Grab your lederhosen or dirndl, a pretzel and a taste for German beer and you’re all set for the frivolity of Munich’s Oktoberfest! Oktoberfest had been on my bucket list for a few years now and I finally went along this year to see what the fuss was all about. It didn’t disappoint.
Here’s what you need to know about Oktoberfest.
Oktoberfest actually starts in September
Confusing I know, but Oktoberfest is held annually from mid-September to the first weekend of October. However, the origins of Oktoberfest began in the month of October, hence the name.
Oktoberfest’s beginnings came about when Crown Prince Ludwig married Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen on October 12, 1810. Munich’s residents were invited to the celebrations in the fields in front of the city gates. Horse races were also held as part of the festivities, and these continued in following years with the addition of an Agricultural Show in subsequent years. In 1818, amusement rides were added to the annual event – and then beer stands made an appearance. By 1896, the beer stands grew into beer tents and halls and Oktoberfest grew into what it is today.
Eventually the annual event was moved a few weeks earlier in the year to take advantage of warmer weather conditions.
The 2017 Oktoberfest will kick off on September 16 and run until October 3.
You can buy lederhosen or dirndls everywhere in Munich
Lederhosen and dirndls are traditional German clothing. Lederhosen are for the men and are breeches made of leather. A dirndl is for the women, and is a dress combined with a blouse and apron.
Don’t worry if you didn’t get around to buying your lederhosen or dirndl before you got to Munich – they’re very easy to get when you arrive.
Step out of the Munchen Haupbahnhof (Main Train Station) and you’re hit with a sea of checkered dirndls and brown lederhosen. They’re not cheap with prices starting from around $45 for a dirndl and blouse and $90 for the lederhosen, but everyone gets dressed up so you may feel a little left out if you don’t get in the spirit and wear the traditional clothing.
Shop around for the best price as there’s a lot of shops selling the traditional German clothing.
Oktoberfest is free to enter
Despite many people thinking otherwise, you don’t have to pay or book ahead to enter the Oktoberfest tents or the grounds as long as you just want to try your luck at getting a table (you won’t be served unless you’re seated). Reservations can be made if you want to secure a table but it will cost you.
It’s easy to get a table if you head there early
Tents open at 9am on weekends (12pm on opening day) and 10am on weekdays. It’s really easy to get a table in the hour or two after the tents open (remember it’s 5pm somewhere!). It starts to get really busy from about 4pm when the locals join in so try and head in before then to get a seat.
Once seated, the waitresses will come around and take your orders.
There’s lots of tents to choose from
Only beer from Munich beerhouses is sold at Oktoberfest. Talking to people about where they went, the most popular tents seemed to be the Löwenbräu and Augustiner tents. Augustiner is Munich’s oldest brewery, dating back to the 1300s. The strongest beer (6.3% alchohol) is sold in the Hofbräu tent.
The beer is expensive
Germany is not the cheapest place to drink in Europe by a long shot, and it’s a pretty expensive outing to Oktoberfest. For a one litre stein, you’ll want to fork out €15 ($16.50). This includes a tip to the waitresses so they keep coming around to your table. Bring cash with you and there are also ATMs scattered around the tents and in the complex.
Oktoberfest is also a fairground
Not only are there lots of beer tents but you can also have a fun day out going on the rides. The Oktoberfest grounds are pretty much one big fete with lots of rides to choose from.
Food is as easy to get as beer
Pretzels, sandwiches, chicken schnitzel burgers, donuts – you can take your pick at Oktoberfest when the time comes to soak up some of that beer. You’ll regularly see people coming around with baskets full of food so call them over and make your choice. There’s a wider selection of food outside the tents near the rides if you dare to leave your table!
Pace yourself – you’ll want to go more than once
The one litre steins range from 5.8% to 6.3% alcohol depending on the beerhouse. Oktoberfest goes for 18 days so most likely you’ll be staying a few days and will want to go more than once. Enjoy the festivities, drink and be merry, but remember to keep up the food and water or you’ll most likely not want to even look at beer the next day (I made that mistake!).
There’s more to Munich than Oktoberfest
Once you’ve drunk your weight in beer, you probably want to see what else is in Munich. Munich is a pretty German town with a picturesque Old Town and an important (albeit often dark) history.
One of the best ways I found to explore Munich was on a bicycle with Mike’s Bikes Tours.
The four hour bike tour starts from the Old Town Hall and winds past the palace, Isar River, English Garden, Bavarian Parliament Building, Lukas Kirche and the Peace Angel Monument.
You’ll also see the famous surfers at the wave in the English Garden canal, and will stop for lunch at Munich’s most popular beer garden.
Not only do you see the sights, but you also learn some interesting facts about Munich, its buildings, and German history, particularly throughout World War II.
The tour costs $35 (lunch not included). You can reserve your spot at www.mikesbiketours.com/munich or meet under the Old Town Hall tower next to the Toy Museum. Tours are run year round at 11am. A 4pm tour is also held between April and September.
The Rathus-Glockenspiel show is also a must see in Munich. The Rathaus-Glockenspiel is located on the front façade of the New Town Hall in Marienplatz, and features 43 bells and 32 moving figures. Every day at 11am (and noon and 5pm in summer), the Glockenspiel chimes and re-enacts stories from the 16th century including the marriage of Duke Wilhelm V to Renata of Lorraine.
You can also walk down Munich’s pedestrian only Vicardigasse located in the city centre. Viscardigasse features a bronze pathway marked out in the cobblestones. It’s a tribute to the Munich residents who did not want to make the Nazi salute to a monument commemorating the death of Nazi sympathisers who died in the 1923 Beer Hall Putsch, and supporting Hitler’s movement. Viscardigasse provided an alternate route to try and bypass the monument and avoid making the salute.
Lisa Owen is a pint-sized Australian following her dreams to travel to as many places as she can, and loves to share her photography, travel hacks, hiking adventures, and food discoveries along the way. At last count, she has travelled to more than 40 countries in between working in public relations and discovering hidden gems in Australia's great outdoors. Instagram: @_thelittleadventurer Facebook: The Little Adventurer Australia
The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and are meant as travel inspiration only. They do not reflect the opinions of Cover-More Insurance. You should always read the PDS available from your travel insurance provider to understand the limits, exclusions and conditions of your policy and to ensure any activities you undertake are covered by your policy.