Over Oktoberfest? 6 fests to attend instead
Munich’s Oktoberfest is the epitome of German beer festivals. Considered the largest fair in the world, 6 million people are drawn to the Bavarian capital every fall from all over the globe. But popularity isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be. Over the years, Oktoberfest has developed a reputation for being overcrowded, commercialized, touristy and expensive.
If you’re interested in a more authentic cultural experience, do as the locals do, and raise your stein at one of these six lesser-known beer festivals held in Germany this fall.
1. Regensburger Dult — Regensburg, Aug. 26-Sept. 9
While partygoers have been living it up at Oktoberfest since 1810, the Regensburger Dult dates back to the late Middle Ages, when it started as a traditional village market and folk festival. Known as the only city in Germany to boast a large, genuinely preserved medieval village, Old Town Regensburg was recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage site in 2006. If you prefer to avoid crowds, you will be happy to hear Regensburg only receives 1 million visitors, one-sixth of the guests expected at Oktoberfest each year. This makes it easier to secure hotel reservations and find seats at the traditional picnic tables in the big beer tents.
2. Augsburger Plärrer — Augsburg, Aug. 26-Sept. 11
Every spring and fall, 500,000 visitors flock to western Bavaria for two weeks of drinking, feasting and merrymaking. Four beer tents keep the local brews flowing, while oompah bands provide the soundtrack to the carnival rides, magic shows and nightly festivities. A crowd-pleasing fireworks show illuminates the sky every Friday evening.
3. Cannstatter Volksfest (Stuttgart Beer Festival) — Stuttgart, Sept. 23-Oct. 9
Stuttgart’s Cannstatter Volksfest is widely considered to be second only to Munich’s Oktoberfest when it comes to the world’s largest and most well known beer festivals. More than 4 million guests from around the world gather to hop between the plentiful beer tents with overflowing steins, take in the views from the top of the giant Ferris wheel and hunt for flea market treasures. Be sure to stick around for the grand finale — a musical fireworks spectacular — and come back for more at Fruhlingsfest, Cannstatter Volksfest's sister event held every spring.
4. Freimarkt Bremen — Bremen, Oct. 14-30
A celebration dating back to 1035, Bremen’s Freimarkt is thought to be one of the longest-standing festival traditions in Germany. Four million visitors squeeze into 100,000 square meters for carnival rides, fest favorites — such as roasted almonds, donuts and licorice — and, of course, plenty of beer. In addition to the carnival grounds, a medieval market is set up near City Hall. Blacksmiths, glassblowers and stonemasons demonstrate their trades while jugglers and folk singers pass along the stories of their ancestors to new generations.
5. Hamburger Dom (Hamburg Winter Beer Festival) — St. Pauli, Nov. 4-Dec. 4
Known as the largest public Volksfest in northern Germany, Hamburg’s Winter Beer Festival is a month-long blowout featuring vintage carousels, high-tech rides, weekly Friday night firework displays and multi-course meals. The Oriental Bazaar, complete with Middle Eastern delicacies, exotic belly dancers and even an oasis, helps this beer festival stand out from the rest. If your visit falls on a Wednesday, you can receive the special Family Day discount on carnival rides.
6. Bierbörse — Multiple cities, held throughout the year
Founded just 30 years ago, this nomadic German beer festival may not have the long-standing tradition of Oktoberfest, but it has quickly become a favorite event for locals, suds connoisseurs and tourists, alike. Meaning ‘beer stock exchange,’ Bierbörse travels to more than 20 cities, mainly throughout the Rhineland regions, making stops in Mainz, Cologne, Koblenz and Karlsruhe.
So much fun, many of these beer festivals are held more than once throughout the year. If you play your cards right, you can be celebrating German beer all year long.