How to Survive Oktoberfest in Stuttgart—Cannstatter Volksfest

 

Tips and tricks for conquering an Oktoberfest-style beer festival like the champion you are

Second to Oktoberfest only in size, Cannstatter Volksfest in Stuttgart, Germany, is just as fun and unapologetically German as its Munich counterpart. In fact, what started as an agricultural festival in 1818 has grown to attract more than 4 million revelers each year. 

For the 2017 edition, Cannstatter Volksfest is slated to take place from Sept. 22 to Oct. 8—so you have plenty of time to book your flights, reserve hotels near the festival grounds and get the best possible travel deals available.

Before attending any German beer festival, however, consider these 8 critical survival tips.  

 
 

1. Buy Festival Wear

Spend a little money on lederhosen or dirndl, the traditional Bavarian outfits that you’ll see all over the festival. You’ll find that the costume makes you more approachable and thus makes you feel more included in the celebrations. You might even get a free beer out of it.

2. Play Games and Ride the Rides Before You Drink

This should be pretty straightforward, but you’d be surprised how riding the Polyp or giant swings sounds like a brilliant idea when you’re buzzed. Do yourself a favor and play the festival games as well as ride the rides before you hit the beer tent and start gulping liters of beer. 

3. Eat a Heavy Dinner

It’s hard to go hungry in Southern Germany, with its massive plates of braised meat, sausages, cheese and roasted chicken. The portions are ridiculous, yet perfect because you need to line your stomach with something starchy and that’s high in fat and protein. 

 Before it gets dark, explore the festival grounds and pick a meeting spot for your group. Image courtesy of the Germany National Tourist Board.

Before it gets dark, explore the festival grounds and pick a meeting spot for your group. Image courtesy of the Germany National Tourist Board.

4. Start With a Radler

A Radler is half beer, typically a pilsner, and half sparkling lemonade—or another type of refreshing soda. Germans consider this 50/50 mix to be thirst-quenching and perfect for your first beer of the night (when you are more likely to be drinking quickly in order to get in the groove).

5. Limit Yourself to Two Liters of Beer

Look, everyone’s alcohol tolerance is different, but if you’re traveling by yourself in a new country, it’s better to err on the side of caution. And two liters of beer will get you lit! Plus, festival beers cost around 10 euro each these days, so consider your wallet before ordering a third mug of the good stuff.

6. Get Your Bearings

Before the sun goes down, explore the grounds and get your bearings. In particular, find out where the exits to the S-Bahn and U-Bahn are located and select a meeting place for your group in case your phones run out of juice.

7. Make Reservations Early

Everyone wants to hang in a beer tent on the weekends, especially from the late afternoon onward. Therefore, it’s critical that you reserve a table at the beer tent of your choice by going to their individual websites to make the booking. Do this as soon as you can.

8. Don’t Be Shy

German beer festivals, such as Cannstatter Volksfest, are all about comradery and community, so don’t be afraid to chat to people you don’t know. One night, I ended up joining a table of strangers who insisted I dance with them on top of our seats. Between sips of pilsner, I tried my best German on them, and they spoke whatever English they knew. But when the band started playing Nena’s “99 Luftballons”—everything made perfect sense.

 

My trip to Germany was made possible by the Germany National Tourist Board. Views expressed are my own.