Hold on to your lederhosen! Oktoberfest is already well underway here in Munich, Bavaria. And it’s not all about the beer.  The first Oktoberfest was held in 1810 to celebrate the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig to Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen.  Now in 2013, and 180 celebrations later, this event attracts around 6 million visitors every year.

Traditional costumes abound and it really does help put you into the right frame of mind. The women are mainly dressed in dirndl, consisting of flowing full skirts, rounded neckline blouses, a tight, often ornately decorated bodice, and an apron, all of which represent the traditional Bavarian country attire of the past.  The men are mostly dressed in lederhosen, long since considered a working man’s staple garment, both practical and durable. When you consider the origins of Oktoberfest, a celebration in which all the citizens of Munich were invited to take part in the celebration of the royal marriage, it makes sense that this traditional haberdashery is still relevant and a popular clothing choice at Oktoberfest today. The traditional garb has deep-routed meaning in Bavaria and the citizens of Munich honor and respect this tradition, which has led to a resurgence in its popularity.  To an outsider, though, so much exposed cleavage seems to be the epitome of both charm and cheesecake combined.  This is not the place to unveil the cheap Halloween version of a sexy, Bavarian barmaid costume that you bought at a discount online last year.  The tone here is decidedly more elegant and, if you are a woman, you may want to consider springing for a beautifully made dirndl from one of the local shops or vendors, especially if you have a penchant for fine craftsmanship.  Men probably won’t find that the lederhosen translate nearly as well in their everyday business life and may pass on this as their souvenir purchase from their stay in Munich.  It’s a prime example of girls having all the fun and getting all the perks!

Tradition holds that only beer brewed within the city limits of Munich may be served at Oktoberfest. And be served you will.  With fourteen beer tents to choose from, meaning ‘getting your party on’, you’ll get more than your fair share of beer choices and plenty of opportunity to sample many of them.  Food, live music and revelry are the order of the day and the atmosphere is contagious. Get swept up in the celebration as you move from tent to tent, drinking up the festivities, not to mention the locally-made beer.

Even if you’re fresh out of dirndls or lederhosen, head into one of the many ‘tents’, to enjoy both refreshments and live music, each one catering to different crowds.  While reservations are recommended for the beer tents, you can usually get a seat in one of the beer gardens attached to any one of the fourteen tents if you just show up. Here are some of our favorites:

At Augustiner-Festhalle you’ll find a cosy, family-friendly atmosphere and beer served from conventional wooden kegs, unlike the steel beer kegs of some of the other tents. It’s been voted as the ‘best beer’ and, arguably, it is.  Seating is for 6000 people here.

Fischer Vroni specializes in fish dishes and many locals and visitors appreciate the intimate atmosphere, if having 3000 drinking companions is your idea of intimate.  The second Oktoberfest Monday at Fischer Vroni is now a regular meeting spot for the gay community during the celebration. Because of a sentimental attachment with the name of this tent through my own family history, this is my favorite haunt. It’s also the easiest to pronounce if your speech suddenly becomes impaired and you’re trying to tell your new found friends where you’ll be tomorrow.

Hackerbrau-Festhalle is one of the largest and most popular tents. The convertible roof can be partially retracted to expose the sky and the atmosphere here tends towards rock music and the younger crowd. Rub shoulders here with around 7000 party goers for the ultimate Oktoberfest experience.

Kufflers Weinzelt, or the Wine Tent, serves wines, sparkling wines and champagnes. Beer is available after 9 pm only and here you can find an ample selection of International cuisine being served.  This is the late night tent and revelers continue until 1 am, while other tents close earlier in the evening.  Look and listen for the live radio remote broadcasts from one of the local stations, which transmit live from Kufflers throughout Oktoberfest.

Leave your preconceived notions at the door and soak up the atmosphere and rich historyfound at the world’s largest fair. Oktoberfest isn’t only about beer and sausages. You’ll experience hospitality second to none from folks who really know how to throw a party on a very grand scale.

The Munich Oktoberfest runs from September 21 to October 6 this year.