Experience the vibrant and lively atmosphere of Munich, Germany during De Wiesn, commonly known as Oktoberfest, an annual celebration of Bavarian culture, food, and beer.

The grand carnival features traditional German activities, music, dancing, amusement rides, and parades. With over 6 million visitors from all around the world, it is the world's largest Volksfest.

From the aroma of freshly baked pretzels to the clinking of beer steins, Oktoberfest is a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in German culture and have fun. But like all festivals, make sure to plan ahead so you have everything you need for an unforgettable experience!

Quick Oktoberfest History

According to Britannia, Oktoberfest originated on October 12, 1810 to celebrate the marriage between Bavarian Crown Prince Louis I and Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen. The townspeople in the state ate and drank for five days to celebrate the royal wedding.

They gathered in front of the palace lawns for horse races. A year later, a state agricultural fair joined the horse races to maximize the festivities. In 1818, people introduced food and beer booths, which slowly evolved into beer tents and halls by the 20th century.

Munich’s mayor taps the first keg every Saturday of Oktoberfest and shouts, “O’zapft is!” meaning “it’s tapped.”

Why is Oktoberfest important?

Scotty Henley, entertainment director at Plant Riverside District in Savannah, thinks Oktoberfest is so popular globally because it gives people an excuse to spend time outside as the weather changes and colors change in the trees.

“It brings more people outside, especially if you're in the southern regions,” Henley said. “Humidity becomes more of your biggest challenges for getting people to want to be out.”

Dr. Oliver Speck, a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, agrees meeting outside and enjoying good food and beer makes the Oktoberfest celebrated annually.

He adds the Bavarians are very prideful about their culture. “The Bavarians are like their Texans: they have their own unique culture,” he said.

Places to celebrate Oktoberfest

What better way to celebrate than the location of the original festival? Arguably the largest fall festival in the world, Oktoberfest has carnival rides, games, food and beer tents, parades and live music.

Make sure you plan for drinking, eating, rides, everything! For example, reserve and book tables ahead of time because those tents get packed. Plan to arrive early to get a seat, skip long lines and avoid rowdy drunkards. Also, carry some cash and coins to pay for food and cover tips. Most importantly, expect a lot of walking, so stay hydrated.

Want firsthand experience? In a TikTok by @dw_berlinfresh, locals who attended Oktoberfest were asked for their advice which included the drinks’ right pronunciation and tips on how to not get lost. 

If you can’t fly to Munich, don’t fret! Multiple people and places around the world celebrate Oktoberfest in many ways.

In Savannah, Georgia, Oktoberfest in Plant Riverside District runs from October 4 to October 28. Henley said a local band will perform live polka music, contests every Saturday, and games for the whole family. The festival also serves specialty Oktoberfest beers (Southern Barrel Helles Lager and Yuengling Oktoberfest, to name a few) and authentic German food, according to its website.

In Richmond, Virginia, the Saint Benedict Catholic Church hosted its Oktoberfest from September 15-17 (the next one will be September 20-22, 2024). They have parades, food & drink vendors and mini-events for three days, according to photos on its website.

Dr. Speck often attended Oktoberfest while in Richmond but stopped because the crowds got too big. “The nicest ones are the small ones,” he said.

Foods & drinks to try

There are many options, but here are some of the classics. 

First up, beer. It’s a no-brainer that while Germany has a wide variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, beer is a popular drink.

DW News reported that 7.2 million visitors to Oktoberfest 2023 drank 6.5 million liters of beer. In 2022, 5.7 million visitors drank 5.6 million liters. In 2019, 6.3 million visitors drank 7.3 million liters as stated in the article. No wonder some people dub it liquid bread.

Only six Munichian breweries produce beer for the festival: Augustiner, Hacker-Pschorr, Hofbräu, Löwenbräu, Paulaner and Spaten. Even the Europen Union even rewarded them the seal of approval to protect the drinks’ quality.

But besides those six breweries, multiple Oktoberfest beers and Oktoberfest-style beers outside of Munich are in the market. So, don’t feel pressured to strive for authenticity.

“You have your standards like Yuengling and Samuel Adams. I think a lot of people probably resonate there just because of the name branding,” Henley said.

Nothing goes better with a giant-sized beer than soft, salty Brez’ns, or the Bavarian pretzel, the size of your face. Just look at this one from @dw_euromaxx on Instagram! Thicker than typical soft pretzels in the U.S. at movie theaters, carnivals, and state fairs.

Lastly, sausages! You may have heard of the frankfurter and bratwurst. But Germany has various types of sausages to try. Dr. Speck recommends trying weisswurst, a white sausage made of minced veal and pork back bacon. “Don’t eat it beyond a certain date (after autumn and winter) and time (afternoon),” he said. The best way to eat the sausage is at 10 a.m. with sweet Bavarian mustard.