An astounding six million people, twice the population of Rome, will descend upon Munich this year to attend Oktoberfest, the largest folk festival in the world, which runs from September 21 to October 6.
The festival, currently in its 186th year, dates back to 1810 when the city hosted the wedding reception of Prince Ludwig and Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. The event was so well-received that it has been celebrated every year since. However, by the late 19th century, most had forgotten about Ludwig and Therese and the focus became beer, tree-climbing, hammer-throwing and livestock competitions.
Held in Theresienwiese, a meadow named after the princess, the event continues to be the city’s most recognizable public event. Aside from beer and sports, visitors can also enjoy boisterous parades, carnival rides, oompah bands, and an endless array of comfort food, including donuts, bratwurst, rotisserie chicken, and baskets of hot pretzels.
The party is fueled of course by copious amounts of brew, traditionally served in a maß, or 1L mug. Oktoberfest beer, which is 1.3 percent stronger than most American brews, makes the celebration a bit unpredictable as well. Be prepared to endure long bathroom lines, overly friendly drunks, and overcrowded tents. In 2018, there were nearly 6,000 injuries and hundreds of arrests reported.
Nowadays, however, numerous tour companies, hotels, and even brands are organizing their own exclusive Oktoberfest parties in Munich for those less inclined to put up with the rowdy masses. For those attending for the first time, there are some essentials to keep in mind.
First, try to dress the part. Festivalgoers traditionally wear authentic Bavarian garments. These aren’t Halloween costumes. They should be worn proudly and confidently. Second, considering the party goes all day, pace yourself. It isn’t necessary to continually order full liters. There are half liters available as well as Radlers, which is half beer and half lemonade.
Finally, don’t drink on an empty stomach. Enjoy a Wiesn-Hendl, a half roast chicken, and French fries, a weißwurst, currywurst or bratwurst, or käsespätzle, a Bavarian mac ‘n cheese made with fresh pasta and large quantities of Emmentaler cheese. All of these culinary options are greasy enough to soak up the alcohol. Worrying about your diet is pointless at Oktoberfest, but then again it is a beer festival, so that goes without saying.