Newest Review: ... are semipermanent structures and do indeed have rafters) from about 11am any weekend day. The Hofbrau Festzelt , right in the middle of th... more
Oans, zwoa, drei, Gsuffa
Member Name: Andy.mack
Advantages: Beer, Food, Fun Fairs, Did I mention Beer
Disadvantages: Very very Crowded, Hard to get a seat
So how did Oktoberfest start? Well it originated back in 1810 as a celebration of the Wedding between Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Theresa of Saxony-Hildburghausen. After the wedding the Royal couple invited all the people of Munich to celebrate their wedding with them. Over the years the festival got bigger and bigger as the Munich breweries carried on the tradition. As time went by they enhanced the reputation and added to the festivities with the introduction of parades in 1887 to really kick things off.
The festival itself runs from the 16th September to the 3rd October every year. It's held quite close to the centre of Munich on the Theresienwiese (Theresa's Fields) in front of the city gates with the watchful statue of Lady Bavaria in the background. Getting to the site is simple enough with the U Bahn and S Bahn running quite close to the site. With the U Bahn there is actually a station that opens out onto the site at Theresienwiese station, but this does get very crowded. We chose instead to get the S Bahn from our hotel which stops at Hackerbrücke and it's only about a 5 minute walk from there to the site, made all the easier by following all the locals.
As you can imagine the festival site can get quite crowded and it's a very good job they have very wide streets up through the middle of all the tents. Entry to the festival and the Beer halls is free and anyone can turn up and just have a walk around the site, without necessarily partaking in any alcohol, but where would the fun be in that? The site consists of 14 Beer tents from Munich's biggest breweries set out along two streets, with a large funfair filling up the rest of the smaller roads to the back of the site. Mixed in amongst all this are numerous food stalls selling Bavarian specialities like Sausage and Roast Chicken and a number of souvenir stalls with official Oktoberfest merchandise and it's all quite reasonably priced.
The biggest challenge of Oktoberfest seems to be finding a seat inside one of the Beer Halls as it was incredibly busy, especially as it was the opening weekend. The best idea seemed to be to get there around the middle of the day as they open at around 10 but trying to keep a seat in one all day will prove difficult as generally after 4 or 5 hours you will be incredibly drunk. Each tent has a variety of live bands playing a mixture of traditional Bavarian Oompah music and more universally known tracks like "Let Me Entertain You" and "Sweet Home Alabama".
While each brewery has at least one tent, they also brew a special, stronger beer just for the occasion. The normal 5% beers aren't served on the site and instead they tend to go for something between 6 and 8% in content. So when you consider a litre (about 2 pints) stein is around €7 (£5) it's not too bad. All you have to do is find a table inside one of the Halls or in the beer gardens and someone will come and serve you. It can get quite busy and obviously the better tip you give them later in the day usually results in quicker service as it gets a lot busier. Of course one sure fire way to get a table in the evening is to book advance using the Munich tourist directory, which I've got a link to at the end. This makes it a much simpler way to get into the tent and ensure you have somewhere to enjoy the festivities.
Of course they don't just serve beer within these halls, there are also a number of meals, pretty similar to those available outside, available to eat in there as well. Although we didn't eat in these Halls there was the usual selection of Chicken and Sausage along with Sauerkraut and the famous Munich White sausage. The portions looked pretty reasonable, but as we didn't get a menu I couldn't actually tell you what the prices were like.
Obviously the main reason for Oktoberfest is to enjoy the traditionally brewed Bavarian beers there is something for everyone. During our first two days there they held a parade with all the breweries represented and as a showcase for the Bavarian national dress, something people in Bavaria are very proud of. These parades are only on the opening two days but are well worth seeing if you can be there on one of those days. If you miss them or can't make those days you'll still be able to enjoy the delights of the biggest funfair in Europe, scattered around the edges of the beer halls. There are some 200 rides and side attractions catering for all levels of thrill seekers, just watch what you drink before hand. The rides again are quite reasonably priced at around 2 - 4 Euros (£1.40 - £2.80).
Like all pubs the festival does have opening hours with Weekdays seeing the halls open from about 10 am till10.30pm and at Weekends opening an hour earlier at 9am. The bands are on for the whole day and finish at 10.30pm as well with the official kicking out time being 11.30pm, giving you an hour to finish up that last stein of beer before heading for a cramped train back to your hotel.
Having arrived there on the Saturday morning unsure of what exactly to expect it was like nothing I'd ever seen before. The streets are lined with these semi permanent structures filled with people drinking and having a good time, something we could never do in Britain without it resorting in a mass brawl, something that we didn't see happen at all over the weekend. For an event this size to be largely trouble free shows that the German police handled it right and it means everyone can have a worry free, good time.
Overall my opinion of Oktoberfest changed drastically over the weekend. Before I went it seemed like a decent weekend but wasn't sure quite how it could be done. Now sitting looking back on it I think it's a fantastic weekend that I will certainly be back to as regularly as I can. Even if drinking isn't really your thing, Munich has plenty of other attractions you could visit during the three weeks and also allow you to at least see what Oktoberfest is all about. It may not be as cheap as drinking in the beer halls in the centre but it's a totally different experience. My advice, get booked up for next year and go, it's well worth it.
Advance bookings: www.muenchen-tourist.de
Useful site for Hotels: www.hotel.de
Summary: Oktoberfest Munich, A yearly beer festival in the heart of Bavaria