From Glyndebourne to Glastonbury - A social calendar for the 21st century
21 September, 2013 - 06 October, 2013
Theresienwiese, Munich, Germany
The world's biggest beer and folk festival brings an astonishing six million visitors to the Bavarian city every year.
The Munich Oktoberfest first took place over six days in mid-October 1810, to celebrate the Crown Prince Ludwig's marriage to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen. Locals have nicknamed the festival 'die Wiesn' because of its setting, the open space of Theresienwiese to the south of the centre, where Therese and Ludwig wed.
The current festival now lasts just over two weeks, ending on the first weekend in October. The event opens on a Saturday with a midday ceremony in the Schottenhamel tent, when the city's Lord Mayor taps the first keg of beer and shares its contents around; many people arrive at 9am to get good seats. The highlight is the costume and riflemen's parade the following day.
There's also a parade of landlords and breweries with decorated carriages and floats and horse-drawn drays, a Böllerschießen (handheld canon salute) in front of the Bavaria statue, and rollercoasters, fairground rides and sideshows. Each Tuesday is a Family Day with discounts on entrance and rides.
When the beer drinking begins to pall, there's the chance to explore this beautiful Bavarian city. Art-lovers head for the Kunstareal ('art district'), home to the Alte Pinakothek, Neue Pinakothek and Pinakothek der Moderne galleries, and to the Lenbachhaus Kunstbau with its important collection of European pieces, including several Kandinskys. The Deutsches Museum, set on an island in the Isar, is one of the world's biggest - and most longstanding - science museums. Meanwhile, shoppers will find designer labels aplenty on the Maximilianstrasse.
Munich is also surrounded by a variety of scenic golf courses and wonderful hiking spots. There are boat trips and Alp views on the stunning Starnberger See. The fairytale-like Neuschwanstein, once home to Ludwig II, is one of the world's most iconic castles (it inspired the designs for Cinderella's and Sleeping Beauty's castles in Disneyland).