What is Oktoberfest?

The history of the largest public festival in the world!

Horses in Oktoberfest regalia

The first Oktoberfest

Even before the advent of the Munich Oktoberfest, autumn beer festivals were had always been traditionally common in Bavaria as- an excellent way to use up beer stored from the previous March before beginning the new brewing season.! First held on 17 October 1810 as part of the celebrations marking the wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese, the Nnow world-famous, the huge Munich Oktoberfest beer festival has evolved over the pastfrom 200 years from thisof this tradition. To mark the wedding in October 1810, It was first held on 17 October 1810 as part of the celebrations marking the wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese. Bbanker and Major military officer Andreasw Michael von Dall'Armi organized a spectacular horse race on a meadow outside the city walls of Munich -– the site afterwards later named Theresienwiese in honour of the bride -– which has now become the traditional venue for the festival. As Crown Prince Ludwig was interested in ancient Greece, one of his courtiers suggested that the post - race party should be in the style of the Olympic Games, and so in its early years, the Oktoberfest had a predominantly sporting character. The Bavarian royal court decided to celebrate with their loyal subjects by repeating the horse races and festivities at the same time each year, - thus beginningan the tradition of the Munich Oktoberfest. No longer confined to Bavaria, the Oktoberfest beer festival is now celebrated in countries all over the world, - Oktoberfest London, San Francisco’s Oktoberfest by the Bay, or Canada’s Kitchener Oktoberfest being just a fewone examples. Other now iconic features of the modern Oktoberfest include the Bavarian costumes -– Oktoberfest girls in their Oktoberfest dressess, dirndls or dirndl-dresses, accompanied by men in equally traditional lederhosen and, of course, - the legendary beer steins!


Oktoberfest factsOktoberfest today

Oktoberfest facts!

The Oktoberfest in Munich is the biggest festival open to the general public in the world. Having taken place almost every year since 1810 at the Theresienwiese in the Bavarian capital, it now has around six million visitors annually.

Many visitors book one of the increasingly popular Oktoberfest trips, others organise their own stay so that they can enjoy the atmosphere – and the special Oktoberfest Beer. produced by the Munich breweries aespecially for the festival (Oktoberfest Märzen), a heady brew with more original wort and therefore a higher-than-average alcohol content (about 6-7%).

Who can resist when it’s served by one of the delightful Oktoberfest waitresses? To celebrate the 200th anniversary in 2010 a historical Oktoberfest’ or Oktoberfest Museum known as the “Oide Wiesn” was introduced on the site of the Central Agricultural Festival at the south end of the Theresienwiese. Now an established fixture in addition to the main Oktoberfest, the Oide Wiesn now has its own ceremonial ‘keg-tapping’ by the Lord Mayor and five acres of grounds with traditional fairground rides, Oktoberfest tents, traditional German music playing in the background, as well as a variety of historical and fairground attractions including merry-go-rounds, candy-floss a pet tent, and of course, the Racecourse. In other words: - as much of a must for your Oktoberfest Package as the Oktoberfest Beer!


When is the Oktoberfest?

As the colder weather usually starts in October, since 1872, the Munich Oktoberfest has been taking place at the end of September, although festivals celebrating it elsewhere in the world continue on well into the eponymous month.

  Enjoying the rides at Oktoberfest Germany

Oktoberfest Dates

The original Oktoberfest in Munich always opens on the first Saturday after 15 September and closes on the first Sunday in October. Since 2000, the following additional rule has applied to the timing of Oktoberfest: if 1 or 2 October is a Sunday, the festival is extended until the Day of German Unity on 3 October, meaning that the festival now lasts at least 16, but possibly up to 18, days in total. The tents open at 9.00am on the first Oktoberfest Saturday, but beer is only served from 12.00 midday after the first tapping by the Mayor of Munich in Schottenhamel tent. During the week, the tents open from 10:00am to 11:30pm and are open at weekends from 09:00am to 11:30pm. (although they stop serving beer at 10:30pm). The stalls and rides usually open at 10:00am and close at 11:30pm during the week, and at 12:00 midnight on Saturdays.


Where is the Oktoberfest?



The ceremonial keg tappingMunich Oktoberfest: The ceremonial keg tapping

For the last 200 years, the Munich Oktoberfest has taken place at the place where it was first held, the Theresienwiese, - 42 hectares of open space located in Munich's Isarvorstadt district. The Oktoberfest festival itself covers 31 hectares (or 26 hectares when the Oide Wiesn‘ is not held to make way for the four-yearly agricultural expo).

