Willkommen zum Oktoberfest!
A brief look at the history, things to do, beer, and food for one of the largest festivals in the world.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Oktoberfest.
One of my bucket list items is to make the pilgrimage to Munich, Germany for Oktoberfest. If it wasn’t for the expensive round-trip ticket to cover the airfare from Dallas, Texas, I might be on my way there right now. Someday. Until then, I’ll have to enjoy the festival vicariously through this article and by drinking German beer from a stein.
What is Oktoberfest?
Oktoberfest is an annual festival held in Munich, Germany to celebrate the marriage of Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig to Princess Therese of Sachsen-Hildburghausen. It takes place on the Theresienwiese – a meadow named for Princess Therese.
The first celebration took place October 12-17, 1810. Citizens of Munich were invited to help celebrate, and the festival became an annual tradition. In subsequent years, the start date was moved back to provide better weather for the guests. Better weather meant that the celebration could last longer and more guests could attend. Today, the event typically lasts 16-18 days and ends on the first Sunday in October. That’s a nice anniversary party if you ask me!
Even though the first festival was in 1810, this year is only the 186th festival. War and other circumstances caused 24 years to be canceled, with the most recent cancellation in 1948.
Oktoberfest is considered a “folk festival” or “volksfest” – which means a people’s festival in German. It’s the largest volksfest in the world.
More than six million people attend the festival each year. It’s often referred to as the Wiesn by the locals.
In 2019, the festival is from September 21 through October 6.
Admission to the festival is free.
What is there to do?
While the food and beer certainly draw people to the festival, Oktoberfest is more than eating and drinking:
- parades (including costume parades)
- rides and roller coasters
- a Ferris Wheel
- strongman competitions
- gun salutes
- souvenir shopping
- historical tours and nostalgic rides
- a museum
- a Church service where you can get baptized
- a visit to the post office
Any and all of these should be on your list of things to do at the festival.
Munich is more than Oktoberfest. There’s plenty to do outside of the festival as well.
The beer of Oktoberfest. Now we’re talking.
Only beer from six Munich breweries is served at the festival:
Check out this page for more information about the breweries.
Beer is served by the liter, which is almost 34 ounces. And these aren’t puny light beers, either. The beer served in the tents is traditional Märzen-style lager. Märzen, also known as Oktoberfest beer or Märzenbier, gets its name from the time of year when it’s typically brewed – March.
BeerAdvocate points out that – “Before refrigeration, it was nearly impossible to brew beer in the summer due to the hot weather and bacterial infections. Brewing ended with the coming of spring.”
BeerAdvocate describes Märzenbier as “full-bodied, rich, and toasty, with a moderately high alcohol content. Its color can be anywhere from pale gold to medium amber, but is typically some shade of copper.”
Quality beer isn’t cheap. A liter of beer at Oktoberfest starts at 10.8 Euro ($11.95 USD) and goes up from there, plus gratuity.
How much beer do people drink at Oktoberfest? In 2018, a record-setting more than 7.5 million liters of beer!
German food is one of my favorite cuisines. It’s hearty and substantial – reflective of the land from where it comes. I don’t know if I’ve had authentic German food, but what I’ve had was undoubtedly tasty. I can only imagine that the real deal is even better.
The culinary offerings at Oktoberfest sound sumptuous:
- Roasted chicken
- Pork roast
- Roast ox
- Potato salad
- Desserts & sweets
Check out the full list of foods at the festival.
Can’t make it to Germany?
Oktoberfest is celebrated throughout the world. Check out a festival in your area, a local German restaurant, and or enjoy a beer from Germany.
If you’re in Texas, here are some festivals and restaurants to get you started:
- Addison Oktoberfest – September 19-22
- Fort Worth Oktoberfest – September 26-28
- Fredericksburg Oktoberfest – October 4-6
- Southlake Oktoberfest – October 4-6
- Plano Steinfest – October 25-26
- Little Germany – Fort Worth
- Kuby’s Sausage House – Dallas
- Schilo’s – San Antonio
- The Ausländer – Fredericksburg
- Bavarian Grill – Plano