A bucket list beer festival.
What is it?
Only the biggest beer festival in the world! It began in 1810 as a celebration for the wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. All the citizens of Munich were invited for five days of revelry – including a lot of beer. The festival has run almost continually since then (with a few breaks during wartime) and is now in its 183rd year. Today, the festival runs for 16 days, the grounds cover more than 100 acres with 14 main beer tents and endless smaller tents selling food and drink, plus carnival rides and entertainment. Around 7.2 million people attend and consume 7.5 million litres of beer.
What should I expect?
In a word, madness. For the full experience you’ll want to get a seat inside one of the beer tents, but these fill up early. You should try and arrive by 10:30am to get a spot. Some tents allow you to make reservations, so check online. The most popular tents are the Hofbräu-Festzelt, a traditional-style tent that can seat 10,000 people, the Löwenbräu-Festhalle, which draws a slightly older crowd, and the Schottenhamel, the oldest tent at the festival and the place where the mayor taps the first keg for the official opening. Order a stein (containing a litre of beer) from one of the passing waitresses in traditional dirindl costumes and join in shouting “prost”, which is the German word for cheers. Don’t miss out on the food either – delicious pork knuckle, roast chicken and pretzels will help soak up some of that booze.
Anything to watch out for?
Oktoberfest can get pretty messy. It attracts a huge number of young tourists from around the world, all of whom are keen to drink as much beer as possible. The legal drinking age in Germany is 16, so some of the kids there will seem impossible young. Fights are not uncommon, often with the enormous security guards on one side of it. And the steins are glass, so make sure you wear closed shoes in case of breakages.
How can I attend?
Entry to the site itself is free. Once inside the tents, you’ll pay around €10 for a stein.
When is it?
Funnily enough, it’s not really in October. When it began, the festival ran for around a week in mid-October. Over the years the festival was extended and began to move back into September. The better weather and warmer nights meant people could spend more time outside enjoying the festivities. In 2017 Oktoberfest will be held from September 16 to October 3.
Have you ever been to Oktoberfest?