For many people in Europe and further afield, October is synonymous with the world’s most famous beer festival, held across 17 days at various venues in Munich, Germany. While Oktoberfest may be best known as a beer-swigging celebration, there are many more activities and experiences to be found at this family-friendly festival set in one of Europe’s most scenic locations.
Indeed, the 14 beer tents only account for around one third of the grounds, which otherwise feature game booths, snack stalls and other attractions, including haunted houses, roller coasters and an iconic Ferris wheel. Many Oktoberfest regulars bring the whole family, with no intention of drinking until they collapse. Furthermore, there are the famous German delicacies of roast chicken, fried fish, gingerbread and more varieties of wurst (German sausage) than you’ve likely seen before.
Oktoberfest has a long and proud tradition dating back to 1810, when the first festival was held in honour of Bavaria’s Crown Prince Ludwig upon his marriage to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen.
While these precise origins may have been largely forgotten by festival-goers, traditions such as the donning of historical Bavarian clothing certainly haven’t. You’ll see local and foreign men alike donning lederhosen (leather trousers), high socks, braces and chequered shirts. Women, meanwhile, can be seen sporting the dirndl, a maid-like apron and corset combo that has become one of the enduring images of Oktoberfest.
For all its family-friendly rides and amusements though, most people come to Oktoberfest to take part in the drinking contests and sample various local brews. It’s estimated that more than seven million litres of beer (1.5 million gallons) are consumed each year during the event, and places fill up fast in the 14 beer tents. So, it’s wise to arrive early if you want to reserve places for your friends and family. The same goes when arranging discount hotels ahead of time, as the best deals typically sell out well in advance of the festival.
If you’re planning on visiting Oktoberfest this year, visiting on the first or last weekend may be the best option, depending whether you prefer to be swept up in the optimism of the start of festival season or be among the mad rush to a spectacular finish. Bear in mind that the latter weeks of the festival are slightly more likely to be plagued by rain than the first week, as summer gives way to autumn, but if you’re planning on spending most of your time in the beer tents enjoying the local flavours this shouldn’t present too much of a problem.