As I mentioned in my previous post, celebrating Oktoberfest is one of the highlights of my year. I’ve partaken in this over 200-year-old tradition in several cities, but the absolute best was the year that I traveled with a group of friends to Munich for three days of beer, sun, and lederhosen.
If this is on your bucket list, then may I present to you my ten tips for surviving and thriving at Munich’s Oktoberfest.
1. Book accommodations early: And by early, I mean right now. Oktoberfest traditionally starts in the third week of September and ends the first Sunday in October, and accommodations in the city centre book up early in the year. Ideally, you should look to book your hostel, hotel, or B&B for the coming year‘s festival soon after New Year’s.
2. Don’t neglect your training: You’ve got a big job ahead of you – drink all the beer. The six traditional breweries of Oktoberfest (Spaten, Augustiner, Paulaner, Löwenbräu, Hofbräu, Hacker-Pschorr, ) all make stronger, preservative-free versions of their beer for the occasion, so you won’t feel quite so terrible if you do overdo it on the first day. Still, it’s important to gather with friends in the months leading up to your trip to build up your tolerance. Remember, practice makes perfect!
3. Fly into a major centre, then take the train: Flying directly into Munich tends to be more expensive, and there are fewer flights to choose from. A better option is to fly into more major centre, such as Frankfurt or Berlin, and then take the train south to Munich. For me, the chance to take in the beautiful German countryside and the extra money in my pocket more than made up for the extra travel time.
4. Build a good base: Wilkommen Oktoberfest! Before you head out for your first day on the Theresienwiese – the open space that serves as the Munich festival grounds – it’s important to eat a good meal. You might be tempted to neglect breakfast in favour of having more room in your stomach for beer, but you’ll feel much better at the end of the day if you eat a proper meal first!
5. Get there early: You need a seat to get a beer – the servers will only bring you food and drinks if you’re seated. Tables fill up fast in the various beer halls (each of which is dedicated to a particular brewery), so get in line at least half an hour before the opening
6. Order is important: You’ve had a solid breakfast; you’ve taken your seat – well done! But the order of what follows is crucial. Start with a beer. Then enjoy the radishes that will be on offer. Only then should you order another beer. After that, get yourself a succulent Hendl (roast chicken). Then another beer, and repeat. This will ensure you keep up your stamina.
7. See the sights: Munich is an absolutely beautiful city. Make sure to take some time away from the beer halls and take advantage of one of the pay-what-you-can city tours. I’ve gone with Sandeman’s New Europe tours several times, and have found the guides to be really well-versed in the history of their city, as well as friendly and accommodating. On average, I think I’ve paid about 5€ for the “free” two-to-three hour tours, and usually I like the guides so much that I end up paying another 10€ to go on their more formal tours.
8. Eat your vegetables: This will be a challenge. You’ll be surrounded by meat, meat, and more meat. And the odd dumpling. In a pinch, there is a McDonald’s not far from the festival grounds; go get yourself a salad. Your body will thank you. My friends and I also had some of the best Thai food ever while in Munich, including a venison dish that the waiter promised would “make you a man”.
9. Personal safety is important: As anywhere, keep an eye on your drink. For additional peace of mind, there are also a number of free and low-cost mobile apps available that will alert your emergency contacts or social network if you find yourself in a situation that feels unsafe. Elle.com has published a guide to several of these apps that is worth checking out.
10. Talk to strangers: Make a point to talk to the people around you in the beer halls, and build your network of fun locals and friendly foreigners.
What are some of the best travel tips you’ve received? And what are your go-to apps when you’re on the road?