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Oktoberfest: History & How to Celebrate in German Tradition

Oktoberfest: History & How to Celebrate in German Tradition

Oktoberfest is the perfect way to get in the fall spirit! This festival originated in Germany and is celebrated all over the world. If you’re looking to learn more about it, read on for everything you need to know.

Oktoberfest. The name itself evokes Bavarian culture, beer, and endless days of eating sausages and drinking beer. But what is Oktoberfest? Where did it come from? And how do you get ready for a trip to Munich? We’re going to answer all of your questions about Germany’s biggest festival so you can celebrate in style when it comes around each year (beginning September 22).

There are many reasons why you might want to learn about Oktoberfest. Perhaps you’re planning a trip to Germany and want to be able to fully appreciate the experience. Or maybe you’re just curious about this popular event. No matter your reasons, we’ve got you covered with everything you need to know about Oktoberfest.

There are a few common challenges people have when it comes to celebrating Oktoberfest. First of all, some people don’t know how to properly celebrate the event. If you’re not familiar with the traditions, it can be difficult to know what to do.

Another challenge is that Oktoberfest can be expensive. This is especially true if you’re planning a trip to Germany. However, there are ways to save money and still have a great time.

Now that we’ve gone over some of the challenges, let’s get into the fun stuff.

Here’s everything you need to know about Oktoberfest.

What is Oktoberfest?

bunch of friends drinking beer

Oktoberfest is a 16-day festival that takes place in Munich, Germany. It typically starts in late September and ends in early October. The festival is known for its beer, food, and traditional Bavarian clothing. Oktoberfest is also a great opportunity to try new things and experience different cultures.

In addition to drinking beer, Oktoberfest also features traditional German foods such as sausages (würstl), pretzels (brezn) and schnitzel (a breaded cutlet). Beer tents are set up throughout the grounds where revelers can enjoy these foods while listening to German folk music played by live bands.

How do you celebrate Oktoberfest?

beer and food

If you’re planning on attending Oktoberfest in Munich, there are a few things you should know. First of all, you’ll need to purchase a ticket. Tickets are required for entry into the festival grounds, which are called “Theresienwiese” or “Wiesn” for short.

You can also make beer tent reservations, which will give you access to that tent’s activities and attractions. Each tent has its own theme, music, and atmosphere.

When it comes to clothing, you’ll want to wear traditional Bavarian attire. This includes lederhosen for men and dirndls for women. If you don’t have traditional clothing, don’t worry – you can still have a great time. Many people wear regular clothes to Oktoberfest.

Of course, no trip to Munich Oktoberfest would be complete without trying the beer. There are many different types of beer available at the festival. You can also find traditional German foods like pretzels, sausages, and schnitzel.

Oktoberfest History

Oktoberfest history

Oktoberfest is the world’s largest beer festival and the most important event in Bavaria. People have flocked to Munich Oktoberfest from all parts of the globe to participate in the world’s largest festival for nearly 200 years.

It’s a celebration of Bavarian culture that began in 1810. Originally, it was a wedding celebration held by King Ludwig I to celebrate his marriage to Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. The name “Oktoberfest” comes from the month when it was originally held: October.

Oktoberfest has been held at Theresienwiese since 1818—and although today it lasts for almost two weeks, originally its duration was just three days long!

In addition to the two-week celebration in Munich, the Bavarian capital where the tradition began, Oktoberfest is enjoyed in one form or another in cities and towns worldwide.

A Festival for The Royal Party

Fireworks

Wondering how this great celebration Oktoberfest began? The original Oktoberfest was a royal wedding celebration, held in Munich in 1810 to celebrate the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese.

Prince Ludwig of Bavaria, who has later crowned King Ludwig I, wanted his people to share in the celebration of his marriage to Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen on October 12, 1810.

Ludwig organized a horse race and invited all the people of Munich.

