Ask anybody about Oktoberfest, and they’ll tell you about an amazing party in Munich you should attend at least once before you die.
You’ve heard all about it. 6 million people descend upon Munich for two weeks between the end of September and the beginning of October wearing leather pants and traditional German dresses, just to be part of the largest annual beer festival.
But what many people don’t know, is that just 2 hours west in the city of Stuttgart, is Germany’s SECOND largest “Volksfest“, and I’ll venture to say it is even better. While tourists from all over overcrowd Munich to check another item off their bucket list, Stuttgart’s Volksfest remains much more authentic and local, and therefore much friendlier. Don’t get me wrong, it’s by no means small. In fact, it’s kind of huge. And in this article, I’m going to tell you everything you need to know about how to have the most amount of fun here, and live to tell about it.
HOW TO PREPARE
First and foremost, I recommend getting a table reservation. There are several ways to do this.
1. Directly through the tents themselves. This is the preferred method, as you get to choose which tent, and what date and time. Table reservations can be pricy, with each seat costing somewhere between 30-35 Euros at anywhere from 10 to 30 people, so the trick is making sure you’ll have enough people willing to commit. Note that the price also gives each person 2 liters of beer and a half chicken. You’ll want to do this months in advance, and you can contact each tent through this page.
2. Through a deal site. For the month or so leading up to the Volksfest, you can often find a deal on a table, like through a site like Schwabendeal. The advantage here is that you can reserve a 10 seat table for 99 euros, which includes 1 liter of beer and a half chicken for 10 guests, which is much cheaper than getting the table through the tent itself. Unfortunately, you don’t get to pick the tent, and the deals are almost never on the weekends.
3. Buy tickets off of somebody. Let’s face it. Somebody is always going to have extra tickets – or somebody will have to cancel at the last minute. A good place to go is Bookoo, which is kind of like our Craigslist. If you are lucky, you can find some tickets for exactly the date and tent you want.
If all of this fails, fear not. If you are determined to go to fest, you can always show up early, and try to find a table that is not reserved. I can almost guarantee you that you will not find a free table on the weekends, but during the week, there’s a good chance you might get lucky. The tables will not be in a prime location, they’ll be far away from the stage, but hey, you’re at Fest! Sit down at any table that doesn’t have this on it, and you’re golden.
WHAT TO WEAR
Now, you don’t NEED to come wearing lederhosen or a dirndl if you don’t want to – not everybody does, so don’t feel like you have to. But if you want to really get into the spirit of things…
Given enough time you can order online at a shop like dirndl.com or eBay, or once in Stuttgart, you can buy it everywhere, especially all up and down the Konigstrasse. If you want something more expensive and higher quality, shop at a place like Krüger, but realistically, you’ll only probably wear it for this one occasion, and possibly some halloween when you get back home when you’re feeling uncreative, so you’d do just as well getting it at C&A or H&M (Both on the Konigstrasse).
Take the U-Bahn. It really couldn’t be much easier. There’s a special train that runs specifically during Volksfest – the U11. It runs a loop around all the major stations downtown – Hauptbahnhof (main station), Berliner Platz, Rotebühlplatz, Rathaus, and Charlottenplatz before heading to the Volksfest.
Your destination is Cannstatter Wasen – the fairgrounds. Exit where everyone else exits. You’re there!
Now that you’re here, you’ll have to find your tent – massive structures put up by each beer company, which only serves THEIR beer inside, so choose carefully.
Everyone seems to say that a particular beer tent is better than all the others. I say, they’re ALL good! It’s all a matter of personal preference and the tent’s vibe that night.
You’re in for a great time. The beer is amazing, the energy is fantastic, and the crowd is festive and extremely welcoming. Within an hour, you’ll find yourself standing on the benches, cheering at the top of your lungs, and toasting everyone around you. You might even learn a German drinking song or two…
Now that you’re here, a couple of things to know.
It’s expected that you will tip the barmaids a 50 cent piece for each beer. They work hard and get you your beer promptly, so don’t skimp.
You’ll also need a 50 cent piece to use the toilet, so you might want to bring a few, because once you break the seal…
Greet your neighbors. There’s a good chance they’ll be extremely friendly, and thrilled to welcome you to this event in their country. Remember, you’re an ambassador, so represent.
One more thing. The beer here is quite a bit stronger than the stuff you are used to drinking back in the states. Know your limits.
And there you have it! Follow these suggestions, and you’re sure to have an amazing time at fest. Prost!