Celebrated in Munich on a yearly basis since 1810, Oktoberfest is the world’s largest folk festival. An important part of the Bavarian culture, this festival whose history goes back over two centuries attracts every year millions of tourists who come to Munich to enjoy the atmosphere, to taste the special beer prepared on this occasion, to attend the concerts and join the parties.
Oktoberfest represents a peak tourist season and its popularity has grown exponentially during the last decades. Hordes of tourists of different ages head to Munich for the beer, but also to visit its landmarks.
One of the festival’s main features, the beer tents carry different symbolic meanings, but all of them serve good beer and delicious food.
There are 14 large beer tents at Oktoberfest and 6 of them have their name related to Munich’s historic breweries. Touring them is a must-do for all those who travel to Germany to attend the largest folk festival in the world!
Large Beer Tents
Hippodrom is easily noticeable among the 14 large tents and it is often the first beer tent you will see.
When it in the area, pay attention to the people around you – you might spot some local or international celebrities as they often visit this beer tent.
The Hippodrom serves the traditional Wiesn beer, and there is also a sparkling wine bar. There are 3,300 seats inside the tent and 1000 in the garden. In the evening, you can sit here with a beer and listen to the Münchner Zwietracht playing the classic Oktoberfest tunes.
In the 2014 edition, the Hippodrom is replaced by another beer tent – the Marstall. This is the first time since 1995 that a new tent is introduced. In 1995, the Winezelt made its way into Oktoberfest’s landscape. This tent’s theme is the marriage of Theresa of Bavaria and Prince Ludwig – the occasion on which the festival’s first edition was held.
Armbrustschützenzelt with its 5,830 indoor and 1,620 outdoor seats has been a part of the Oktoberfest ever since 1895, when the first crossbow competition was held here.
The tent is famous for the German Crossbow Championships held here on an annual basis since 1935.
Actually, the name of the tent translates as “Crossbow Shooters Tent”
The beer served at Armbrustschützenzelt is Paulaner Brau, although the tent is managed by the brother of Ayinger Brewery’s owner, but the only beer served at Oktoberfest comes from Munich breweries.
Schützen-Festhalle is a medium size beer tent located right under the Bavaria statue. The main dish served here is a pork specialty with beer sauce and potatoes that goes very well with the Löwenbräu beer.
Hofbräu-Festzelt, whose construction starts three months before the festival is the second largest beer tent, offering almost 10,000 seats.
Very popular with American tourists, Hofbräu-Festzelt serves beer coming from the historic Hofbräuhaus brewery is the only beer tent at Oktoberfest that has a standing area, located right in front of the stage.
A regular presence since 1955, this tent is home to an interesting competition that consists of lifting beer glasses.
Käfers Wiesen Schänke – This tent has a small size, but it is very popular with celebrities and famous for the dietary delicacies it serves. It remains open until over midnight, but don’t think about getting a seat here late in the evening. This tent is usually overcrowded.
Hacker-Festzelt with its current 8,400 seats is known among the locals as Himmel der Bayern (The Bavarians’ Paradise). The Bavarian participants to Oktoberfest gather here every day and the beer coming from the historic Hacker-Pschorr brewery.
Schottenhamel is considered Oktoberfest’s most important beer tent because this is the place where the festival starts.
This is where the opening ceremony takes place on the first Saturday of the Oktoberfest and where the mayor of Munich makes the honor of tapping the first keg.
Weinzelt is the place to have a glass of wine. Besides the generous wines selection, this tent also serves Weißbier.
Bräurosl (Hacker-Pschorr) took its name the daughter of the Pschorr brewery owner – Herr Psochorr. The painting above the entrance displays the daughter Rosl riding a horse.
Ochsenbraterei has been operating since September 1881, when it was founded by the butcher Johann Rössler. Ochsenbraterei serves a wide range of ox dishes prepared in different ways and is decorated by a huge ox on a spit. This beer tent has a family-like atmosphere and serves Platen beer.
Fischer-Vroni is another beer tend of rather small dimensions, where you can taste a great variety of fish dishes and drink the local Augustiner beer.
Winzerer Fähndl is recognizable by its huge tower on top of which stands a Maß of Paulaner beer. One of Oktoberfest’s first tents, it has a seating capacity of 5,400 and a beer garden opened in 2006. While generally the average age is very low at Oktoberfest, this is one of the places, where you will be in a slightly older company.
Löwenbräu-Festhalle has a seating capacity of 9,500 people and it is easily recognizable by the 4.5 meters tall lion standing above the entrance, holding a can of beer and roaring from time to time. The beer served here is, of course, Löwenbräu.
