Everyone knows that the world’s most infamous beer festival has its roots in Munich, but do you know how it all began?
On 12th October 1810, Crown Prince Ludwig married Princess Therese. The citizens of Munich were invited to attend the festivities, held in front of the city gates. It became a yearly tradition, and voila – the Oktoberfest was born. Over the years beer became a staple festival ingredient – first with small beer stands which grew rapidly in number, and size, before being replaced by beer tents and halls.
Today, German beer is very much a main attraction at Oktoberfests across Europe. But you can expect plenty of other Bavaria elements too, from traditional food and music to costumed staff – and a carnival atmosphere like no other. Here’s where to go around the continent for a taste.
It might not attract quite the same volume of visitors as Munich, but Frankfurt’s Oktoberfest is more about names than numbers. Having evolved into a high society event, this festival attracts all manner of celebrities, musicians and politicians.
The place to see and be seen is the Commerzbank Arena, a short train ride from the city centre, where a huge tent is erected. Traditional German beers and food are in abundance, including pretzels, meatloaf and schweinshaxn (roasted ham hock).
The highlight is the music – big name German singers take to the stage. Mickie Krause and Jürgen Drews are among the line-up for this year.
Dates: Now until 7 October
With Munich only two hours’ drive south, Stuttgart is determined not to be overshadowed by pulling out all the stops with its Cannstatter Volksfest (the official name) – one of Germany’s largest folk festivals.
Held in Bad Cannstatt, the city’s oldest district, it comprises a five-kilometre stretch of beer tents, food stalls and carnival rides.
Take a spin on the giant ferris wheel for sweeping views of the festival and city beyond. Or head for the Kraemermarkt (traders market), which sells everything from jewellery and art to tea and spices.
There is also a festival parade on Sunday 30 September, with decorated horse-drawn brewery wagons and live bands.
Dates: 28 September – 14 October
Keen to combine your beer celebrations with some beach time? The Copenhagen Oktoberfest is held in a giant 2650 square-metre tent at Femøren, at the southern end of Amager Strandpark, a 2km-long artificial island. With its serene sand dunes and winding paths, the beach is perfect for an autumn stroll to clear the head – before the partying commences.
And what a party this one’s going to be: expect real German beer, traditional Bavarian food and live Tyrolean music, courtesy of an original band from southern Germany.
Forgot to pack your dirndl and lederhosen? There is a shop in the tent where you can rent traditional Oktoberfest clothes.
Dates: 20-22 September and 27-29 September
This is the original Oktoberfest and also the biggest, with 14 tents attracting over six million visitors. Held at Theresienwiese in downtown Munich, the beer flows from midday onwards – over seven million litres are consumed throughout the festival.
If the beer isn’t making you dizzy enough, head for the amusement rides. New this year is the Chaos Pendel – two cabins that rotate on the end of a propeller-like arm, launching passengers upwards at speeds of up to 80 kilometres per hour.
Kids in tow? Tuesdays are official ‘family days’, meaning all rides cost less.
Dates: 22 September – 7 October
London’s biggest Oktoberfest kicks off at Millwall Park before moving north to Finsbury Park. You can expect all the usual Oktoberfest staples: a huge beer tent, even huger crowds (numbers are estimated to reach 50,000), specially brewed beer from Bavaria served in traditional ‘stein’ glasses, German food from schnitzels to pretzels, and “oom-pah” music.
On 27 and 31 October, swap your lederhosen and dirndls for something more spooky. The festival is hosting its first ever Halloween Oktoberfest. Be prepared for ghoulish decorations and Halloween themed food and music.
Dates: 4-14 October and 18-31 October
Forget vin rouge and fromage – it’s all about Bavarian beer and bratwurst at the Paris Event Centre in Porte de la Villette. No expense is spared when it comes to making visitors feel like they are in Munich; the giant Bavarian tent, wood floor and benches are transported all the way from Germany (via eight semi-trailer trucks), as is the beer and food. Don’t miss the warm apple strudel.
In true festive style, there will also be live music courtesy of a brass band and cabaret dancers who will entertain visitors with their unique choreography: the Bavarian cancan.
Dates: 4-14 October
Albert Square, Manchester’s quintessentially English central square, will have a distinctly German feel. At its centre will be a tent decorated with typical Bavarian blue and white colours. Take a seat at one of the long tables, and waitresses and waiters dressed in dirndl and lederhosen will serve your tipple: specially-brewed beer that’s transported in a giant tank from Bavaria.
There will be plenty of food on offer, from schnitzel to schweinebraten (roast pork). Music will be courtesy of Bavarian musicians and Manchester DJs.
Get some fresh air at the outdoor beer garden, where you can enjoy your beer while taking in views of the gothic Manchester City Hall.
Dates: 10-14 October