A festival that needs no introduction…Oktoberfest. It doesn’t matter if you’re a beer lover or not, Munich’s celebration of all things brewery-based is sure to serve up a great time. Of course, it does help – a lot, in fact – if you enjoy sipping on a frothy Märzen or delicious Dunkel. Whether you’re heading to Oktoberfest for the first time, or it’s a staple on your annual events calendar, here we give you the lowdown on the original Oktoberfest, as well as some enticing alternatives in other German cities.
The first thing you’ll need to know about Oktoberfest is that it actually starts in mid-September. It traditionally ends on the first Sunday of October, so check the dates and make sure you don’t pitch up after all the beer’s been drunk and the fun’s been had. The festival originally began in October, but was shifted forward to take advantage of the better weather at the close of summer.
Tell me about the history…
Oktoberfest’s history stretches back over 200 years to a royal wedding, when the whole of Bavaria was invited to celebrate the marriage between Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen in 1810. The fields where festivities were held were renamed ‘Theresienwiese’, and you’ll hear Oktoberfest referred to as ‘die Wiesn’ by locals. After initially being known for horse racing and its agricultural show, the festival expanded to include fairground rides, while beer was served at small stands. The first beer tents and halls arrived in 1896, and Oktoberfest has never looked back.
It sure is popular, huh?!
These days it’s the beer that is the focus of most visitors’ attention, with a huge variety of tipples on offer in atmospheric surroundings. It’s a very merry time of year for the people of Munich, who welcome millions of visitors each year. In 2016, 5.6 million people pitched up at Oktoberfest, so you won’t be short of company. With beer served from 10am on weekdays and 9am at the weekend, tents often fill up before 11am, so make sure you get there early to avoid disappointment. It’s possible to make a reservation for a tent by contacting them directly.
How do I know it’s for me?
As well as a huge range of beer tents both large and small, there really is something for everyone at Oktoberfest. From fairground rides to all the different food stalls, you’re sure to find the perfect thing to sink your teeth into. Check out the latest Trachten trends and hook yourself up with a top class outfit, or discover the best Dirndl looks for the ladies to wear their hair. When you’re looking the part, it’s time to go and sample the offerings from the six traditional Munich breweries that serve up the festival’s all-important beer.
It sounds great, but what are the alternatives?
Maybe you’ve been to Oktoberfest before, you’re headed to another German city, or you just don’t fancy the all-singing, all-dancing Munich extravaganza. Whatever it is, there are some great alternatives to Oktoberfest across the country.
Known as ‘Wasan’ to the locals, Stuttgart’s Cannstatter Volksfest has roots almost as old as its Munich rival’s. While it’s still pretty massive in size, the festival is less touristy than Oktoberfest, and could be considered a bit more authentic.
The International Berlin Beer Festival meanwhile celebrates its diversity, and offers over 2,000 beers from around the world. Things are distinctly more Bavarian at the traditional Erlangen Bergkirchweih, while Bremen’s Freimarkt is the place to go if you’re in northwestern Germany.