Oktoberfest is one of the largest celebrations in the world and is a huge part of the Bavarian culture! The festival started back in 1810, following the wedding of the late King Ludwing I and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen, when the royal couple invited the citizens of Munich to celebrate their happy event. Today, Oktoberfest has grown into a massive beer cultural festival that takes place for 17 days in late September/early October in Munich, Germany and draws millions of people (over 6 million to be exact) of all backgrounds and ages from around the world!
It’s a great festival, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise! And its absolutely worth a trip to Germany! It’s a great reason to visit Munich and an excellent way to immerse yourself in Bavarian culture! Whether your Oktoberfest experience will consist of just a few hours at the festival, or you are planning to spend a week or longer indulging in the festivities, here are a few tips that might help you make the most of your time at Oktoberfest!
Oktoberfest 2014 starts in less than 2 weeks, so at this point in time, you should already have your flights booked and accommodation sorted. If you don’t, I suggest you look into alternative accommodation options like camping, or Airbnb, as most hotels and hostels will probably already be booked out.
If you are planning to join in the festivities on a weeknight, get there in early afternoon, but on a weekend or during a public holiday, get up early and head to the grounds by 10am. It’s your best chance of finding a spot inside a tent and being able to enjoy the festivities. In most tents, you won’t be served unless you have a seat at a table. Reserving a table ahead of time is still possible, but is extremely difficult. Most reservations go to luxury hotels, tour companies, and other groups, so securing one for you and your 9 friends might be tough.
If you are paying for a reservation, make sure you are getting something in return, like beer vouchers or food and not just a seat at the table. There are no entry fees for the festival, and no cost to enter the tents, so there is no reason why someone should be charging you a huge mark up for the reservation. But people do, because they can!
If you are traveling with only a couple of people, don’t worry about reservations. Get to the grounds at a reasonable hour and you should have no trouble grabbing a spot at a someone else’s table.
Pick Your Tent and Stick With It
There are 14 different tents and 20 small ones at Oktoberfest and while each one is a little bit different in terms of the beer served, the crowd, and the atmosphere, but at the end of the day, the experience at each won’t vary that much. You’ll drink, you’ll eat, you’ll sing, and be merry. Oktoberfest isn’t a place to go tent hopping. If you lose your seat at one tent, you most likely won’t get a seat at another tent, so my advice – don’t do it! Instead plan to spend a couple of days at Oktoberfest and visit a new tent every day. Here are a few suggestions:
* Hofbräu-Festzelt – Great place to meet fellow backpackers and other travellers. This tent is popular with Americans, Australians, Canadians and New Zealanders. On the flip side, if you are looking for a more local authentic experience – avoid it at all costs.
* Käfers Wiesen Schänke – Smallest of the big tents, this is the place with great food!
* Augustiner-Festhalle – Considered to be the best Oktoberfest tent by locals. I trust the local, so this would be my choice.
Dress the Part
I am normally not one to jump on dress up opportunities, but Oktoberfest is an exception! I felt silly NOT having a great outfit during my first Oktoberfest experience in 2008. A mistake I haven’t made again. So get creative and dress up: Dirndl for the ladies and Lederhosen for guys.
Eat More Than Just Pretzels
There is so much delicious German food at Oktoberfest! It’s easy to stuff your face with pretzels that are readily available for order inside all tents, but don’t! Sure, have a few pretzels here and there but make sure you try some of the other traditional foods, like the pork knuckle, chicken schnitzel, or sausages.
Drink More Than Just Beer
It’s a common misconception that Oktoberfest serves nothing but beer. Of course, beer is the main attraction of the festival, but there is a whole tent dedicate to wine (Weinzelt) that offers selection of more than 15 wines as well as white beer. Most tents will also serve radler, a half beer, half lemonade drink that’s very delicious and quite refreshing.
But beyond just beer, wine, and radler, make sure you pace yourself and alternate your alcoholic drinks with some water. The beer comes in 1 litre jugs, so it’s really easy to get quite tipsy after just 2-3 of these. You don’t want to peak to early, or even worse end up face down sleeping of your “buzz” on the hills outside the tents.
Do More Than Drink
Of course, beer and beer tents are the main attractions at Oktoberfest, but there is also lots of rides, games, and other activities to keep yourself entertained throughout the day. Be careful about hopping on a ride after too many beers inside the tents, but do try to move around to explore the other parts of the festival.
Plan to Spend a Lot
Unfortunately, attending Oktoberfest isn’t cheap. Beer prices at this year’s Oktoberfest are about 10 EURO per litre, food will set you back by 15-20 Euros per meal, plus rides, souvenirs, dessert and so on. You can easily spend 100+ Euros per day and that’s on top of your accommodation and all other expenses.
Don’t Forget to explore Munich!
There is a lot more to Munich than just Oktoberfest, so plan some time before or after your Oktoberfest experience to check out the best the city has to offer.
* Visit the Marienplatz, the central square in Munich and explore its beautiful architecture and various landmarks.
* Grab a bite to eat and watch the locals go about their daily life at the München’s Viktualienmarkt. Known as the München’s cultural hub, this fresh produce market has over 140 different stalls is located just outside the old city.
* Climb to the top of Alter Peter, a tower at Peterskirche, the oldest church in Munich’s inner city, that offers amazing views of Munich!
If a trip to Munich isn’t in the plans for you this year, don’t despair! Oktoberfest celebrations happen in many cities and countries outside of Germany! Many of these festivals were founded decades ago by German immigrants and other descendants, so the atmosphere, the beer, and the food is often very similar to what you would experience in Munich!
After experiencing Oktoberfest in Munich back in 2008, and many years of celebrating Oktoberfest in Kitchener, Canada, this year will be my 2nd year celebrating Bavarian culture in Brisbane, Australia!
Will you be heading to Oktoberfest in Munich? Or perhaps joining the festivities in a nearby town?