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This article is about the original festival in Munich. For Oktoberfest celebrations around the world, see Oktoberfest celebrations.
Oktoberfest at night with view of Löwenbräu tent

Oktoberfest is the world's largest funfair held annually in Munich, Bavaria, Germany. It is a 16-day festival running from late September to the first weekend in October with more than 6 million people from around the world attending the event every year. Locally, it is often simply called Wiesn, after the colloquial name of the fairgrounds (Theresienwiese) themselves. The Oktoberfest is an important part of Bavarian culture, having been held since 1810. Other cities across the world also hold Oktoberfest celebrations, modeled after the original Munich event.

The Munich Oktoberfest originally took place during the 16 days up to, and including, the first Sunday in October. In 1994, the schedule was modified in response to German reunification so that if the first Sunday in October falls on the 1st or 2nd, then the festival would go on until October 3 (German Unity Day). Thus, the festival is now 17 days when the first Sunday is October 2 and 18 days when it is October 1. In 2010, the festival lasted until the first Monday in October, to mark the anniversary of the event. The festival is held in an area named the Theresienwiese (field, or meadow, of Therese), often called Wiesn for short, located near Munich's center. Large quantities of Oktoberfest Beer are consumed, with almost 7 million litres served during the 16 day festival in 2007. Visitors may also enjoy a mixture of attractions, such as amusement rides, sidestalls and games, as well as a wide variety of traditional food such as Hendl (roast chicken), Schweinebraten (roast pork), Schweinshaxe (grilled ham hock), Steckerlfisch (grilled fish on a stick), Würstl (sausages) along with Brezen (pretzel), Knödel (potato or bread dumplings), Käsespätzle (cheese noodles), Reiberdatschi (potato pancakes), Sauerkraut or Rotkohl/Blaukraut (red cabbage) along with such Bavarian delicacies as Obatzda (a spiced cheese-butter spread) and Weisswurst (a white sausage).


Horse race at the Oktoberfest in Munich 1823
Portrait of a girl wearing a Dirndl dress

Crown Prince Ludwig, later to become King Ludwig I, was married to Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen on October 12, 1810. The citizens of Munich were invited to attend the festivities held on the fields in front of the city gates to celebrate the happy royal event. The fields were named Theresienwiese ("Theresa's meadow") in honor of the Crown Princess, and have kept that name ever since, although the locals have since abbreviated the name simply to the "Wiesn".[1] To end the celebrations from the Royal wedding on 17 October, horse races where held in their honor, presumably thought to have been a repetition of the Scharlachrennen (Scarlet Race) which took place in the 15th century in front of the Karlstor and was part of the Jakobidult. The idea was proposed by Andreas Micheal Dall’Armi, who was a Major in the National Guard. It is reported that the initial idea that led to the horse races and Oktoberfest were proposals from a coachman, and Sergeant in the National Guard, Franz Baumgartner. However, the origin of the festival is controversial.

The decision to repeat the horse races in the subsequent year gave rise to the tradition of the Oktoberfest.

The fairground outside the city was chosen due to its natural suitability. The Sendlinger mountain (today Theresienhohe) was used as a grandstand for 40,000 spectators of the race. The festival grounds remained undeveloped except for the king’s tent. The tastings of "Traiteurs" and other Wine and beer took place above the visitors in the stands on the hill. Before the race started, a performance took place in homage of the bridegroom and of the royal family in the form of a train of 16 pairs of children dressed in Wittelsbach costumes, and costumes from the then nine Bavarian townships and other regions. Followed by the difficult race with 30 horses on a 11200 Foot (3270 meters) long racetrack, and concluded with the singing of a choir of students. The first horse to cross the line was the possible initiator Franz Baumgartner, which was presented with his gold medal by the racing champion and Minister of State Maximilian Graf von Montgelas.[2]

"The festival was eventually prolonged and moved ahead to September to allow for better weather conditions. Today, the last day of the festival is the first Sunday in October. In 2006, the Oktoberfest extended two extra days because the first Tuesday, October 3, was a national holiday. Over the past 200 years, Oktoberfest was cancelled 24 times due to cholera epidemics and war."[3]

Transformation into a Public Festival[edit]

19th century[edit]

In 1811, an agricultural show was added to promote Bavarian agriculture. In 1813 the festival was canceled due to the involvement of Bavaria in the Napoleonic wars. After which the Oktoberfest grew from year to year. The horse races were accompanied by tree climbing, bowling allies, and swings as other attractions. In 1818, carnival booths appeared; the main prizes that were awarede were those of silver, porcelain, and jewelry. The founding citizens of Munich assumed responsibility for festival management in 1819, and it was decided that Oktoberfest be made an annual event. Later, it was lengthened and the date pushed forward, because days are longer and warmer at the end of September. The horse race continued until 1960, and the agricultural show still exists and is held every four years on the southern part of the festival grounds.

