Oktoberfest in Munich – How I had way more fun than just beer!
Oktoberfest Parade and Funfair
Apart from the sky-high hotel prices, I found there is a distinctive flavour and fervour beyond beer that welcomes people when they to go Oktoberfest. Starting with the spectacular parades by different breweries, Munich sees a mad rush on the underground for 17 days. That’s when all roads lead to Theresienwiese – the fair ground.
Serving close to 8 million litres of beer and hosting almost an equal number of visitors every year, Oktoberfest is that largest “Folk festival” in Germany and the world. I had the unique opportunity to witness the inaugural parade as well. Most of my time at the fair ground was spent at the “large tent” by Hacker Pschorr.
It helps to know that the word “Bräu” means “brewery” in German. You will come across this word quite often!
I’ve also compiled a few useful tips and words of advice for attending Oktoberfest, which you can find at the end.
Among some of the world’s oldest companies are a winery and a brewery from Germany! Staffelter Hof, a family run wine business in Krov (state of Rhineland Palatinate) has been around since the year 803 (yes, THAT old!).
Weihenstephan, arguably the world’s oldest brewery, was founded in 1040 near Munich. It is now a Bavarian State Brewery. Though, you’d be surprised to know, when it comes to per capita beer consumption, Germany is only the 3rd highest. Czech Republic leads the Maß (mass-es)!
In this post i share my experience from the Oktoberfest. Not the biggest fan of beer, but i like well-organized large-scale fests!
Oktoberfest kicks off with the Parade by Breweries
This year (2018), the parade took place on September 22. It starts from Maximillianstrasse. And honors the tradition since 1810, when the first march took place at the marriage of Prince Ludwig of Bavaria and Therese of Saxe-Hildburhausen.
Sendlinger Tor plaza is the area where the horse carriages and the processions pass, and you can get the best view here. It is just 1 stop away from Marienplatz.
Dressed in dirndls and Lederhosen, the staff from the original Munich breweries present traditional Bavarian music. The bands come right before the horse carriages, carrying barrels of beer.
Only 6 breweries which conform to “German Beer Purity Law” can participate in Oktoberfest. Additionally, they have to be brewed within city limits of Munich. Previously, i have tried beer from Hofbrauhaus-Munich, Lowenbrau and Augustiner Brau, but during Oktoberfest i went to the tent of Hacker-Pschorr Brau. Other two breweries allowed to participate in the Oktoberfest include Paulaner and Spatenbrau.
Venue of the Actual Fest, the “Wiesn”
Theresienwiese, the venue of the festival ground, is named after the Crown princess. It means “Theresa’s meadows”. If you take the underground, the named station lies on U4 and U5. From Munich Central Station (Hauptbahnhof), one can take buses number 16 or 18. You could also walk from Goetheplatz (U3/U6) to avoid the rush of deboarders at Theresienwiese.
The fanfare and excitement will be palpable once you step out to the fest ground. Or rather when you even get inside the train! Entry to the venue is free, and there will be security checks, so large back packs not advisable.
You could go in the morning hours during the weekends, when the food and beer would be served from 9:00 am itself. Or around 2:00 pm during weekdays. Usually the bands in the tents play from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm
Vouchers for food and beer can be booked in advance online. Tickets to the amusement rides can be taken on the spot. There are machines and cash counters to pay.
The larger Tents at Oktoberfest – I was at the Hacker-Festzelt
The 6 main breweries have the larger tents, which have an outdoor “Biergarten” (berr-garden) seating, as well as indoor seating. You can purchase meal vouchers in advance, or pay in cash to order food inside the tents.
The food would cost up to 10 Euros per serving. I tried the roast chicken and knodel soup. This year, the beer is costing close to 11.50 Euros per mug (1 litre).
The food menu is also quite exhaustive and you will find plenty of options in salads, main course and of course, sausages. I tried the special “Wiesn Hendl”, which is half roast chicken with salads.
The backbone of efficient service: Oktoberfest Staff
More than 8,000 people are served at an average inside the larger tents. I felt this is a hospitality and logistics wonder in itself! You will find the staff selling pretzels and carrying a huge tray of food. 3 or 4 mugs (1 litre) of beer are the norm – in a hand sometimes! The wait time was 20-30 minutes. Still quite efficient!
Energetic ending to a day at Oktoberfest
There is something for all age groups at the Oktoberfest. When the bands play, people stand up wherever they are! Just make sure, not to stand on the tables. Standing on the benches is allowed, if you’d like a better view.
And when you exit the grounds, and try to board the train back to where you’d like to go, this would be the most familiar sight!
Few tips and Words of Advice!
- When having beer, make sure you are not on an empty stomach. Some visitors may be puking on the public transport as a result of heavy drinking and/or drinking on an empty stomach.
- 1 litre of beer is quite a lot. So if you are used to a pint or 300 ml bottles, spread the drink over a longer period, with snacks
- Wearing the Dirndl the wrong way can raise eyebrows. Make sure you know which knot you’d be tying!
- Avoid peak hours if you can (evenings on weekends AND weekdays).
- Oktoberfest is best enjoyed in a large group. I love to travel solo, but not to Oktoberfest if i have a choice 🙂
- Get familiar with some common German words, food names and greetings!
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