For members


Everything you need to know about Germany’s Oktoberfest

From new attractions to embracing tap water, here's what you need to know about Germany's most famous folk festival, starting on Saturday.

Oktoberfest 2023
Construction workers set up a beer tent on Saturday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Peter Kneffel

As Bavarian politicians hunker down for the final stages before state elections on October 8th, there’s another (slightly more joyous) preparation underway: this Saturday, Oktoberfest will kick off again. 

Around six million guests are expected at Europe’s largest folk festival, which stretches from Saturday, September 15th until Tuesday, October 3rd. 

If you are not a regular visitor to the Wiesn, the nickname for the 188-year old festival and also the name of the sprawling fairground where it takes place, you might have a few questions in advance. 

READ ALSO: Why Germany is cutting access to Eltergeld and how important is beer to Germans?

How much does the famously giant beer cost?

A litre of beer costs between €12.60 and €14.90, on average €14.18. That’s an average of about 6.1 percent more than last year. 

But all the complaints about the expensive Wiesn beer, the price increase this year is not that big.  It is on par with the general inflation in Germany, which was 6.1 per cent as of August – and below the somewhat higher increase in prices for food and gastronomy. 

In the retail sector, beer prices as soared twice as much as they have at the Oktoberfest. In August, it was 12.2 percent more costly than a year earlier, according to data from the Statistical Office.

In addition, with a beer on the Wiesen you get more alcohol for your money, since it tends to be a bit stronger. In light of the high inflation, tap water will be available free of charge for the first time this year. In contrast, a litre of bottled water will set you back an average of €10.04 in the tents, compared to €9.67 in 2022.

READ ALSO: Oktoberfest in numbers: An inside look at Oktoberfest’s multi-billion business

waitress carrying Steine at Oktoberfest

Are these Oktoberfest beers really a litre?(Photo by Christof STACHE / AFP)

Can you only come to the Wiesn in Dirndl and Lederhosen?

Don’t worry if you don’t fancy getting decked out in traditional Bavarian countryside dresses or yodler-esque leather trousers. Whatever you like is allowed. Scots like to come in kilts, and for ‘Gay Sunday’ on the first Sunday of the festival, drag queens make their way into the Wiesn. US guests in white and blue rhombus costumes have also been spotted, as well as those donning plush chicken hats.

However, many locals as well as foreign guests come in tradition dirndl and lederhosen. Following the post-war period, jeans and T-shirts started to become acceptable attire at the famous festival, but in the mid-1990s, mayor Christian Ude (SPD) and former Wiesn boss Gabriele Weishäupl made traditional costume fashionable again. 

If you want to change quickly on your way to the Wiesn: stalls around the festival site sell cheap versions.

How do you get a seat in the beer tent?

The safest thing to do: book months in advance in the respective tent. Unfortunately, the reserved places are all largely gone now – but you can tighten your running shoes if you still want a spot, as hosts are not allowed to give away all the seats. Those who are good on foot can rush to the tent of their choice as soon as the festival site opens at 9 am – the fastest get the best seats – and preferably on a Tuesday rather than a Saturday. 

Some people have put their tickets up for sale on online platforms, through which some tables are still available – for several thousand euros. But Oktoberfest tent hosts have largely frowned on the practice, and some are even taking legal action against it. 

Flea circus, guillotine, roller coaster: what attractions are there?

The Olympia looping roller coaster with five rings is legendary, as is the Ferris wheel. But this year you’ll also come across the new eye-catching attraction Mr. Gravity: a ride featuring ten gondolas rotating on a disc at speeds of up to 100 kilometres per hour. 

Of the 180 fairground businesses, about 90 percent date back to the 19th century.

There are several older, more leisurely rides, such as the Toboggan slide, the Devil’s Wheel or the Krinoline Krinoline, named after the famous old fashioned hoop skirts.

Another legendary act is the Varieté Schichtl, which performs “the beheading of a living person on an open, brightly lit stage” several times a day, according to the festival website.

Can you experience the Wiesn from afar?

Guests still have to come in person to experience the Wiesn. But soon they will be able to stroll around the festival grounds virtually. Currently an online game is being developed that will allow Oktoberfest fans to experience the festival avatars wearing VR goggles. 

