High hops: The best beer festivals in Germany

High hops: The best beer festivals in Germany

Germany may be known as the land of beer, but it’s much more than that - it is also the land of beer festivals. Here are some of the top festival spots for every kind of visitor to sip the hops in the federal republic.

A short history of beer festivals in Germany

The history of German beer festivals stretches back to the 11th century, but it wasn't until 1810 that the snowball that would become the modern German beer festival tradition would start picking up real speed.

On October 12 ,1810, King Ludwig I married Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen in Munich. Inviting their subjects to the Thereienwiese meadow before the city gates, it was the royal wedding party that would eventually morph into the modern-day Oktoberfest.

With just as many Lederhosen and a lot more vomiting, over 200 years later Oktoberfest lives on as Germany’s annual celebration of becoming royally inebriated. And it only grows more popular: 2023 saw the festival welcome a record number of visitors, with 7,2 million revellers walking through its gates during the 18-day festival.

The lasting popularity of Oktoberfest among Germans and tourists has birthed a tradition of beer festivals big and small across the country, not just in the autumn months, but throughout the year. And not just with giant Steins of beer, but all the sausages and funfair rides you could hope for.

The best German beer festivals for every kind of visitor

While the scenes that Oktoberfest evokes in the international imagination might not float everyone’s boat, the good news is that Germany’s approximately 9.750 beer festivals, known as Volksfeste (folk festivals), vary in size and intensity.

From German beer festival holidays for tourists to family day outings or festivals for those who don’t even like German beer, these are the best beer festivals in Germany for every kind of visitor.


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Oktoberfest: For thirsty party seekers

At the end of every September for over 200 years - except for during two cholera outbreaks, two World Wars and two years of coronavirus -  the traditional cry of “O’zapft is!” (“It is tapped!”) opens Oktoberfest in Munich and chaos ensues.

While two Tuesdays during the 16-day-long festival welcome families to the funfair, the other 14 days are reserved for drinking a record amount of beer (6,5 million litres in 2023) and eating record numbers of sausages (133.915 in 2023).

Following the “O’zapft is” call, costume parade of traditional Tracht and the Wiesn landlords’ concert, the climax of Oktoberfest is the Kotzhügel (vomit hill) an infamous slope where revellers reacquaint themselves with their sausages. With paramedics seeing to 7.620 patients at the 2023 festival, Oktoberfest is not for the modest partygoer.


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Bergkirchweih: For soaking up the sunshine

While Germany’s biggest beer festival is known for its garlanded tents, Bergkirchweih is the place to head if you want to sip your brew while feeling the sun on your face. The festival in Erlangen, Bavaria, happens once a year around Pentecost (Pfingsten) and is home to Europe’s largest open-air beer garden.

Unlike Oktoberfest’s sprawling Thereienwiese meadow, Bergkirchweih takes place in a tree-covered, park landscape, providing a cosier atmosphere. But you can expect all the same antics as Oktoberfest: beer, waltzers, a giant Ferris wheel, lots of Tracht, brass bands and sweeties.


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Hamburger DOM: For a family visit

While the main attraction of Oktoberfest may be the beer, one myth that endures internationally is that German Volkesfeste are all about the beer, rather than about funfair rides, dressing up, eating and drinking beer in equal measure.

If you’re a reverse bungee thrill seeker, or just want to enjoy your brew while the children and teenagers in tow hit the rides, Hamburger DOM takes the funfair element of German Volksfeste very seriously.

See flashing lights across the 1,6-kilometre-long Heiligengeistfeld and let joyful screams of terror be the soundtrack to eating your Wurst and sour Gurke before washing it down with another Stein in the sunny weather.

Another draw which sets the Hamburger DOM apart from other festivals is that it runs three times a year. Just missed the springtime edition? Don’t worry, the fair will back with more beers in summer and return with Glühwein for winter.


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Oktoberfest Obernau: For the low-key Volksfest experience

If the sound of all the drinking, eating, screaming, vomiting, walking and bustle to be found at Germany’s beer festivals sounds like a sensory overload, look no further. 

Obernau lies southeast of Frankfurt and thanks to the local town band, which has been around for over 100 years, holds the smallest Oktoberfest in Germany. This mini-fest only lasts one day but it will probably provide you with one of the most German experiences of your life.

Though at a smaller scale, you can still expect lots of the classics: Tracht, live band music, beers, Weißwurst, Schweinshaxe and Pommes.


Image credit: Ninelro /

Berlin Beer Week: For those who don’t like German beer

If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of wanting to visit a beer festival in Germany but not having a taste for German beer, don’t worry, there’s still hops for you too.

Every year at the end of August, locals and tourists alike can hop aboard a beer boat as part of Berlin Beer Week. The festival centres around beer from near and far - Czechia to the USA - with “brews cruises” running along the River Spree, “all you can taste” evenings, and after parties.

Berlin Beer Week is perfect for combining with a first trip to the Hauptstadt. Sip your international brew as you cruise past the Bundestag, Museum Island, through Kreuzberg and Neukölln. As Berlin Beer week is a much smaller affair than Germany’s traditional Volksfeste, you’ll be more on your own when it comes to finding post-cruise snacks or funfair rides, but Berlin has plenty on offer to satiate and thrill.

Prost, to German beer!

Of the 10.000 German beer festivals, which is your favourite in the land? Let us know in the comments!

Thumb image credit: Lena Romanova /

Olivia Logan


Olivia Logan



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