Energy in Munich during Oktoberfest is palpable, everyone seems to be buzzing with excitement. Known to most Americans as a fun drinking festival, Oktoberfest is so much more than getting your drink on with hundreds of strangers.
Oktoberfest is unlike any other festival I’ve been to, in large part, because attendees really embrace the celebration’s traditions. People dressed in traditional Bavarian clothing- Dirndls for the women and Lederhosen for the men- outnumber those in regular clothes, and traditions dating back to the early years are still very much so observed.
5 Reasons to Plan a Trip to Oktoberfest
Oktoberfest began with the wedding of Bavarian Prince Ludwig to princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. The celebration was so much fun it was repeated at the same time the following year, marking the birth of the “October-festivals”. Today, Oktoberfest is the largest festival in the world, attracting more than 6 million visitors.
Continuing a long-established tradition, the first keg is tapped by the Mayor of Munich, and the first beer is given to the Minister-President of Bavaria.
The dress also makes Oktoberfest what it is- Dirndl and Lederhosen are everywhere. It’s not mandatory to wear traditional Bavarian clothing, but it is one of the best parts of the festival.
PS. Locals don’t call it Oktoberfest, they refer to it as “Wiesn”, which stems from the festival’s history. 😉
The Decor & Entertainment
Each tent at Oktoberfest has its own character. We loved going tent-to-tent one morning and checking out the range of decor, all of the decorations are connected to Bavarian history and culture.
Each tent also has a lively traditional band in the center of it, which usually alternates German drinking songs and pop classics throughout the day (music selection depends on which tent you’re seated in).
On the weekends, the tents are known close early as a result of overcrowding. We went on a Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. Tuesday and Wednesday, we had no problem getting into tents- although, unreserved seats became more challenging to find after 5 pm. On Friday however, we arrived at noon and were surprised to find the tents already packed- would definitely go early morning if you’re there on a Saturday or Sunday.
Aside from tent decor, Oktoberfest also has a large number of carnival rides. Whether you take a spin on the Ferris Wheel or take on one of the more thrilling options, you’re sure to have a fun time.
While planning our trip, a lot of people warned me I’d have a hard time finding good eats at Oktoberfest as a vegetarian. If you come to the festival expecting to adhere to any kind of diet (vegetarian, Paleo, Gluten-Free, etc.), chances are you’re going to have a tough time. But, if you come and just try to enjoy it for what it is, you’ll be fine. I had cheese spaetzle and pretzels for all of my Oktoberfest meals and loved it. And, most of the menus had a number of other vegetarian options, salads included.
If you’re not a vegetarian, the sky is the limit- whole chickens, bratwurst, ox, duck, German potato salad, schnitzel and so on. The festival desserts are also great- crepes, chocolate covered fruits on a skewer, fried dough and more indulgent noms.
The beer at Oktoberfest isn’t just any beer. Beer served during the festival has be from one of Munich’s six breweries- Paulaner, Spaten, Hacker-Pschorr, Augustiner, Hofbräu, and Löwenbräu, and has a 6% higher alcohol content than regular beer. It’s also only available during Oktoberfest. I’m not a huge beer drinker (much bigger fan of red wine and whiskey), but drinking beer at Oktoberfest felt special.
The majority of the people around you are Bavarians, and it’s awesome. It may be the abundance of alcohol, or the close quarters, but Oktoberfest is the perfect place to meet people from all over the world.
One of the things I loved about the festival was the camaraderie- if someone sees you looking for a seat, it’s likely they’ll squeeze together to make room.
And while some of the Bavarians we met didn’t speak much English, we still had a blast drinking, singing and dancing with them. They also went out of their way to introduce us to other Americans, because, friendship. 🙂
One more thing…
I’m working on a complete guide to Oktoberfest, which will be posted in the next few weeks. But, some people advise against visiting Munich during Oktoberfest because they don’t feel you’ll see the best of the city when it’s overcrowded and in celebration mode.
Albeit this was my first visit to Munich, I feel differently. Ultimately, how much time you spend at Oktoberfest is entirely up to you. We went three days, but only for a part of each day (twice in the morning/early afternoon, once in the late evening, and once late afternoon through the evening). When we weren’t at the festival, we were exploring other parts of the city or Bavaria.
Is visiting Munich during Oktoberfest more expensive than any other time of the year? Yes. But, we found a great lodging deal on an Airbnb and connecting flights by planning months in advance. We also went to Munich Tuesday-Friday, so the city and festival were both less crowded than they are during the weekends. If anything, I felt like Oktoberfest only enhanced our perception of Munich, and made me eager to return to both the city and festival one day.
Have you ever been to Oktoberfest? If so, would you go again?