The ground is named after Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen: - the first Oktoberfest was held as part of the celebrations after her wedding to Prince Louis of Bavaria (see above). The keg-tapping ceremony takes place on the first Saturday at the opening of the Oktoberfest on the Theresienwiese itself, but now of course, Oktoberfest is celebrated all around the world, too.
Oktoberfest London, for example, is celebrated by thousands of visitors in traditional Bavarian beer festival style at tents in London parks (Kennington, Lambeth and Southwark). North America, too, has hundreds of large-scale Oktoberfests at which everything is provided, from authentic beer and Bavarian food through to traditional German “Schlager” music: so you if can’t make it away, you don’t have to go to Munich to sport your lederhosen and dirndls and join in the fun!


Oktoberfest tents

  Four of the biggest Munich Oktoberfest tents

The great and small beer tents on Wiesn!

The Oktoberfest is characterised by its famous Oktoberfest tents - large and small, you should aim to try them all! There are 14 large tents, - many sponsored by and named after particular breweries: Armbrustschützenzelt, Augustiner Festhalle, Bräurosl, Fischer Vroni, Hackerzelt, Hofbräu Festzelt, Käfers Wiesnschänke, Löwenbräu Festhalle, Marstall, Ochsenbraterei, Paulaner Festhalle Schottenhammel, Schützenfestzelt, and Winzerer Fähndl.

Then there 21 smaller tents specializing in a range of traditional food, drink, and entertainments: Stiftl Festzelt (known for chicken), Bodos Cafézelt (café-style), Heinz Wurst- und Hühnerbraterei (sausage and chicken), Münchner Knödelei (dumplings), Poschner’s Hühner- und Entenbraterei, Hühner und Entenbraterei Wildmoser (both chicken and duck roasthouses), Wirtshaus im Schichtl (fairground-style cabaret performances), Goldener Hahn (all-rounder), Metzgerstubn (traditional Munich meat dishes), Hochreiters Kalbsbraterei (veal), Café Mohrenkopf (coffee house), Wildstuben (game meat), Glöckle Wirt (pub-style atmosphere), Hochreiters Haxnbraterei (speciality: knuckle of pork), Hühner und Entenbraterei Ammer (chicken and duck), Wiesn Guglhupf (schnaps), Feisingers Kas- und Weinstubn (cheese and wine), Schiebls Kaffeehaferl, Café Kaierschmarrn (both places for coffee and cake), Zur Bratwurst (brats and other sausages). The biggest Oktoberfest tent is the Hofbräufestzelt, run by the world-famous Hofbräu brewery, with more than 10,000 seats and standing room for guests - and of course the beautiful Oktoberfest girls in their traditional Bavarian costumes always on hand to top up your stein!

The smallest tent is the Feisinger's Kas and Weinstub'n, with about 92 seats. But no matter how big or small the tents are, though, the atmosphere is always great with plenty of Oktoberfest music and a wide variety of costumes - from people in full traditional dress and those with a more modern take on the dirndls and lederhosen. It’s always busy and best to book in advance - many people now book Oktoberfest packages - especially if you’re in a large group or just want to avoid the queues that can form in the evenings or at weekends.

Admission into the tents is free, but beer is only served at the tables, with gangways kept clear for safety (and for the Oktoberfest girls to serve your beer). With all the - traditional German “Schlager” music, it’s tempting to tap your toes, perhaps even cut a rug, but be aware that dancing is only allowed on the benches and not on the tables!

Advance reservations can be made from December of the preceding year and these usually require booking your beer in advance -by purchasing vouchers of a value between €20.,00 to €80.,0. You’ve then got to arrive on time at the table so that you don’t miss your slot (although your vouchers will remain valid in the tent in question even if you can’t make it to your table). Reservations can be made on the websites of the tents, but as spaces tends to go quickly, most people from outside Munich either try their luck on the day or book package tours.



Eating and drinking at the Oktoberfest


Traditional Oktoberfest fareWhite sausage, roast chicken et al.

