From September 17 to October 3, Munich will host its 183rd Oktoberfest -- the world's largest beer festival. A bucket-list event for beer lovers, partiers, and travel enthusiasts alike, Oktoberfest attracts more than 6 million annual visitors -- including 1 million international tourists. To secure centrally located accommodation during the festivities, hotel reservations must be made months in advance, and can cost upwards of $400 per night.
For a more affordable experience, consider the world's second largest beer festival, Cannstatter Volksfest -- called the Stuttgart Beer Festival by travelers and Wasen by locals. This year's celebration will take place from September 23 to October 9. Here are five reasons to skip Oktoberfest and head to Wasen instead.
The best way to get to Stuttgart is to fly to Frankfurt, then take a scenic, 90-minute train ride from the airport to Stuttgart Central Station. A recent search for nonstop, round-trip flights from New York City in late September generated rates as low as $770. Add a $100 round-trip train ticket for a total cost of $870. Direct flights to Munich cost at least $400 more at the time of publication.
It is no surprise that hotels charge higher-than-usual rates during major events. This is especially true in Munich during Oktoberfest. We took a look at pricing for 3- and 4-star hotels from September 23 to 30 and found an average rate of $313 per night. That comes out to more than $2,300 for the full week, including taxes. In Stuttgart, at $199 per night, the same week will cost you $1,412. Think of all the beer, pretzels, and schnitzel you could purchase with the near $900 you'll save.
Just like Oktoberfest, regional breweries set up massive, intricately-decorated tents where Wasen-goers may enjoy a mug (or stein) of beer and traditional German fare. Admission is free, but without a reservation, you may be denied entry once a tent reaches capacity. The largest Wasen tent, Wilhelmer's Schwabenwelt, has room for about 5,200 people.
Beer is undoubtedly the biggest draw at Wasen, but there is much more to do than drink. Wasen dates back to 1818 when it originated as a harvest festival. Today, Wasen still hosts a traders' market where more than 50 vendors sell textiles, leather, jewelry, art, and other gifts. Not much of a shopper? Hop on one of the more than 30 rides, from high-adrenaline rollercoasters and drop towers, to tame ferris wheels and merry-go-rounds.
Annual attendance at Wasen is notable unto itself, with more than 4 million attendees. The majority of guests hail from Germany, nearby France and Switzerland, and other European nations, creating more of an authentic German and European feel than the international mix at Oktoberfest. As Wasen continues to grow year after year, we suggest heading there sooner than later. You'll have a more unique experience to share with your friends and family at home.