The beginning of the Octoberfest in Munich
On October 12, 1810, Crown Prince Ludwig married Princess Theresia of Saxony-Hildburghausen. The citizens of Munich were allowed to share in the celebration because they were invited to the festivities organized in the fields in front of the city gates. These fields were called Theresienwiese (Meadow of Theresia), and therefore the inhabitants of Munich often refer to the Oktoberfest as “Wiesn”. In order to honor the newly married, a parade and horse racing were also organized. Year after year, other activities such as tree climbing and bowling were added to the show. Only in October 1853 (cholera epidemic), 1866 (war) and in 1873 (again cholera) no Oktoberfest was held in Munich. In 1880 the more than 400 stalls and tents were first illuminated with electricity and one year later, Bratwurst was being sold. Only eleven years later, in 1892 to be precise, the beer was served for the first time in the typical Oktoberfest glasses.
The dark side of the Oktoberfest in Munich
In 1910, during the 100th anniversary of the parties, no less than 120,000 liters (31 700.6463 US gallons) of beer were consumed! So far so good. But from October 1914 to 1918 no Oktoberfest took place as a result of the First World War. Even in the aftermath of the war, the festivities were not very festive… In 1919 and 1920 more small-scale Autumn festivals were organized and in 1923 and 1924 there was no Oktoberfest in Munich because of the heavy inflation.
During the rise of National Socialism, the Nazis saw the potential of the Wiesn, and used it as propaganda. In 1933, Jews were denied access.
In 1938 Austria was annexed and Hitler changed the name of the spectacle. The parties went on as the “Großdeutsches Volksfest” (The great German Peoples festivities) to show the power of the German empire. During the Second World War, there were no festivities either. Thus, the Oktoberfest hasn’t been celebrated for 24 times since its beginning.
How the Oktoberfest began in Munich
Since 1887 the festival has been opened with a parade. It starts at the Josephspitalstraße under the direction of the official city mascot, the Münchner Kindl. The current mayor follows right after the carriage of the Schottenhammel family. They are followed by decorated horse carts from the breweries and artists. This whole bunch is being adorned with happy tunes by the bands that appear later in the tents.
Since 1950, twelve gunshots follow right after twelve o’clock, after which the first barrel of beer is being opened. This is what the Mayor of Munich calls: “O’zapft is!” (It’s being poured!) Then the mayor gives the first liter of beer to the Minister-President of the State of Bavaria.
The beer at the Oktoberfest
Beer plays a crucial role during these public festivities and therefore it must meet certain conditions. Only barley that is in accordance with the Reinheitsbot (‘Purity commandment’) and beer that has been brewed in the city of Munich, may be served on the Wiesn.
Only six breweries meet these criteria:
- Staatliches Hofbräu-Munich
A Maß (liter of beer) costs between 10.60 and 10.95 euros, depending on the kind of beer and the tent where you buy it. Note that non-alcoholic beverages can be very expensive as well. For a liter of water you pay 11.60 euros in the Weinzelt!
The nicest tents of the Oktoberfest in Munich
There are a total of fourteen big and twenty small tents at the Oktoberfesten in Munich. As a result, you perhaps don’t really know where to go to when arriving for the first time. To make it easier for you, I made a short guide for the best tents on the Oktoberfest in Munich. These are all open until eleven o’clock in the evening, except for the Käfer’s Wiesn’n Schänke.
This is the first tent that most visitors will see when entering. Marstall is the old German word for the royal driving school. Horses are therefore the guiding motive in this tent, which you already see at the entrance, above which a large carriage hangs. In addition, there are a lot of horse decorations in the tent and the stage looks like a horse carousel. In the evening, the local band “Münchner Zwietracht” plays all the classics of these Bavarian festivities. A great atmosphere assured!
This is where it all starts. Only when the mayor pours his first beer, beer can be served in the other tents. It’s hard to believe that this establishment saw its visitors grow from 50 beer lovers to over 10,000 in 150 years. This tent is also very popular with the younger people, and thus part of the Schottenhamel is reserved for student organizations. If you want to party, you must be in the Schottenhamel!
This is the counterpart of the famous Hofbräuhaus, which lies in the city of Munich and attracts many visitors from all over the world during the Oktoberfest. People who want to eat something will find a lot of Bavarian delicacies, which are sold in the afternoon for cheaper prices.
