Where to celebrate Oktoberfest if you can’t make it to Munich
Oktoberfest is just around the corner, but for you, Munich might be at the other end of the country. Here’s where to get your local autumn dose of Steins, meat and potatoes if you’re too busy to make it to Bavaria.
Is Oktoberfest only in Munich?
The best German city to celebrate Oktoberfest in is of course Munich. The two-and-a-half-week-long annual beer festival that stretches from September into October is the biggest event of its kind in the world.
From Brazil to Bangladesh, there are Oktoberfest imitations to be attended all over the world. And while the Munich festival is particularly impressive, it is but one of Germany’s thousands of Volksfeste (People’s Festivals) which happen each autumn all over the federal republic. The typical German Volksfest can be characterised by all of the things we associate with Oktoberfest: sausages, lots of beer, Tracht and funfair rides.
Oktoberfest locations in Germany
Outside of Munich, here are the the best places to celebrate Oktoberfest in Germany:
Stuttgart Cannstatter Volksfest: The second-largest Oktoberfest in Germany
The second largest Oktoberfest in the world is actually in Blumenau - a city in southern Brazil that was colonised by a German pharmacist in the 1850s. Within Germany’s borders, the Cannstatter Volksfest is Oktoberfest Munich's main rival. Canstatt, also known as Canstatter Wasen or simply “Wasen”, is the second largest Volksfest in Germany.
Wasen takes place in the Bad Cannstatt district of Stuttgart from late September to early October. Like the Munich Oktoberfest, the festival starts out with a parade, has a giant fairground, welcomes millions of visitors each year, and is free to attend.
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This is another whopper of a German Volksfest where you can expect all the classics: a massive Ferris wheel, Lebkuchenherzen to buy for your absent lover, and free entry. Families visiting Oktoberfest Hannover get 50 percent off the rides on Wednesdays and vouchers are available for children's birthday party groups.
A special edition for this one is the questionable Miss Dirndl Hannover competition - expect déjà vu of 1965. On the other side of the spectrum, attending the festival’s special “Gaytober mit Dick & Durstig” special will bring you right back to sexy reality.
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Freimarkt Bremen: One of the oldest Volksfeste in Germany
This one brands itself as “the largest funfair in northern Germany”. With this historic fair dating back to 1035, Bremen certainly has some experience when it comes to throwing a Volksfest. Like many other Volksfeste, the two-week-long Bremer Freimarkt opens with a parade and, just like Munich Oktoberfest, has its own, truly groundbreaking catchphrase to set things off: “Ischa Freimaak!” (it’s a Freimarkt!).
If you just can't get enough, this is one of the Volkesfeste that runs twice a year, so head back in the springtime for more dizzying rides and disorientatingly large beers.
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The Frankfurt Dippemess is another classic German Volksfest affair. The Dippemess has origins in the 14th century, when the Maamess (Main Fair) was a medieval market for household goods. Potters from around Germany travelled to Frankfurt to sell their ceramic bowls and pots, called Dippe - giving the fair its name.
These days, the fairground, beer tents and the official drink of Hesse, Apfelwein (cider), are the main attractions of the event, which happens twice a year; once in the spring and once in the autumn. Like the rest of them, the Frankfurt Dippemess is also free to enter.
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Oktoberfest events in Berlin
Being the capital of Germany, Berlin has its own fair share of Oktoberfeste, varying greatly in style and size. There are 14 official Oktoberfest spin-offs in the city, from within the ancient walls of the Spandau Citadel to the “Berliner Twist” Oktoberfest hosted at the Rivier Südost nightclub. Visitors to Rivier Südost can forget regional specialities and expect a menu likely made by a fusion kitchen in a hurry, with everything from Japanese food and pasta to… cookies?
Wash that combo down with some craft beers, kick back and watch some drag, sing karaoke and listen to some DJs, a truly Berliner version of the Munich special. If that sounds like it's straying too far from the original, Hofbräu Wirtshaus at Alexanderplatz and the square itself both host more predictable affairs.
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Oktoberfest Obernau: The smallest Oktoberfest in Germany
Just by virtue of claiming the title of smallest Oktoberfest in the country, this one had to make the list. 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, Schweinhaxe and Pommes.
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Oktoberfest all over Germany!
There is thought to be around 9.750 Volksfeste across Germany, attracting an estimated 189 million visitors each year. So if you can't make it to any of the festivals mentioned, there is sure to be one happening just a stone's throw from your doorstep.
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