The Wiesn is a traditional festival, but does not lose touch with the times, said Wiesn boss Clemens Baumgärtner (CSU) about the new game. Still, he encouraged players to make their way to the real festival, pointing out there were not the same risks of catching Covid-19 as in previous pandemic years.

READ ALSO: No reason to fear rise in infections at Munich’s Oktoberfest, say experts

How environmentally friendly is the Wiesn?

The innkeepers have an ambitious goal: the large festival tents are to become climate-neutral within five years, if possible even by 2026. Now the innkeepers are measuring their carbon dioxide consumption to reduce their CO2 footprint. 

For a long time, green electricity has been used at the festival, beer mug flushing water for toilets has been recycled and waste has been reduced. A round table on the topic of sustainability met for the first time in June with representatives of the city and farmers, showmen, market traders and innkeepers.

After a debate on whether the Wiesn would only be possible with organic products or at least an organic quota, the Paulaner festival tent now offers only organic chicken on a trial basis.

There is to be at least one vegan dish in every tent, as well as more vegetarian dishes. Kuffler’s wine tent also wants to measure food waste, and apply the findings to next year’s festival.

The main entrance to Oktoberfest in Munich.

The main entrance to Oktoberfest in Munich in 2022. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sven Hoppe

Why does the Oktoberfest take place in September?

Munich celebrated its first Oktoberfest in 1810 in the middle of October to mark the wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig – later King Ludwig I – and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. The highlight of the five-day celebrations was a horse race on October 17th – by then the Oktoberfest is long over. It now begins a month earlier and ends on the first weekend in October or on October 3rd. 

The festival was already brought forward in the 19th century – supposedly because of the weather, which is often warm and relatively stable in September.

Where else are there Oktoberfest festivals?

All over the world. According to estimates, there were more than 2,000 imitators before the pandemic, many which are again setting up their beer tents this year. The most important and largest are in Blumenau in Brazil, Cincinnati in the US and Qingdao in China. 

Many German cities are also celebrating Munich-style: including Frankfurt, Hanover, the Rhineland and Leipzig. Berlin even has several celebrations in the style of the real deal.

Stuttgart, however, seems to remain largely Oktoberfest-free – it has its own festival around the same time, the Cannstatter Volksfest. 

READ ALSO: Forget Oktoberfest. Here’s why you should visit Cannstatter Volksfest instead

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For members


10 unmissable events in Germany this September

From wine tastings to a world-famous sporting event, there's no shortage of events to keep you busy in Germany throughout September.

10 unmissable events in Germany this September

August 25th to September 10th: Herbstvolkfest, Nuremberg

The second largest folk festival in Bavaria (after Oktoberfest) is a great event for families.

Among the attractions at the Autumn Folk Festival are the Petersburg Sled Ride, the Hollywood Family Scooter and exhilarating rides such as the Wild Mouse XXL and the Roll Over with pyrotechnic effects.

The programme includes a Samba show, a Punch and Judy theatre, a vintage car parade, and the Night of a Thousand Lights – a huge fireworks display above the Dozen Pond.

For jobseekers, there’s a very unique apprentice speed-dating event in the Ferris wheel, where major employers from the region try to fill their apprenticeship positions.

August 30th to September 8th: Rheingauer Weinmarkt, Frankfurt am Main

The annual Rheingau Wine Market will take place on the Freßgass, an upmarket shopping street in the city centre of Frankfurt, this year – returning to its usual format after two alternative versions.

Over the years, the festival, which showcases exquisite regional wines, has transformed from a hidden gem into one of the most beloved events in Frankfurt, attracting up to 250,000 visitors.

READ ALSO: 9 of the best day trips from Frankfurt with the €49 ticket

More than 600 wines can be tasted at the stands of around 30 participating winemakers this year and numerous food stalls from the Freßgass district offer visitors a traditional and international snack selection. 

September 8th to 17th: Dippemess im Herbst, Frankfurt am Main

The Dippemess is one of the largest and oldest folk festivals in the region, known for its lively atmosphere, traditional rides, games and food stalls.

The fairground features a wide range of attractions and rides for visitors of all ages, from traditional carousels and a Ferris wheel to modern thrill rides, games, arcades, and sideshows.

September 9th and 10th: Tag des offenen Denkmals, Cologne

Many monuments in Cologne are not usually accessible to the public, or only partially so. But this changes every year on the Open Monument Day.

