There is no doubt about it: Germans know how to party! And Munich beer festivals are famous for a reason. Roughly six months before Oktoberfest and only weeks after the winter beer festival of Starkbierfest, revelers head to the famous Theresienwiese for the Munich Frühlingsfest, or Munich spring festival. Like Oktoberfest, Frühlingsfest features the raucous beer tents, carnival rides, games, and dozens of food options. There are even a number of great events that are a part of the festival, including the opening parade with free beer, Bavaria‘s largest flea market, and a classic car show. Spring has sprung and there’s no shortage of fun things to do at Munich Frühlingsfest!
A Brief History of Munich Frühlingsfest
Since 1964, the Theresienwiese (or Wiesn, as you will hear it lovingly called) has hosted the Munich spring festival, or Frühlingsfest. The two-week-long event is known as the kleine Wiesn, or “small Wiesn” (Oktoberfest is the “big” Wiesn), and draws festival-goers with a number of special events, plenty of beer, and a welcome way to celebrate spring.
What To Do at Munich Frühlingsfest
Eating at Frühlingsfest
Let me offer a friendly suggestion: come hungry! There are so many things to choose from to fill your stomach. The most prominent is, obviously, the beer tents: Festhalle Bayernland and Hippodrom. There’s also a Biergarten and a, literal, beer carousel that rotates drinkers. In all likelihood, the carousel does double duty and decides when you’ve had enough, too!
There are also countless stands selling burgers, pizza, Steckerlfisch (one of my favorites!), as well as sausages, sandwiches, and more. And that’s before we’ve even gotten to the sweets! Cotton candy, candy apples, waffles, ice cream, chocolate-covered fruit…there’s so much to pick from. You can even get your sweetheart a Lebkuchenherz, one of the popular gingerbread heart cookies on strings to be worn around your neck. Be sure to pace yourself.
Frühlingsfest Beer Tents
For many, the beer tents are the main draw on the kleine Wiesn. The tents are festively decorated and the mood is simply infectious. Frühlingsfest’s two beer tents — Hippodrom and Festhalle Bayernland — each have their own vibe and slight variations. The two tents also serve different beer brands, so select wisely if that matters to you. Both tents do, however, serve lots of local specialties from Schweinshaxe to Schnitzel. You can even get white asparagus.
And what would a beer tent be without music? Live bands keep the mood light and fun. They also encourage a Prost, or toast, every two to three songs! You will also find staff, usually women, strolling through these grand tents selling shots of hard liquor, snuff, souvenirs, and giant pretzels.
Beer Tent Tips
- If you’re visiting in a group of four or more and would like to attend during a peak time, consider making a reservation ahead of time. (Reservations typically aren’t available for groups of less than four people.)
- If you don’t have a reservation, you can usually sit at any table that isn’t marked reserved. If you’re unsure, simply ask the staff.
- Unlike at a restaurant where you settle the bill at the end of the meal, you’ll be expected to pay in a beer tent every time something you order arrives. For example, you may pay twice: once when your drink arrives and again when your food arrives.
Frühlingsfest Carnival Rides & Games
There’s more to the Munich Springfest than just beer. For Frühlingsfest, the Wiesn becomes a carnival, full of rides and games. Test your strength or test your aim with a rifle or a soccer ball. Win a stuffed animal or a flower for your special someone.
If you prefer rides, you can cuddle up on the Ferris wheel (Riesenrad) that towers high over the Wiesn and offers spectacular views all the way to the Alps and into downtown Munich. The double domes of the Frauenkirche are like Munich’s North Star, drawing your eye to the landmark and helping you get your bearings. If you prefer more of a thrill, there are roller coasters, log flumes, and other rides that will scramble, flip, and twist you. There are also rides just for small children, too. The fun is for the entire family! Rides at the festival are pay-as-you-go.
Munich Frühlingsfest Events
Frühlingsfest Opening Parade & Free Beer
An epic festival needs an appropriate kick-off! So before Frühlingsfest begins, the opening parade takes place. It all starts with free beer. You read that right. The city’s six breweries (Löwenbräu, Spaten, Hofbräu, Augustiner, Hacker-Pschorr, and Paulaner) unite outside of the Verkehrszentrum each with their own table. Attendees line up at the brewery table of their choice, rain or shine while brass bands play and the horses who pull the brewery carts wait (somewhat) patiently. At around three o’clock in the afternoon, the breweries fill souvenir Steinkrug, or one-liter beer mugs, with beer and hand them out to those in line. If you want to guarantee yourself a mug of beer, arrive early! When the keg runs out, the beer is gone!
