The Oktoberfest in Munich through the ages: historical facts

The History of the Oktoberfest

The Oktoberfest or "Wiesn", as the locals affectionately call their folk festival, is an integral part of Munich tradition. Today, beer, tents and chicken are known worldwide, but do you know the history of the Oktoberfest?

Oktoberfest 1964: Fahrt mit der Achterbahn mit Blick auf die Festwiese
Rudi Dix / Stadtarchiv München / RD2542N29

The Oktoberfest in the past: How it all began

  • 17.10.1810: Starting signal: The first Oktoberfest is opened with a big horse race. The occasion is the wedding of Bavarian King Ludwig I and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. The venue is a meadow (at that time) on the outskirts of the city, which is henceforth called "Theresienwiese" in honor of the bride.
  • 1811: The tradition begins: The Bavarian Agricultural Association decides to continue holding the festival - after all, a practical opportunity to showcase farming achievements.
  • 1818: The fun begins: The first merry-go-round and two swings are set up. From then on, there are more and more rides every year - today, more than a hundred rides offer fun to the visitors.
  • 1885: All chicken or what: The first chicken roastery opens - and a trend is born. Today, around 1 million half-chickens are eaten at the Wiesn every year.
  • 1886: Let there be light: At last there is electricity at the Oktoberfest! This is the starting signal for ever more exciting rides and the incomparable sea of lights that make up the Oktoberfest. Tip: Be sure to ride the Ferris wheel at night and watch the sparkle from above.
Oktoberfest 1905: Blick auf das Oktoberfest mit Pferderennen. Die Zuschauertribünen befinden sich auf den Hängen der Theresienhöhe.
Georg Pettendorfer/Stadtarchiv München/FS-NL-KV-2028
The traditional horse race was an integral part of the Oktoberfest until the 1960s (photo from 1905).

Oktoberfest History: Important Milestones

Extraordinary things happen every year that stick in your mind. However, there are a few standout years with events - good or bad - that deserve extra mention:

  • 1850: Mama Munich: The statue Bavaria is ceremoniously unveiled at Theresienwiese and has peacefully watched over Oktoberfest ever since.
  • 1913: Tent of superlatives: The Bräurosl gets a new building with 4,000 square meters of space and 12,000 seats - making it the largest tent at the Oktoberfest at its time.
  • 1935: Entry of the Oktoberfest innkeepers: For the first time, all breweries take part in the procession together and walk through the city to their tents with staff, beer wagons and brass bands. Since around this time, the procession has traditionally been led by a girl in a black and yellow monk's habit, the so called "Münchner Kindl".
Oktoberfest 1938: Bräurosl zu Pferd mit einem Maßkrug in der Hand vor dem Festzelt Bräurosl.
Nortz/Stadtarchiv München/ZBE_B1132
1938 on horseback in front of the Bräurosl festival tent
  • 1980: The assassination: Unfortunately, there were also sad days at the Oktoberfest. On September 26, a bomb at the main entrance of the Oktoberfest kills 12 visitors as well as the assassin and injures over 200 other visitors. A memorial at the site of the accident commemorates the attack today.
  • 2010: For the anniversary the Oide Wiesn (Old Oktoberfest): The Oktoberfest celebrates its 200th birthday. On the occasion of the jubilee Wiesn, the 200th anniversary celebration of the Oktoberfest takes place - and is so well received that it becomes a permanent fixture from now on as the "Oide Wiesn".
  • 2020: Cancellation: In this year everything is different - worldwide and therefore also at the Oktoberfest. Due to the Corona pandemic, the Oktoberfest 2020 is cancelled for the first time in decades. This is the 25th cancellation in 210 years.
  • 2021: Second cancellation in a row due to the Corona pandemic.