If you’re a beer lover, Oktoberfest is your mecca. The two-week party takes over Munich and invites six million attendees to raise their steins. Consider making the trip to sample the best beers Germany has to offer. However, if you don’t want to miss a single day, you’ll have to leave a little earlier than expected. The two weeks end in October but actually start mid-September!
The Longest Wedding Reception Ever
Typical wedding celebrations include lots of alcohol and indulgent food. With this in mind, it’s not such a surprise to learn that Oktoberfest began as a royal wedding. Crown Prince Ludwig I of Bavaria and Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen married on October 12,1810. The Crown Prince was so overjoyed that the Bavarian National Guard invited the whole town to celebrate. The original site where the party took place became Theresienwise after the princess. At first the festival’s main attraction was horse racing, not beer, but drinking became more of a focus in the late nineteenth century.
This year Oktoberfest will last from September 16th to October 3rd (a gradual shift in schedule towards warmer weather). Beer tents are still abundant, but now they’re much sturdier with seating for hundreds or even thousands of customers. An old ruling only allowed beer from Germany’s six breweries to be served at Oktoberfest. Now those same breweries – Spaten, Lowenbrau, Augustiner, Hacker-Pschorr, Hofbrau and Paulaner – create landmarks with the biggest and most colorful tents at the event. Cheer for the first beer of the season in the enormous Schottenhamel tent, enjoy the cozy Glockle Wirt that seats under a hundred guests, or the beer garden in the Winzerer Fahndl.
You’ll Need Two Weeks to See Everything
While you’ll spend a lot of time and money on beer, the festival has many draws. People-watching alone will keep you busy as many visitors arrive in traditional lederhosen or Dirndl dresses. You can even bring the kids for family-friendly attractions like dancing, parades and carnival rides. This year’s festival advertises dozens of rides that accommodate all ages. Live shows encourage the crowd to step right up and take a spin.
Of course you’ll need to stop for food to offset the beer and fuel your revelry. The most popular snacks are the oversized soft German pretzels. If you’re up for trying something different go for the pork knuckles, smoked fish and oxen. For those with a sweet tooth there’s gingerbread, cakes and strudel. Munich also has some excellent local restaurants, including a list of vegetarian or vegan offerings. You can also spend a day taking a cooking class before heading back to the festival at night.
Start Planning Early
This year’s Oktoberfest is already here, but you can still celebrate by planning a trip for next year. The official Oktoberfest website contains other valuable information and is a good place to start. It’s advisable to attend during the week since the weekends are overcrowded with tourists. While tent seats might be available during off times, look into making reservations. And don’t worry – wearing a traditional lederhosen or Dirndl dress isn’t mandatory, it’s just fun!