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History of Oktoberfest

History of Oktoberfest

With a rich history dating back over 200 years, Oktoberfest has grown from humble roots to become the largest festival in the world today. Let's explore a brief history from the very first Oktoberfest celebration to the modern festival of today.

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image courtesy of FHgitarre's Flickr page


The Early Years of Oktoberfest
The year was 1810, and little did anybody know that soon the seeds would be sown for what would eventually become Oktoberfest. On October 12, crowds gathered at the gates of Munich to celebrate the marriage of Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen. A parade was held, food and drinks were served, and on the 18th, the festivities concluded with horse racing. The event was so successful, that it was decided the festival would become an annual event. This marked the beginning of the long tradition, which would become known as Oktoberfest The following year brought a few additions. One notable addition was the agricultural show, which still exists to this day. In 1813, just a few years after the original celebration, the first cancellation of the festival occurred due to Bavaria's involvement in the Napoleonic war. The first carnival booths made their debut in 1816 offering fantastic prizes including silver, porcelain, and jewelry. In 1819, Munich took control of the festival. Among the changes this brought was the decision to make Oktoberfest a yearly celebration, with no exception. As the festival grew, Oktoberfest was lengthened and eventually moved to September to take advantage of the nice Bavarian weather of that time of the year. Although the first parade took place in 1810, for celebration of Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen, it wasn't until 1850 an official Oktoberfest parade became and annual tradition. Over 8,000 people participate in the parade every year, each wearing traditional costumes. The parade begins on Maximilian Street, passing through the center of Munich, ending at Oktoberfest. The most significant change to Oktoberfest came in 1887, which would forever change Oktoberfest and make it into what it is today. Official Oktoberfest Staff were added to the festival, and for the first time, breweries officially took part in the celebration. The breweries showcased extravagant decorated horse teams, and brought the addition of the festival tents where live bands played.

The following year brought a few additions, notable the addition of the agricultural show, which still persists to this day. The year 1813, just a few years after the original celebration, brought the first cancellation of the festival due to Bavaria's involvement in the Napoleonic war. The first carnival booths made their debut in 1816 offering fantastic prizes including silver, porcelain, and jewelry.

Starting in 1819, Munich officially took over control of the festival. Among the changes this brought was the decision that Oktoberfest would become a yearly celebration without exception. As the festival grew, Oktoberfest was lengthened and eventually moved forward to September to take advantage of the nice Bavarian weather of that time of the year.

Even though the first parade took place in 1810 at the celebration of Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen, it wasn't until the year 1850 that an official Oktoberfest parade became and annual tradition. Each year, some 8,000 people participate in the parade, each wearing traditional costumes walk from Maximilian Street, passing through the center of Munich, ending at Oktoberfest.

The most significant change to Oktoberfest came in the year 1887 and would forever change Oktoberfest and lead it to become the festival we all know today. That change? This was the first year that official Oktoberfest Staff were added, and most importantly for the first time breweries officially took part in the celebration. The breweries showcased their extravagant decorated horse teams and brought the addition of the festival tents where the first live bands played.

image courtesy of sanfamedia.com's flickr page

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The Modern Oktoberfest Festival
In 1950, an official start to Oktoberfest was marked with a twelve gun salute followed by the tapping of the first keg by the Mayor of Munich at exactly 12pm. Once the keg is tapped enthusiastic cries of "O' zapft is!" (It is tapped!) fill the air. The first beer is poured by the mayor and is given to the Minister-President of Bavaria, with that, Oktoberfest is officially opened. By 1960, Oktoberfest had turned into the large world-famous festival it is today, and international tourism became increasingly common. The year 1960 also marked the last year horse racing was part of Oktoberfest. Although horse racing and other historical events may not longer be part of Oktoberfest, there are still plenty of other long-standing traditions that survive to this day. As with the original celebration in 1810, Oktoberfest has continued to this day at the gates of the city of Munich. The agricultural show started in the second year, and continues to be a part of the festival, however it is only held once every three years. Oktoberfest attracts nearly 6 million visitors during its 16 days. During this time, visitors will drink over 6 million liters of beer! Now that's a party!

image courtesy of SteFou's Flickr page

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Guide to Oktoberfest Munich Beer Tents

If you are visiting Oktoberfest, you will undoubtedly have to make the difficult decision of which beer tents you will visit. With so many different choices, how do you know which ones you should visit? Luckily, we've compiled a list of the biggest beer tents, and will provide you with the information you need to help you decide which tents to visit.