The royal party drew about 40,000 guests a major rager, by ordinary standards, but only a small fraction of the 6.4 million people at Oktoberfest in 1997.

A good time, and copious amounts of beer, were apparently had by all that first year. It was decided that the horse race would be held again in 1811, this time in conjunction with the state agricultural show.

The name “Oktoberfest” comes from the German words “okto” (eight) and “ober” (upper), referring to the eighth month on our calendar: September or October.

The Modern Munich Celebration

Man Holding A Stein of Beer at Oktoberfest

Although the horse race was eventually abandoned, many characteristics of the early Oktoberfest events have been retained, if not expanded upon.

Munich’s annual celebration is still held on the original site, Theresienwiese (“Theresa’s fields”), in front of the city gates.

The agricultural show continues to be a feature, though it is only held every third year now. The tradition of beer and food stands, which began in 1818, continues today and is perhaps the most significantly developed aspect of Oktoberfest.

See Related: How to Plan a Trip to Germany

16 Days, Millions of People, and some Big Beer Tents

Beer hall in Oktoberfest

The modern celebration has replaced the small tents with giant brewery-sponsored beer halls that can hold up to 5,000 people apiece. The party has also grown in length, to become a 16-day extravaganza ending the first Sunday in October.

The Oktoberfest in Munich has been canceled at times in the past due to war and cholera.

The festival opens with a grand parade of the Oktoberfest “landlords” and breweries, and features traditional dancers and costumed performers, the Riflemen’s Procession, music, and, most definitely, beer!

Where did Oktoberfest originate?

The first Oktoberfest took place in 1810 to celebrate the marriage of Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig to Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. The event was so popular that it became an annual tradition.

Best Things to do at Oktoberfest

There are so many things to do at Oktoberfest! In addition to drinking beer and eating traditional German food, you can also enjoy live music, carnival rides, and much more. There’s truly something for everyone at Oktoberfest.

Drink Beer… But Enjoy the Beer!

serving beer

You’ll drink a lot. That’s the first thing to know about Oktoberfest: you’re going to drink A LOT. If you’re lucky, this means beer.

If not, and if money is no object (or if your friends are footing the bill), there will also be wine and cider available for purchase by the glass or stein (a mug).

Enjoy the Other Libations

cup of tea and lemonade

In addition, non-alcoholic beverages and soft drinks like lemonade, coffee, and tea are sold everywhere.

If you don’t want any alcohol at all, fear not: “non-alcoholic” beers are on tap too! They’re made by combining beer with various herbs that taste like hops and malt but don’t actually contain any alcohol content at all.

It’s common practice in Germany to order one of these in addition to your normal beverage order just so everyone knows what kind of drinker you are…

You might also see someone walking around selling carbonated water from large cans called mineralwasser (mineral water) or still water from glass bottles called durstiges mineralwasser (thirsty mineral water). These are great options for anyone who wants something refreshing but doesn’t want anything alcoholic.

There are more than just beer tents at Oktoberfest in Munich.

dacing at the Oktoberfest

There are plenty of reasons to visit Germany’s largest beer festival, but it can be a good idea to know what you’re getting into before you go. There are more than just beer tents at Oktoberfest.

The German word for tent is Zelt, and there are over a dozen of them at this year’s festival. Each one serves different types of food and drinks, with some serving traditional Bavarian fare while others may serve other cuisines alongside their beers.

Listen to Polka Music

polka music

Oktoberfest is not complete without the lively polka music. This traditional German music originated in the early 19th century and is still a popular genre today. If you want to get into the spirit of Oktoberfest, be sure to listen to some polka music.

Eat Traditional German Foods

German food

No matter where you celebrate Oktoberfest, you can’t do so without eating traditional German foods. There are many delicious options to choose from, such as sauerkraut, bratwurst, pretzels, and of course, plenty of beer.

