Undoubtedly one of Europe’s and the world’s most legendary festivals, Munich’s Oktoberfest draws millions of visitors each year. However, the crowds and accompanying premiums on accommodation pose problems to those looking to add the festival to their Germany itinerary. If your planning timeline and travel budget make Oktoberfest verboten, consider the following five alternatives. All offer elbow room and authenticity to go along with the liberally flowing beer you’d find at Germany’s most famous festival.
1. Cannstatter Volksfest/Stuttgart Beer Festival
Another well-regarded beer festival by aficionados, the Cannstatter Volksfest serves primarily as a general autumn entertainment fair and carnival with a significant beer appreciation component. Its amusement park rides include a gigantic, 60 m (197 ft) tall Ferris wheel, roller coasters, and carousels, and the humongous beer tents–seating as many as 5,000 people–each showcase varieties from different breweries, served up in classic German (and appropriately giant) mugs. This raucous gathering covers three weekends, beginning one week later than Munich’s Oktoberfest. Perhaps the highlight of the whole setup is the iconic fruit column, a massive 26 m (85 ft) tall tower decorated with all sorts of colorful fruits that serves as an icon of the festival.
There are plenty of things to do in Stuttgart as well, and the surrounding city features plenty of places to eat, sleep, and explore when not at the festival.
With a legacy stretching all the way back to the early 11th century, Bremen’s Freimarkt is one of Germany’s oldest festivals. Taking place the final two weeks of October, the celebration kicks off with an opening of the city’s marketplace grounds followed up by a triumphant display of fireworks at night. Those present at the festival’s conclusion witness perhaps the most iconic moment of the season: a parade featuring more than 100 different groups, such as marching bands, mounted cavalry in historical costumes, and an array of other local figures. Like Munich’s Oktoberfest, Freimarkt boasts an array of roller coasters, carousels, and other rides. For a taste of something other than liquid hops, visit the many tents and alpine huts displaying souvenirs, crafts, and foodstuffs before ending your day with rousing beer-swilling, singing, and dancing in the music hall.
3. Oktoberfest Hannover
The world’s third-biggest Oktoberfest celebration, Hannover’s holds its own against its more famous Munich counterpart despite receiving far fewer visitors. Set within the laid-back riverside city of Hannover, this Oktoberfest showcases just about everything you would look for at such a festival, from carnival rides, roller coasters, toboggans, and giant slides to rambunctious music halls full of locals swaying stein in hand. Fill up on sausages and pretzels from the food tents and stands, which offer all sorts of specialties from the Lower Saxony region.
4. Oktoberfest Berlin
The German capital offers some of the best nightlife in all of Europe, so it should come as no surprise that it offers an Oktoberfest of its own. The expansive beer halls here offer German staples such as savory pretzel and tender pork knuckle, which you can wash down with giant, frothy mugs of famed local brews. The party atmosphere and entertainment carries on deep into the night and it’s important to keep in mind that Oktoberfest Berlin takes place near Tegel Airport, away from the city center. You can also stop by the associated Oktoberfest beer garden tent at Alexanderplatz, where you can get a taste of the celebration without venturing away from the heart of Berlin.
There are more than enough world-class attractions in Berlin to fill countless hours and days outside of Oktoberfest, so be sure to get out and explore while in town.
5. Hamburg Winter Beer Festival
Germany’s northern powerhouse city hosts the Hamburg Winter Beer Festival, one of the region’s biggest get-togethers of its kind. Set up in market style, with countless food stalls, craft stands, and other shops adorning the grounds, the festival is a haven for those looking to admire traditional crafts with a tasty bratwurst in hand. Of course, it wouldn’t be an Oktoberfest alternative without beer, and Hamburg’s celebration delivers this key element from a multitude of tents, halls, and raucous drinking spaces. Fairground rides are also a staple, and roller coasters, slides, and high-speed activities get the blood pumping. If the bite of the chilly air keeps you off the rides, make sure you at least get outside for one of the dazzling fireworks displays taking place each week.
Visiting this festival gives you the bonus opportunity of diving into one of Germany’s most exciting cities, so check out a Hamburg itinerary for information about the city’s many popular attractions.
Authentic Autumn Antics
While Munich’s Oktoberfest is famous for a reason, Germany’s love for beer-soaked celebrations and fall-themed fun spreads nationwide. If you can’t get to the celebration in Munich or you just prefer something more local, consider adding one of these Oktoberfest alternatives to your Germany trip plans instead. You’ll get all of the spirit of Oktoberfest with a lot less of the hassle.