Oktoberfest might be one of the biggest parties in the world. Located in München (Munich - Germany), the 16-day festival routinely attracts over 6 million visitors that make 71,000 hectoliters of beer poured.
The festival's origin can be found in 1810, when Bavaria's Prince Ludwig married Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen on October 12th but the soiree lasted for five days of Munich-wide celebrations. After two centuries of practice, Munich has perfected the world’s biggest festival turning it in a 16-day celebration that attracts tourist from all over the world.
Oktoberfest nowadays starts in September for practical reasons since the weather in Germany is better in September, and the nights are not so chilly. Historically, the last Oktoberfest weekend was always celebrated in October, and this tradition continues until today.
But Oktoberfest is more than drinking beer; it includes music, roller coasters, fun rides, Ferris wheels, and parades to enjoy for young, old and the one who don't like beer that much.
One of the most interesting parts of the Oktoberfest are the tradtional Bavarian costumes: Dirndl and lederhosen. Lederhosen and the dirndl emerged from the peasant farming communities of Bavaria, where they were first adopted in the 16th century, to gain wider appeal and cultural acceptance. Going to Oktoberfest without this traditional costume is like going to a Halloween party wearing jeans and a t-shirt.
I, for instance, felt quite unconfortable without wearing a costume.
Among the many attractions, the "liquid gold" is probably the most important thing at the Oktoberfest. Beer will be sold for 10€ in the tents from 10.00 to 22.30 on weekdays and from 9.00 to 22.30 on saturdays, sundays and holidays.
The main Bavarian breweries have all a beertent inside Oktoberfest, here's a list of them:
- Augustiner: Augustiner-Festhalle, Fischer-Vroni
- Paulaner: Armbrustschützenzelt, Winzerer Fähndl, Käfer's Wies'n Schänke
- Spaten-Franziskaner: Hippodrom, Schottenhammel, Ochsenbraterei/Spatenbräu-Festhalle
- Löwenbräu: Schützen-Festzelt, Löwenbräu-Festhalle
- Hacker-Pschorr: Hacker-Festzelt, Bräurosl
- Hofbräu: Hofbräu Festzelt
Try to avoid the Paulaner tents since they are the most well-known abroad and inside you'll find only tourists. For this reason the experience you'll have will not be fantastic as the one you would have in a less "commercial" tent full of Germans who know all the songs by heart and will welcome you to celebrate with them in full Oktoberfest spirit.
The Oktoberfest has many tents in which to drink and eat. Besides the traditional, hearty fare, they also serve fun foods like potato pancakes, mushrooms cooked in wine, pretzels, currywurst and others.
Traditional candy and sweets such as like Gebrannte Mandeln (sugared almonds), Schmalzkuchen (donut holes), Black Forest cake and Apfelstrudel can be found all over the festival area.
In addition to Bratwurst and Weisswurst, one of the more famous meals served at Oktoberfest is Schweinehaxe, a crispy bit of ham hock served with Bratkartoffeln or potato salad.
Don't forget to ask for my favourite: Kartoffelknödel. This potato dumplings are a typical side dish with roasted and braised meats. And I love them.
Pro-tip: Don't even plan of entering a beer tent on Saturdays without a reservation or withouth going there early in the morning. You may have to wait more than 4 hours standing in a messy and infernal line, with all your bones and muscles squashed by thousands of tourists that, like you, want to enter at all costs. Go there on Sunday instead, the lack of tourists and, most of all, italians (that tend to exagerate with the celebrations) make the experience delightfully fun. Rembember: No seat means no service - and no service means beer.
Beyond Oktoberfest, when your stomach is full of beer, try to visit Munich for at least one afternoon.
Start with Marienplatz. The city’s main square, the Marienplatz (“Mary’s Square”) is central to most major tourist attractions in Munich. The first thing you'll notice is the gargoyle-heavy Gothic Revival New City Hall followed by the Old City Hall, the golden Mariensäule (“Mary’s Column”), and, of course, the Glockenspiel.
Other main attractions are the Viktualienmarkt, Munich's oldest outdoor market. Have a walk then towards Odeonsplatz, a large square in central Munich which was named after the former concert hall Odeon. Everyone who passed through Odeonsplatz during Hitler’s reign was forced to do the Nazi salute, which lead many to boycott the square altogether - bypassing it via a nearby alley. From here you can visit the rest of the Altstat. This is the center of Munich, surrounded by a ring of streets, it contains the city's most famous churches, beer halls, the Rathaus (City Hall), and museums. It's a perfect place to just stroll about.
Oktoberfest is one of those places to go at least once in your life. The best way to enjoy it is getting there early on Saturday (or even better on Friday evening), visit Munich on Saturday, a great city that requires at least a couple of days to explore fully, and head off to Oktoberfest on Sunday early in the morning migrating from tent to tent and realising all of your built up stress trough dancing, singing and of course drinking.