Lederhosen, oompah bands and steins so heavy you can hardly lift them to say prost... It can only mean one thing – Oktoberfest.
The world’s most famous beer festival is currently in full swing in the Bavarian city of Munich. The event, which is held for a few weeks every year, attracts revellers and drinkers from all over the world.
There isn’t much time left to get in on the action at this year’s celebrations, which draw to a close on 7 October, but if you want to savour the full beer-swilling, table-thumping experience at Oktoberfest 2019, here’s what you need to know:
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How did Oktoberfest begin?
The first Oktoberfest took place on 12 October 1810. Originally a one-day event, it was celebrated five days after the wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria to Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen, says the travel company Funtober.
“In 1835, on the 25th anniversary, Oktoberfest was extended to include a week of festivities,” says the company. At the end of the 19th century the event was moved to earlier in the year to make the most of better weather. Nowadays, the festival starts in September and runs into the first week of October.
The event is essentially an enormous beer festival in which revellers head to a series of 14 tents kitted out with long tables. Different tents serve different beers. There are also parades, music, fairgrounds and food.
Each year between six and seven million people consume up to seven million litres of beer at the festival.
When is next year’s Oktoberfest?
Oktoberfest 2019 will run from Saturday 21 September to Sunday 6 October.
Oktoberfest Tours lists the following days and events as highlights of the Oktoberfest calendar:
- Opening day: A cameo from the Lord Mayor of Munich, who taps the first Oktoberfest keg and shouts “O’zapft is!”, which marks the official start of the festival. There is also a grand opening day parade of tent owners.
- Gay Sunday: The first Sunday of Oktoberfest. Known as Gay Sunday, it features some “pretty damn fabulous events taking place in the Braurosl tent every year”.
- Tuesday family days: Each Tuesday throughout the event is known as a family day. Rides and shows are heavily discounted and the atmosphere is calmer.
- The Italian Weekend: The second weekend of Oktoberfest is known as Italian Weekend because it’s popular with Italian visitors to the event. The Oktoberfest website says that during these two days Munich-based newspapers have bilingual front pages, the traffic news is announced in both German and Italian, and Munich police enlist police officers from South Tyrol in northern Italy to “counter communication problems between guests and authorities”.
- Closing day: This is one of the most sought after dates, Oktoberfest Tours says, as there is a candlelight sing-along attended by up to 10,000 beer drinkers.
Once you’ve chosen your dates and tents and made it to Munich, be sure to arrive as early in the day as possible. The official Oktoberfest site says that during the week, guests should arrive “no later than 2.30pm and, on the weekends, it’s best to go in the morning”.
“Otherwise, you run the risk of not being able to enter the tents at all because they’re already full. Larger groups should expect to wait in line like others – those without seats won’t be served any beer!”
Where does the event take place?
The main Oktoberfest festival is held in the original meadow named, in honour of Ludwig’s bride, the Theresienwiese (shortened to the “Wiesn”).
The site is a short tram ride from the centre of Munich.
How much does it cost?
It depends on how much you want to spend. Anyone can enter Oktoberfest and access to the tents is free. Guests do not need tickets.
But food and drink must be paid for in the beer tents, and these can be pricey. The same goes for the other attractions.
A litre of beer at Oktoberfest costs around €11 (£9.80). Check out the full list of the 2018 Oktoberfest beer prices here. The 2019 beer prices will be announced next June.
Travel tips for British beer lovers
The Daily Telegraph says that the festival’s fame and popularity mean that it’s a “huge crowd-puller”. Accommodation and transport have to be booked well in advance, and these are likely to be the biggest outlays for British visitors.
Hotels and hostels across Munich tend to sell out months ahead. Those that haven’t typically advertise greatly inflated prices. A cheaper option might be to book a package holiday to Oktoberfest.
STA Travel is offering packages for next year. These include beer, food, accommodation and (optional) transport to Munich. Camping packages start at £225 for a four-day trip (flights are not included). The most expensive option is for a seven-day package costing £610. This includes excursions, coach travel and hostel accommodation.
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