To honour the marriage of Prince Ludwig and Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen, a parade took place for the first time in 1810. Since 1850, the parade has become an annual event and an important component of the Oktoberfest. Eight thousand people—mostly from Bavaria—in traditional costumes walk from Maximilian Street through the centre of Munich to the Oktoberfest grounds. The march is led by the Münchner Kindl.

Bavaria statue above the Theresienwiese

Since 1850, the statue of Bavaria has watched over the Oktoberfest. This worldly Bavarian patron was first sketched by Leo von Klenze in a classic style and Ludwig Michael Schwanthaler romanticised and "Germanised" the draft. The statue was constructed by Johann Baptist Stiglmaier and Ferdinand von Miller.

In 1853, the Bavarian Ruhmeshalle was completed. In 1854, the festival was cancelled after 3,000 residents of Munich died during a cholera epidemic. There was no Oktoberfest in 1866 because Bavaria was involved in the Austro-Prussian War. In 1870, the Franco-Prussian War forced the cancellation of the festival. In 1873, the festival was cancelled due to another cholera epidemic. In 1880, the electric light illuminated more than 400 booths and tents. In 1881, booths selling bratwurst opened and the first Beers were served in glass mugs in 1892. At the end of the 19th century, a re-organization took place. Until then, there were games of skittles, large dance floors, and trees for climbing in the beer booths. Organizers wanted more room for guests and musicians which resulted in the booths becoming beer halls which are still used today.

In 1887, the Entry of the Oktoberfest Staff and Breweries took place for the first time. This event showcases the splendidly decorated horse teams of the breweries and the bands that play in the festival tents. This event always takes place on the first Saturday of the Oktoberfest and serves as the official prelude to the Oktoberfest celebration

20th century[edit]

In 1910, Oktoberfest celebrated its 100th anniversary. Some 120,000 litres of beer were poured. In 1913, the Bräurosl was founded, which was the largest Oktoberfest beer tent ever, with room for approximately 12,000 people.

From 1914 to 1918, World War I prevented the celebration of Oktoberfest. In 1919 and 1920, the two years after the war, Munich celebrated only an "Autumn Fest." In 1923 and 1924, the Oktoberfest was not held due to inflation.

During the period of National Socialism, Oktoberfest was used for Nazi propaganda. 1933, the price for the amount of beer was set to 90 Pfennig; and Jews were forbidden to work at the Oktoberfest. 1935, the 125th Weisn anniversary was celebrated with immense importance; not only with a big anniversary parade with the motto "Proud City - Cheerful country", which stood for the alleged overcoming of the social layers and classes, and in which demonstrated the Gleichschaltung and the consolidated power of the Nazi regime. In March 1938, Hitler had annexed Austria and won Sudetenland with the Munich Agreement - Oktoberfest was renamed to "Greater German folk festival". The Nazi regime transported a large number of Sudeten Germans on the festival grounds.[4]

During World War II, from 1939 to 1945, no Oktoberfest took place. Following the war, from 1946 to 1948, Munich celebrated only the "Autumn Fest." The sale of proper Oktoberfest beer—2% stronger in Gravity than normal beer—was not permitted; guests could only drink normal beer. Since its existence, the Oktoberfest did not take place 24 times.

Oktoberfest rides and roller coasters
Hippodrom tent
Frisbee carousel in the heat of day

Since 1950, there has been a traditional festival opening: A twelve gun salute and the tapping of the first keg of Oktoberfest beer at 12:00 by the incumbent Mayor of Munich with the cry "O'zapft is!" ("It's tapped!" in the Austro-Bavarian dialect) opens the Oktoberfest. The Mayor then gives the first beer to the Minister-President of the State of Bavaria. The first mayor to tap the keg was Thomas Wimmer.

