One of the oldest and largest folk festivals in the world, Oktoberfest has a rich history. Starting off as the wedding festivities of King of Bavaria Ludwig I and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen, the celebrations soon became an annual event.
The Oktoberfest tradition began in 1810 and till date takes place annually in Munich, Bavaria in Germany. Spanning over 16 to 18 days, the festival kick starts in the middle of September and stretches into the first week of October. Oktoberfest tickets demand has increased in the last decade as an average 6 million people attend the festival, yearly.
Mostly associated with over a million gallons of beer, the Oktoberfest also presents the traditional Bavarian music, a variety of eating options, colorful parades and fairground rides. A huge crowd puller, Oktoberfest offers a quintessential travel experience as it attracts tourists and partiers from all over the world.
In 1810, the burghers of Munich were welcomed to celebrate the nuptials of Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. For five days the locals were treated to eclectic food, music and shooting display. In fact, the wedding celebration didn’t include any beer but kicked off with a royal horse race. Beer was introduced as the mainstay of the Oktoberfest in the following years and by the time it celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1910, around 120,000 liters of beer had been consumed.
People had such a great time that it was decided to host the festivities every year. With an exception of maybe a few times, mostly during wars, the festival hasn’t missed a year and 2018 will mark its 185th anniversary.
Since 1950, it has become a tradition at the Oktoberfest to start the festivities with a parade. Lavishly decorated horses pull carriages full of kegs, staff and waiters as between 8,000 to 10,000 participate in the parade.
Traditional Costume Parade
An integral part of the Oktoberfest in Munich, the parade starts from Maximilianstrasse and makes way to the Odeonsplatz where the official box of the Prime Minister of Bavaria and the Mayor of Munich is situated. The participants walk the 7-kilometer long course dressed in traditional costumes and indulge in the accustomed dance routines. Besides the various Bavarian groups, tourists from other parts of Germany and Europe also participate in the parade.
Focusing mostly on traditions, anything contemporary or resembling urban influences is frowned upon during the glorious parade. Each year the parade is opened by “Münchner Kindl” – Munich city’s very own brand ambassador. The Münchner Kindl is a young Munich lady who is selected every year to lead the parade, donning a robe as she sits high on a horse and is followed by the other carriages carrying Munich’s lord mayor and honorable dignitaries.
Breweries who participate in the festival also send in their horse carriages to the parade. Other highlights include appearances by the most successful marksmen of the country, Goaßlschnalzen (rhythmic whip-cracking), color guards and traditional floats.
The Beer of Oktoberfest
The Munich Oktoberfest is primarily known as one of the biggest beer events. Popularizing the Oktoberfest beer style among the craft and homebrewers, it traces its roots to the old-style Märzen.
Meaning “March Beer”, Märzen is a Bavarian tradition that includes starting the beer production in March, well before the warm season begins. Märzen is then put in cold storage to protect from bacteria and by the time fall arrives, there is ample beer to meet the demand.
In the early years of Oktoberfest, Märzen was poured and it went on to replete with the festival’s heavy beer consumption. In 1841, Oktoberfest served its first labeled Märzen produced by the Munich’s Spaten Brewery.
Oktoberfest follows strict rules on what beers can be served at the festival. No beers from breweries outside Munich are allowed at the festival and even smaller breweries can’t serve their beers at the Oktoberfest.
Once at the festival, most people start by sampling the different beers available and enjoy bites from pretzel necklaces so that they don’t get too consumed with the alcohol. There is also delicious food available to soak up the beer. The traditional offerings include ‘Schweinsbraten’ the roasted pork, chicken roast called “Hendl”, “Reiberdatschi” potato pancakes, “Steckerlfisch” grilled fish on a stick and white sausages “Weisswurst”.
Entry into the Oktoberfest is free. Oktoberfest ticket prices will be different for each offering, be it food, beers or souvenirs. The Oide Wiesnn is an important part of the Oktoberfest attractions. Located in the festival’s southern section, it allows the attendees to look at the vintage costumes, enjoy the 20th century rides and explore the Museum Tent.
There is also a family day that has separate Oktoberfest tickets, allowing entry into the festival grounds. “Familienplatzl” is a popular tent on the family day that treats the children to fun activities and exciting acts.
A visit to the English Garden is a must, especially for the first-timers. Spread over 900-acre land, the English Garden is one of the biggest parks in the world. The visitors can indulge in relaxing walk, ride a bike and even jog along the shaded paths. It all leads to the 19th century Monopteros that offers the stunning view of the city.
A visit to the Viktualienmarkt is also a must – a shopping market where a variety of gourmet products can be purchased. Marienplatz is a historical square boasting of many centuries-old architectural styles. It includes the famous city hall Rathous and the beautiful altar built by the renowned sculptor Erasmus Grasser.
There are so many things to do at the Oktoberfest, including a museum tour where you can learn about the festival’s rich history. Chicken dances, sing-alongs, traditional Bavarian attires and food, fun fair and music, ranging from yodeling to brass bands, all make Oktoberfest a top event to attend every year.
Munich’s favorite fall extravaganza goes beyond the brew, offering the patrons congeniality, contentment and relaxation.