Hippodrom
This very colorful beer tent is perhaps the hippest of all the beer tents at Oktoberfest, and is quite popular with the younger crowd. This also happens to be the beer tent where you'll most likely to see celebrities. Differing from other beer tents, the Hippodrom offers a stylish sekt (sparkling wine) bar for those seeking something different. If you enjoy a younger crowd or the chance to see a celebrity, this is the tent for you!

  • Beer: Spaten-Franziskaner
  • Capacity: 3,300 inside; 1,000 outside
  • Music: The Munich Discord
  • Proprietors: Sepp Kratz and Family
  • Tent size: 213' L x 114' W
  • Hours: 10am - 11:30pm
  • Phone number: +49 (89) 29 16 46 46


Armbrustschutzenzelt
The "Crossbow shooters tent", this tent is known for hosting the crossbow competition that has been an Oktoberfest staple since 1895. More than sports, this tent is a great spot for partaking in dancing, sing-alongs, and enjoying some music.

  • Beer: Paulaner
  • Capacity: 5,830 inside; 1,600 outside
  • Music: PLATZL Oktoberfest Chapel
  • Proprietors: Peter Island Chamber Family
  • Music: The Platzl Oktoberfest chapel under the direction of Claus Gerleigner
  • Phone number: +49 (89) 23 70 37 03


Fischer Vroni
As you can probably guess, this tent serves up more than just beer. Best known for the grilled fish, be sure to check out the "Steckerlfisch," the traditional grilled fish on a stick amazingly cooked on a 50 foot long stick!

  • Beer: Augustiner
  • Capacity: 2.695 inside; 700 outside
  • Proprietors: Proprietors: John and Silvia Stadtmuller
  • Music: Sepp Folger and his Munich musicians
  • Phone number: +49 (89) 66 10 42


Hofbrau Festhalle
The Hofbrau tent is the largest of all the tents at Oktoberfest. Able to accommodate a staggering 9,992 (to be precise) guests at a time. Part of being able to accommodate so many people is the fact that this is the only beer tent that offers a standing-room only area. This popular beer tent is also one of the more traditional tents, featuring a lot of people dressed in the traditional lederhosen and dirndl costumes. And if your visiting Oktoberfest, you should know that this is one of the most popular tents with foreign visitors, particularly Americans and Australians.

  • Beer: Hofbrauhaus Munich (550,000 liters of HB beer served in 16 days!)
  • Capacity: 4,500 inside; 1,518 balcony; 1,500 standing-room only; 3,022 outside
  • Proprietors: Margot and Gunter Steinberg
  • Music: Plattlinger Isar sparrows and Munich Gschichten
  • Tent size: 269' L x 203' W
  • Phone number: +49 (89) 4483587


Ochsenbraterei
The Ox roasting tent. Outside, the giant ox on the revolving spit is sure to grab your attention and suck you in. Once you get inside this tent, be sure to try the ox specialties. Keep in mind that you must have reservations before you can enter, so plan ahead.

  • Beer: Spaten
  • Capacity: 5,900 inside; 1,500 outside
  • Proprietors: Anne and Hermann Haberl, and Antje Schneider
  • Music: Tent chapel Bruno Gress led by Karl Flauger. Mittags
  • Phone number: +49 (89) 38 38 73 12


hacker

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Hacker Festzelt
One of the larger beer tents with seating capacity of 10,000 people, the Hacker Festzelt is certainly one of the more popular choices in beer tents. Locals affectionately refer to this tent as the "Himmel der Bayern" (Heaven for Bavarians), and it's easy to see why. The ceiling inside the tent is a nice blue sky with fluffy white clouds in a scene, which could easily invoke thoughts of heaven. However, the color choice is more than just a sky and clouds for that shade of blue and white just happens to be the colors of the Bavarian flag.

