The month is October. The year is 2008. Yours truly had ventured to Germany on her first ever solo trip. I was nervous about travelling solo but a friend recommended it so I figured, “Why not? Let’s give this a try.” I arrived on October 2nd in Munich, Germany a bit apprehensive. I had spent the previous six months learning German, even though I was told most spoke English which was true, so I was ready to let loose.
I had planned my entire trip before I left. I was more comfortable having all my hotels booked in advance since this would be my first solo trip. Due to expense, I only planned on staying in Munich for two days during Oktoberfest. I would return three weeks later after my tour of Germany to spend a few more days before I flew back home to Canada.
Oktoberfest is incredibly expensive. Prices double or increase dramatically. I found a nice hotel near the main train station and not far from the Oktoberfest grounds. I would stay in this hotel for both of my Munich stays; the second stay say the price drop by 100 euros. Yes that is crazy. No I was not prepared to stay in a hostel. This was my first overseas trip alone and I wanted the security of a hostel. Plus, I’ve never been keen on hostels. In fact, I have never stayed in one. I do not plan to in the near future. Maybe….if I ever do a long-term travel.
I made my way to Oktoberfest and man it was crazy. Thousands of people milling around; many dressed up in lederhosen or dirndl. It was delightful and made me wish that I had come dressed up. Next time for sure. I did make my way into a few tents but they were packed and not a spare seat. I wandered around, found a few stand-up bars on the grounds, drank a few beer with some lovely Austrians and had a great time.
Even wonder why the Germans get together for a fun and beer filled two weeks? No, it is not to celebrate the deliciousness that is beer. That would be a reasonable deduction but there is a long history associated with Oktoberfest.
Crown Prince Ludwig, later King Ludwig I, married Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen October 12, 1810. The citizens of Munich were invited to the festivities in the fields near the city gates. This field would later be renamed Theresienwiese to honor the Crown Princess. The event was repeated the following year. In subsequent years, it was prolonged and moved to September due to weather.
1. Book your table – I figured because I was travelling solo, I would find an empty seat no problem; that was not the case. Those tents are packed full. Book your table AND book early – that is my Oktoberfest tip numero uno! My guess is at least six months in advance or maybe more. You will not get served in the tents if you are not at a table.
You have to book directly with the tents. Oktoberfest’s website is not the best so you will have to click around quite a bit to find the contact information for each tent. When I return, I will probably book with the Augustiner tent. Augustiner is my favorite beer, ever! And sadly, I cannot get it anywhere else but Munich. I have found other Oktoberfest/Munich beers in Canada but it is very rare. 🙁
2. Timing – Do NOT go the last weekend of Oktoberfest (which is the first weekend of October). My dates simply worked out this way so I was there during the German national holiday (German Unity Day) and Oktoberfest is absolutely packed crazy. My second day in Munich landed on the holiday and it was almost impossible to get into the Oktoberfest tents, the grounds or hell, even any of the beerhouses in the city. It was nuts. Remember that Oktoberfest starts in mid-September and ends the first weekend of October.
3. Research – Before booking any tents, research which ones you want to be in. They are not all the same. You may be required to book a table of 10 even if your party is not that large or buy vouchers for food and drink in advance. Each tent is different.
4. Winging it – Yes I was able to get into the tents but could not find a seat. I had gone quite late in the day so if you do not want to book a table, go earlier in the day to snag a seat for yourself or your group. If you get into a tent, DO NOT LEAVE IT. You do not want to lose your table.
5. Accommodation – Just like booking a table in the tents, book your accommodation just as early. In fact, it may be necessary to do it earlier. I booked my hotel in February and the selection was limited. So the earlier is always the better in the case of Oktoberfest!
6. Drink up and have fun – Don’t be an idiot and chug the beer. That is ONE LITRE of drink (ein Maß) and you will be a sloppy drunk in no time, just like this little fella above. Enjoy the festivities: the singing, the dancing and the cheering and toasting (Prost). You will catch on to the drinking songs after an hour or two. If you are worried you will not be able to follow along, practice before you go. It is lots of fun singing German drinking songs while throwing back a litre of beer. 🙂
7. Explore the City – Take time out from the beer to visit Munich. It is a fantastic city with many beautiful churches and museums. It would be a shame to just go to Munich for the beer (yes it is damn tasty)!
That is my top Oktoberfest tips. It is a great trip to take and I highly recommend that you visit Munich and Oktoberfest. I plan on returning on at some point but with a large group, see my Travel Bucket List for more details!