Top ten beer festivals that rival Munich’s Oktoberfest
Text: Nane Steinhoff I Main Photo © Stuttgart-Marketing GmbH, Sonne-Wolken.de, Globusliebe.com
F rom Saturday 21 September to 6 October this year, Munich will hold its world-renowned Oktoberfest once again. More than six million visitors from all over the world will flock to the city’s Theresienwiese area to eat wurst, enjoy some fun rides and to celebrate German beer – and plenty of it, at that! But did you know that there are plenty of other beer festivals and Oktoberfest alternatives all over the DACH region to consider?
When millions of people indulge in German beer tradition and put their finest ‘trachten’ (lederhosen for the men and dirndls for the women) on, it’s undoubtedly Oktoberfest time: during which days and nights are spent eating pretzels, washing them down with booze, and dancing in giant festival tents. However, while Oktoberfest is a huge spectacle not to be missed, even if just once in your lifetime, the sheer numbers of visitors and waiting times might be a turn-off for some people.
That doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy some proper Oktoberfest time, though, as there are plenty of other beer festivals all across the DACH region well worth considering. While Munich’s Oktoberfest is undoubtedly the best-known one, others around the territories impress just as much. Discover Germany takes a look at the DACH region’s top-ten beer festivals that can rival Munich’s huge Oktoberfest.
If you want to head to Bavaria, due to the theory that Bavarians just simply do beer festivals better, but think that the Oktoberfest might be a bit too crowded for you, why not head to the state’s second-largest folk festival, instead? It’s slightly less crowded and is held in summer – therefore guaranteeing warm temperatures and good weather. We are talking about the ‘Gäubodenvolksfest’ in Straubing, which is an 11-day celebration held in the middle of August.
Cannstatter Wasen, Stuttgart
From 27 September to 13 October, around four million visitors will flock to Stuttgart, the capital of Germany’s Baden-Württemberg state. Here, the ‘Cannstatter Wasen’, sometimes also called the ‘Cannstatter Volksfest’, will be held. It is an annual three-week festival that is steeped in tradition and is sometimes referred to as the Stuttgart Beer Festival, as the atmosphere here comes really close to Munich’s Oktoberfest vibe. For almost 200 years, this festival has enjoyed enormous popularity, due to its special atmosphere with an exciting funfair, beautiful festival tents, a colourful flea market and many other great attractions. Fun fact: the ‘Cannstatter Wasen’ isn’t only one of Baden-Württemberg’s biggest festivals, but also one of Europe’s biggest funfairs.
In northern Germany, in Bremen to be precise, the ‘Freimarkt’ is another event not to be missed. Held from 18 October to 3 November this year, the event is one of the country’s oldest funfairs and is known for its great atmosphere. Some highlights are the big Ferris wheel, the exciting roller coasters and the multifaceted culinary delights, such as fried dough, spicy liquorice and smoked eel. And don’t forget to taste the local beer, of course. With around four million visitors annually, it is slightly smaller than its Bavarian cousin, and the queues are slightly shorter too – we think it’s a great Oktoberfest alternative to consider.
Kulmbach Beer Week
Good food, good company, good atmosphere – it is therefore with good reason that the Kulmbach Beer Week attracts around 120,000 visitors every year. Held in Bavaria’s Kulmbach, the Kulmbach Beer Week is a smaller alternative to Oktoberfest and thus attracts crowds that are searching for a slightly quieter atmosphere. It was held from 27 July to 4 August this year, and attracted beer lovers from near and far. Besides hearty Franconian cuisine and local bands, four different breweries offer their festival beers which have been brewed specially for Beer Week. Definitely a beer lover’s dream!
If you are looking for a somewhat quieter event but with a nevertheless unmissable atmosphere, the ‘Bergkirchweih’ in Germany’s Erlangen might be your best bet. In 2020, from 28 May to 8 June, visitors can look forward to a tradition-steeped event of the very special kind. Held under old, impressive chestnut trees that are adorned with lanterns, the event has a rather unique charm that attracts young and old alike. Enjoy a cold beer and regional, as well as international, delicacies, right under the trees, before going on some fun rides.
International Berlin Beer Festival
Of course, the trendy capital of Berlin has its own Oktoberfest alternative too! While other German beer festivals tend to be more traditional, showcasing local brews, the Berlin alternative focuses on both local and international beers too, which makes for a really fun event. From 2 to 4 August this year, all varieties and brands of beer were served at a mile-long festival in the hip Friedrichshain district. The event celebrates beer like no other, as around 350 breweries from almost 90 countries serve approximately 2,400 different beer specialities. Various stages along the street offer live music, shows and fun entertainment programmes. And, of course, culinary delights from near and far round off the beer mile’s offering.
Germany’s smaller neighbour of Austria also has plenty of Oktoberfest alternatives on offer. One example is the Altausseer Kirtag festival in Bad Aussee, in the Austrian state of Styria, which is held from 31 August to 2 September this year. This cultural highlight still follows general rules that were implemented back in 1961 and, therefore, a sense of tradition can especially be felt here. The reasons why so many people flock here? Free entry, 120 exciting stands, a funfair, no loudspeaker music, solid-quality products on offer, cheap prices and, last but not least, the best traditional grilled chicken far and wide!
Of course, Austria’s capital of Vienna also plans its own Oktoberfest – just like almost any bigger city in Europe and the world. Also called the ‘Wiener Wiesn Fest’ the event is held from 26 September to 13 October this year and will attract locals and tourists alike. Look forward to Austrian beer, local food, stars of the folk music scene, as well as traditional outfits and an overall great atmosphere.
If you happen to be in Switzerland, however, don’t despair about potentially missing out! Not surprisingly, Switzerland has many Oktoberfest alternatives. We suggest heading to Zurich for an especially authentic one – the ‘Züri Wiesn’. Held from 18 September to 12 October, it is a classical beer festival with huge beers, authentic outfits, loud music and dancing on tables. Make sure to book a table in the beer tents, however, so as not to be disappointed upon arrival, as the event is fully booked quickly.
German-Swiss Oktoberfest, Lake Constance
If you are looking for an Oktoberfest alternative that is traditional, a bit quieter and offers breathtaking views of the natural surroundings, we suggest choosing the German-Swiss Oktoberfest on beautiful Lake Constance (20 September to 6 October). Featuring only two beer tents, it impresses via its relaxed atmosphere, while still offering all the Oktoberfest essentials, such as sweet and savoury treats, plenty of fairground rides and tasty beers. Special events are the children’s Oktoberfest, the ladies-only area, the international brass band competition, the traditional festival parade, daily live acts and the golf tournament. Interesting combination, right?
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