Augustiner-Festhalle is the local’s favorite because the local brew – Augustiner is served here. Another distinctive feature is that the beer here come from wooden kegs instead of the regular stainless steel vats you will see in all the other beer tents at Oktoberfest.
Small Beer Tents
Besides the 14 large beer tents, Oktoberfest has 21 smaller tents which serve the same locally brewed Bavarian beer and contribute to the festival’s atmosphere.
Able’s Kalbs-Kuchl is a 300 seats beer tent that looks like a Bavarian hut that serves Spaten beer, wine and champagne. Able’s Kalbs-Kuchl has been offering beef delicacies and a nice lively Oktoberfest atmosphere since 2008.
Ammer Hühner & Entenbraterei has been a part of Oktoberfest since 1885, when a Joseph Ammer founded here the first poultry roaster in the world. It is said that the duck servings here are remarkable. A particularity of this small beer tent is the organic food its kitchen prepares.
Bodo’s Cafezelt is the place where you can get an exotic drink at Oktoberfest. If after loads of beer, you want a coffee with donuts, an ice cream, or a strudel this is your best choice. This is the sweet lovers’ paradise.
Café Kaiserschmarrn is another good option for those who have a sweet tooth. This tent looking like a fairy tales castle was designed by Rischart. The Café is home to a daily commemoration of Ludwig and Teresa of Saxony’s wedding ceremony, reminding the Oktoberfest participants of the festival’s origins.
Café Mohrenkopf has been serving home-made apple-strudels and other sweet delicacies at Oktoberfest since 1950.
Feisingers Ka’s und Weinstubn is more a cheese tent than a beer tent. Here you can eat all sorts of culinary delights made with cheese, but you can also drink Weissbier Franziskaner. Be careful, though, its 180 seats fill up quickly.
Glöckle Wirt is a pleasure for the eyes. Its walls enclosing 140 seats are decorated with oil paintings, antique objects and cooking tools.
Heimer Hendl- und Entenbraterei is one of the most popular beer tents among local people because it offers authentic Bavarian cuisine, including roasted duck and a warm atmosphere inviting to small talk and friendly conversations.
Heinz Wurst- Und Hühnerbraterei has been Oktoberfest’s chicken tent ever since 1906. This family run tent serves Paulaner beer.
Hochreiters Haxnbraterei is the only Oktoberfest place to get a pork knuckle and some haxenbraterei. Food is high quality, and you can get also some vegetarian dishes here. The beers served at Hochreiters Haxnbraterei are Löwenbräu and Franziskaner beer.
Münchner Knödelei focuses on promoting the dumpling culture – a true symbol of Bavarian cuisine. You can have about 50 varieties of dumplings here and a Maß of Paulaner beer.
Poschners Hühner- Und Entenbraterei is a family-run beer tent serving great roasted duck and chicken, accompanied by Hacker-Pschorr beer.
Schiebl’s Kaffeehaferl with its 100 seats is a sort of coffee house with no music and no beer. Instead, you can have an Irish coffee here and all sorts of sweets, including pancakes and strudels.
Wiesn Guglhupf Café-Dreh-Bar is the place to get the traditional Guglhupf cake. This tent looks like a carousel.
Wildmoser Hühnerbraterei has been a property of the Wildmoser family since 1981 and is very popular with Munich locals.
Wildstuben is the latest tent to have made its appearance at Oktoberfest. Its design features intricate wood work details, making it look like a hunting cabin. This goes in accordance with the menu, where you can find a lot of game dishes.
Wirtshaus im Schichtl is famous for its mock decapitation shows that are held here a few times a day.
Zum Stiftl serves great roasted duck and features a lively atmosphere. Here you can have a Maß of Paulaner or Hacker-Pschorr beer.
Zur Bratwurst was opened in 2007. Run by the Hochreiter family, this beer tent succeeded to revive the Bratwurstglöckl tradition at Oktoberfest.
Events inside the festival
Oktoberfest is all about drinking German beer, tasting Bavarian specialties, attending concerts and soaking up the atmosphere. Although it is the largest folk festival in the world, Oktoberfest does not function according to a strict schedule. There are few major events throughout the festival like the beer tapping ceremony and the Wiesn-Einzug der Festwirte und Brauereien parade.
