So you’re a hardcore beer fan, and you’ve maybe got an Oktoberfest (or two!) under your belt. Prost! But have you been to Oktoberfest’s cooler, younger cousin of a festival yet?
If not, there’s no better time than now to attend the Stuttgart Beer Festival: it recently celebrated its 200th year and the party’s still going strong. Here are eleven essential things to know before attending your first Stuttgart Beer Festival.
1. It’s Europe’s second largest beer festival.
The Stuttgart Beer Festival (also referred to locally as Cannstatter Volksfest) attracts over 4 million people per year, making it Europe’s second largest beer festival behind — you guessed it — Oktoberfest in Munich. It’s three weeks of incredible live music, amusement park rides, and beer guzzling galore.
2. It’s not as well known as Oktoberfest, so it’s less touristy.
Each year, the Stuttgart Beer Festival starts a week after Oktoberfest starts. If you’re extra thirsty and hit up both, you’ll notice a key difference between this festival and its older cousin (Oktoberfest started eight years prior to the Stuttgart Beer Festival).
The Stuttgart Beer Festival isn’t as well known as Oktoberfest, so you won’t see as many tourists. Plus, since it’s not as crowded, you’ll have
more access to beer a more typical German experience.
3. You’ll want to brush up on your Stuttgart Beer Festival History 101.
In 1815, a ginormous volcano erupted in Indonesia (as they do), sending Europe — and its climate — into a tailspin of catastrophic proportions. With terrible weather came a severe shortage of food; people across Germany were starving. Fortunately, help arrived in the form of a harvest wagon in 1817, and King Wilhelm and his wife decided to sponsor a harvest festival to give thanks. The first festival occurred in 1818 on September 28 — the king’s birthday.
4. Get reservations early.
If you didn’t book your festival experience through Thirsty Swagman (Shame! Shame!), you’ll want to get on those reservations like yesterday. After all, you’re only competing with four million other thirsty travelers, many of who also want to hit up their first Stuttgart Beer Festival!
Peruse the list of Stuttgart Beer Festival beer tents here, where you can make reservations for some of the tents individually.
5. Dust off your dirndls or buy some shiny new lederhosen.
Listen, this isn’t Oktoberfest, so you don’t have to wear your dirndl here. You won’t be kicked out if you don’t wear Tracht (traditional German dress), of course, but it’s much more fun to parade around in your German garb — which will inevitably get you in the festival spirit.
So don your dirndl and leave on your lederhosen, friends. PS: If you don’t know where to tie your bow on your dirndl, check out this fantastic (and hilarious) video that will show you exactly what the position of that bow means.
6. Learning some fun German words before your first Stuttgart Beer Festival will impress your newfound friends.
Sure, you can say “bier,” “Gesundheit,” and “Prost!” But if you really want to impress your friends at the Stuttgart Beer Festival — both old and new alike — then add some additional words to your German vocabulary. And we’re not just talking the usual old “Where is the bathroom?” phrases here.
Start with Männerfreundschaft (bromance) and schwarmerei (excessive, unbridled enthusiasm), and then check out this guide for 28 hilarious German words you need to know before attending the festival.
7. Don’t forget to say hello to Wasenhasi!
If you like the Easter Bunny and Peter Rabbit, then you’ll be a fan of Wasenhasi, Cannstatter Volksfest’s official mascot. The furry rabbit has been “living here” in the Wasen since 2007 and regularly ventures through the festival so folks can snap selfies with him. Weirdly enough, Wasenhasi has “found a girlfriend” named Hasi, who may join him at the festival in the future. Don’t believe us? Read more here.
8. You’ll eat tons of tasty food here
There’s cheesy spätzel, pork sandwiches, and dampfnudel, oh my! Sausages, greasy potatoes, sauerkraut — you name it, if it’s that mouthwatering German food you know and love, chances are it will be here aplenty. You’ll find food stalls selling everything from bratwurst to gingerbread heart cookies. Nom nom.
9. But be sure to the ride the rides before you drink.
Your stomach will thank you for eating all of that meat, guzzling all of that beer, and enjoying the all-around deliciousness that is German cuisine. But trust us — it won’t thank you for going on some spinning loop-de-loop ride after devouring said meat and beer. In fact, it will likely throw a revolt and powerfully eject the contents of your lunch onto some poor, unfortunate soul. So repeat after us: rides first, beer tents second.
10. Speaking of beer tents, there’s a rotating bar in the Sonja Merz tent.
OK, maybe we should have led with this point, right? Did we bury the lede here? But since good things come to those who wait, and we’re assuming that you actually read through this whole eleven-point list, then we’ll let you in on this golden ticket of awesomeness.
When you’re at the beer festival, be sure to check out the SchatziBar in the Sonja Merz tent – it’s a veritable carousel bar, or a rotating bar with a view over the beer festival. If that’s not reason enough to go to the Stuttgart Beer Festival, we don’t know what is!
11. Stuttgart Beer Festival: helping you get home safely since 1965.
In what has got to be one of the best beer festival inventions ever, the Germans have made it incredibly easy for you to get home from your first Stuttgart Beer Festival in one piece.
Say you drive to the festival, make a ton of unexpected new friends (who of course offer you more beer), and — wham! — five liters later, you’re in no shape to drive home.
With the festival’s Drive Me Home service (which has been in operation since 1965), someone from the festival will drive you home, in your own car, for free. The only thing they ask for in return is cab fare for drivers to return to the festival, but that’s a small price to pay for getting home safe and sound.
As cool as the Drive Me Home service is, though, if you book your Stuttgart Beer Festival experience with Thirsty Swagman, our hotels are just a 5-minute, straight-line walk from the festival grounds. After several fun-filled hours at the beer tents, it couldn’t be easier to get home — and nobody has to play DD!
Want to experience the world’s second largest beer festival for yourself? Check out our Stuttgart Beer Festival tours here!