Alongside the Oktoberfest beer, the German music, and the gorgeous Oktoberfest girls, one of the main highlights of the festival has to be the traditional culinary treats. Even the hardiest Oktoberfest beer drinker needs a hearty meal to help them stay/get back on their fee,t and there’s something for every taste (and every wallet…). In the tents, the Oktoberfest girls will be happy to serve everything from roast chicken, traditional pork sausages, and pork knuckles through to, beef and veal dishes, roast pork with dumplings, or sausages with sauerkraut. Then there’s the flavoursome, ‘Obazda’ cheese dip with fresh bread, mackerel, fish cakes and pretzels, and – outside of the tents – plenty of snacks - for those with a sweeter tooth: - candy floss, traditional sugared almonds, glazed fruits and delicious sweet dumplings….

And all of this, of course, can be washed down with another stein of Oktoberfest beer: you’ve have the choice of six different, delicious traditional Bavarian beers, with each tent serving one of the brews (Augustiner, Hacker-Pschorr, Hofbräu, Löwenbräu, Paulaner, Spaten).

  Oktoberfest costumes
  Dirndls & Lederhosen
To buy lederhosen or other traditional Oktoberfest outfits take a look at the latest AlpenClassics collection!

Dirndl and Lederhosen - the new trend in Oktoberfest costumes.

Is traditional Bavarian costume, “Tracht” in German, outdated? Do I really have to buy and take a pair of lederhosen or a dirndl? Well, discard them at your peril, as the dirndl dress or lederhosen costume is an absolute must at the Oktoberfest!

You’ll find Bavarian fashion in a variety of shapes, sizes, styles and colours; from traditional dirndl costumes to up-to-date mini dirndl‘s, ladies’ lederhosen, and blouses for the girls. Not to be outdone, the men sport anything from traditional lederhosen costumes with buck or wild goat leather breeches, dress shirts and all the accessories with hats, chains, and brogues through to all-out fancy dress (and some, if their friends dare them, will even wear dirndls…!).

A very few brave souls go to the Oktoberfest in jeans and a t-shirt, but most will adopt some aspect of the Bavarian costume tradition - even if it’s just one of the latest Oktoberfest trend hats - now available in all colours and shapes from classic dark green, gray or brown, to bright eye-catcher’s like pink, purple or turquoise with a variety modern brooches and feathers to enhance the effect.


Oktoberfest worldwide!


Oktoberfest WordwidePeople from 70 different countries at the Oktoberfest.

Around 6 million visitors from 70 countries around the world visit the Theresienwiese every year for the Bavarian Oktoberfest. An ATM at the fairgrounds listed, amongst others, visitors from the following countries: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bolivia, Belize, Bosnia Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Britain, Canada, Cayman, Iceland, Costa Rica, Chile, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Republic of Korea, Kuwait, Latvia, Lebanon, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Namibia, Netherlands , New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela.

But the Oktoberfest is not just confined to Germany...


Where else are there Oktoberfests?

The popular Bavarian beer drinking tradition has now spread around the world and this year you’ll find Oktoberfests in Brazil, Britain, China, Canada, USA, Russia and Australia. For example, in the UK, the London, Manchester, and Belfast Oktoberfests take place in September and October with many of the Bavarian beer tent traditions visitors might recognise from Munich. But the German beer drinking traditions are not confined to one month of the year and the popularity has spread beyond the actual festival weeks to see Oktoberfest - themed pubs and Bavarian beer houses set up in London and across Britain. The United States, of course, has an even longer tradition of German beer halls.


A day in the Hofbräu Oktoberfest tent!
Oktoberfest 2012


A day in the biggest tent at the Oktoberfest!

In this four-minute video, you’ll get an idea of the atmosphere in a large beer tent: the dancing to the Oktoberfest music, the singing along to the Oktoberfest songs, the laughter and reverie as the Oktoberfest girls serve beer by the litre and thousands of people sway to the typically German music.



The Oktoberfest Hit of 2012!
"Rockaholixs Buam - Here in Bavaria"


What would Oktoberfest be without the traditional German music - as characteristic as the Oktoberfest girls in their dirndls, the lederhosen, and beer steins!

Each year, the unmistakable Oktoberfest music is broadcast through the tents, and many of the bigger tents also give you an opportunity to hear some of the music live from the original artists. Every year, the leading Munich newspaper tz and the radio station 96.3 GONG take around two months to select the top Oktoberfest hit out of the 260 Oktoberfest songs entered in 2012, for instance, the winners were the Rockaholixs Buam with their song "Here in Bavaria".

As the winners, they had to perform live in one of the famous Oktoberfest tents on the Theresienwiese for 16 days straight. That’s some prize…!