Two days of Oktoberfest – the Tuesdays – are dedicated to families. On these days, you can benefit from discounted rates for almost all the carnival rides and game booths. The second Sunday of the Oktoberfest is dedicated to an open-air concert, where you can listen to traditional Bavarian music. The festival begins and ends with traditional gun salutes. The moment after tapping the keg, you will hear twelve saluting gun fires, while at midday on the last day of the Oktoberfest, you can hear lots of them.
Opening ceremony – O’zapft is!
The festival kicks off with a ceremonial moment known as “O’zapft is!” (It’s tapped!) – this is what the mayor of Munich says every year on the first day of the festival at 12:00 midday, after having tapped the keg of traditional Oktoberfest beer in Schottenhamel tent, declaring the festival open.
As a tradition, the first on to taste the freshly tapped Maß of beer is the Minister President of Bavaria. Then comes the gun salute – the signal the party can begin and the beer can flow.
The Wiesn-Einzug der Festwirte und Brauereien parade
Held every year since 1887 right before the Oktoberfest kicks off, the Wiesn-Einzug der Festwirte und Brauereien parade includes the “O’zapft is!” event happening at Schottenhamel beer tent.
The starting point of the parade is Josephspitalstraße. From there, the participants dressed in traditional Bavarian costumes march towards the Theresienwiese in horse-drawn carriages festively decorated and loaded with beer kegs. The Münchner Kindl – a doll that represents Munich’s icon is leading the parade that takes about an hour to get to the Schottenhammel beer tent.
Trachten und Schützenzug
A annual Oktoberfest event organized since 1950, Trachten und Schützenzug is a traditional parade in the honor of the original event that gave birth to the festival – the wedding of King Ludwig and Teresa.
This two hours long parade that gathers about 9000 participants takes place on the first Sunday of Oktoberfest.
Its starting point is Maximilianstraße at 10.00 A.M. From here, the participants march on about 7 km dressed in historical costumes.
History and trivia
The origins of Oktoberfest go back to October 12th 1810, when Crown Prince Ludwig (later to be known as King Ludwig I) and the Princess Teresa of Sassonia-Hildburghausen got married. The royal wedding’s celebrations took place in front of the city gate and all Munich’s inhabitants were invited to join them.
The festivities ended with a horse race. The event was such a huge success that the Bavarians decided to repeat it the following year in the same fields, which received the name of Theresienwiese (Teresa’s meadow) – now shortly Wies’n for the locals. This is where the Oktoberfest takes place, every year since 1810, being cancelled only 24 times either because of a war or of a cholera epidemics. However, this horse racing event that gave birth to the world’s largest folk festival is no longer part of Oktoberfest nowadays. Its last edition took place back in 1960, being afterwards discontinued.
In an effort to promote the local agricultural products, an agricultural fair was added in 1811 and it continues to be held today as part of the Oktoberfest celebrations once every four years. In 1819, Oktoberfest became the responsibility of Munich’s city hall and it was officially turned into an annual event. The duration of the festival was also prolonged to take advantage of the warmer September days.
The first ride appeared at Oktoberfest only in 1881. The opening parade tradition was reintroduced in 1887. The first time beer was served in a glass jug – the Maß – was in 1892. The horse race was discontinued in 1960, but one such event was held on the opening of Oktoberfest’s 2010 edition to celebrate the festival’s 200th anniversary.
Other Oktoberfests around the world
Germany’s famous folk festival represented a source of inspiration for many other similar events. In Germany itself, an Oktoberfest has been held in Hannover since 2005 during the same period as the one in Munich. For 17 days, you can enjoy here over 140 rides and the beer served in three tents with about a 1000 people seating capacity each. Hannover’s Oktoberfest is the second largest such festival in Germany, after the one in Munich and attracts 1 million travelers on a yearly basis.
Berlin has been home to its own Oktoberfest since 1960. Certain areas of the city like Alexanderplatz and Zentral Festplatz are taken over by beer tents, live brass bands and festival participants.
The largest such festival outside of Germany takes place in Canada, in Kitchener-Waterloo – two twin cities with remarkable German heritage. The Canadian Oktoberfest lasts 9 days and its parade falls on the Canadian Thanksgiving Day. Another Oktoberfest in Canada takes place every year in Quebec, in the town of Sherbrook, at the beginning of October.
Argentina has been holding the National Beer Festival inspired by Oktoberfest in Córdoba every year since 1963. Other countries like Australia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, India, and Sri Lanka have decided to adopt this German tradition and hold a beer festival every year. The same goes for a wide range of American towns like Cincinnati, in Ohio, or Pittsburgh, in Pennsylvania. The festival’s popularity seems to be spreading all around the world.