) – all types of booze are available everywhere, all day. Like, you can stroll around with a beer, or a glass or wine, or schnapps. Pace yourselves, people.
In addition to the beer tents and booze stands throughout the festival, the Cannstatter Volksfest hosts a French/Alpine Village that serves wine and food from the Alsace region. Be warned, the wine glasses are very, very large.
Of course, if you traveled all the way to Stuttgart, Germany for the Cannstatter Volksfest, you probably want to enter one of the beer tents…
THE BEER TENTS
Similar to Oktoberfest, there are seven large beer tents at the Canstatter Volksfest and each serves a specific kind of beer during a a day and an evening session, which run from about 10 – 3 and 5 – 11.
To access the tents, you can roll the dice and try to walk in and take an unused reservation but I would not leave it to chance, especially if you do not speak German. The reason for this is because, unlike Oktoberfest, almost all seats in all tents are reserved for both sessions. However, also unlike Oktoberfest, its relatively easy to make a beer tent reservation at the Cannstatter Volksfest! Its website (linked below) has an overview of each tent and many of the tents allow foreigners to reserve a table online. And, also unlike Oktoberfest, you can make a reservation for a group as small as 4 people!
Dan and I reserved a four person table (even though there are only two of us!) at the Göckelesmaier tent for €159,60 euros. The reservation included a number of drink and food tickets, and I paid via wire transfer, which was required and cost an additional $45.00. We showed up a few minutes before the Sunday evening session at Göckelesmaier and picked up our tickets at “will call,” which consisted of wrist bands and tickets for beer and food. We were initially planning to to re-sell our extra tickets but there was not really a market or time for this, so we just went inside. I would note that people were selling extra tickets on Saturday. It turned out that it was fine that we did not sell our tickets, because they work just like cash inside the tent!
Inside the tent, we found our seats and began ordering beer, eventually moving on to food. Each table had a waiter or waitress, and they all seemed to speak English very well. Surprising to me, the menu offered beer, spirits, and champagne. Seriously, it was crazy. As I mentioned, our food and drink tickets turned out to just be Göckelesmaier “cash,” so we used the tickets as cash, buying water at the end with whatever we had last.
The Göckelesmaier tent had a live Euro band playing legit European club music, and Sunday night got rather crazy! As the evening went on, we moved closer to the band and ordered dinner and a bottle of champagne. To be clear, you should not order a bottle of champagne after drinking in a beer tent all afternoon. No business doing that. I remember the food being good, but that may have just been that last bottle of champagne…
On that note, the food at the Cannstatter Volksfest is actually pretty good. It focuses heavily on pork and carbs! All in all, I think the food is a higher quality than at Oktoberfest and less expensive. Most of the beer tents sell full meals (see above) and there are a lot of stands selling small meals. In any case, you will definitely not go hungry at Stuttgart! Some of our favorites were schwein (pig) sandwiches, which were sold everywhere!
I also really enjoyed the flamkuchen from the French village – it was delicious and very authentic! Food in the French village is an excellent option if you are vegetarian or do not eat pork.
Also, spiralized potatoes are always a winner!
And of course, you cannot forget the heart shaped cookies! I had to have the one that said Stuttgart!
Like Oktoberfest, Stuttgart has a lot of carnival rides for adults and children. Although I think that Oktoberfest has a few more high-end rides (i.e. the HUGE Ferris wheel), Stuttgart has decent rides. I made Dan go on a spinning ride after a few beers…not a good idea… Rides generally cost a few euros and you pay at the entrance to each ride.
WHAT TO WEAR?
Definitely tracht. Dirndls for women and leiderhosen for men. Seriously, everyone rocks their tracht at the Cannstatter Volksfest. If you do not own any, stands in the festival sell tracht and so do a few stores in the center of Stuttgart, especially near the train station. In any case, you will look completely out of place without it. For example, we went for a casual afternoon after we landed in our regular clothing (I even wore a plaid shirt to theme!) and I felt so out of place!
How Did Canstatter Volksfest Compare To Oktoberfest?
Both Oktoberfeset and the Canstatter Volksfest are fabulously fun in their own right! I wthe ould say that Canstatter Volksfest is smaller, more German, crazier and much more relaxed. Its also a bit “tackier” (for lack of a better word) and by that I mean, it reminded me much more of a moving fair than Oktoberfest.
The most striking difference to me, and the one thing that I was absolutely not prepared for was the amount of alcohol that is served at the Cannstatter Volksfest. For comparison, while Oktoberfest is crazy, you ability to drink hard alcohol, or even wine, is quite limited, with most tents only serving wine and alcohol not readily being served outside of the beer tents.
Which festival is better? I think it really depends on what you are looking for. Stuttgart is much more of an authentic German fun festival, where Oktoberfest is more of a “once in a lifetime event.” Stuttgart is slightly more reasonable in cost, but neither are terribly expensive. If you are in the area, I would say that everyone should go to Oktoberfest once but Stuttgart is a good alternative if you cannot make it to Oktoberfest or if someone in you party cannot drink beer (i.e. Gluten free) because wine and spirits are readily available.
STEAL OUR TRIP
Hotel Centro: Büchsenstraße 24, 70174 Stuttgart, Germany. T: 07115853315. E: firstname.lastname@example.org. Economy hotel in the center of Stuttgart.
Göckelesmaier: You can reserve seats at the Göckelesmaier beer tent on their website. Payment via wire transfer.
Deutsche Bahn: German railway website in English. You can buy train tickets throughout Germany on this website.
Carl’s Brauhaus: Stauffenbergstraße 1, 70173 Stuttgart, Germany. Open daily 10 – 24 (until 1 on Saturday and Sunday). Fun beer hall/restaurant in central Stuttgart. Reservations usually not required (but can be made on the restaurant’s website).
ON A BUDGET
Honestly, being a college town, Stuttgart is not expensive. There are many hostels/student accomodations and lots of student-budget friendly food options! Plus, the Stuttgart Beerfest is less expensive than Oktoberfest.