Oktoberfest (pronounced ok.toba.fest) in Munich is an exciting event not to be missed. It has been happening every year since 1810. I went a number of years ago and had the best time. Here are my reasons why you should experience Oktoberfest and how to survive it.
What is Oktoberfest?
Oktoberfest actually began in 1810 as a wedding celebration. The then Bavarian Crown Prince, Prince Ludwig invited all the citizens of the area to come celebrate his marriage to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen. This initial celebration has grown to what we know and love today. It originally occurred in October but was moved a couple of weeks earlier so as to allow for the better September weather. But what is Oktoberfest? Keep reading.
Oktoberfest is all about German beer
If you are a beer lover, like me, then you will love drinking the beer at the Oktoberfest. Originally the Oktoberfest was a non-alcoholic celebration. That’s right, it was, but it didn’t take long for that to change and now around 7 million litres of beer are consumed at the event.
Now the only beer that can be served during Oktoberfest must come from one of Munich’s six breweries – Paulaner, Spaten, Hacker-Pschorr, Augustiner, Hofbräu, and Löwenbräu. All the beers must pass Reinheitsgebot (the purity test) which is a law passed in 1516 to ensure the quality of the beer. That’s right, Germany, particularly Munich doesn’t mess around when it comes to the brewing of its beer.
It will be wonderful to try all the beers. I suggest you aim to spend a number of days at the festival to do this. And don’t forget to pace yourself or you could end up a ‘beer corpse’ – someone who has drunk too much beer and passed out. Yes, that is what they call them. And there is a lot of them! On saying spend a number of days there, I thought day one was fabulous, day two was great, I made it through day three but day four I was ready to do something else. I have made a few suggestions further on as to what else you can do in Munich if, God forbid, you need a break from the beer.
Experience German culture at its best
Oktoberfest officially starts when the mayor taps the first keg, declaring “O’ zapft is” or “it’s tapped”. The first person to traditionally get a beer is the Bavarian Minister-President. This happens around mid-day and is interesting to watch. After the Minister-President has sipped his beer everyone can then enjoy a beer plus everything else the festival has to offer. You may want to dress in the traditional clothes as well and really get in to this German cultural experience.
Choose your beer tent
There are a number of beer tents, maybe a dozen and my friends and I moved from beer tent to beer tent. Well actually they are bigger than a tent. Each area can fit hundreds of people in them at once. The atmosphere is electric inside with people wearing traditional Bavarian clothes (lederhosen for guys, dirndls for girls) while drinking German beer and clinking steins together during German songs. Great fun!
Oktoberfest is the World’s largest funfair
Ride the Rides in the Fairground
Oktoberfest is also a world-renowned funfair. Many places around the world try to emulate it every year but there is nothing like experiencing the real thing.
If you don’t like beer don’t worry, there are plenty of other things to do besides sit in a beer tent and drink beer. There is the carnival atmosphere in the funfair grounds where you could go on the rides, walk along the side stalls, listen to the lively music and taste traditional, mouthwatering foods like smoked sausages, pork knuckles, sauerkraut, pretzels and gingerbread. You definitely won’t starve as you walk around the grounds.
How to Visit Oktoberfest in 2019
In 2019 Oktoberfest begins on Saturday, September 22nd and finishes October 7th. Oktoberfest takes place on Theresienwiese, in Munich. Munich is well serviced by roads and an international airport. Once in Munich you can walk from the main railway station (Hauptbahnhof) or from the closest U-Bahn (Theresienwiese). Just follow the crowds.
Oktoberfest’s opening hours are: on the first day from 12pm-10.30pm then during the week 10am-10.30pm and on the weekends and holidays 9am-10.30pm. There are only two tents that open late Käfers and Weinzelt open until 1:00am.
How Much Does Oktoberfest cost?
The beer tents are free to enter however, a typical beer in a stein will cost around 11 Euros. A meal inside the tent may set you back 12-15 Euros but as I said, the food outside is much cheaper.
If you are thinking of purchasing a traditional Bavarian outfit to wear during your time at the Oktoberfest a good lederhosen outfit can start at around 140 Euros, while a dirndl can start at around 100 Euros. You can also rent them for about 40 Euros per day however, traditional clothes aren’t a requirement to enjoy yourself.
My tips for surviving Oktoberfest
First of all my biggest tip for surviving Oktoberfest is to treat your time at Oktoberfest as a marathon. You will be drinking all day and probably most of the night and there is no need to rush it. So pace yourself and enjoy it. Otherwise you will be one of those ‘beer corpses’.
My other survival tips for Oktoberfest are:
- Hydrate yourself. Drink as much water as you can while there. Maybe one beer then one water. You may thank me for this tip later!
- Get there early, before midday to get a table. However, we found the staff are great at finding spots at tables for your party.
- When hungry, eat outside at one of the many food vendors. The food is cheaper.
- If with friends, ensure you have a meeting point in case you get separated.
- Bring cash. It is easier.
- Watch your things. Keep them safe. I suggest you don’t bring valuables cause if you get too drunk and pass out you don’t want to wake up without any money or ID!
- Enjoy yourself as you never know when you will be back.
- Have your accommodation booked and know how to get to it, even when you have had too much to drink. I suggest you have the name and address written down on a piece of paper or even having a map will be great.
Munich Accommodation for Oktoberfest
Normally, Munich has a lot of accommodation available but during Oktoberfest it is usually fully booked. And the closer to the festival grounds the more expensive it will be but the easier it should be for you to stroll home.
I stayed in a small Guesthaus near the centre of Munich and shared a room with 3 other people. My suggestions for hostel accommodation include Wombats City Hostel, Munich Hostel Haus and Smart Stay Hostel. If looking for a budget hotel room try BM Bavaria. More options can be found at the HostelWorld and Booking.com websites.
What else is there to see and do in Munich?
Dachau Concentration Camp
If the beer becomes too much, which it can, you can explore Munich as there is plenty to do. Some of the things I recommend you could do is visit Marienplatz and see the Glockenspeil clock. To see more of Munich consider taking a ride on Munich’s Hop On Hop Bus and be taken to all the sites. Soccer lovers may want to tour FC Bayern Munchen Football Club. There is also the Olympic Centre, BMW Museum and the Dachau Memorial Concentration Camp which was the first concentration camp during the war. It is an easy tram ride to Dachau from the centre of Munich. If you like castles then maybe consider a day-trip to Neuschwanstein Castle. Yes, it is the castle Walt Disney modelled his castle on.
I suggest the Oktoberfest in Munich is a must on your European itinerary. It is a great way to discover and immerse yourself in German culture plus enjoy the food and of course, the beer. I loved every moment of my time at Oktoberfest but must confess that 5 days of drinking German beer got a bitt too much. But I’ll leave you to discover this for yourself. Prost (cheers).
Sharyn McCullum has travelled most of her life thanks to her dad who worked for an airline. In her 20’s she went overseas on her own for the first time and found herself in London where she spent 4 years living, working and playing and travelling through many countries. Her travels have inspired her ‘Live Work and Play’ series of working holiday guides and a number of travel websites. She continues to travel regularly and currently calls Melbourne home.