Before the festival officially starts at 12 PM, there is the famous parades of the traditional gun clubs, waitresses and landlords of the tents. Mostly there are two different parades which both end at the Theresienwiesn. They start around 9.45 a.m. to 10.50 a.m.[5]

Horse races ended in 1960.

By 1960, the Oktoberfest had become a world-famous festival. Since then, foreigners began to picture Germans as wearing the Sennerhut, Lederhosen, and the girls in Dirndl.[citation needed]

Traditional visitors wear during the Oktoberfest Bavarian hats (Tirolerhüte), which contain a tuft of chamois hair (Gamsbart). Historically, in Bavaria chamois hair was highly valued and prized. The more tufts of chamois hair on one's hat, the wealthier one was considered to be. Technology helping, this tradition ended with the appearance of chamois hair imitations on the market.[citation needed]

For them as well as for the general medical treatment of visitors the Bavarian branch of German Red Cross operates an aid facility and provides emergency medical care on the festival grounds, staffed with around 100 volunteer medics and doctors per day.[6] They serve together with special detachments of Munich police, fire department and other municipal authorities in the service centre at the Behördenhof (authorities' court), a large building specially built for the Oktoberfest at the east side of the Theresienwiese, just behind the tents. There is also a place for lost & found children, a lost property office, a security point for women and other public services.[citation needed]

Since the 1970s, local German gay organizations have organized "Gay Days" at Oktoberfest, which by the 21st century always began in the Bräurosl tent on the first Sunday.[7]

1980 Oktoberfest bomb blast[edit]

A pipe bomb was set off in a dustbin at the restrooms at the main entrance on September 26, 1980 at 22:19. The bomb consisted of an empty fire extinguisher filled with 1.39 kilograms of TNT and mortar shells. Thirteen people were killed, over 201 were injured, 68 seriously. This was the second deadliest terrorist attack in the history of Germany after the Munich Massacre. Governmental authorities propounded a summary of official inquires, purporting that a right-wing extremist Gundolf Köhler from Donaueschingen, a social outcast who was killed in the explosion, was the lone perpetrator. However, this account is strongly disputed by various groups.[8]

Oktoberfest today[edit]

To keep the Oktoberfest, and especially the beer tents, friendly for older people and families, the concept of the "quiet Oktoberfest" was developed in 2005. Until 6:00 pm, the tents only play quiet music, for example traditional wind music. Only after that will Schlager and pop music be played, which had led to more violence in earlier years.[9] The music played in the afternoon is limited to 85 decibels. With these rules, the organisers of the Oktoberfest were able to curb the over-the-top party mentality and preserve the traditional beer tent atmosphere.

Since 2005 the last travelling Enterprise ride of Germany, called Mondlift, is back on the Oktoberfest.

Starting in 2008, a new Bavarian law intended to ban smoking in all enclosed spaces that are open to the public, even at the Oktoberfest. Because of problems enforcing the anti-smoking law in the big tents there was an exception for the Oktoberfest 2008, although the sale of tobacco was not allowed. After heavy losses in the 2008 local elections with the smoke ban being a big issue in debates, the state's ruling party meanwhile implemented special exemptions to beer tents and small pubs. The change in regulation is aimed in particular at large tents at the Oktoberfest:[10] So, smoking in the tents is still legal, but the tents usually have non-smoking areas.[11] The sale of tobacco in the tents is now legal, but it is abandoned by agreement. However, in early 2010 a referendum held in Bavaria as a result of a popular initiative re-instituted the original, strict, smoking ban of 2008; thus, no beer will be sold to people caught smoking in the tents.[12] The blanket smoking ban will not take effect until 2011, but all tents will institute the smoking ban this year as to do the "dry run" to identify any unforeseeable issues. The common issue when the smoking ban is in effect is the nauseating stench of stale beer spilled on the floor, which the smoking masked.[13]

2010 marked the 200th anniversary of Oktoberfest. For the anniversary, there was a horse race in historical costumes on opening day. A so-called "Historische Wiesn" (historical Oktoberfest) took place, starting one day earlier than usual on the southern part of the festival grounds. A specially brewed beer (solely available at the tents of the historical Oktoberfest), horse races, and a museum tent gave visitors an impression of how the event felt a century ago.

Most recently, in 2013, 6.4 million people visited Oktoberfest, and the festival served 6.7 million liters of beer.[14]


A waitress with Hacker-Pschorr, one of the traditional beers allowed to be served at Oktoberfest. She wears a dirndl, a traditional women's dress of Bavaria.