  • Beer: Hacker-Pschorr
  • Capacity: 6,950 inside; 2,400 outside
  • Proprietors: Toni and Christl Roiderer
  • Music: The Kirchdorf, Cagey Strings Rock 'n' Roll Band
  • Phone number: +49 (8170) 7303


Augustiner-Festhalle
Differing from other beer tents, the Augustiner-Festhalle tent specializes in a more relaxing, family-friendly environment. If you happen to be visiting with your kids, know that Tuesday is "Kid's Day," which the small guests can eat and drink for less. Don’t worry, just because this tent is family-friendly doesn't mean it will get in the way of having a good time. Children are not allowed in the tent after 8pm.

  • Beer: Augustiner
  • Capacity: 6,000 inside; 2,500 outside
  • Proprietors: Manfred Vollmer
  • Music: Augustiner Oktoberfest band led by Reinhard Hagitte
  • Phone number: +49 (0)89 23 18 32 66


Schottenhamel
The oldest tent at Oktoberfest dating all the way back to 1867, the Schottenhamel can easily be considered the most important of all the beer tents. At 12pm on opening day, the Mayor of Munich taps the first keg and officially kicks off the festival. Seating for 10,000 makes this the largest tent at Oktoberfest and certainly shows how far things have come from the days when this was an old wooden barn with seating for only 50 people. If you're young and looking to party, this is the tent for you!

  • Beer: Spaten-Franziskaner-Brau
  • Capacity: 6,000 inside; 4,000 outside
  • Proprietors: Michael F. and Christian Schottenhamel
  • Music: Chapel Otto Fischer Black
  • Phone number: +49 (89) 54 46 93 10


Braurosl
The Braurosl has deep traditional roots having been owned by the same family since it began in 190,1 and is named after Rosl, the daughter of the original brewery owner. This quaint tent offers slightly different entertainment in the form of their own authentic yodeler.

  • Beer: Hacker-Pschorr Hacker-Pschorr
  • Capacity: 6,200 inside; 2,200 outside
  • Music: Ludwig Thoma-Musicians, South Tyrolean Spitzbuam
  • Proprietors: George and Renate Heide
  • Phone number: +49 (89) 89 55 63 53


Schutzenfesthalle
Located in close proximity to the famous Bavaria statue and decorated in the style of an 1800's club. This tent is best known for its food, serving up the famous pork dishes served in malt beer sauce with potato-salad.

  • Beer: Lowenbrau
  • Capacity: 5,440
  • Music: The Lower Almer
  • Proprietors: Claudia and Edward Reinbold
  • Phone number: +49 (0)89 2318 1224


Winzerer Fahnd'l
The first thing you will notice when you enter this beer tent is the care and effort in the interior decoration, which stays true to authentic Bavarian details. The goal of the proprietor's of this tent to provide a relaxed, fun feeling and after one visit to this tent, it's easy to see that they have succeeded. As with other tents, this tent is a great place to see some celebrities. Members of the local Munich soccer team like to hang out here, as do members of the local media who broadcast live from this tent.

  • Beer: Paulaner Paulaner
  • Capacity: 8,450 inside; 2,450 outside
  • Proprietors: Peter and Arabella Pongratz
  • Music: "The Nockherberger" under the leadership of Konrad Aigner
  • Phone number: +49 (0)89 2318 1224


Lowenbrau
One of the largest tents at Oktoberfest, the Lowenbrau tent is hard to miss. Every few minutes the giant 15 foot tall Lion outside lets out a mighty roar, and takes a drink from its beer. Besides the mighty lion outside, you'll also be able to see other lions here, members of the local TSV 1860 soccer team, which is nicknamed "The Lions."

  • Beer: Lowenbrau
  • Capacity: 5,700 inside; 2,800 outside
  • Music: Bert Maier's hero Hans Steiner
  • Proprietors: Ludwig Hagn and Stephanie Spendler
  • Phone number: +49 (89) 50 07 75 30

Tent

image courtesy of ZeHawk's flickr page

Kafer Wiesenschanke
It may be one of the smaller "large" tents at Oktoberfest, but that certainly doesn't make it any less exciting. This cozy little tent is quite popular with celebrities and locals alike who like to party. This tent offers longer hours; until 12:30 am. If you want to party later, you better get here before 11pm. Another big reason to visit this tent is the food. Be sure to try the delicious roast duck.

