With an alcohol level between 5.5 -7 % it is slightly stronger than normal German beer but is also considered to be the best many have tried!
This festival was on our bucket-list and so a group of eight of us decided “Let’s go!”
The only problem here was, I don’t drink beer! I cannot stand the stuff! Ah well, I will figure something out, I won’t let this small factor stop me from having a good time!
Ideally we all wanted to all be in the same accommodation and were able to find an apartment in a suburb close to the centre of Munich via Home Away holiday rentals, plus it cost less than a hotel. WINNER! The apartment was comfortable, near to the local U-bahn train station and the owner was very friendly and welcoming. Local amenities were also not far away which was a great help, and I was particularly fond of the plastic & can return policy!
Let the beer-drinking commence!!
On the morning of Oktoberfest, research had told us that if you want to get a seat at a table, you need to arrive early. We caught an 8am tram to Theresienwiese where the event is held every year, but if you are unsure where to go once the train stops, just follow the streams of people (probably dressed in Bavarian outfits) alternatively just ask anyone!
It seemed appropriate that we should follow suit and donned our outfits with pride (even if we did feel a little foolish! We were sober and it was early in the day!) – unfortunately a couple of us looked more like Christmas elves than Bavarians thanks to eBay!
Entry into Oktoberfest and all beer-tents is free, and with the majority of tents open to serve beer from 10am (they often close before 11am due to overfilling, Saturday’s is the busiest day), you will need to queue – well, I say you queue, but this all goes out the window when the doors open! The orderly queue turns into a rugby scrum with people rushing towards the entrance in a bid to find a place at a table! The rule here is no-seat-no-service.
Our first tent was Schützen-Festzelt which had a seating capacity of 5,100 - but we couldn’t get a table – all of them had either been claimed by the earlier queuing scrum or were already reserved.
We were stuck, we didn’t know what to do!
Never fear .... Dave is here and the savvy waiter asked us if we needed a table. He offered for us to sit in his serving area of reserved tables on the proviso that we were out by mid-day (this was when his guests would arrive).
We readily agreed – this gave us two hours!! It worked out perfectly for us – we got a table and Dave would get tips for the first two hours of his otherwise empty shift, so everyone was a happy bunny!
Tables can seat 10 people and two Americans were also looking for a seat – here at Oktoberfest, everyone is your friend so they joined us for the merry occasion.
Dave took our order “10 beers please” – well that was easy enough ... except I don’t like beer – never have, and I was about to find out if I ever would!
We watched with amazement as Dave carried five one-litre steins of beer in one hand and five in the other – and all the waiters were doing this, men and women!! To give you an idea of the weight, I had to pick up my stein with two hands like a child holding a sippy-cup!!
Don’t try and take this iconic stein with you as a souvenir... security are very hot on checking bags as you leave and they will remove it from you!! This is considered theft!
It was a jovial affair; people walked around selling pretzels and doughnuts, everyone drunk their cold, refreshing, tasty beer then ordered some more ... except me, I wasn’t enjoying the beer!!
By the end of the two hours, most people were slurring from the consumption of their beers but my original one litre was now warm ... I needed a hand to finish it! Oh dear, this could be a loooooooong day!
Stepping out of the first tent into the madness
As we exited the tent – wow! The place had come alive and looked totally different from a couple of hours ago! All the stalls were open selling souvenirs, bratwurst (traditional German sausage in a crusty roll), and there were thousands of people wandering around going in and out of colourfully decorated tents, you could even pay for a horse and carriage ride!
In this tent, we thought we would find out what was happening inside where all the entertainment takes place! Even though you cannot sit down inside the tent, there is nothing stopping you having a wander around – I am so glad we did! The place was so alive with drunken, happy revellers standing on wooden benches, swaying and singing, hugging and singing – basically lots of singing to the local songs, and it was loud – very loud, there were around 6,000 people chattering & singing along to the live band!
We had read that the Hofbrau Festzelt tent is the most famous and sought-after by foreign students and backpackers. It has a total seating capacity of 7,000 and when we walked through the guide rope, we were hard-pushed to find a table (I’m sounding like a stuck record now!). We scoured the outside area for anyone that was showing signs of leaving and hurrah! We were in luck again ... a group of people were standing up to walk away, so we politely dived onto their table and claimed our spot!
We didn’t feel the same drunk-but-relaxed vibe in this tent as we had elsewhere, there was more tension, people were no where near as friendly and there was an uncomfortable atmosphere, even the staff and security guards were rude and surly. Maybe it was because more foreign people are here with a view to drinking as much as humanly possible so the local element felt a little lost, or maybe it was because it was simply lunchtime and everyone needed a break from drinking and were in need of food to soak up some of that beer!
So what do you do when you are hungry and want food? There are a couple of choices, you can either order something from one of the tents as menus are laid out on the table. The main food served is bratwust sausages or half chickens with potatoes but for vegetarians you can order pumpkin or potato soup … and don’t forget you can buy fresh pretzels! If you wanted a breather in between tents (and a break from drinking!), you can wander around the many stalls and take your pick from bratwurst, pork knuckle, chicken, pizza, pancakes or giant cookies. For vegetarians, there is Spätzle (a type of egg noodle or dumpling similar to gnocchi).
