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4 Great Places to Celebrate Oktoberfest—Without the Munich Crowds!

Posted on Friday, October 21st, 2022

Story by: Molly Waldstein | Travel Writer

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Despite Munich’s Oktoberfest crowds, it’s easy to experience this unique Bavarian celebration in more accessible venues throughout Europe. So, brush up your best Tyrolean hat and get ready for some delightful Bavarian fun!

6 Great Places to Celebrate Oktoberfest—Without the Munich Crowds!

The Best of Märzenbier and Mettwurst at Your Fingertips

Oktoberfest—it’s an autumnal festival that’s celebrated in cities and towns from Brazil to Australia. The original Oktoberfest was held in Munich, Germany in October 1810 to celebrate the wedding of King Ludwig I of Bavaria. After some fits and starts, the Oktoberfest tradition took hold in earnest during the 1820s. By the early 1900s, the event had expanded to include carousels, musical performances, beer tents and many of the attractions that can still be seen at worldwide Oktoberfest celebrations to this day.

In modern-day Munich, Oktoberfest is big business. Travelers come from all over the world to quaff malty beverages and dance on tables in the city’s festive Theresienwiese. When the end of September beckons, many Munich residents pack up their things and get out of town—eager to avoid the throngs of beer-guzzling tourists that pack the festival grounds. But despite Munich’s Oktoberfest crowds, it’s easy to experience this unique Bavarian celebration in more accessible venues throughout Europe. So, brush up your best Tyrolean hat and get ready for some delightful Bavarian fun.

The Undisputed King of Oktoberfest: Beer

No matter where you attend Oktoberfest—whether at the famous Berliner Oktoberfest, the Wiener Wiesn festival in Vienna, or Spain’s Oktoberfest Barcelona, one thing is an unquestionable constant—beer. The beer tents at Oktoberfest are expansive, boisterous, and lavishly stocked. Breweries the world over work hard to craft autumnal brews for the annual event—including famous Bavarian varieties such as märzen, festbier, and Bavarian dunkel. While American versions of classic Oktoberfest beers tend to be rather sweet, russet-colored affairs, a traditional German märzen is a paler-hued, lighter beverage. In Oktoberfest beer tents the world over, the beer is quaffed in great abundance and typically consumed with vast quantities of soft pretzels and grilled sausage.

The Curious Phenomena of Trachten

Here’s a fact—Lederhosen are making a comeback, and there’s nothing you or I can do to stop it. Yes, that’s right, these ornate Bavarian leather overalls are quickly becoming as popular in Germany as man-buns in Brooklyn. First popularized in the late 18th century by King Ludwig II, this traditional peasant costume fell widely out of fashion during the 20th century—giving way to more modern styles such as blue jeans and trousers. But at Oktoberfest celebrations, traditional Trachten—the German national dress that includes lace-bodiced Dirndl for ladies and sturdy leather Lederhosen for gents—has remained standard Oktoberfest attire through the ages. Modern European fashion designers are now using Trachten as a foundation for haute couture on the continent—and collectors vie for acquisition of valuable antique specimens. While the most well-known term for men’s Trachte is Lederhosen, the true name of the German leather short pants varies by style. Lederhosen are the shortest, then Bundhosen are a bit longer—reaching below the knee. Plattlerhosen are a special variety designed to produce a loud noise when slapped—that’s right, slapped—during the traditional Schuhplattler folk dance. So, whether you’re looking for Trachte to show off your manly calves, beat time to your favorite oompah band, or just to look dashingly handsome in a set of embroidered rawhide pants—there’s something out there for everyone.

European Oktoberfest Celebrations You Can Easily Join

There’s no need to brave the Munich crowds to enjoy an authentic European Oktoberfest. Here are a few delightful festivals you can easily enjoy before or after your VBT bicycling vacation—both in the Alps and beyond:

  • Towards the end of September, the small mountain town of Hintertux celebrates Oktoberfest in traditional alpine style. If you’re looking for a fun way to get a feel for Tyrolean culture before your October bicycling vacation, this Austrian Oktoberfest is a just a couple hours away from Innsbruck and the start of VBT’s Italy: The Dolomites, Bolzano to Lake Garda Guided Tour.
  • If you’re in the mood for something a little more cosmopolitan, the Berliner Oktoberfest can’t be beat. With two weeks of celebrations in Berlin’s famous Alexanderplatz, the city also sports several smaller celebrations in the city’s neighboring boroughs. You can experience the Berliner Oktoberfest when you travel on VBT’s France, Luxembourg & Germany, Bike & Boat: Mosel River Valley, Aboard the Princesse Royal Guided Tour and take an optional Post-Tour Extension to Berlin during the festival dates.
  • Outside of Germany and Austria, the Swedish capital of Stockholm is home to one of the world’s most famous Oktoberfest celebrations. Traditionally celebrated in early September, you can experience this delightful Swedish celebration of Bavarian culture when you join VBT’s Scandinavia: Denmark & Sweden Guided Tour and take an optional Post-Trip Extension to Stockholm.
  • Barcelona, Spain is home to one of Europe’s most popular Oktoberfest celebrations. With 12 days of beer, bands, and bratwurst, it’s worth taking that optional Barcelona Pre-Trip Extension when you travel to VBT’s Spain: Girona & Costa Brava Guided Tour during the month of October.

No matter which Oktoberfest you choose, the beer will be flowing, sausages plentiful, and anyone dressed in stylish Trachten is sure to make instant friends.

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