Things to do Other Than Eating and Drinking at Oktoberfest

fun thing in Oktoberfest

If you’re looking for something more than just drinking and eating, there are also activities like rollerblading through the streets around Oktoberfest grounds (the same ones where people drink), watching horse carriage rides through town, taking in art exhibits at museums around Munich (or buying some yourself), visiting nearby castles and gardens.

Oktoberfest Tips

Oktoberfest is a big, fun party. It’s one of the most famous events in the world, and it draws millions of people every year. The festival occurs annually in September and October at Munich’s Theresienwiese, a large meadow that hosts beer tents and other entertainment attractions.

The event has its roots in German royalty: King Ludwig I wanted to boost tourism to his hometown, so he organized an official festival and assigned it a date so people would know when to visit (September 23). Today’s Oktoberfest is still held on this day every year—and all over Germany.

Oktoberfest takes place in Munich from late September to early October.

september calendar

Oktoberfest is a 16-day festival that takes place in Munich, Germany. It’s held on Theresienwiese, or “Wiesn,” which is in the Bavarian capital city. The festivities are held from around September 22 to October 7 every year and attract millions of visitors from around the world.

Oktoberfest dress code

dress code, couple dancing

When it comes to traditional Oktoberfest attire, you have two main options: lederhosen for men and dirndls for women. Lederhosen are the traditional German leather pants, often with suspenders, and dirndls are the traditional Bavarian dresses. While you can find both lederhosen and dirndls in just about any city, they’ll be much cheaper if you buy them in Munich.

You can also find them at many of the shops near the Oktoberfest grounds, as well as at some of the train stations. If you’re looking for a high-quality pair of lederhosen or a dirndl, you can expect to pay around $100.

However, you can easily find cheaper options for less than $100. So whether you’re looking to save money or simply want the authentic Oktoberfest experience, be sure to pick up your own lederhosen or dirndl before heading to the festival.

You don’t have to wait until you arrive to get ready for Oktoberfest.

If it’s your first time in Munich, there’s no need to feel intimidated by the prospect of this massive beer festival.

Here are a few things you can do once you’ve reached your destination:

  • Get a passport stamp! This is one of the most iconic parts of Oktoberfest. You’ll be able to get one at any of the entrances, or at any souvenir shops throughout town. This will serve as proof that you visited Munich during this year’s festivities and make for great conversation later on down the road (or even now).
  • Pick up a beer mug! It doesn’t matter if it’s plastic or ceramic—just grab yourself something that will keep your beverages cold (or warm). You’ll want something sturdy enough so that when someone bumps into you while they’re trying to get their own glass filled with beer, yours won’t break and spill everywhere.
  • Buy some lederhosen or dirndl! I don’t know about you guys but I would love nothing more than strutting around wearing some traditional Bavarian garb while drinking beer! Not only do they look great but they’re also super comfortable too; plus everyone else will be wearing similar outfits so it makes for easy conversation starters when meeting new people around town who share similar interests such as fashion trends both old and new alike!”

You can celebrate Oktoberfest outside of Germany.

October fest
Image by Heribert Pohl used under CC BY-SA 2.0

You can celebrate Oktoberfest outside of Germany. Obviously! Oktoberfest, Germany’s most famous festival (and by extension, the world’s), is a celebration of Bavarian culture, beer, and local cuisine. It’s held in Munich every year during September and October—with a few other cities hosting their own versions as well—and attracts millions of visitors worldwide each year.

While it might seem that your only chance to get in on this epic party is to travel overseas or find yourself invited by some German friends or colleagues, there are actually tons of ways you can enjoy Oktoberfest even if you don’t have access to an authentic version.

Best Places to Stay in Munich for Oktoberfest

Munich is a great place to visit in general, and Oktoberfest is a good reason to visit Munich. If you are looking to stay close to the festival grounds, we have you covered with some of the best hotels and accommodation options.

