One of the World's Greatest Festival

Munich, or Munchen as it is known by its German name, is the capital of Germany's Bavaria region and a great place to visit any time of the year. The city is renowned for its friendly and lively atmosphere – locals jokingly refer to their city as a small village - and has excellent shopping, museums and historic sights.

However, Munchen is also famous for being known as the world's beer capital, boasting several major breweries and around 100 beer gardens. More beer is consumed in the city than any other part of Germany - and much of this beer is drunk in the space of just two weeks in September.

Munchen is home to one of the world's greatest festivals, the world famous Oktoberfest, which takes place around the end of September each year. (The name Oktoberfest ( not Octoberfest) derives from the fact that the festival usually ends on the first Sunday in October)

The Oktoberfest began as a royal wedding for Crown Prince Ludwig almost 200 years ago and was originally simply a small agricultural fair accompanying the event. The fair became a regular fixture and small stalls selling beer were established to cater to thirsty visitors. In 1896 the breweries realized there was money to be made and started to provide beer tents and sponsorship.

Think of the Oktoberfest and you picture huge beer tents where the waitresses carry several foaming mugs of beer in each hand and make their way through the rowdy crowd. The huge tents, sponsored by the local breweries can hold several thousand people – the largest one can seat up to10,000 people - and are in fact semi-permanent structures constructed from wood and iron. The tents can get crowded, although you can actually reserve a seat in a particular tent by contacting the brewery.

One tradition that has survived since the early days of the Oktoberfest in Munchen is that of the arrival of the famous beer tents. On the first Saturday of the festival, there is a parade of breweries' floats into the fairgrounds and the mayor of the city ceremoniously taps the first beer keg and announces "O'zapft is'!" (Meaning "the keg is tapped!")

This famous event also offers several parades and concerts, including traditional German brass bands. Perhaps the most anticipated event is the Costume and Riflemen's Parade. The parade takes place through the streets of Munchen on the first Sunday of the festival and consists of a fascinating array of groups in regional and historical costume, dancers, musicians and various farm animals, including the breweries' thoroughbred horses.

The numbers at the Oktoberfest are staggering – around 6 million people visit the festival every year and spend around 500 million dollars. Between them they consume 90 roast oxen, 650,000 sausages and 750,000 roasted chickens. And of course, plenty of beer too – around 6 million liters of it. To make sure everything goes smoothly, around 12,000 people are employed over the course of the festival.

The Oktoberfest offers a varied selection of fairground rides as well; a far cry from the earliest rides – a swing and carousel – which were made available in 1818. One piece of good advice is not to sample the food and drink too soon after you have been on one of the notoriously fast roller-coasters!