Only beer conforming to the Reinheitsgebot, and brewed within the city limits of Munich, can be served at the Munich Oktoberfest. Beers meeting these criteria are designated Oktoberfest Beer. [15]

The breweries that can produce Oktoberfest Beer under the criteria are:[16]

Oktoberfest Beer is a registered trademark by the Club of Munich Brewers, which consists of the above six breweries. [17]

Facts and data[edit]


The Oktoberfest fairground (Theresienwiese) in Munich, aerial view
Chairoplane at the Oktoberfest, Paulskirche in the back

The Oktoberfest is known as the Largest Volksfest (People's Fair) in the World.[18] In 1999 there were six and a half million visitors[19] to the 42 hectare Theresienwiese. 72% of the people are from Bavaria.[20] 15% of visitors come from foreign countries like the surrounding EU-countries and other non-European countries including the United States, Canada, Australia and East Asia.[21]

Besides the Oktoberfest, there are other public festivals that take place at the same location. In April/May it's the Munich Frühlingsfest (Spring Festival) and Tollwood-Festival in December with 650,000 visitors.

After the Oktoberfest the next largest people fairs in Germany are the Cannstatter Volksfest in Stuttgart with about 4.5 million visitors each year, the Cranger Kirmes in Herne (Wanne-Eickel) (the largest fair in Northrhine-Westphalia) with 4.4 million visitors, the Rheinkirmes in Düsseldorf (called Largest Fair on the Rhine) and the Freimarkt in Bremen (the biggest fair in northern Germany) with over 4 million visitors per year each. Also noteworthy is the "Schützenfest Hannover", the world's largest marksmen's Fun Fair in Hanover with over 1 million visitors per year.


Float at the annual Oktoberfest Opening Parade in central Munich

In recent years, the Oktoberfest runs for 16 days with the last day being the first Sunday in October. However, if day 16 falls before October 3 (German Unity Day), then the festival will continue until the 3rd. (see table below)

YearDatesSpecial Features
2000Sep 16 – Oct 318 days
2001Sep 22 – Oct 7
2002Sep 21 – Oct 6
2003Sep 20 – Oct 5
2004Sep 18 – Oct 3with ZLF*
2005Sep 17 – Oct 317 days
2006Sep 16 – Oct 318 days
2007Sep 22 – Oct 7
2008Sep 20 – Oct 5175th Oktoberfest (with ZLF*)
2009Sep 19 – Oct 4
2010Sep 18 – Oct 4200th Anniversary (with BLF)
2011Sep 17 – Oct 317 days
2012Sep 22 – Oct 7
2013Sep 21 – Oct 6
2014Sep 20 – Oct 5
2015Sep 19 – Oct 4

* Bayerisches Zentral-Landwirtschaftsfest (Bavarian Central Agriculture Fair)

Rubbish and toilets[edit]

Nearly 1,000 tons of rubbish result annually from the Oktoberfest. The mountains of rubbish created are hauled away and the ways cleanly washed down each morning. The cleaning is paid for in part by the city of Munich and in part by the sponsors.[citation needed]

In 2004 the queues outside the toilets became so long that the police had to regulate the entrance. To keep traffic moving through the toilets, men headed for the toilets were directed to the urinals (giant enclosed grate) if they only needed to urinate. Consequently, the number of toilets was increased by 20% in 2005. Approximately 1,800 toilets and urinals are available at this time.[citation needed]

Many Oktoberfest guests visit the quiet stalls in order to use their phones. For this reason there were plans in 2005 to install a Faraday cage around the toilets or to use Mobile phone jammers to prevent telephoning with a mobile telephone. Jamming devices are, however, illegal in Germany, and Faraday cages made of copper would have been too expensive, so these ambitious plans were dropped, and signs were placed instead, warning toilet users not to use cell phones in the stalls.[citation needed]


There are currently fourteen large tents and twenty small tents at the Oktoberfest. The tents are non-permanent structures which are constructed for and only used during the festival. The beer (or wine) served in each is in the accompanying table.[22]

