Where: Munich, Bavaria, Germany When: Last two weeks of September
Oktoberfest or Wiesn, as it is called by the people of Munich, is the world’s biggest beer festival during the last two weeks in September ending on the first Sunday in October. Oktoberfest is fast food feeding galore with over 6,000 chickens, 90,000 pork legs and 80 oxen consumed accompanied by traditional brass bands, but most important of all – over six million visitors from all over the world drinks as much in litres of beer.
King Ludvig I’s wedding
The Oktoberfest was first held 1810 to celebrate King Ludvig I’s wedding with a horse race on the fields of Theresienwiese which was a success and ever since, it has been an annual celebration with a few exceptions.
A colourful parade begins the celebrations, when the tent concessionaires ride through the town on brewery wagons. Revellers dress up in traditional costumes from the different regions of Germany.
Then the celebrations are opened by the Mayor of Munich with the words “O Zapft is!” when the first beer keg is opened.
The beer is central to the celebrations but there is more to the 17-day event than Bavarian brews. There are 14 tents to choose from and each caters to a different audience, with different music, a different array of food and different overall ambience.
Some tents are smaller, such as the Burtschers Bratwursthuttn tent, with seating for an intimate crowd of 90, while others, such as the Löwenbräu tent, can seat upwards of 5,500 people at a time. To get into the spirit of the festival, visitors can don traditional Bavarian outfits – lederhosen for men and different styles of dirndl for women. All beers at Oktoberfest are made exclusively in Munich, so international travelers can enjoy famous beers like Augustiner and Hofbräu straight from the source.
The Oktoberfest in Munich is a family-friendly affair, with rides and attractions for children and venues such as Bodo’s Café Tent, which serves cakes and pastries from 9am, and a special kids’ day held in the Augustiner tent. Along with famous locally-brewed beers, visitors can enjoy classic Bavarian dishes: ham hock, potato salad, bread dumplings, venison, cheeses, roast duck, oxen, veal, fish, plus seemingly limitless derivations of meat and sausages.
For those who would like to burn off some calories, the livelier tents stay open until 1am, with DJs, live music and dancing. As one of the world’s most beautiful cities, Munich has as much to offer Oktoberfest visitors. Recently in the limelight as the host city for the European Cup, it’s got high-tech sports and leisure venues, plus medieval castles and palaces, churches, museums and galleries and, of course, beautiful Bavarian landscapes.
The Oktoberfest was originally a way to get rid of the big bulks of beer brewed in March, called Märzen, with extra hop to keep over the summer period when no beer could be brewed. Märzen is still brewed but is losing in popularity. The beer brewed today is not Märzen but a slightly stronger lager. This beer brewed specially for the Oktoberfest where only beer brewed in Munich is served.