As night fell, the beautiful lights of the tents, stalls and fairground made for a very pretty sight ... and that is when we stumbled across the very small Kufflers’ Weinzelt – which sells wine and champagne!! THIS IS MY DRINK!! THIS IS WHAT I LIKE!!! Typical – we found it towards the end of the day but we still had to stop here, it had to be done!
I mentioned the fairground – it is more like a theme park with white-knuckle drop rides, fun bumper cars, carousels, and candy-floss stands a-plenty! So if you don’t drink or are too young, there is plenty of entertainment for the entire family in the grounds without actually going into the tents, in fact, Tuesdays are family days at Oktoberfest with all rides & performances discounted from 12 noon to 6 pm
Overall, I am glad we went to Oktoberfest. I wouldn’t come to this particular one again as we have now done it, but I would consider going to another elsewhere in Germany as these events are held Countrywide.
I would definitely recommend Oktoberfest to anyone, in fact I believe you should ADD it to your bucket list and make a trip … including people who don’t drink beer!!
What is there to do in & around Munich apart from Oktoberfest?
- English Garden – this is a large and beautiful park in the middle of the City (its size rivals London's Hyde Park and New York's Central Park!). You can either take a horse and carriage ride around the park or hire bikes and cycle or merely take a leisurely stroll. In the centre of the park you will find a Chinese pagoda-style tower and, on the weekends, a brass band performs live from the first floor. It is also a lovely beer garden with tables and food stalls selling excellent local food, which I can vouch for.
- River surfing is at the edge of the English Garden – locals don their wetsuits & surfboards and literally surf the artificial stream that runs through the park – it’s fascinating to watch.
- Take a City cycling tour as it boasts bike-friendly streets and scenic cycle routes.
- The Museum Brandhorst cost only 1 euro entrance fee on a Sunday and is home to work by Andy Warhol and Damien Hirst plus many others.
- Explore Munich Old Town –consider a 2 hour City walking tour to see the churches, monuments & museums.
- St Peter’s Church Tower (in the Old Town) – walk up the 306 steps for a fabulous view of the City.
- Take a hop-on-hop-off City Sightseeing Tour bus and visit the old Olympic Stadium Park or the Nymphenburg Palace (a Baroque masterpiece).
- Like your football? Do a tour of FC Bayern’s football ground.
- The famous “fairytale” Castle of Neuschwanstein is only two hours away in the village of Hohenschwangau nr Füssen, you can either book a trip or catch a super-efficient train and DIY.
Oktoberfest & travel Facts
- Flying to Munich is easy and offered by various low-budget airlines- for Oktoberfest, be sure to book early!!
- Public transport is easy and you have an option to buy bulk train/tram tickets for the duration of the stay. There are two options to travel around either by suburban train ("S-Bahn"), or underground ("U-Bahn").
- Two trips on public transport is about 3.00 Euro = 6.00 Euro return to the festival
- If the weather is nice, if it is a weekend and if there are more than say five of you – GET HERE EARLY!! Oktoberfest becomes very, very busy so don’t leave it until 5pm on a Saturday afternoon thinking you will get a seat as you may be disappointed!
- The “best tent” is debateable as it depends on what you are looking for, so I would say the “best tent” is the one where you can get a seat!
- The average cost of a one-litre stein is 11 euros and only cash is accepted (one litre is the equivalent of nearly 2 pints!)
- If you tip your waiter/waitress at the start, you can almost guarantee a good service from here onwards. Usually the tip is around 10% of the beer or food.
- Food is served in the tents with a basic menu to choose from, alternatively there are plenty of food stalls outside - but if you leave, you will lose your seat!
- A bratwurst sausage from a stall is about 5 euros and they must be tried!! Lovely!
- You can visit the Oktoberfest festival as many times during your stay as you wish (or are able!). If you wish to leave the grounds during the day and return in the evening, that is fine!
- A full-tent means a closed-tent and when they reach maximum capacity, security will put up a sign which states no one else can enter for the moment. When people leave and space becomes available, they will re-open. If you find yourself in this situation, you can either queue (which we saw people doing) and wait a short while, or you can wander around and find another tent – there are plenty to choose from!
- Officially there are morning and afternoon sessions (although it appeared to us that a “session” was just all day), so it’s advised to get here early. After 3pm, especially on a weekend, it does get extremely busy.
- There are various toilet blocks situated near the tents but you will need to remember that the later it is in the day, more beer has been consumed, more people will need the facilities so you may need to queue for 5, 10 or even 20 minutes!!
- Tents stop serving beer about 10.30pm
Why is it named "Oktoberfest" when it begins in September?
The first Oktoberfest was held in the year 1810 in honour of the Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig's marriage to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen. The festivities began on 12 October ending 17 October with a horse race. In the following years, the celebrations were repeated and, later, the festival was prolonged but the weather conditions weren’t that great. So the festivities were moved forward into September and by doing so, it allowed for warmer nights enabling visitors to enjoy the gardens outside the tents!