The world’s largest celebration of beer, Bavarian culture, and brotherhood, Oktoberfest 2023 is rearing to trump all parties and show us how it’s really done. This German festival is headlined by local beer, Lederhosen (traditional leather breeches), Dirndl (customary Bavarian women’s dress), regional bites, and music! Every year, millions of people gather on the Oktoberfest grounds; merry-making rings true as they head to beer tents bedecked with benches, hop on exhilarating carnival rides, and cultivate friendships over Festbier (festival beer).
The OG Oktoberfest in Munich inspires several local celebrations across the globe, so much so that it’s become a household term for party-goers. So it’s likely that you’ve heard of a rendition of the Oktoberfest at your city’s biggest mall, but if you’re determined to taste the iconic carbohydrate-laden, upbeat commemoration at where it all began, we recommend you shift the gears to Munich.
If this is your first time attending the annual revelry, read on for all things Oktoberfest 2023 – dates, history, what to wear, things to eat, and everything in between.
What is Oktoberfest?
The largest and grandest folk festival in the world, Oktoberfest is truly a celebration of the senses. Held in Munich (Bavaria’s capital) annually, this cultural extravaganza raises a toast to the Bavarian way of life. Notice something peculiar about the festival’s spelling? In the German language, October is spelt with a K. Hence, to respect the festival’s roots, the original spelling is retained in Oktoberfest.
The colossal celebration features a flurry of indigenous beer options, the beats of ceremonial German music played by live bands, the Riflemen’s Procession, cultural performances, and carnival swings.
The roots of this German festival date back to the 1800s. It all started with the royal wedding of King Ludwig I and Crown Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen on October 12, 1818. The citizens of Munich were invited to witness the royal festivities, which included horse races, drinks, and dance. The royal union stirred cheerful celebrations that were so impactful, that it became an annual event for the citizens — now called the Oktoberfest. The wedding was held at Theresienwiese (Therese’s Meadow), which continues to be the venue of the festival even today.
Oktoberfest menu — food & drink
When at Oktoberfest, make sure to sample the traditional fare that spans a slew of regional delicacies. Sausage salad (Wurstsalat), headcheese (Presssack), sweet dumplings, apple strudel (Apfelstrudel), fish rolls (Fischsemmel), and Bavarian meatloaf (Leberkas) should definitely be on your radar. Sample the various beer varieties sourced from popular Munish breweries like Paulaner and Augustiner (Munich’s oldest brewery). If you don’t fancy beer, fret not, for the festival has plenty of other options — wine, champagne, Radler, gin, vodka, Jäger, non-alcoholic beer, coffee, and soft drinks, among others.
One must note that the beer barrels at Oktoberfest don’t hold run-of-the-mill beers but specific brews that are made using the Rheinheitsgebot (the German law that mentions the ingredients of the beer). By the mandate, these beers are brewed within the city boundaries of Munich and must be either Marzen or Festbier. While the dark amber-coloured Marzen (March beer) is the traditional beer of Munich and has delicate notes of German hops, Festbier is lighter in colour and less sweet in comparison.
Things to explore at Oktoberfest
Penning down your checklist for Oktoberfest 2023? Make sure to include special events like the Costume and Hunters’ parade, iconic Bavarian concerts, witnessing the landlords of the beer tents make an entrance on horse-drawn carriages and the traditional gun salute that marks the culmination of the fest for the year. We also recommend attending the free Wiesn Landlords’ concert by the Lady Bavaria statue. Elevate the fun by hopping onto one of the many carnival rides like the Ferris wheel, Toboggan, Hau den Lukas and Teufelsrad (Devil’s Wheel). Additionally, the unofficial closing ceremony in the Hacker Pschorr tent is a sight to behold.
Oktoberfest — tickets & dates
This year, Munich will host the 188th Oktoberfest from September 16, 2023, to October 3, 2023. The festival will kickstart with the Parade of the landlords and breweries on day one, followed by the opening and tapping of the beer fest. On September 17, thousands of folklorists will parade through the city centre. Four days later, on September 21 will witness the Ecumenical mass in the Marstall festival tent. The fourth Sunday of September, i.e. September 24, 2023, will feature the musical highlight of Oktoberfest, followed by the finale on October 3.
Unfortunately, there’s no provision to purchase the Oktoberfest tickets online, as they can only be purchased directly from the respective beer tents. Moreover, it is illegal to purchase these tickets from third-party vendors. However, the silver lining here is that you don’t need a ticket at all if you’re planning to attend the festival in the morning or on a weekday. But, if you wish to see the opening and closing day ceremonies, and party into the wee hours of the morning, a ticket is essential.
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Oktoberfest dress code
While there’s no hard and fast dress code, it’s recommended to don the traditional garb (or elements thereof) to savour the Oktoberfest experience to the fullest. Wondering how to add Bavarian elements to your attire? We recommend traditional dirndl dresses for women, lederhosen shorts for men or a classic Bavarian jacket. Additionally, ensure that your bag is as small as possible. Larger bags are not only inconvenient to carry but are also not permitted inside the beer tents.
Main and Feature Image Credit: Brett Sayles/Pexels
When does Oktoberfest take place?
Oktoberfest is usually held between mid/late September to the first Sunday of October. The official duration of Oktoberfest 2023 is September 16 to October 3.
Where is Oktoberfest held?
It is held in Bavaria’s capital city, Munich, in Germany.
Is Oktoberfest all about beer, or are there other attractions?
There’s more to Oktoberfest than just beer. Whether it is carnival rides, traditional German fare, or the Costume and Riflemen parade, there are a range of other attractions, music, dance, and shared experiences that make Oktoberfest a global phenomenon.
What types of beer are served at Oktoberfest?
Traditional German beer prepared within the geographical limits of Munich, brewed in accordance with the German law stating the ingredients, is available at Oktoberfest; namely Marzen and Festbier.
Is there a dress code for Oktoberfest?
There is no specific Oktoberfest dress code, but to wholly immerse in the experience, mingle with the localities and click unique pictures that you’ll cherish forever, we recommend donning the traditional garb or some elements of it.
Is Oktoberfest family-friendly? Can I bring my children?
Yes, you can bring your kids as they’re allowed on the festival grounds where they can enjoy the carnival rides. They’re also permitted in the beer tents, however, children below 6 years of age must leave the tents by 8 pm.
Are there any special events or parades during Oktoberfest?
Oktoberfest prides itself in various renowned parades and ceremonies – the opening ceremony, the Costume and Hunters’ parade, Bavarian concerts, and the traditional gun salute, to name a few.
Are there non-alcoholic or alternative drink options available at Oktoberfest?
Yes, there are plenty of non-alcoholic options (coffee, soft drinks, lemon soda, non-alcoholic beer, etc.) and alternative drink options (wine, champagne, gin, vodka, Jäger, etc.) to pick from.
How do I get to Oktoberfest?
Once you’re in Munich, Germany, you can reach the location easily via public transport like U-bahn, S-bahn, bus and tram. The venue is also a 10-15 minute walking distance from Munich Central Station (Hauptbahnhof).
Is Oktoberfest safe for tourists?
Yes, it is safe for tourists. However, just like other large-scale festivals, attendees should be mindful of their surroundings and keep their belongings safe at the Oktoberfest celebrations.
Can I bring my food and drinks to Oktoberfest?
While it’s allowed to bring beverages to the festival ground, you cannot carry them to the tents or beer gardens. Additionally, carrying the beverages in glass bottles is not permitted.
This story first appeared on Travel + Leisure India