Oktoberfest is Germany's most popular festival, and the biggest beer festival in the world. It has been imitated in far-flung places across the world, but Munich's is the original.
Origins of Oktoberfest
Germany has a long tradition of brewing beer and was the first place to introduce hops into the process; Bavaria's 1516 adoption of the Reinheitsgebot, or Purity Law, restricting the ingredients of beer to water, barely and hops (before yeast was discovered) cemented Munich's relationship with the drink. The city's oldest breweries date back to the Middle Ages - Weihenstephan Monastery just outside of Munich founded its brewery in 1040, making it the oldest in the world; and Augustiner-Bräu in the city centre was established in 1328.
It's only right, then, that the Bavarian capital should play host to the world's largest and most famous Volksfest, or German beer festival and travelling funfair: Oktoberfest. The first Oktoberfest - literally meaning "October festival" - was held in 1810 in celebration of the marriage of King Ludwig I of Bavaria and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen.
Year on year, the festival grew and grew. While low points saw it being cancelled due to war, disease and inflation on 24 occasions and used by the Nazis as propaganda during the war years; today it is one of Munich's biggest tourist attractions, while still being a tradition close to locals' hearts too.
Beer, beer and... more beer!
Every year, in September and October, more than six million people descend on Munich from all over the world to celebrate beer. During the day, "Quiet Oktoberfest", with low-volume traditional folk music, keeps the beer festival accessible and entertaining for families and seniors. As the sun goes down though, the electronic music comes on, the volume goes up and all those steins begin to take effect, bringing a youthful party atmosphere to the event.
While many head to Oktoberfest for the crazy nights out, the festival maintains its traditional events:
- The brewery and restaurant parade led by the mayor of Munich is a great tradition. Typically decorated horses and carts march to the site, accompanied by brass bands.
- Following the parade comes the official beer barrel tapping: at exactly 12 pm, the mayor opens the first beer barrel. With the exclamation "O'zapft is!" ("It's tapped!") the Oktoberfest begins.
- It's not just the odd person and those taking part in parades who dress up: classic Bavarian dirndl and lederhosen are the thing to wear!