Every year from the last two weeks of September until the first weekend in October, millions of people descend upon Munich for one of the world’s biggest parties for beer lovers – Oktoberfest. Unmatched in reputation... ... read more
Every year from the last two weeks of September until the first weekend in October, millions of people descend upon Munich for one of the world’s biggest parties for beer lovers – Oktoberfest. Unmatched in reputation, Oktoberfest (often called d’Wiesn for short) is essentially a massive carnival featuring amusement park rides, games, arcades, and gallons and gallons of some of the world’s best beer. What began in 1810 as a celebration of the royal wedding between Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese has grown into an annual event with millions of German and foreign attendees celebrating Bavarian culture, food, music, history, and beer.
The actual partying at Oktoberfest takes place in the beer tents, although the word “tent” can be misleading since they are actually large wooden structures complete with kitchens, bathrooms, and space enough for thousands of merry revelers. More than a dozen Oktoberfest tents cater to different crowds and include the Hofbräu tent, which is notoriously touristy but is also considered the rowdiest and most eventful. By contrast, the Augustiner tent draws a slightly older crowd that loves the blasting Bavarian music. Locals consider this tent the best mainly because it serves Augustiner, an old local brew dating to the thirteenth century and the preferred beer of Munich’s denizens.
Despite all the history Oktoberfest celebrates, the event is truly about drinking beer, and it must be said that most people come to the festival to get drunk. With so many people coming together for the same purpose – singing, dancing, and over-indulging in strong beer – there’s no doubt that Oktoberfest is one of the biggest and wildest parties on the planet.
To add to the over-the-top atmosphere, each tent features a live Bavarian band clad in lederhosen that leads the crowd in singing and dancing to traditional drinking songs. Attractive young waitresses dressed in dirndls skillfully serve stein-laden trays to the revelers, not to mention plates heaped with Bavarian foods like brezen (enormous freshly-baked pretzels), würstl (sausage), and sauerkraut (fermented cabbage).
Because of the masses of visitors who swarm the city for Oktoberfest, it is imperative to plan a visit months in advance, and to be sure to budget wisely since beer, food, and accommodations don’t come cheap. Even small hotels in the suburbs fill up quickly, so the only way to stay close to the center of Munich during Oktoberfest is to reserve early. As for the tents themselves, each one has a large capacity but a limited number of seats – and since drinks are only served to people in seats, finding a spot in a tent is vital to the overall Oktoberfest experience.
Tents are generally open from 10am to 10:30pm on weekdays and from 9am to 10:30pm on weekends, but seats usually fill up by 3 or 4pm. It’s a little easier to find a spot during the week, but on the weekends, Oktoberfest partiers will arrive as early as 7am to line up outside the tents. Admission is free, but some reservations require the purchase of beer/food vouchers, which can cost €25 to €40.
Although attending Oktoberfest may involve a bit of effort in terms of advance planning and dealing with increased prices, that effort is paid back in spades. From indulging in world-class beers and traditional cuisine to singing Bavarian songs and clinking steins with the masses, Munich’s Oktoberfest offers a unique experience that allows revelers to let loose at one of the most outrageous communal parties in the world.