Why Choose Oktoberfest for an Autumn Break?
Well here’s why over 6 million people descend on Munich every September for the Oktoberfest.
- Largest 16 day Beer Festival in the World
- Choose from over 30 crazy beer tents that hold between 1,500 and 6,000 people
- Dance to traditional German Oompha bands, Euro Pop and American/Brit Rock.
- Experience the rich Bavarian culture in full swing
- Discover the widest range of sausages, hams and roast chicken to eat.
- Enjoy the unforgettable fun of the Hofbrau tent, the largest and liveliest of the beer tents.
- Sample the best selection in German beer in a unique atmosphere not found anywhere else
- Watch the beer opening ceremony and costumed parades through the town.
- Walk around the funfair, stalls and historic town center
- Develop an appreciation for the traditional Bavarian costume, the dirndl.
Travellers Guide to The Oktoberfest, Munich
Munich in September comes alive with thousands of enthusiastic, friendly and excited beer drinkers as each year they hold their annual autumn beer festival. Now in its 200th year this is a popular destination with tourists the world over who come to the Bavarian capital to capture the fun and entertainment of traditional German beer drinking.
The party gets started from around the 17th September and carries on for two weeks. During this time there are gallons of beer consumed, mountains of food eaten and plenty of singing, dancing and merriment to be had.
Munich’s traditional Oktoberfest can trace its history back to 1810 when a festival was organized for the people of the town to celebrate the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig to Princess Therese. It initially started as a royal horse race but within a few years an agricultural event had been included. 1818 saw the first appearance of the funfair and it was only in 1896 that enterprising landlords began erecting the beer tents.
During its 200 year history the festival has not been held on only 23 occasions, which were due to wars and plague. The end of the 19th century saw the Oktoberfest grow in popularity and in an attempt to provide more room for those attending the booths were done away with and the now familiar beer halls erected.
These days the festival has very much an international flavor and a quarter of the visitors come from abroad to sample the delight of the German beer and musical entertainment. Traditionally the festival is held over 16 to 18 days, starting in the middle of September and ending on the 1st or 3rd of October, depending on when Unification Day occurs
Munich is the thriving, third largest city in Germany, in the southern area of Bavaria. It is about an hours drive from the Alps and close to the wonderful scenery of the Black Forests. Munich was much repaired after the Second World War in its original style and designed to have lots of green spaces and parkland for people to enjoy.
Munich developed on the banks of the river Isar around 1,000 years ago but there is evidence that people have lived in the area since pre-history. By 1650 the city became the political and cultural capital of Bavaria and ever since has been an important center for art and historical activity. A hotbed of Nazi activity during the 20’s and 30’s and also the tragic site, where in 1972, terrorist’s murdered members of the Israeli team during the summer Olympics.
Its Baroque and Neo-Classical origins have left the city with much wonderful architecture within the original boundaries of the old town center and there are many classic old palaces and celebrated buildings to explore. However, every September there are over 100,000 seats laid out and various beer tents erected to celebrate the famous Oktoberfest, where beer is king
The Oktoberfest Field
Theresienwiese, (Therese’s Field) is named after Princess Theresien and is the large parkland near the center of Munich. It is here every year that the Oktoberfest festival is held. There are fourteen main beer halls and twenty additional smaller tents and stalls that are erected to accommodate drinkers over the two weeks of celebration and revelry.
Each tent has a different atmosphere, beer, special food and own brand of music playing. This gives the whole festival a unique and distinct feel and caters for all the visitor’s personal preference. The Hippodrom is a young, lively tent with an energetic feel, while the Ochsenbraterei tent specializes in ox dishes. Schottenhamel tent is the most important tent for it is here the Major of Munich taps the first barrel and declares the festival open and the Kafers tent is the place to go if you want to rub shoulders with celebrities.
To maintain order and calm, especially for older visitors and families the music is kept tranquil and sedate until after 18.00 when the more lively modern Schlager and pop are played and all mayhem breaks out.
Beers of Munich
Obviously the Oktoberfest is the time when Bavarian beers shine, there has always been a beer festival this time of year to finish off the summer brews and make room for autumn beers. The breweries of Munich produce specialty beers with differing tastes, colors and strength, ranging from the Dunkels – dark beers using burnt malt, Weissbier – wheat beer, Helles – golden colored, pale lager. Marzen – March beer produced in the spring and the last pints are finished off in October, Bock – strong beer, while the Dopplebock - double strength beer up to 12%. Pilsner – originally a Czech brewing technique that produces a pale, clear larger with a better shelf life than traditional brews.
The traditional Munich breweries that you will find in the Oktoberfest tents are
Spatan-Franzisker-Brau – Has changed hands many times over the centuries but traces its beginnings back to 1397.
- Augustine Brau – Established in 1328 and maintains its reputation as a traditional beer, keeping the old style bottle and rarely changing its labeling.
- Pauliner – 17th century Munich brewery first brewed by the monks of Paolo.
