Known to be the ‘world’s largest people’s fair’, Oktoberfest is a festival celebrated all over the world, however nowhere does it better than its birthplace, Munich. This 16 day beer-a-thon kicked off last weekend (Saturday, 22 September, yes not in October) and will see more than six million visitors chugging down around seven million litres of beer and devouring up to 140,000 pairs of sausages and 500,000 chickens.
I had an amazing time in Munich, however I can’t help regret a few things. This includes spending one day at the festival, arriving late, not seeing all the tents and missing my ride back to the hostel (which I forget the name and address), dumb move! I suppose it’s these mistakes you learn from and gives you an excuse to revisit.
To make the most of your visit check out these handy tips and hints:
Give yourself several days in Munich…
Why travel all the way to Germany for Oktoberfest and not spend several days getting amongst it. With 14 tents, numerous events and carnival rides and potentially six million people to meet. My biggest mistake was only allocating a day to attend. Definitely not enough time to scratch the surface, plus the city of Munich deserves a few days to get to know.
This isn’t the occasion to be late, arrive early!
The phrase “early bird, catches the worm” very much applies for Oktoberfest. I recommend you arrive early and I don’t mean 12pm, more like 10.30am on weekdays or 9.30am on weekends. With an average of 375,000 people per day and only 100,000 seats, you can see why tents fill up fast. My favourite beer halls were the Hippodrom, Hofbräuhaus and Hacker Pschorr.
Open hours are from 10am to 11.30pm (Mon-Fri) and 9am to 11.30pm (Sat-Sun), with last call at 10.30pm.
Take money out before you arrive…
Don’t be me and think “Hey I’ll just withdrawal money when I get there, it’ll be fine”. Ah wrong! Standing in a queue, reminiscent of a ride opening at Disneyland, it was an extremely frustrating experience. Especially when I could see hordes of jolly-old revellers heading in and out of the beer halls.
Hint: Take cash out before you arrive because most tents only accept cash.
Be a social butterfly and talk to as many people as you can…
With 14 different tents, seating between 4,000 to 11,000 people, there is no escaping your inner social butterfly. Add copious litres of beer into the equation and there will be a lot of cheerful people to get to know. As nearly 70 percent of attendees are from Bavaria, 15 percent from remaining Germany and 15 percent from Europe, Australia, Canada and the US, you’re bound to speak to many different countrymen.
Hint: Learn the German beer-drinking song, “Ein Prosit – “A toast to you”, which is played every 10-15 minutes at most tents. The locals will like you better for making the effort, and ladies you’re sure to get a few winks.
Pace yourself and don’t become a beer corpse…
Avoid becoming a beer corpse (those revellers found past out on/ near the grounds of Oktoberfest), due to excess and fast drinking. As celebrations kick off as early as 9am up until 11.30pm, you start to understand why pacing yourself is necessary. In addition, breweries make their Oktoberfest beer stronger than normal around 6-7 percent alcohol and with each stein a litre, it’s easy to get carried away. If you want to enjoy and remember your festival experience I recommend staying within your limits. Also don’t forget to drink some water!
Hint: Avoid keeping up with the locals, it may seem fun at first but they’ll drink you under the table.
Do some initial research and plan your attack…
With so many people it’s easy to stay at one tent the entire time. Particularly, when securing an unreserved table is near to impossible unless booked or arriving early. Therefore it’s essential to research which of the 14 tents you want to spend most of your time at. Once decided, look at reserving a table (they seat at least 10 people) and this can be done with the tent landlord. If unable to get a booking this way try a tour operator or your Munich accommodation provider, they often buy tickets for guests. Otherwise if you’re in a small group (1 to 3 people) then you have a better chance to get a seat. Just be happy, chatty and charming and someone will take you in.
Hint: Book a table well in advance and same goes for your accommodation.
For a list of beer tents click here
Dress as the German’s do…
Get into the spirit and pay homage to traditional German and Bavarian attire at Oktoberfest. For the ladies it’s those cute dresses called ‘dirndl’ (and don’t forget the braids) and for the gentlemen it’s a ‘lederhosen’. Don’t be hesitant because there will be thousands of people all dressed up.
Hint: Avoid purchasing outfits when you arrive or at nearby vendors. They are usually made cheaply and are overpriced. I recommend buying an outfit online such as eBay and taking it with you.
Forget your diet and eat like there is no tomorrow…
This isn’t the time or place to be on a diet because if you calorie count you’ll be horrified.
Here’s why – A brief guide to how fatty Oktoberfest can be:
Mass of Beer 470 calories
Bratwurst 345 calories
Pretzel 230 calories
Wies’n Hendl 400 calories
Last year I had around six beer steins, two bratwurst sausages and a pretzel bigger than my head. Overall, total calorie count was 3,740, that’s nearly twice the recommended daily intake. No wonder why I came back home chubbier than my arrival.
Have you been to Munich for Oktoberfest? If so, do you have any regrets?