The calendar is on its tenth turn, I’m wearing a checked shirt, grasping a frothy stein of beer, standing on a bench singing – well, mumbling at a very high volume – the words to German folk songs in a tent with thousands of other revelers.
Obviously, it’s Oktoberfest time in Munich again.
(here’s where the record scratch sound effect goes)
Nope, this time it’s the Cannstatter Volksfest in Stuttgart, or Stuttgart Beer Festival if you’re so inclined, and attending in 2015 may have just shaken all I thought I knew to be true about German beer festivals. Namely, that Oktoberfest is the undisputed champion. Dare I say that I even came home with the conclusion that the Cannstatter Volksfest might just be the finest ‘fest’ in all of Germany?
Why? Well, for a quite a few reasons actually.
First, the Cannstatter Volksfest feels more like fun fair first, beer festival second, and that makes for a really special atmosphere. The history of the festival is absolutely fascinating to begin with, and I definitely think it helps set the tone for things. Back in the early 1800s, there was some volcano that erupted somewhere in Indonesia and the dust cloud it coughed up was so large that it adversely affected harvests in Europe for a few seasons. When the newly crowned king of Wurttemberg – where Stuttgart is located – took the throne, he made agricultural advancement a major priority, and the festival was created to promote agriculture first, and revelry second.
Over the years, revelry gradually took over, but the history of the festival is still visible in the skyscraping and colorful fruit column – which is the giant symbol of the festival dedicated to its harvest history – and the fact that so many of the food stalls, small beer gardens, and cafes have been run by the same family for decades. One such example, a romantic diner called Cafe Grell (pictured above) located directly under a ferris wheel, truly epitomized the atmosphere of the Cannstatter Volksfest, and I had almost as much fun drinking a coffee here as I had drinking any beer during the festival.
Next, the setting of the Stuttgart Beer Festival is just gorgeous. The festival ground – called the Wasen – resides right next to the flowing Neckar River, and like the entire city of Stuttgart, is enveloped by hills crowned with soft green peaks giving way to clusters of homes and vineyards. The views from the top of the Ferris wheel were definitely second-to-none.
Furthermore, when it comes to the beer-drinking (and let’s not kid ourselves, I was there to drink some beer), there are lots of different options. Of course you have the big beer tents with all the partying, but you also have the cutest (did I just call beer gardens cute?) beer gardens in the adorable (did I just say adorable?) Alpine Village.
Also, even though the Stuttgart Beer Festival has all the hallmarks of a German beer festival – traditional dress, large beer tents, millions of people attending – yes I said millions – the fest still manages to feels ultra-friendly. The Cannstatter Volksfest is definitely world famous, they even have a mini-one in Philadelphia, but the festival itself is still an absolute breeze to enjoy. We attended on weekdays, and we just simply strolled into the tents and grabbed the first seat we found.
Oh, and last but not least, they have these amazing things called Swabian Ravioli – which are like typical ravioli but bigger, and stuffed with onions, meat, spinach, and seasonings – and just trust me, you are going to want to eat a handful.
So, to the big question: is the Stuttgart Beer Festival the best beer festival in all of Germany? Well, it is certainly looking that way, but to reach a final decision, I think I am going to need more research.
Yes – liters, I mean lots, of research.
This post originally appeared on TravelPulse