This is the smallest of all major tents, and this is mainly visited by celebrities. It stays open for one and a half hours longer than the other tents, but that also makes it much more difficult to get in after 11 o’clock in the evening. Unless you have connections or are a celebrity. Here you’ll find the best food of the festivities, and especially the roasted Käfer duck is delicious!
You’ll probably already hear this tent from miles away because of the roar of a lion, which sounds every few minutes. When you approach the Löwenbräu-Festhalle, you will see immediately where this strange noise comes from: a 4.5 meter lion that even drinks beer itself! Bayern München fans better stay away, because this is where the supporters of Munich 1860 meet. This creates a truly bombastic atmosphere so that you can go completely crazy in this tent!
This is were the famous crossbow competition is being held, which is one of the highlights of the Wiesn. This competition has been organized since 1895. You can also enjoy delicious fried chicken, pork knuckle (recommended!) and the traditional Bratwurst mit Sauerkraut. To complete the party, the PLATZ brass band provides the necessary music. Ganz geil!
This is said to be the friendliest tent of all. Regardless of the hustle and bustle, the waiters will always greet you with a smile. Therefore, this tent is perfect for families and on every Tuesday of the Oktoberfesten there is a special day with extra low prices. The Augustiner-Festhalle is also visited by many locals because their favorite beer, Augustiner, is served here. Unlike the steel barrels in the other tents, traditional wooden barrels are still being used here!
In this tent it’s all about ‘Gemütlichkeit’ (cosiness) and therefore the Winzerer Fähndl is considered the most cozy tent of the Wiesn. The cozy decor with authentic Bavarian details make it possible for many visitors to stay longer than planned. It’s therefore not surprising that you regularly meet a celebrity here.
Everyone visiting the Oktoberfest in Munich will arrive at this tent at one point. Long rows of hungry people are waiting to finally fill their stomach with the famous suckling pig that is served here. This is prepared in the traditional Bavarian way in a malt beer sauce and it’s served with a potato salad.
This tent is called the “Himmel der Bayern” (heaven of Bayern) and when you look at the clouds and stars on the ceiling with an ice cold Maß (liter of beer), you might actually think that you’re in the Bavarian heaven. This is the perfect place to escape all brass music because every night a rock band is playing here.
This tent was named after the daughter of the brewer Pschorr and here it’s all about entertainment. A yodeller creates an amazing atmosphere and traditional Bavarian music. On the first Sunday of the festival, this is the place where the immensely popular Rosa Wiesn takes place, a party for the LGBT community.
You don’t necessarily have to drink beer during the Oktoberfest, because in this tent you’ll find fifteen different wines, like various types of sparkling wine and champagne.
If you have had enough of the Bratwursten, pigs or smoked oxtongue, you’ll love Fischer Vroni. In this party tent you’ll find delicious sea foods and see how it’s being prepared. A variety of fish is roasted on a fifteen meter long row.
When you look at the entrance of this tent, you’ll immediately notice what it’s all about. A giant ox twirls around on a stick and you’ll spontaneously get hungry. Here you can find an impressive variety of oyster specialties. After eating, you can go party right away.
The five nicest little tents
Zur Bratwurst can be easily recognized because it’s not really a tent but more like a timbered house of two floors. Here you can find about 170 guests trying to eat one of the delicious Rostbratwürstl. Baked sausages which are then grilled on a wooden fire. Add to this the live band Original Fremdgänger and a whole lot of Augstiner beer and you have the recipe for a great party.
Your Oktoberfesten aren’t complete without tasting the Bavarian Knödelei specialty. There are a lot of different dumplings offered, like ones with mushrooms or cheese. There’s even healthy dumplings with spinach or beet and even sweet variations like banana.
The outside of this tent is perhaps the prettiest ‘tent’ of the Wiesn. This beautiful castle is the place to be for a delicious breakfast. Coffee, pastries, croissants, pretzels, … you’ll find all of it here. Wine, champagne and cocktails are also served.
Wirtshaus im Schichtl
This is the ideal mix between entertainment and food. This tent has been at the parties since 1869 and is famous for the cabaret show where it seems as if people are beheaded. The dishes offered here are all organic and the service here is also extra friendly. In other words, this is an ideal snacking tent!
