Fans of beer all over the world have their eyes on München (Munich) as Oktoberfest returns from 20 September to 5 October 2014. What originated as a royal wedding celebration dating back to 1810 is one of the most famous events globally today. The world's largest beer fair draws more than 6 million visitors eager for a taste of the best Bavarian beer brewed according to purity laws, many of which are unavailable for export. However beer is not the only reason why so many visitors fall in love with München. It is the open and warm Bavarian hospitality shown and shared with everyone on this occasion that brings people back to the city year after year.
The Oktoberfest landlords and breweries with their decorated carriages and magnificent horse-drawn drays have already entered the beer grounds. The world-famous traditional 'Costume und Riflemen's Procession' with troops and performers dressed in costumes from bygone days, harvest garlands, craftsmen's tools and farm animals have marched through the city streets. Now it is time to enjoy the bounty of the largest and most traditional breweries in München. Now it is time to enter the famous beer tents and enjoy the unrivalled atmosphere of drinking, eating, dancing and singing with tens of thousands of locals and visitors. To help you plan your gastronomic adventure that is Oktoberfest, here are 10 of the best and biggest beer tents to visit, the opening times, and a map to get to all of them
Schottenhamel-Festhalle / Photo courtesy of FESTHALLE SCHOTTENHAMEL OHG
Schottenhamel-Festhalle - The Schottenhamel family being represented at the Oktoberfest since 1867, making the tent the oldest and most traditional. It is also where the Mayor of Munich conducts the traditional tapping of the first keg of beer each year. The heritage of Schottenhamel-Festhalle draws a large following of young customers.
Augustiner-Festhalle / Photo courtesy of City of Munich
Augustiner-Festhalle - From the oldest tent we head over to Augustiner, the oldest brewery in München. This is the only place to taste beer that is still tapped from traditional wooden kegs. The Augustiner-Festhalle is not just a local favorite for the beer but also the authentic and rustic atmosphere with regional Bavarian delicacies.
Hofbräu-Festzelt / Photo courtesy of City of Munich
Hofbräu-Festzelt - The most known of Bavarian beer brands around the world is Hofbräuhaus. Its reputation draws tens of thousands of international and local visitors to Hofbräu Festzelt to enjoy a litre of beer under a ceiling featuring 16 tonnes of hops. The tent can sit 10,000 people and there also a standing area for a quick swig.
Löwenbräu-Festhalle / Photo courtesy of City of Munich
Löwenbräu-Festhalle - Another Bavarian beer brand popular with international visitors is Löwenbräu. You won't miss this brewery's tent with its 37-metre high tower and the roar of "Lööööwenbräu" every minute from the lion that sits above the entrance. For more information, check out the Löwenbräu-Festhalle website.
Paulanerbräu Zelt / Photo courtesy of City of Munich
Paulanerbräu (Winzerer Fähndl) - With exports and breweries abroad, the Paulanerbräu Zelt also draws international visitors. Also known as the Winzerer Fähndl, it is popular with locals including players of FC Bayern München. You can't miss the huge rotating beer tankard on top of the tent's tower.
Hackerbräu-Festhalle / Photo courtesy of City of Munich
Hackerbräu-Festhalle - A crowd puller and popular with younger visitors is Hacker Festzelt, famous for its white and blue ceiling, designed by Oscar winner Rolf Zehetbauer. The size of a football pitch, this tent has room for around 9,300 visitors.
Marstall-Festzelt - This tent with a capacity of more than 4,000 seats is the new addition to Oktoberfest. The horse-themed Marstall-Festzelt takes its name from the former riding school of the Bavarian court, built by famous architect Leo von Klenze in the 19th century. Spaten beer and typical Bavarian delicacies are served here.
Spatenbräu-Festhalle (Ochsenbraterei) / Photo courtesy of City of Munich
Spatenbräu-Festhalle (Ochsenbraterei) - If you're looking for the best beef to accompany your beer, then make your way to the Ochsenbraterei where 90 oxen are consumed during Oktoberfest. For the past 130 years, each of these highly prized horned animals has been personally selected by the owner from the municipal estate of Gut Karlshof.
Armbrustschützen-Festhalle / Photo courtesy of City of Munich
Armbrustschützen-Festhalle - Not so much for beer than for the fantastic quality of meat is this Festhalle which sits around 7,500 visitors and decorated in the style of the Alpine foothills. Operated by 'Winzerer Fähndl Schützengilde', the meat served in Armbrustschützen-Festhalle is entirely derived from the livestock of this shooting club.
Fischer-Vroni - An excellent place with less people and noise is the rustic and cosy tent of Fischer-Vroni. This traditional space is also where you can sample a local specialty dish - the original Bavarian Steckerlfisch (fish on a stick).