With the Free Beer flowing, the party can really start. The opening parade for Munich Springfest starts at the Verkehrszentrum and runs down the hill, onto the Wiesen and into one of the festival’s two beer tents. In addition to each of the city’s breweries, there are many local and regional groups that take part in the parade. You can usually recognize them by their traditional outfits and, sometimes, their instruments. The parade route isn’t terribly long but with the musicians playing lively tunes and the floats and participants, it’s a taste of Munich tradition.
Then, at around four o’clock, for the lucky ones who pack the tent, an opening ceremony of sorts takes place, culminating in the ceremonial tapping of the first keg. O’Zapft is!
Flea Market (Flohmarkt)
The giant flea market on the Wiesn is the place to get everything you want, everything you didn’t know you need, and everything you definitely don’t need. From typical flea market items like books, paintings, and vinyl records, to household items, toys, and clothing, the Frühlingsfest flea market does not disappoint.
And when they promise “giant,” they mean it! The rows and rows and tables go on for seemingly ever. Approximately 2000 sellers usually take part in Bavaria’s largest flea market.
The spot is a good place to look for a unique souvenir of your trip. There are plenty of vintage housewares, old postcards, and even used street and house signs.
The Frühlingsfest flea market usually takes place on the first Saturday of the festival, the first full day of the festival after the opening parade.
ACM Classic Car Show (ACM Oldtimer-Treffen)
The first Sunday of the festival, the Oldtimers take to the Wiesn! Oldtimer is the German term for a classic car (or a car more than twenty years old). Dozens upon dozens of cars, trucks, motorbikes, and scooters take part in the event hosted by the Automobil-Club München, or ACM. 2019 was the 16th annual meeting of the event on the Wiesn “under Bavaria,” the statue, that is. The ACM Oldtimer-Treffen is really fun and entrance is free. Everyone is enthusiastic about the vehicles on display and the crowd is all ages.
As a foreign traveler, it’s really interesting to see what’s “exotic” in Munich. For example, the retired New Jersey fire truck on display isn’t so exciting for me but the old police cars and 3-wheel bubble-top Messerschmitt certainly caught my attention.
A number of the vehicles on display also partake in a parade across the festival grounds. Be sure to line up early if you want to get a good view! With the Bavaria statue over one shoulder and the Springfest Ferris wheel over another, it’s quite the car show.
The city of Munich pulls out all the stops for their spring festival. And after a cold winter, who can really blame them? Frühlingsfest features two free fireworks displays, one on each Friday of the festival.
At about 10 o’clock in the evening, a free fireworks show lights up the sky over the Wiesn. (I was even able to hear the fireworks from my hotel room!)
On the final Friday of Frühlingsfest, a music fireworks takes place. For this event, the fireworks are set to music in a kind of choreography. Viewers simply need to tune to the local radio station Radio Charivari in order to hear the musical accompaniment.
Munich Frühlingsfest Tips
- You do not need any tickets to attend the festival. Visitors simply walk onto the Wiesn.
- While Oktoberfest has strict security procedures, Frühlingsfest is a little more laid back. But be smart and follow the rules: no weapons, no outside food, no outside drink, and so on. Security is present at the festival and you’ll see them.
If you’re driving, there is a small pay parking lot at the northern entrance to the Wiesn on Bavariaring, opposite the restaurant Das Bad. (Side note: If you’re looking for a nice restaurant to unwind, I highly recommend Das Bad and its modern twist on Bavarian cuisine.)
Public transportation and your own two feet are, without a doubt, the easiest way to reach the festival on the Wiesn. There are a number of options.
One option is to take the S-Bahn to Hackerbrücke and walk south. There are signs and, in all likelihood, you can follow the crowds heading to the festival grounds.
You can most directly reach the Wiesn with the Theresienwiese U-Bahn stop on the U4 and U5 lines.
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All opinions, as well as all photos, are my own.