Oktoberfest: Bavaria’s Celebration of Beer

Prosit! Before you hoist your stein, learn some fun facts about Oktoberfest.

Aerial view of Bavarian Oktoberfest

Aerial view of Bavarian Oktoberfest

Photo Credit: iStock

In Munich, there’s nothing bigger than Oktoberfest. The big brew fest is touted as the world’s largest folk festival, and it draws more than 6 million people each year. And though festivalgoers down nearly 7 million liters of suds over the course of the 16-day celebration, locals say it’s not all about the beer. Germany’s third-largest city is the country’s high-tech capital, and one could get lost for days exploring the city’s seemingly countless museums, galleries and churches..

Oktoberfest was born in October 1810 when Prince Ludwig married Princess Therese in a huge meadow that became known as the Theresienwiese, which remains the site of the festivities today. Earlier festival events, like horse racing, gave way to beer stalls and carnival rides, but traditions such as the mayor’s tapping of the first barrel and the colorful costume and riflemen’s parade have persevered through the years.

Dancing in Bavaria at Oktoberfest

Dancing in Bavaria

Photo Credit: iStock

Oktoberfest, however, doesn’t reflect the culture of all Germans. It’s a celebration of those in the country’s Bavarian state, which is known for its scenic countryside, medieval castles and urban centers (such as Munich). Most Bavarians still speak the Bavarian dialect as their first language, and many wear traditional clothing on a daily basis.

Five things to know about the 206-year-old Bavarian Oktoberfest

1. September-fest?

Interestingly, Oktoberfest begins in September—this year, it begins on Sept. 17—and ends on Oct. 3. Warmer weather provides the best reason for starting earlier in the fall.

2. Watch that stein!

At Oktoberfest, everybody drinks bier from six Munich breweries. These are served in one-liter steins that cost about $12 each. By the way, the stein is not included. You can buy one at a souvenir stand. And don’t try to take one; the fine for doing so is steep.

Bavarian Oktoberfest beer tent

Oktoberfest beer tent

Photo Credit: iStock

3. Admission is free

These temporary structures ranges from the large Hofbräu-Festzelt, known for its lively oom-pah bands, to the Käfer’s Wes’n-Schänke, which is frequented by celebrities who dine on quintessential Bavarian cuisine (think: spit-roasted chicken and pork knuckles).

4. Today, Oktoberfest is family-friendly, boasting 150 stalls, carnival rides and souvenir stands.

The carnival is bigger than ever, with a Ferris wheel, roller coasters, games and traditional Bavarian parades. Youngsters will love the “Chicken Dance,” the huge pretzels and the gingerbread necklaces. Locals encourage visitors to join in the fun by wearing lederhosen and dirndls. (Ladies, take note of which side your dirndl bow falls—left means you’re single, and right means you’re taken.)

5. Don’t worry about the little necessities.

There are more than 1,500 bathrooms on site, and even some resting cots for those the locals jokingly refer to as “beer corpses.”

More than six million people visit Oktoberfest each year.

More than six million people visit Oktoberfest each year

Photo Credit: Rene Schneeberger

Plan your trip to Munich’s Oktoberfest with the travel experts at AAA. Call 877-396-7159 or contact a AAA Travel Counselor.

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Rose Stadt, AAA Travel Counselor, Vallejo, Calif.

More and more people want to customize their escorted trips with longer stays in certain cities or visits to specific sites. I make sure the independent pieces fit seamlessly with the tour.

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