September 14, 2015

Taking place between the 19th of September and 4th of October, Oktoberfest is Munich’s most popular annual event, and it’s something that I try to attend every year if possible. This fun, folk festival is a great event to take part in as you’ll be joined by hundreds of people, all there to enjoy the contagious atmosphere. It’s not just about drinking beer; I personally love going to the festival to see the live music, and to buy gifts for the family back home. When my family comes with me, they love the fairground rides and parades, and then of course, there’s the food! Check out my guide to this year’s Oktoberfest in Munich.

 While the original event used tents, the grounds of Oktoberfest these days are a little more concrete
While the original event used tents, everything at Oktoberfest these days is a little more solid.

History

The first Oktoberfest was in 1810, and was originally put in place to celebrate a wedding between two royals. For five long days, prominent figures in society were invited to drink and dine in splendour, surrounded by parades and live music. There was also a horse race around the meadow just outside the centre of Munich. The whole event was such a thriving success that the organisers decided to keep having it year after year and, when possible, it’s been happening ever since. This year will be the festival’s 182nd year!

Opening parade

A fantastic display, the start of the festival is marked with a grand parade, which leads the crowds to the Oktoberfest tent. Horse-drawn carriages represent each of the breweries in Munich, and landlords from the participating local pubs are dressed in traditional outfits. Waitresses from each pub dance on wonderfully decorated floats, and live music is played by the beer-tent bands. If you’re there for the start of the festival on the 19th, this is a great way to get stuck in before the festivities officially begin.

 Horses pull the carriages of parades as they make their way to the Oktoberfest tents
Horses pull the carriages of parades as they make their way to the Oktoberfest tents.

Costume and Rifleman’s parade

The festival parades show just how great Oktoberfest can be for families of all ages, even those not interested in the beer. On the first Sunday of the festival there’s a display by the Costume and Rifleman's Procession, which shows a range of different costumes from different historical troops.

My kids in particular love this parade, as there are marching bands, horses, cows, goats and decorated brewery floats, featuring traditional tools, harvest produce and flower arrangements. Trumpets blare in the background as flag throwers perform, and it makes for a wonderful display of traditional Bavarian culture. On the same day, you’ll be able to see a huge open-air concert featuring almost 400 musicians.

Oktoberfest beer tents

Undoubtedly, the most popular part of Oktoberfest are the beer tents. You’ll find them on the original meadow where the first festival was held back in 1810, just a short tram ride from the city centre. Litre-size glass tankards are available, while non-beer drinkers can enjoy a range of fizzy soft drinks. Dance to traditional Bavarian music played by loud brass bands, and sit down on long wooden benches to enjoy Bavarian gastronomic delights, such as thick salty pretzels. If my family are keen, they sometimes let me dress up in traditional Bavarian dress! This means lederhosen, for men, and traditional dresses known as Dirndl, for women. It’s great fun, and we love getting stuck into the area’s culture.

 Revellers enjoying the festivities in the beer tents at Oktoberfest
Revellers enjoying the festivities in the beer tents at Oktoberfest.

Interested in attending this year’s Oktoberfest?

While the start of the festival is often the busiest time, many people, particularly locals, prefer to go in the following week when the crowds are slightly smaller. With Eurotunnel Le Shuttle, you can get from Folkestone to Calais in just 35 minutes, then it’s less than half a day’s drive to Munich.

Photo Credits:
Revellers enjoying the festivities - 46137
The grounds of Oktoberfest these days are a little more concrete - Heribert Pohl
Horses pull the carriages of parades - Heribert Pohl
The fairground at Oktoberfest - digital cat

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