1. The Hilton Munich Park

Hilton Munich Park
Image by Booking.com

The Hilton Munich Park is a beautiful hotel located just a few minutes from the Oktoberfest grounds. It’s one of the best places to stay in Munich for Oktoberfest because it features spacious and comfortable rooms, as well as excellent on-site amenities like a fitness center, pool, and spa.

Plus, the hotel is close to the Oktoberfest grounds so it’s easy to get to and from the festival each day.

2. The Sofitel Munich Bayerpost

Sofitel Munich Bayerpost
Image by Booking.com

The Sofitel Munich Bayerpost is another great option for those looking to stay near the Oktoberfest grounds. It’s located in the city center and offers stunning views of the Bavarian Alps.

The hotel also has a fitness center, pool, and sauna.

3. HOTEL AM MÜNCHNER KÜNSTLERHAUS

HOTEL AM MÜNCHNER KÜNSTLERHAUS

If you’re looking for a unique and off-the-beaten-path accommodation option, consider the HOTEL AM MÜNCHNER KÜNSTLERHAUS.

This hotel is located in a historic building that was once used as an artists’ residence. It features beautiful, individually decorated rooms, and is just a short walk from the Oktoberfest grounds.

4. The Kempinski Hotel Munich

Kempinski Hotel Munich
Image by Booking.com

The Kempinski Hotel Munich is a luxurious 5-star hotel located in the heart of the city. It offers guests luxurious accommodations and top-notch amenities, including a spa, fitness center, and pool.

5. The Eurostars Book Hotel

Eurostars Book Hotel
Image by Booking.com

The Eurostars Book Hotel is a stylish and affordable option for those looking to stay in Munich during Oktoberfest.

It’s located just a few minutes from the city center and offers guests comfortable rooms and excellent service.

6. The AllYouNeed Hotel

Allyouneed Hotel Klagenfurt
Image by Expedia.com

The AllYouNeed Hotel is a great value option for those looking to stay in Munich during Oktoberfest.

It’s located just a few minutes from the Oktoberfest grounds and offers guests simple but comfortable accommodations at a fraction of the cost of other hotels in the area.

7. The Tent Hotel

The Tent
Image by TripAdvisor

The Tent Hotel is a great option for budget-minded travelers who want to experience all that Oktoberfest has to offer. These hotels are set up each year near the Oktoberfest grounds, and they offer visitors a cheap and fun way to enjoy the festival.

Plus, since they’re located right in the heart of the action, you’ll be able to experience all of the excitement and energy that Oktoberfest is famous for.

8. Mandarin Oriental, Munich

Mandarin hotel
Image by Booking.com

The Mandarin Oriental, Munich is a great spot if you love Hofbrau beer. It’s located right across the street from the iconic Hofbrauhaus. The hotel is in a great location for sightseeing as well just located a couple of blocks from Marienplatz.

The Mandarin Oriental Munich, a sophisticated and modern hotel located near the renowned Maximilianstrasse, is a great choice. The hotel features a variety of fine restaurants and bars, including Matsuhisa by world-famous Chef Nobu Matsuhisa.

Mandarin Oriental provides the highest levels of personalized service in the very city center and is a great choice for travelers looking for a luxurious and comfortable place to stay in Munich.

Oktoberfest Facts

  • In 1997, Oktoberfesters consumed more than 5 million liters of beer, about 45,000 liters of wine, and almost 165,000 liters of nonalcoholic beer.
  • The local name for Oktoberfest, “Wies’n,” is derived from Theresienwiese, the name of the field on which the festival is held.
  • The festival halls in Munich can seat 94,000 people.
  • The beers that the Munich breweries produce specially for Oktoberfest contain 4.5 percent alcohol.
  • Cincinnati, Ohio, which claims to hold the “largest authentic Oktoberfest” in the U.S., draws about 500,000 people to its celebration.

The German Beer Institute

German Beer Institute logo

The German beer tradition started in the Middle Ages. The German Beer Purity Law of 1516 decreed that only three ingredients could be used in the production of beer: barley, hops, and water.