  • Beer: Paulaner Paulaner
  • Capacity: 1,000 inside; 1,900 outside
  • Proprietors: Michael Kafer
  • Music: California Sun
  • Phone number: +49 (89) 416 83 56


Hochreiter's Haxnbraterei
If the big tents are full, be sure to check out Hochreiter's Haxnbraterei. Offering a more traditional, laid-back atmosphere than the bigger tents, and best of all still offers great food and tasty beer.

  • Beer: Franziskaner and Lowenbrau
  • Capacity: 300
  • Proprietors: Hochreiter Family
  • Music: The Derbys
  • Phone number: +49 (0)89 29 75 45


Poschner's Roasted Duck and Chicken
Another great alternative to the big tents is Poschner's Roasted Duck and Chicken. Good food, great service, and a friendly atmosphere are just a few things that make this tent great. When you visit this tent, you will personally be directed to your table by an attendant. The friendly waitresses will serve you the fantastic Bavarian foods and make sure you’re taken care of.

  • Beer: Hacker-Pschorr
  • Capacity: 350
  • Proprietors. Luff Family
  • Phone number: +49 (0)89 50 07 73 84


Wildmoser's Roasted Duck and Chicken
The great food is the main reason to visit Wildmoser's Roasted Duck and Chicken. It may be a small tent, but it offers a wide selection of chicken and duck dishes. If you're in the mood for duck or chicken, this is the tent for you! Note: You do not actually have to enter this tent to get the food. They offer a convenient walk-up takeaway window.

  • Beer: Hacker-Pschorr
  • Capacity: 320
  • Proprietors: Wildmoser Family
  • Music: The Alpen-Casanovas
  • Phone: +49 (0)89 22 01 84


Glockle Wirt
It may be one of the smallest tents you will see at Oktoberfest, but it certainly is one of the most friendly and enjoyable. If you need a break from the crowds and noise, this is the tent for you. Serving up tasty traditional Bavarian and international dishes, you are sure to find the great food that you are looking for. The rather unique interior decorating features old instruments, cooking utensils, mugs and paintings hanging on the walls and ceiling. For those of you interested in celebrity sightings, even though this tent is small, it's known to attract the occasional celebrity.

  • Beer: Spaten-Franziskaner-Brau
  • Capacity: 98
  • Proprietors: Stephanie and Hanns-Werner Glockle
  • Music: Kapelle Schubiduo
  • Phone: +49 (0)89 231 10 90


Heimer's Roasted Duck and Chicken
It is tents like this that make Oktoberfest fun and unique. This is the perfect example of a tent that cares about the traditions of Oktoberfest and that makes this a lovely tent to visit. Very family-friendly, Heimer's Roasted Duck and Chicken is a must visit for any family at Oktoberfest. If you visit this tent, be sure to try the roast duck.

  • Beer: Paulaner
  • Capacity: 320
  • Proprietors: Helmut and Ignaz Schmid
  • Phone number: +49 (0)89 62 50 94 15


Heinz' Sausage and Chicken Grill
If you're hungry and on the go, check out Heinz' Sausage and Chicken Grill. This tent offers their food to-go. Why take your food to-go when you can enjoy this cozy little tent?

  • Beer: Paulaner
  • Capacity: 360
  • Proprietors: Petra Brenner and Herbert Heilmaier
  • Music: Duo Party Time
  • Phone number: +49 (0)172 862 74 96


Zur Bratwurst
While not technically a tent, rather a two-story wooden house, Zur Bratwurst offers a welcome deviation from all the other tents at Oktoberfest. The main specialty is "Rostbratwurstl" - fried sausages grilled over an open beech wood fire. Also noteworthy are the bratwurst made from oxen or the roast pork.

  • Beer: Augustiner
  • Capacity: 170 inside; 40 outside
  • Proprietors: Werner Hochreiter
  • Music: The "Original Fremdganger"