Every year, over 6 million people from around the globe descend upon Munich, Germany, to celebrate Oktoberfest—a festival so iconic that it has inspired countless imitations worldwide. However, nothing compares to the original. If you plan on experiencing this world-renowned event, here are ten things you should know.
1. The History: It’s More Than Just Beer
Believe it or not, Oktoberfest started as a wedding celebration. In 1810, the citizens of Munich were invited to celebrate the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese. The festivities were such a hit that they’ve been repeated annually, evolving into the beer-centric extravaganza we know today.
2. The Dates: Not Actually in October
Despite its name, Oktoberfest usually begins in the last weeks of September and runs into the first weekend of October. The reason? Better weather conditions. This year, the festival is scheduled to run from September 16 to October 3.
3. The Venue: Welcome to Theresienwiese
Oktoberfest takes place at Theresienwiese, a sprawling field named after Princess Therese. With 85 acres of space, the festival includes beer tents and a wide range of amusement rides, food stalls, and games. The closest metro stop is appropriately named “Theresienwiese.”
4. The Beer Tents: A Tent for Everyone
There are 17 large and numerous smaller tents, each with a unique atmosphere and specialty brew. Some popular tents include:
- Schottenhamel: Where the Mayor of Munich kicks off the festival by tapping the first keg.
- Hofbräu-Festzelt: Favored by tourists and known for its lively atmosphere.
- Augustiner-Festhalle: A family-friendly tent serving beer from Munich’s oldest privately-owned brewery.
5. The Beer: It’s Special, and It’s Strong
The beer served at Oktoberfest isn’t your standard lager; it’s a special brew for the festival. With an alcohol content of around 6-7%, it’s stronger than you might be used to. Drink responsibly!
6. The Food: More Than Just Pretzels
While giant pretzels and hearty sausages are plentiful, Oktoberfest offers a wide range of traditional Bavarian food. From roasted chicken and pork knuckles to delicious pastries, there’s something for everyone.
7. The Attire: Embrace the Lederhosen and Dirndl
While it’s not mandatory, many attendees embrace the opportunity to dress in traditional Bavarian clothing. Men wear Lederhosen (leather shorts), and women wear Dirndls (a traditional dress). Don’t worry, there are plenty of shops around Munich where you can rent or buy these outfits.
8. The Music: Oompah and Beyond
Each tent has its own live band playing a mix of traditional Bavarian music, German pop, and international classics. If you hear the song “Ein Prosit,” it’s a signal to raise your glass and toast with your neighbors.
9. The Rides and Games: Not Just for Kids
Oktoberfest is like a giant carnival, complete with thrilling rides and games. From the classic Ferris wheel to roller coasters, there’s plenty of entertainment for the young and young-at-heart.
10. How to Oktoberfest Like a Pro
- Reserve a Table: If you’re going with a group, it’s advisable to reserve a table well in advance.
- Cash is King: While some tents now accept cards, it’s best to have cash on hand for quick transactions.
- Tipping: Remember to tip your server; it’s customary to round up to the nearest euro or add 10%.
So there you have it—everything you need to know to make the most of your Oktoberfest experience. Whether you’re going for the beer, the food, or the sheer joy of it all, Munich’s Oktoberfest is a celebration like no other. Prost!
Alexandrea Sumuel is a travel writer and the founder of the Wander With Alex travel blog, where she provides vacationers with trip ideas, travel guides, news, and itineraries. She travels to experience, eat, explore, and escape! Alex’s mission is to help peopl find the perfect vacation destination.