This year, on September 9th and 10th, over 150 locations will offer more than 500 events related to the city’s monuments.

READ ALSO: 8 things to do on a rainy day in Cologne

For 48 hours, public buildings, hidden small monuments, industrial architecture, green spaces, churches, village chapels, centuries-old structures as well as 20th-century architecture will be open to the public.

Be aware that, due to high demand, certain events require registration. 

September 9th to 13th: Invictus Games, Düsseldorf

For the first time, the Invictus Games – founded by British royal Prince Harry for veterans who have been physically and/or mentally affected by war, will be held in Germany.

The games will take place at the Merkur-Spiel-Arena and the surrounding Sports Park in Düsseldorf and will see 10,500 athletes from up to 23 nations compete against each other in 10 different sports including athletics, swimming, cycling, powerlifting, archery, and rowing.

The “Invictus Village” also provides a diverse programme of cultural and social activities for athletes and visitors. Tickets for the sporting events are free of charge.

September 9th and 16th: Rhein in Flammen, Oberwesel and St Goar

The “Rhine in Flames” festival is celebrated five times a year along the Rhine River with illuminated castles, colourfully decorated boat processions, numerous festivities along the banks, and magnificent fireworks displays.

Fireworks are ignited on the Rhine River between Rüdesheim and Bingen in July 2023. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Andreas Arnold

The September instalments will take place in the towns of Oberwesel and St. Goar and visitors can enjoy a ride on an illuminated ship, passing by the legendary Loreley Rock and the Rheinfels and Katz castles. As well as the fireworks, you will also experience a beautiful view of the illuminated Rhine shores.

September 13th to 17th: Berlin Art Week

Berlin Art Week is an annual, week-long celebration of contemporary art in Germany’s capital. The event offers a diverse array of exhibitions, art fairs, performances, and discussions.

Showcasing both established and emerging artists across disciplines like painting, sculpture, photography, and video art, it’s a platform for artists, curators, collectors, and enthusiasts to engage with Berlin’s lively art scene.

READ ALSO: 10 ways to enjoy the summer in Berlin for free

A number of Berlin-based institutions for contemporary art also use the opportunity to collaborate with many artists and galleries for a series of events, promoting the city as a place for making, celebrating and discussing art.

September 16th to October 3rd: Oktoberfest, Munich

Despite its name, Oktoberfest actually starts in late September and runs into the first weekend of October.

In case you didn’t know: it’s the world’s largest beer festival which takes place every year in the Bavarian capital of Munich.

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about Germany’s Oktoberfest

After being cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic, Oktoberfest – also nicknamed Wiesn – attracted 5.7 million visitors who consumed 5.6 million litres of beer last year and this year is expected to be well-visited, too.

Photo: Oktoberfest visitors walk in front of the Ferris wheel across the Theresienwiese at the Oktoberfest. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Felix Hörhager

As well as beer, the festival also features attractions such as the “Krinoline“ carousel from the 1920s and live brass music, an ox roasting tent, and more historical rides such as the Calypso, as well as throwing and shooting booths.

September 20th to September 23rd, Reeperbahn Festival, Hamburg

The Reeperbahn Festival is an annual music and arts event held in Hamburg which takes place in the city’s vibrant St. Pauli district, known for its lively nightlife scene.

The festival showcases a diverse lineup of musical acts spanning various genres, including indie, electronic, rock, and pop, while also featuring art installations, workshops, and discussions.

Visitors of the Reeperbahn Festival relax in the Festival Village at Millerntorplatz in 2018. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Axel Heimken

Renowned for its emphasis on emerging talents, the festival serves as a platform for both established and up-and-coming artists to perform on numerous stages across the area, attracting music enthusiasts and industry professionals from around the world.

September 22nd to October 8th: Cannstatter Wasen, Stuttgart

The Cannstatter Volksfest, known as the Wasen, is named after its location in the Neckar Park in the Bad Cannstatt district of Stuttgart.

Spanning approximately 25 hectares, the festival features a multitude of fairground rides, earning the Wasen its reputation as Europe’s largest fair.

During the festival parade on the first Sunday of the event, elaborately decorated brewery wagons, colourful traditional groups, and music bands from the entire region march through the historic streets of Bad Cannstatt to reach the Wasen.