A Quick Guide to Munich’s Oktoberfest
Welcome to Oktoberfest in Munich! The biggest beer festival in the world is about to begin again. Watch our video from last time and get a flavor of the occasion, as well as some key tips and tricks on how best to enjoy a visit.
What is Oktoberfest?
Oktoberfest is spelled with a ‘k’ in German. (Not Octoberfest.) It’s an annual festival that takes place in the capital of Germany’s beer-drinking south: Munich. It is not the only beer festival in the area. There are, in fact, thousands of beer festivals in Germany, and thousands of Oktoberfesten around the world. However, Oktoberfest in Munich is by far the biggest and most famous of all beer festivals. Over six million people visited this two-week party last year and even more are expected in 2019.
It all started in 1810 when Bavarian Prince Ludwig married Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen and had a big party to celebrate. Everyone enjoyed themselves so much that they decided to do it again the next year, and then the next year, and then the year after that. In fact, they never stopped and Oktoberfest has happened almost every year since.
How best to enjoy Oktoberfest?
Tip 1: Visit the city as well
Even if you are only visiting for a few days, you must schedule some time to see the beautiful city of Munich and not just spend all your time at the beer festival. Take an afternoon off from excess to stroll round the medieval city center: climb up one of the many church towers and see if you can glimpse the Alps, wander through Munich’s Englisch Garden (the first public park in the world), and visit the famous central square—Marienplatz—with its ornate clock, complete with dancing figurines.
Tip 2: Don’t actually go in October
It may be called Oktoberfest, but it actually occurs mainly in September. The exact dates vary each year, but the festival always ends on the first Sunday of October. This means that some years it happens almost entirely in September (for example: in 2021 Oktoberfest will start on the 18th September and end on the 3rd of October).
Tip 3: Try and get there for the first Saturday
The opening ceremony is the best part of Oktoberfest. It is a wonderful spectacle with hundreds of beautifully dressed Bavarians parading through the streets of Munich on the very first morning. Brass bands, carnival style floats, and horse-drawn beer drays all make their way slowly to Wiesn. (Wiesn is a commonly used slang name for Oktoberfest.) It refers to “Theresienwiese,” the name of the field where it all happens and literally translates as “Therese’s meadow.” There, local dignitaries give a short speech before tapping the fist beer keg and downing the first Maß (a Maß is a liter of beer).
Tip 4: Eat something and know your limits
Oktoberfest beer is very, very strong and many tourists fall victim to its potency. Make sure you eat something before you start and be aware that although it tastes very sweet and innocent, a liter of Oktoberfest beer is a lot of alcohol. One Maß is enough to get most people fairly merry. If you drink two in a whole evening, you are doing well. If you drink more than this, you may well regret it.
Tip 5: Book in advance
Oktoberfest is often packed out and, especially on the weekends, hard to navigate. Sometimes tents are so full that there are queues just to get inside. To avoid disappointment, many visitors book tables well in advance. If you want to get a good spot near the band, we recommend you do the same.
Tip 6: Learn the names of German beers
Although Oktoberfest is truly an international event these days, you will find that many of the serving staff don’t really speak much English. So it’s a good idea to have some basic phrases up your sleeve. Also, if you want to get the best from the experience you should learn all the names of the different types of beer they have in Germany.
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