- Hacker-Pschorr – Dating back to 1417, brewed with spring water and their own particular strain of yeast.
- Hofbrau – Brewery to the Royalty of Bavaria and also runs the second largest Oktoberfest tent.
- Lowenbrau – The “Lions Brew” recipe dates back to 1516, while the brewery is even older.
The daytime activities in Munich during the Oktoberfest revolve around singing, eating, dancing and drinking. There is however only so much drinking and eating you can do in two weeks so. There is a large funfair on the site with rides and booths to enjoy.
The city has a number of museums and art galleries, most notably the Alte, Neue and Moderne Pinakothek all containing a treasure trove of European art from across the ages. There is also the old Hofbrauhaus Brewery, which has now been turned into a museum documenting beer down the years.
There are also a collection of parks and gardens around the city the largest of which is the Englischer Garten. This is a beautifully manicured 900-acre park with well laid out paths, shaded areas and brooks and streams throughout. It is also a popular destination for walks and picnics. The Olympic park, site of the fateful 1972 games, is now another parkland full of sporting facilities, concert venues, restaurants and the BMW Museum.
The Gothic Cathedral, dating back to the 15th century and the Linderhof, Lustheim and Nymphenburg palaces are all interesting locations to pay a visit. While the Munich Zoo is the world’s first geo zoo dedicated to saving and studying animals and provides a home to 460 species and 5,000 creatures.
A magical site to tour is the fairytale castle at Neuschwanstein, where King Ludwig II had the romantic folly created in 1868 as a site for Wagner’s operas to be performed. The castle is probably most famously remembered these days as the home of the evil king and queen in the 1968 film "Chitty, chitty, bang, bang."
During the night the Oktoberfest tents are full of life, there is more raucous singing, endless eating and plenty of drinking, along with lots of dancing and music from the various bands, groups and DJ’s that keep the party moving.
Outside the Oktoberfest site there are also some 6,000 licensed bars and pubs around the city and an exciting and lively club scene too. The old industrial complexes of Kultfabrik and Optimolwerke have been completely modernized and are full of bars and discos. The newest entertainment area “The Banana” is centered in the area around Maximillianplatz and has rapidly established itself as a place to be seen.
Munich city centers nightlife is wide and varied, catering for all musical tastes, price ranges and drinking preference. From classic, pop, jazz or rock nightspots to swinging clubs, visitors will find somewhere to suit.
Culture vultures are also provided for in Munich’s diverse center, there are theatre, opera and concert venues, as well as tours of the Bavarian film studios
Munich has a typical continental weather system with nice warm summers and cold winters. September is still pleasantly warm but later in the month the evenings can sometimes be cooler
Entry Requirements of US Citizens
Americans' traveling to Europe and staying less than 90 days will not need a visa. You should however, make sure that your passport is current and not due to expire within the next 6 months
German is the official language in Bavaria and you will also hear the local Bavarian dialect. Even though English is also widely spoken, you should not rely on this always being the case and you will find a few German phrases useful..
Munich has a fully integrated public transport system of buses, trams, trains (Munich S-Bahn) and underground (Munich U-Bahn) that covers the whole metropolitan area. There are ready links to the Franz Josef Strauss International Airport 19 miles north east of the city center via the magnetic levitation train.
There are plenty of taxis or hire car companies should you wish to drive yourself, however, traffic around Munich is heavy and public transport makes for an easier and more relaxing way to travel. As Munich embraces a greener future, cycling has become a popular mode of transport and there is a modern bike hire system in operation as well as an increasing network of cycle lanes and paths around the city.
Cell Phones and Internet Connections
Europe is well connected for cell phone and Internet use, all major cities; Munich included, have WiFi hotspots and internet cafes for keeping in touch. It is important to check that your cell phone has mobile roaming facility; alternatively you can buy a cheap German simcard for your cell.
The Euro is the currency in Germany; there are many ATM’s with international connections throughout Munich and most will have an "English" language option for customers. You can also change dollars for euros at the numerous banks and bureau de change scattered around the city
The electricity in German, like all European countries is 220, as opposed to the normal 110 in America.
Germany Time: Central European Time (CET). 6 hours ahead of EST.
Tipping is common practice in restaurants and bars, and also appreciated in the busy Oktoberfest beer tents, the normal practice is between 5 – 10% of the check or 1 Euro per beer. Quite often Europeans will round the bill up to the nearest large note, eg paying €30 for a €26 mea
DINING AND DRINKING
There is every type of food and drink imaginable somewhere in town. From the cheapest all you can eat buffets to high class establishments with nothing but wine lists there is definitely variety here. Fine dining, fast food and everything in between. Vegas is a food town and there is always a restaurant open somewhere. Most hotels have at least one restaurant, café or food court open all day long so you can grab a bite no matter what time it is. As for bars there are plenty, if you’re gambling the drinks are free, so sit at a penny machine and you can get drunk for cheap. The legal drinking age is 21. .
ABOUT THE WATER
Water quality in Germany conforms to EU standards and is completely safe to drink.