In the beginning of October, I spent a little over a week in Germany to spend time with family and it luckily coincided with the Canstatter Volksfest or the Beerfest celebrated in Stuttgart. Canstatter Volksfest is the second largest Beer celebration in the world next to the Oktoberfest in Munich. It was my first time and of course I was sooo excited!!! I learned a few interesting things about the festival and made a few mistakes that I would like to share so hopefully it helps you when going for the first time. Here’s my Oktoberfest/ Beerfest tips.
1. Dress the part
Trachten is a traditional Bavarian clothing which could either be a dirndl for women or a lederhosen for men although there are also lederhosen shorts for women. These are quality made clothing and I would highly advise against buying from a Halloween costume shop. There are plenty of local shops or outlets who sell these as well as online retailers. These are often sold in separate parts which usually end up to be very costly, but there are also coordinated sets that tend to be cheaper which is what I got! It is not necessary but wearing one is part of the fun and let’s you blend in and experience the whole Oktoberfest vibe.
For women, pay attention when tying the knot of your apron. A knot tied on the left side means that you are single. A knot tied on the right side means you are married or unavailable. A knot tied in the front center means that you are a virgin (if you want people to know that). And a knot tied in the center of your back means that you are widowed.
Small cross-body bags are the best as you can wear it all the time while dancing and holding on to your beer stein.
You will be on your feet a LOOONG time, either walking, standing or dancing on a bench. Unless you are comfortable wearing high heels for hours (which I did), I would not recommend this. Instead, wear a pair of flats or sneakers. I noticed most of the women wore this. I would definitely recommend wearing a pair of stockings because it does get cold at night.
2. Rides and games
Do these before you start drinking… for obvious reasons of course! They have a lot of crazy rides so be ready! My personal favorite is the Riesenrad (Ferris Wheel) because it gives you a panoramic view of the whole festival and the surrounding city as well.
3. Book a table
Each of the beer tents can hold anywhere between 2000-5000 people but they do get packed and crowded really quick even on a weekday. So if you plan on going on a weekend or if you are going in a group, I would recommend booking a table unless you plan on going in early. Whatever we paid per person for the reservation ended up being worth it as it was consumable and can be used toward any food or drink including shots. And I was surprised at how delicious and big the portions of the food was. There were 8 different beer tents in the festival each uniquely designed and having their own kind of music ranging from all traditional German to a mix of modern music and even an electric tent with house music. I personally preferred and enjoyed the tent with more traditional German music.
4. Bring cash
Entrance to the festival grounds is free but it is a cash only event so bring loads of cash for food, drinks and rides.
There’s plenty of food options to choose from at the Beer fest and most of them are really good!!! The Hendls, the spätzle, the pretzels… yummmmm! And speaking of Pretzels, I learned that there’s a reason why Germans love to have these and potatoes with their beer. All that starch helps to soak up the alcohol which makes them pro drinkers. It must be true because it worked for me!
6. If you don’t like beer…
Not a lot of people know this but Germans are fond of mixing drinks… including beer. So if you’re not a beer drinker like I am (nowadays), fear not! You have an option which is my favorite alternative to beer… the Radler! Now, what is a Radler? It is the German version of shandy which is 50% beer and 50% lemon lime soda. They also serve wine which you can order mixed with carbonated lemonade which they call a Weinschorle (Wine Spritzer). So if you want to ease up on the drinking and want to make it through the night, these are what I recommend!
7. Experience the German Gemutlichkeit
Gemutlichkeit is what makes these fests so special. There is no English word for this much like the Hygge for the Danes. The closest we can get to (as Googling the word have suggested) would be a feeling of coziness being surrounded by family and friends or even strangers.
I truly appreciated the workmanship and effort in annually reconstructing these beer tents which I heard commences mid July and have to be taken down after the 3 week festival. I also love the fact that entrance to the festival grounds is free and is something that can also be enjoyed with kids and the whole family. Before going to these fests, I would suggest learning a few of the German drinking chants and songs as it is more fun if you can join in on the crowd singing. And one final advice, when in Germany, do as the Germans do… Drink up, sing your heart out to nonsensical songs, stand up and dance on that bench and just simply have fun!