One of the best things about studying in Strasbourg is being situated right on the border with Germany. Not only can I pop over on the tram and do some shopping in Kehl, but it’s also great for day trips. Earlier this month, I visited Cannstatter Volksfest – a festival in Stuttgart bringing together beer, food and funfair rides.
Cannstatter Volksfest takes place annually over three weeks from the end of September to mid-October in the Canstatter Wassen area of Stuttgart. The festival boasts several large beer tents and lots of funfair attractions, drawing in crowds from all over the world.
Though similar to Oktoberfest in near-by Munich, it is not as big and has its own origin story. In 1815, a volcanic eruption in Indonesia caused crops to fail in the area. The following winter was extremely long and cold, so there was no harvest and people went hungry. As a result, King Wilhelm decided to sponsor a harvest festival in Cannstatter Wassen, to be held on his birthday each year. With the intention of boosting the morale of farmers, the festival was a success and attracted people from all around. Since then, it has grown and now welcomes millions of visitors every year.
The focal point of the festival is beer, and there are several beer tents at the festival – each normally holding a few thousand people. If you want to secure a place in one of the tents, it can be very expensive and you will have to reserve before you go. We didn’t reserve, although it turns out you can get in some of the tents during the day if there is space. After asking around, we managed to get into the Schwaben Bräu tent (named after the brewery that supplies it), which has the largest capacity of all the tents at over 5,000 people. Although we could hear the noise from outside, it was nothing compared to the atmosphere inside the tent. As far as I could see, it was a sea of people in colourful Dirndl and Lederhosen standing on benches, singing and chanting at the top of their lungs, giant mugs of beer in hand. The ground floor was packed, but luckily we found a table on the upper level. It was quieter but we could still watch everyone below. Just before 5pm, we were all turned out to make way for the evening session. The evening is when the party really kicks off and the queues were massive, so you would definitely need to book.
The mugs of beer are a must-have, but they can be expensive. In the Schwaben Bräu tent, a mug of beer was 11€, but it was huge. As someone who doesn’t like beer, perhaps it wasn’t the best investment, but it meant my friends had a top-up!
Although Cannstatter Volksfest is a beer celebration, don’t worry if beer isn’t your thing. There are other options in the tents and stalls around the festival. We found a stall inspired by the classic British pub, which sold a variety of drinks including whiskies and spirits. The most intriguing choice was the ‘Scharf Jägermeister’ shot. As I don’t really drink, I left it to my friends to try it out, but they were unfazed – apparently it didn’t taste much different from normal Jäger.
But there is more to Cannstatter Volksfest than the drink. Every second stall sells food, with the majority specialising in typical German funfair grub. There are a plethora of places selling Bratwurst, Spätzle, roasted nuts, waffles and decorated gingerbread cookies (which I saw people wear around their necks). It was hard to choose what to get, and even harder to cram the leftover roasted almonds and sweets in my bag after overestimating the amount I could actually eat! As a vegetarian, I would say there wasn’t as much choice when it came to savoury foods, but I didn’t go hungry.
One thing I do regret is not going on any rides. There are rollercoasters, fun houses, haunted houses, water rides… – too many to name them all, but you get my point. I’d already had too much cotton candy by the time I realised just how many rides there were and didn’t want to risk making myself ill.
I still had an amazing time and I’d recommend going if you have the chance. But pulling from my experience, here are some tips:
TIPS FOR CANNSTATTER VOLKSFEST
- Book your place in a tent.
- Rides first, drinks and sugar after!
- Travel light.
- If you’re coming from somewhere in mainland Europe, Flixbus is good value and you can pay a little extra to offset your emissions.