As you walk along the streets of Munich this October, you could be forgiven for thinking that you’d stepped back in time – men are decked out in lederhosen and checked shirts, women are showing off in traditional Dirndl dresses and everyone is slurping frothy beer and enjoying huge platters of meat. It can only mean one thing – Oktoberfest is back in the town!
The world’s biggest beer festival invites locals and visitors to eat, drink and be merry together, and 6 million people flock to Munich city each year to do just that.
Oktoberfest is an annual beer festival held in Munich, Bavaria which runs for 16-18 days from late September to first weekend in October. This German festival is the biggest and the best beer fest in the world, is one heady orgy for lovers of the golden brew – 5 million litres of beer will have been sipped or swigged by closing day!
Prost!! Here’s to beer, bingeing, befuddlement!
The Munich Oktoberfest began in 1810, as a wedding party thrown by King Joseph Maximilian of Bavaria to celebrate his marriage to Princess Theresa of Saxony. The beer loving Bavarians enjoyed their party so much that they celebrated it the next year and the next and the next .......... for the next 179 years! Some party! Down the years, Oktoberfest has evolved into a glittering pageant of brass bands, brewery wagons, colourful costumes, pop concerts, food sellers, funfair and carnivals.
On opening day, exactly at midday, a series of 12 exploding rockets fired into the sky signal the official opening of the Oktoberfest. Traditionally the first barrel is tapped by Munich’s mayor to shouts of “ozapft is” (it’s tapped).
So whether you are a first timer at the Oktoberfest or a repeater, here are some tips for how to survive the crowds and really get into the spirit of this exuberant two-week celebration.
Oktoberfest takes place across 14 different tents, which spring up across the city in the week before the festival kicks off. The tents vary in size but all house the familiar rows of beer-stained wooden benches, with colourful bunting draped across the high ceilings.
The first beer of Oktoberfest is always poured in the largest tent Schottenhamel – it houses a massive 10,000 people, so expect the cheers to be deafening.
Backpackers tend to head to the Hofbräu tent, where you’ll predictably find young American travellers enjoying litre on litre of the beer that they’re banned from buying at home. If you’re in Munich with the family, head to the Augustiner Festhalle tent for a calmer and cozier atmosphere and to enjoy beer from more modestly-sized wooden kegs.
Tuesdays is family day and this friendly tent offers great-value meals for kids and adults between 12 and 6pm – for an afternoon of German celebrity-watching check out the famous Hippodrum tent – it’s a favourite of Boris Becker’s.
If you’re already in Munich, you’ll know that the city is crammed to capacity – booking a hotel room in advance is an absolute must and even the city’s temporary campsites become full weeks before the festival begins.
In the city centre expect to pay hiked-up ‘festival prices’, particularly in the area around the hub of the action in the Wiesn.
If you don’t mind a short train journey into Munich, try looking at rooms in the neighbouring towns of Nürnberg, Augsburg, Ingolstadt, Landshut and Rosenheim.
Create a Festival Plan
With so many revellers crammed into one city, it’s often hard to find a seat at Oktoberfest. But the one rule of the festival is this – no seat, no beer.
Do a bit of pre-planning before you leave for Munich and note down all the tents and events that you’d like to see. Booking a tour with a trusted travel company is always a plus, which helps ensuring a seat.
So have you ever been to Oktoberfest?
Team Veena World