Oktoberfest (or “Wies’n“, as the locals refer to it) is held on the Theresienwiese, in Munich, Germany, and is the largest festival in the world, with over 6 million visitors, each year. Insane number, right? And such a festival needs years to become so big, so let’s find out how did it all started.
The field where the festival is held every year has been named Theresienwiese (“Theresa’s fields”) in honor of the Crown Princess, Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen, who married Crown Prince Ludwig, on 12th October, 1810. All the citizens of Munich were invited to celebrate the happy event, and watch the horse races. The horse races were repeated in the following years, which created the tradition of the Oktoberfest.
Nowadays, the festival takes place during the sixteen days up to and including the first Sunday in October.
The beer tents
We all love horses, but let’s admit it, they are not the reason for going to the festival. The real reason is called German Beer. With around 12,000 people employed, you will find plenty of it, in any beer tent you choose. The most representative Munich breweries Paulaner, Spaten, Hofbräu, Hacker-Pschorr, Augustiner and Löwenbräu are present at the location and ready to create a Bavarian Heaven for all the visitors!
Interesting facts about the tents
A festival in a tent might sound a bit weird to some of you, but when I say tent, I don’t mean your regular 2×2 m camping tent. The ones built at the Oktoberfest are huge, accommodating a large number of people, looking closer to a barn, than to a tent. Around 58 trucks per tent start to bring the components to the festival grounds, in late July. When the last table was folded, and the dishes packed nicely in boxes to be stored until next year, you couldn’t tell the Wiesn ever took place. This usually takes place around the 1st of November. Impressive or what?
When you drink your beer, take a moment to be thankful for all the manpower dedicated to making it all happen!
How do I choose the tent?
Which is the best tent? There is no such thing as a best tent.
However, Schottenhamel is one of of the most important tents. Why? At the start of the festival, the mayor of Munich will tap the first keg and call out O’zapft is! Only after this, the other tents are allowed to begin to serve beer. It is also the largest tent, with over 10.000 seats!
Marstall (the newest tent at the festival, opened in 2014, after replacing the old Hippodrom tent), Armbrustschuetzen, Hofbrau Festhalle and Hacker Festzelt are only a few of the tents waiting for the beer lovers’ arrival. My random choice was Löwenbräu, as the massive lion displayed at the entrance (4.50 meters high) caught my attention, but all the other ones are just as welcoming.
Remember that in order to enter the beer tents, you have to be prepared for a long wait. With so many thirsty tourists around, it might be hard to find an empty spot, especially if you travel with a large group. Making a reservation prior to the visit, is recommended, but is not mandatory. Remember, you need to sit down, in order to drink or eat!
If you visit Munich for the horses however, then you shouldn’t miss the parade. I know what you might think: horses and beer?! Yes, and the two blend lovely, since the 1800’s.
The first parade ever took place in 1835, held in honor of the 25th wedding anniversary of Oktoberfest founders King Ludwig I and his wife, Theresie. Since 1950, the parade takes place every year, when 9,500 persons, dressed in traditional costumes, take part in the parade and present an impressive variety of habits and traditional dancing routines. To make it even more exciting, the Munich breweries add their horse drawn beer wagons to the parade, pulling the beer all the way to the festival.
The parade takes place Every First Oktoberfest Sunday and it starts at Maximilianstrasse. Heading towards, Odeonsplatz, it will get to the official box of the Bavarian Prime Minister and the Mayor of Munich (the place where I stopped to watch) and continues to Briennerstrasse, Maximiliansplatz, Lenbachplatz, Stachus, Schwanthalerstrasse and finally reaches the Theresienwiese, after crossing the Kaiser Ludwig Platz.
The most amazing part of the parade, was definitely the end, when after the last few horses made their way through the crowd, huge cleaning trucks appeared and ended the parade, while the traffic came back to normal, in just a few seconds. Quite something to see.
With a mix of fun, beer tents, parades and street performers, Munich is a wonderful place to be during the Oktoberfest. Besides this, I highly recommend a tour of the city, as the architecture is impressive and worth seeing.