Oktoberfest in Munich

  • Food & drink
  • Germany
  • 5 min read
Oktoberfest in Munich

Held at the largest fairground in Munich, Theresienwiese, Oktoberfest is not just a beer festival – it’s the world’s largest folk festival, celebrating Bavarian food, drink, music, traditional dress and culture.

Oktoberfest 2024: dates, times and ticket information

This year’s Oktoberfest will be held between Saturday 21st September and Sunday 6th October. Its longstanding traditional home is the city of Munich, Germany, the capital of the state Bavaria. Locals often refer to Oktoberfest as the Wiesn, a colloquial term for fairgrounds.

The opening weekend features parades and a ceremony in which the mayor taps the very first beer barrel and declares the festival ‘open’ with the phrase O'zapft is! Which translates to “it is tapped”.

Over the following days of Oktoberfest, there are numerous important historical events. Some of the highlights include:

The Wiesn church service, held at Marstall festival tent at 9.30am on Thursday 26th September, is a traditional ecumenical service where prayers are said for a peaceful Wiesn. Entry is free.

The Wiesn landlords’ concert, will be held at Theresienwiese at 11am on Sunday 29th September, traditionally at the foot of the Bavaria statue. This free concert gathers together all the big brass bands featuring in Oktoberfest for a rousing concert of songs and marches.

A traditional gun salute will close the Oktoberfest on Sunday 6th October at 12 noon. Around 60 shooters in traditional dress gather on the steps below the Bavaria statue and salute to a traditional brass band. Every shot emits white smoke as black powder, rather than bullets, is fired.

Panoramic view of Munich city skyline

The history of Oktoberfest

The first Oktoberfest was held in 1810. Legend states is 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 in front of the Sendlinger Tor, one of the gates leading to Munich, 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 success, the organisers decided to keep having it year after year and, when possible, it’s been happening ever since. The festival has now been held over 180 times!

Oktoberfest parades

The festival parades show just how great Oktoberfest can be for families of all ages, even those not interested in the beer. Oktoberfest officially begins with a traditional colourful parade through the streets. The following weeks see other parades take place, all to mark the celebration in traditional style. If you’re there for the start of the festival, the opening parade is a great way to get stuck in before the festivities officially begin.

There are plenty of other attractions at Oktoberfest!There are plenty of other attractions at Oktoberfest!

The opening parade

All the patrons take part in the opening parade, starting their march at 11 o’clock in the morning. There are floats and carriages carrying people in costume to the site of the beer tents, where at 12 noon the Mayor of Munich will tap the first beer barrel, so that celebrations may commence!

A fantastic display, this grand parade 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 intricately decorated floats, and live music is played by the beer-tent bands.

Costume and Rifleman’s parade

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.

You can expect to see 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.

Food and drink

Oktoberfest is your chance to sample some delicious food and drink. This is possible where German beer culture is displayed best. All the beer served at Oktoberfest comes from local breweries in Munich, including Augustiner, Paulaner and Spaten. Servings of beer tend to come in large one-litre glasses, also known as ein Maß, which are carried by barmaids dressed in traditional Dirndl dresses. You can also order a lighter version mixed with lemonade, called a Radler.

If beer isn’t your thing, there are also tents serving local regional wines, and even a café tent with coffee and soft drinks, as well as cakes and pastries.

People walking through a decorated beer tent carrying beer

Oktoberfest beer tents

There are a lot of different beer tents set up for Oktoberfest. Some with outdoor seating, others sponsored by a specific brewery and featuring special types of beer. The Hacker Tent marks the final night with everyone waving sparklers to Sierra Madre, a traditional song. The Schottenhamel Tent has been running since 1867 and this is where the mayor taps the first barrel of Oktoberfest.

Be sure to check for seating reservations for a specific tent that catches your eye, as some have limited seating.

Oktoberfest food

Roast ham hock and chicken are common dishes served in almost every tent, and you must try the wurst (sausages) served with sauerkraut, mustard or bacon. Other popular dishes and foods include kasespatzle (cheese noodles), yummy salted soft pretzels and potato pancakes.

Be sure to sample the delicious gingerbread (not just for the kids!). It comes in countless sizes and variations with declarations of love or typical Bavarian Grant slogans written in icing. The hearts are a traditional gift to bring home as a memory of Oktoberfest.

Heart shaped gingerbread hanging from ribbons with Oktoberfest written in colourful icing

Plenty for families at Oktoberfest

Oktoberfest is not just geared towards adults, despite predominantly being about the beer. There are loads of fun things to do as a family. Most tents have live Bavarian music and dancing, but the star of the show, as far as your kids will be concerned, is definitely the fun fair.

There are plenty of different rides, including flying swings, merry-go-rounds, shooting galleries and loop-the-loop rollercoasters. And if that’s not enough to get your kids excited, why not indulge their sweet tooth at the candyfloss stands – but maybe save that one until after the loop-the-loop!

How to get to Oktoberfest – Driving to Munich from Calais

The drive to Munich from our Calais terminal will take you roughly nine hours, so you may want to schedule in a couple of rest stops along the way. The quickest route is to follow the European Route E40, taking you through Belgium and over the German border as far as Cologne. From here, you can pick up the Bundesautobahn 3, which will take you down to Nuremberg where you can join the Bundesautobahn 9 all the way to Munich.

Before you know it, you’ll find yourself in the midst of all the fun of Oktoberfest – enjoy!

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