Most people are aware of the two-week festival held in Munich, but few know its origins. Known as ‘die Wiesn’ in Bavaria, the festival has been celebrating the wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig to Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen for the last 200 years. Over the years the festival has evolved from horse racing and carnivals to a celebration of the beers of the season. The celebration has spread across the world, carried by German immigrants to the most surprising of places…
1. Munich, Germany – The Original Oktoberfest
The party starts late in September and runs for 17 or 18 days, depending on what day of the week October 3 falls on. Revelers come from across the globe to be part of the largest Volksfest in the world. The fairgrounds are filled with exciting rides and carnival booths, and there’s lots of music and – of course – plenty of beer tents.
Oktoberfest beer has to conform to strict rules in order to be served during the festival. In addition to being brewed within the city limits, this heady brew must be a minimum of six per cent alcohol. That isn’t a typo; that is the least amount of alcohol allowed in an Oktoberfest beverage. Most are slightly higher and are best consumed after the rollercoaster rides.
2. Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
The fact that Canada holds the second largest Oktoberfest in the world is surprising to most people – except Canadians. The fun starts the Friday before Thanksgiving and keeps going for eight more days, ending the following Saturday.
No doubt the German roots of the twin towns have a lot to do with the location of the festival, but not the atmosphere – that’s pure Canadian. Plan your schedule around pancake feeds, barrel races, a fun run, the incredible Thanksgiving parade and, of course, beer.
Spinoffs focusing on smaller interests abound and Dogtoberfest is as popular with pooch owners as Hip-Hoptoberfest is with the musical crowd.
3. Blumenau, Santa Catarina, Brazil
This town’s Germanic history goes back to 1850, when it was settled by 18 German immigrants. In 1984, a flood that devastated the city, and the city launched the festival to jump-start the area’s recovery.
The party starts in the Parque Vila Germanica – the German Village Park – and for 19 days the town is filled with German costume, music, dance and beer… Free beer – if you can find the’ bierwagen’ that drives the streets in the afternoons. With more than 700,000 visitors last year, Blumenau is on its way towards becoming the second largest Oktoberfest event celebration in the world.
4. Cincinnati, Ohio, USA
The largest Oktoberfest in the US, the event packs two weeks’ worth of fun into three days. Food and music start the party on Friday night; Saturday sees beer-laden maidens racing across the town square, lederhosen-bedecked men rolling beer barrels and the – are you ready for it? – ‘Running of the Wieners’, which features 100 dachshunds wearing hot dog buns. Alternatively, why not head for the World’s Largest Chicken Dance on Saturday afternoon?
Perhaps you should grab a beer first.
5. Brisbane, Australia
Two Australian-German families are in charge of putting on this mighty shindig, and they really take it to heart. The central marketplace is decked with traditional wreaths, bunting and a maypole. They even fly in a band from Munich.
For two weekends in October, the RNA showgrounds are turned into an incredible Oktoberfest event that boasts much better weather than Bavaria. Enjoy folk dancing, yodeling, a milking competition, German food and plenty of beer.
6. Hong Kong, China
For almost three weeks the Marco Polo Hong Kong Hotel is the place to go for German food, traditional live music and lots of dancing. More than 1,000 people cram into a tent to immerse themselves in Bavarian fun and flavor each evening. Last year they served up 18,000 pork knuckles!
7. Stockholm, Sweden
This is actually a Beer & Whiskey Festival, but it’s in the fall, and the Bavarians probably would have served whiskey too, had they thought about it. Stockholm Oktoberfest has more than 100 whiskey exhibitors that are delighted to have visitors sample their wares. Mixed in with the whiskey classes is a festive German atmosphere and some schnitzel. Litres of beer are served by appropriately-costumed men and women, and a band from south Germany entertains the party-goers late into the evening.
8. Dublin, Ireland
The city’s George’s Dock hosts a week of Oktoberfest with all the Bavarian trimmings. Wander through the craft stalls, which include over thirty German specialty food vendors, so that you can gnaw your way through sausages, cheeses and pastries. Sample some beers and practice your yodeling, or try your hand at schuhplattern or Fliegerlied dancing.
9. Villa General Belgrano, Argentina
This is an amazing event in the province of Cordoba, during which “the sparkling goddess that enters the body like an icy stream as she takes hold of the spirit” is worshipped. For 11 days this region is home to thousands of revelers who enjoy rich Bavarian foods and – yes, you guessed it – beer. This celebration encompasses all of the region’s nationalities, and a parade features participants in the national dress of countries from Denmark to Greece.
10. Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
A Bavarian band, German food and imported beer are the hallmarks of the celebration of German culture in Vietnam. The Jade Ballroom at the Windsor Plaza Hotel is transformed into a Teutonic paradise overloaded with food and beverages. Oktoberfest in Ho Chi Minh City is organized by the German Business Association in the interests of promoting friendship between the people of Vietnam and Germany.
11. Mexico City, Mexico – El Oktoberfest
Mexico City has a German community large enough to have created the largest German school outside of Germany. At the Club Aleman in Xochimilco, the German-Mexican community celebrates El Oktoberfest – a most German of parties. Enjoy the two best styles of food to eat while drinking beer – German and Mexican – while drinking plenty of that beer.