To this day, a brewery is not allowed to hang a banner or advertisement on any of the six Munich tents on Oktoberfest grounds. The cost to rent a large beer tent for the festival is about $340,000.

How do they produce Oktoberfest beer?

Beer in a glass

Everything that goes into the Oktberfest beer contains “the good water” (Bayerischer Bahnhof means “Bavarian railroad station”), drawn from wells in and around by Munich brewers.

The malt is made in traditional ways with German malt, hops, yeast, and no preservatives.

Oktoberfest beer must maintain a minimum original gravity of 12.7% and a minimum alcohol content of 6.0%. Oktoberfest beer is stored in traditional oak casks, then served to festival guests in one-liter beer mugs.

How much designated Oktoberfest beer is used?

beer hall in oktoberfest

On the first day of Oktoberfest alone, 7.3 million visitors drink 6.5 million liters of beer served on beer mugs in beer gardens and big tents.

More than 200,000 chickens and 114 whole oxen are prepared for the festival grounds by butchers, who must be among the most proficient in the world to keep up with the demand.

The Oktoberfest meals served to fairgoers are accompanied by more than 15,000 loaves of white bread and 24,000 hot pretzels.

Why does Germany celebrate Oktoberfest?

Germany flag

Oktoberfest is a celebration of the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig I and Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen on October 12, 1810. The festivities began the next year and were so popular that they have been repeated ever since.

The Oktoberfest in Munich is the world’s largest fair and has become a global phenomenon. About 6 million people attend the 16-day festival every year, where they drink 7.5 million liters of beer served in 1.7 million one-liter beer mugs or steins.

The event has come to be regarded as an important part of Bavarian dialect, culture, and society, and residents of Munich locals and southern Bavaria look forward to it all year long.

Many of the traditions and customs associated with Oktoberfest, such as the wearing of traditional costumes and the drinking of beer from large steins, have become popular around the world.

The festival is now celebrated in many countries outside of Germany, including the United States, Canada, and Australia and about five million people attended Oktoberfest celebrations around the world.

How can I celebrate Oktoberfest at home?

Beer in dinner table

If you can’t make it to Munich for Oktoberfest, don’t worry – you can still celebrate at home! There are many ways to bring the Oktoberfest tradition to your own home.

One way to do this is to host your own Oktoberfest party. This is a great opportunity to try different types of German beer and food. You can also decorate your home with traditional Bavarian decorations.

Another option is to attend an Oktoberfest event in your local community. Many cities and towns have their own Oktoberfest events. This is a great way to experience the event without having to travel to Germany.

Finally, you can also celebrate Oktoberfest by watching German films and TV shows. This is a great way to learn about the culture and get into the festive spirit.

Final Thoughts

Oktoberfest has been a German tradition in celebrating Bavarian culture for centuries, modern events may differ from the past but still, some are the same especially the enjoyment of not only beer but also food and festivities. And what’s important is that this German tradition is also celebrated around the world.

We hope that you’ve learned a lot about Oktoberfest, and are ready to go on your own German adventure. No matter how you choose to celebrate, Oktoberfest is a great excuse to have fun and try new things. So get out there and enjoy the festival.

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FAQs

What is Oktoberfest?

Oktoberfest is a 16-day festival held annually in Munich, Bavaria, Germany, from late September to the first weekend in October. It is one of the most famous events in Germany and is the world’s largest fair, with more than six million people attending every year.

The Oktoberfest is an important part of Bavarian culture and has been held since 1810.

What are the dates of Oktoberfest?

The festival usually runs from late September to the first weekend in October, with different activities happening each day. The exact dates vary from year to year, so be sure to check the website for the most up-to-date information.

What kinds of beer are served during Oktoberfest?

Amber, Dark, Wheat. Märzen, Pilsner, Wheat Beer.

How many people go to Oktoberfest every year?

Approximately 6 million people per year.

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