Large Tents
Hofbräu-FestzeltHofbräu München6,8963,622
Winzerer FähndlPaulaner8,4502,450
Käfers Wiesen SchänkePaulaner1,0001,900
WeinzeltNymphenburger Sekt1,300600
Paulaner Weißbier
Augustiner-FesthalleAugustiner Bräu6,0002,500
Small Tents
Able's Kalbs-KuchlSpaten3000
Ammer Hühner & EntenbratereiAugustiner450450
Bodo's CafezeltExotic Cocktails4500
Café KaiserschmarrnCocktail bar4000
Café MohrenkopfXXL- Cocktails4200
Feisingers Ka's und WeinstubnWine & Wheat Beer9290
Glöckle WirtSpaten1400
Heimer Hendl- und EntenbraterePaulaner4000
Heinz Wurst- Und HühnerbratereiPaulaner3600
Hochreiters HaxnbratereiLöwenbräu2500
Münchner KnödeleiPaulaner30090
Poschners Hühner- Und EntenbratereiHacker-Pschorr3500
Schiebl's KaffeehaferlIrish Coffee1000
Wiesn Guglhupf Café-Dreh-BarMix Bar600
Wildmoser HühnerbratereiHacker-Pschorr3200
Wirtshaus im Schichtl1200
Zum StiftlPaulaner3600
Zur BratwurstAugustiner1600
Hacker-Festzelt (2003)

Large Tents

Small Tents[25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Oktoberfestbier". German Beer Institute. 
  2. ^ "Das erste Oktoberfest". wiesnkini.de (in German). Retrieved 17 January 2015. 
  3. ^ http://www.vistawide.com/german/oktoberfest/oktoberfest.htm
  4. ^ Tobias Lill (25 September 2008). "Wie Hitler das Oktoberfest stahl". wiesnkini.de (in German). Retrieved 17 January 2015. 
  5. ^ "Parade of the landlords". oktoberfestlederhosen.com. 
  6. ^ "Herzlich Willkommen beim Münchner Roten Kreuz". Bayerisches Rotes Kreuz. Retrieved 28 November 2010. 
  7. ^ The Guardian: Kate Connolly, "Gay times at Munich's Oktoberfest," September 22, 2011, accessed January 27, 2012
  8. ^ Ganser, Daniele. "Nato-Geheimarmeen und ihr Terror" (in German). danieleganser.ch. 
  9. ^ "Rules for Oktoberfest jeered". www.houblon.net. Retrieved 2008-09-20. 
  10. ^ "Up in Smoke: Bavarian Politicians Want to Relax Smoking Ban". Spiegel Online International. 03/06/2008. Retrieved 28 November 2010.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  11. ^ "Smoking at the Oktoberfest". oktoberfest.de. Retrieved 28 November 2010. 
  12. ^ "Oktoberfest 2010 – Raucher sollen kein Bier kriegen". Spiegel Online (in German). 29 July 2010. Retrieved 28 November 2010. 
  13. ^ "Life After the Smoking Ban – Bacteria To Fight Beer Stench at Oktoberfest". Spiegel Online. 9 October 2010. Retrieved 28 November 2010. 
  14. ^ http://oktoberfestbeerfestivals.com/history/
  15. ^ "Oktoberfest". Spaten. Retrieved 11 December 2013. 
  16. ^ http://www.oktoberfest.de/en/article/About+the+Oktoberfest/About+the+Oktoberfest/It's+all+about+the+beer_-3-__-3-__-3-_/839/
  17. ^ "Oktoberfest". Spaten. Retrieved 11 December 2013. 
  18. ^ "How to enjoy Oktoberfest like a local". USA Today. September 5, 2007. Retrieved May 20, 2010. 
  19. ^ "Realbeer.com: Beer News: Oktoberfest visitors set records". realbeer.com. 
  20. ^ "Informationen zum Oktoberfest" (in German). muenchen.de. 
  21. ^ "Oktoberfest Economics" (Press release). muenchen.de. 
  22. ^ "Beer Tents". The Oktoberfest Website. 
  23. ^ "The Hippodrom". Die Systementwickler. Retrieved 11 December 2013. 
  24. ^ "Anzapfen, the opening ritual of Oktoberfest" (in German). Wiesnkini. Retrieved 18 January 2014. 
  25. ^ "Oktoberfest Tents". OktoberfestPackages.com. 

Das Münchner Oktoberfest

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 48°7′53″N 11°32′57″E / 48.13139°N 11.54917°E / 48.13139; 11.54917