This is the smallest and also one of the most cozy tents of the festival. In addition, it’s a lot less hectic than in the other noisy tents. The walls and ceiling are decorated with old instruments, cooking utensils, mugs and paintings. This creates an extremely personal and comfortable atmosphere.
Traditional clothing at the Oktoberfest in Munich
Almost everyone associates the Oktoberfest with traditional Bavarian clothing. Lederhosen and a hat for the men and a nice dress (with deep cleavage) for the women, also known as a Dirndl. It’s absolutely not mandatory to wear these traditional clothes, but if you know that almost 90% of the visitors are dressed in such a way, you’ll look a little weird strolling around in your jeans. On the official website you can buy these nice outfits, but I’ll have to warn you that the cheapest Lederhosen already costs a whopping 139 euros… So if you’re planning to visit the Oktoberfesten once, you may be better off by renting a costume in a carnival store.
Access is free so you don’t have to buy tickets for the October fesitivities in Munich at all. However, the tents are regularly completely full in no time. Luckily, you can always book a place (and table) in one of the tents via GetYourGuide and / or Viator.
You better book your tickets for the Oktoberfest in Munich as early as possible because around February or March most of them have already been sold. If you weren’t in time to snatch some tickets, I advise you to go to the festivities as early as possible. During the week the Oktoberfest starts at half past three in the afternoon, and in the weekends even early in mornings.
Beginning and opening hours of the Oktoberfesten
Oktoberfest in Munich starts year on sixteen September and ends on the 3rd of October this year. The spectacle lasts for eighteen days! You probably wonder why they call it ‘Oktoberfest’ when they only start in September. The start of the Wiesn has been moved to September because the weather is much better this month. Because the first Oktoberfest in Munich took place in October, they have respectfully kept this name.
Of course you also have to know when the beer is being served:
- On the opening day from 12 pm until 10:30 pm.
- During the week from ten o’clock in the morning until 10:30 pm.
- During the weekend from 9am to 10:30 in the evening
The tents close at midnight, except for the Käfers Wiesnschänke and the Weinzelt, which remain open until one o’clock.
- Children under six must leave the tents at eight o’clock even when in the company of adults.
- All tents are non-smoking.
- You can only drink beer in the tents. Glasses should not be taken outside.
- It’s not just about drinking beer, but there are also a lot of other recreational possibilities. You can take a ride on the roller coaster, freak out at the house of terrors or enjoy a magnificent view on top of the Ferris wheel. For the youngest, there are also adapted attractions and even a funny flea circus.
- Don’t forget to give the waiters a tip!
- Parking your car near the Wiesn is actually impossible. You will therefore visit the celebrations with public transport. All information about this can be found here.
Oktoberfest all over the world
The festival in Munich inspired beer drinkers and party animals throughout the world. If you’re not in Munich this year, I’ll give you three wonderful alternatives.
This is the second largest Oktoberfest in the world with 700,000 visitors celebrating the Bavarian culture.
Cincinnati, United States
The United States’ largest Oktoberfest attracts half a million visitors each year. All of these people eat 80.500 bratwursten, 56.250 ‘normal’ sausages and 16,000 strudels together with thousands of gallons of beer.
Kitchener Waterloo, Canada
A million people go crazy here every year during this nine-day event.
In addition, there are similar festivals in China, Japan, Chile and Australia.
The Oktoberfest is an event that every person must have experienced at least once. All dressed up in Lederhosen with your German drinking mates while you swallow several liters of beer certainly has its charms! If you haven’t been able to get Oktoberfest tickets for this year, you can already mark September 22, 2018 in your calendar. Or perhaps you can attend the Wiesn in the United States or another country in the meantime. Of course these alternatives are not to be compared with the original Oktoberfest of Munich…
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Hi, I'm Sam Van den Haute. The last three years I've been traveling the world almost constantly. Heading out for an adventure and visiting the most beautiful places are what I love to do! Let me inspire you with great stories, beautiful pictures and handy tips from my adventures and travels. On my facebook page and instagram account you'll get to see the latest updates and photos to inspire you for your next vacation.