Oktoberfest in Munich
For those who want to experience Oktoberfest in all its glory, here is everything you need to know about this unique festival.
The abundance of German beer is the most well-known element of Oktoberfest. This is unsurprising since beer, for centuries, has been an important part of the cultural heritage of both Munich and Bavaria.
The name Munich comes from the word München, meaning “home of the monks.” In the year 725, Saint Korbinian, along with 12 traveling companions, founded a Benedictine monastery. By 768, a hops garden had been established in the grounds and the resident monks set about honing their craft, making some of the finest beer around.
Over the centuries, the city became a valuable trading center, leading to the development of local institutions like libraries, museums, and exhibits, many of which are still in use today.
One of Munich’s most unique points is how the city was rebuilt after World War II. Unlike other regions in Germany, who razed their damaged buildings to the ground to start afresh, the citizens of Munich decided to restore what was left to its former glory. Today, visitors can enjoy many historic buildings that would otherwise have been replaced.
OKTOBERFEST - ROOTS AND ORIGINS
The original Oktoberfest happened over 200 years ago in 1810. The Crown Prince Ludwig (who later became King) married Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. The wedding took place on October 12th, and for days afterwards, the locals were invited to eat, drink and be merry, and enjoy parades involving kettle drums and music, shooting displays and a horse race around a meadow on the edge of town. Such a good time was had by all that it was decided to stage the race (and the accompanying indulgences) every year.
This year marks the 186th year of the festival, making it one of the oldest continuous celebrations in Europe.
Some interesting facts about Oktoberfest:
• Albert Einstein worked as part of the setup crew for Oktoberfest in 1896.
• The only beer served comes from Munich breweries as a celebration of Bavarian traditions.
• The fields where Oktoberfest is held is named after Ludwig’s wife. They are called the Theresienwiese (Therese’s fields).
• Since 1950, the festival officially begins when the mayor of Munich offers the first beer to the Minister-President of Bavaria. Until then, no one can raise their glass.
• Over six million people visit Oktoberfest each year, making it the largest outdoor festival in the world.
• In 2011, the record for most beer consumed was set with a staggering 7.5 million pints.
• Although Oktoberfest is internationally recognized, more than 80% of visitors are still local Germans.
When is Oktoberfest?
The name of this festival is a bit misleading. While the first Oktoberfest took place in October, the locals changed the starting date to mid- September to capitalise on the warm weather. In 2019, the dates for Oktoberfest are 21st September to 6th October.
Although the festival takes place at the beginning of autumn, the conditions are usually pleasant and warm enough for sitting outside in one of the many beer gardens. Occasionally, it may rain, but most of the festivities are under cover. The nights can get a little cold, so bring some extra layers just in case.
- Dress Code
Many festival-goers wear casual clothes. However, for those feeling the Bavarian spirit, traditional Oktoberfest clothing is a must. For men, this means wearing lederhosen and a hat. For women, the dress is called a drindl, made up of a blouse, an apron, and a bodice.
To avoid fighting the crowds, arrive early to the Theresienwiese. However, beer is usually served after 12, so plan accordingly. There are many different tents, food stalls, and rides to experience, and each of them can get filled up fast. Plan a route ahead.
For many visitors, experiencing such a large and crowded event can be a bit overwhelming. We suggest the following tips to ensure that everything goes smoothly.
- Pack light.
Large bags are not allowed in the festival so only bring essentials.
- Bring cash.
Although many tents accept cards, cash is usually preferred. Also, cards are not allowed at all stands, so it helps to have a backup.
- Agree on meeting spots
Oktoberfest is best celebrated with friends, but not everyone will stay together. Plan meeting times and locations in advance to ensure no one gets left behind.
- Budget more than anticipated
Oktoberfest can be expensive, with beers and attractions costing between 9-12 euros each. Also, plan on buying souvenirs to take home.
- Keep a steady pace
It’s easy to overdo it at Oktoberfest. Best to think of it as a marathon, not a sprint.
What to Do in Munich Outside of Oktoberfest
Munich is one of Germany’s crown jewels, thanks to its rich history and Bavarian culture. When most people think of old-fashioned German architecture, food, and experiences, Munich is at the heart of it all. The city has a perfect blend of tradition and modern aesthetics, making it a fascinating place to visit.
Although Oktoberfest is the most well-known attraction in Munich, the city still has plenty to offer, meaning that travelers can expand their horizons without having to go far.
FOOD AND DRINK
This massive farmers’ market boasts the best local produce and home-cooked food that the city has to offer. Some of the best cheeses, beer, and soft pretzels can be found here, meaning that tourists can experience the taste of Bavaria all in one place. A few of the notable foods available here and elsewhere in Munich include:
- Bavarian Pretzel - the original soft pretzel originated in this region. It pairs well with stoneground mustard and/or a local beer.
- Hot Chocolate - for those with a sweet tooth, the Italian-style hot chocolate served in local cafes is a delicious treat.
- Kaiserschmarrn - named after Kaiser Franz Joseph I, this dessert is akin to a shredded pancake, covered in powdered sugar and served with local fruit preserves.
- Duck, Dumpling, and Cabbage - a traditional German meal enjoyed throughout the region.
The city is dotted with various beer gardens and pubs. One of the most notable is Park Café, where locals dine on the best of Munich, as well as take in live shows and entertainment. There’s also a nightclub for those wanting to see in the early hours.
For those looking to be at one with nature, the mountains are remarkably close. Whether it’s a day trip or a multi-day excursion, visitors can climb and explore to their heart’s content. Be sure to ride the cable car to get a magnificent view of the area. Many visitors like to go to the AlpspiX, a large viewing platform situated over 1,000 feet above the ground.
Olympic Stadium and Village
One of Munich’s claims to fame is the 1972 Olympics. Although the event was marred by terrorists, the remains of the Olympic structures are still a testament to German engineering and ingenuity.
Kunstareal (Art District)
The city is home to many avant-garde artists, and Kunstareal, known as the ‘Museum Quarter’, is the best place to see their work on display. Some of Southern Germany’s finest art museums can be found here, showcasing pieces which are both captivating and inspiring.