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Oktoberfest revelry back on the Costa

German-style beer fest celebrations in Torremolinos in 2015.
German-style beer fest celebrations in Torremolinos in 2015. / SUR
  • Beer and Bavarian gastronomy are on the menu in Torremolinos this weekend but when did this German tradition first hit Spain?

Since the 70s, the Oktoberfest beer festival has become very popular in Spain, especially in towns with significant non-Spanish European populations. Nowadays the intention of Oktoberfests is to bond relationships between the people of different nationalities living in Spanish resorts as well as to 'taste' local culture and, of course, the beer

About 50 years ago, the traditional German Oktoberfest expanded from its Munich origin and has since become an essential date on festival calenders of many cities throughout the world.

Spain is among countries that are quick to adopt foreign traditions, especially if they help boost tourism. Unsurprisingly, the German traditions are rooted in the areas and towns loved by residents and tourists of that country, including the resorts of the Costa del Sol.

It comes as no surprise then that the Spanish Oktoberfest started on the islands - the Canaries and the Balearics - since Germans, especially, began to visit these areas in the middle of 1970s. It is believed that one of the oldest Bavarian beer festivals in Spain took place in Tenerife. For more than 50 years, Puerto de la Cruz has doubled as the islands' own Theresienwiese - the official ground of the Munich Oktoberfest. During this period, the Balearic island of Mallorca also launched its Oktoberfest - in Calvià. Every year they devote more than 1,800 square metres at the Torà beach square in Peguera so that some 2,300 people can get together for beer-drinking, dancing and singing.

The oldest and most famous Oktoberfest on the Iberian peninsula has been held on the Costa Brava since 1987, in the town of Calella. Another popular touristic destination, the Costa Blanca, immediately followed suit, and the resort of Calpe in Alicante province, which, with its unusual Rock resembles Gibraltar, also arranged a large funfair similar to the one in Bavaria.

Costa del Sol

However, it took this German festival almost 30 years to reach the Costa del Sol. The first Oktoberfest was held in Fuengirola, the town traditionally popular not with Germans but Scandinavians and Brits, in 2008. It appears the town hall realised that Oktoberfest was already an international event and would be popular with the numerous nationalities of Fuengirola.

The even used the town's medieval Sohail castle for a week of celebration and revelry. The 'Fiesta de la Cerveza Oktoberfest' even used to start as early as the end of August and lasted a week. It helped boost the attraction of the town and lure holidaymakers from neighbouring resorts. However, the tradition of Fuengirola's Beer Week lasted only ten years and stopped in 2018.

Meanwhile other resorts on the Costa del Sol were successful in inaugurating Oktoberfests but not all of them were able to go on with the event. In 2010, Malaga created its d'Wiesn by installing a huge tent on the Plaza de la Marina. Approximately 40,000 people attended the beer fest where some 35,000 litres of beer were served.

Five years later, Torrox, with the largest community of German residents on the Iberian peninsula, became an epicentre of Bavarian gastronomy, German beer as well as local beers.

Incidentally, the entertainment at the inauguration in 2015 was German-British: British singer, Flip, and German, Fred, performed every day. Additionally, there were zumba dancing, flamenco and even activities for children. Later Benalmadena and Torremolinos also became local resorts to adopted the beer festival.

2021 in Torremolinos

After the tough pandemic year, when all festivals were called off, Torremolinos has gone ahead with its Oktoberfest this year (from 8 to 12 September).

Its other obstacle has also been overcome; the traditional venue for the beer festival, Plaza de la Nogalera, which is still under reconstruction, has been substituted. So last Thursday, the fest, featuring live music and typical German culinary specialities such as cheeses, white wine, pretzels and sausages (and all at reasonable prices), opened in the Plaza del Remo in La Carihuela.

In the opinion of the Torremolinos' councillor for tourism and expats, Aida Blanes, Oktoberfest suits Torremolinos where around 25% of its registered inhabitants were born abroad. She stresses that Oktoberfest is "an inclusive event for foreigners who reside in the municipality, for those who visit us, and also for all the neighbours of Torremolinos to enjoy". At this year's festival all health security measures are being met, the organisers stressed.