Headed to Munich this fall? Or maybe you’re planning a trip for next September? I was lucky enough to make my way to Oktoberfest last year. And while drinking beer in Germany is as amazing as it sounds, Munich and the surrounding area has a ton to offer. So pack your bags – we’re headed to Bavaria, bitches!
Okay, so if you’re of legal drinking age, I’m sure you’ve headed to a bar during early autumn and had a few beers to celebrate this iconic drinking holiday. But in Germany, the homeland of this festival, Oktoberfest is so much more than that. Traditionally, this festival lasts two weeks, starting the third weekend in September and ending the first Sunday of October. I was lucky enough to attend right in the middle in 2016! While a few days of booze in Bavaria doesn’t make me an expert, I like this think I made the most of my Oktoberfest trip and can provide the important details.
It all started in 1810, when citizens were invited to celebrate a royal wedding. Horse races were the main event, and after the party was a success, it was decided the races would be held every year. From this, modern Oktoberfest was born. Nothing stops the party from happening, except for war or cholera in the past. Today, it definitely is the largest festival in the world, and something anyone who loves beer or has German heritage needs to try out in their lifetime.
It’s okay to be a tourist.
First and foremost, this is one of those events where it’s totally fine to dress up in traditional Bavarian garb. No one is going to laugh at you or think you’re a tourist for it. Of course, nix your beer wench Halloween costume from the party store. Instead, look into traditional costume rental. (I was lucky enough to be the same size as my friend’s mom was when she went to Oktoberfest in the early ’80s and got to wear her traditional garb!) There are a ton of affordable places in Munich that rent out costumes for the day. Google and reserve your outfit beforehand and you’ll be all set! Boys, break out the lederhosen, and girls, wear dirndls and braids! Literally everyone does it, from local people to performers to servers to tourists!
Germany public transit = your BFF.
Germany has a friggin amazing train and subway system. Even if you end up crashing in the suburbs for a cheaper hotel price, you’re going to get to go into the city and have a good time. the U-Bahn (subway) and S-Bahn (train) run constantly and are so much better than any American transportation system I have tried. I stayed in the city, but hotels book up quickly! If you’re planning on staying in Munich, this isn’t decision to be made last minute unless you want to pay a pretty Euro.
Let’s get beer serious.
Bierernst is a German word that basically translates to “very serious” – and it literally translates to “beer serious.” Germans take their beer very seriously. When you go to Oktoberfest, you totally want to spend time in one of the historical tents! There are fourteens tents at Wiesn, the name the locals call the festival. I’ve heard that you need reservations to get into some of the more popular ones, but I didn’t have a problem hopping from tent to tent with my considerably large group!
But it’s not just about booze.
You’re going to want to soak up that alcohol with loads of German food! In the tents, I chowed down on pretzels, but be sure to check out the booths outside for other foods. I wasn’t able to hang for the fair in the evening, so if you’re pooped out and drunk like I was, be sure to head out in the daytime for the family-friendly events, like carnival rides!
Remember: Drink responsibly.
Okay, maybe it is about booze, or at least mostly about beer. I hear there is an amazing after hours nightlife during Oktoberfest, but I didn’t check out any clubs during my stay. I certainly got inebriated, but I wanted to experience the most of what the city had to offer, and for me, that meant going to bed at a somewhat reasonable hour so I could be awake to explore all the country had to offer during the daytime!
When in Munich…
Dude, you’re already in Munich, so be sure to check out some other amazing places! Head to breweries for meals, of course. My favorite attractions in the city? The Olympic Village, the English Garden, the Glockenspiel, and any random street fair that pops up during this exciting time of year! Oh, and be sure to have a glass – or bottle – of German wine while you’re out and about!
Take advantage of all Europe has to offer.
While my trip was about a week long, I only spent half of the time in Germany. My friends and I hopped on a sleeper train to Venice, where we only had to spend money on the hotel room one night (the other two were spent traveling from and to Munich on the train!) and got a beautiful weekend-feel of the city. (I’ll be sure to write my guide for Venice, too!) If you have some time to kill, look into visiting another European city.
If you want to head into Austria, the Sound of Music tour departs from Munich. I’m still bummed I missed this one, but I got to go on an amazing, inexpensive tour of Bavarian castles, like Neuschwanstein, which the Disney Sleeping Beauty castle is inspired by, instead! (This was after our big blowout night at Oktoberfest, so while the tour guide told us all about the surrounding land during the hours-long bus ride, I mostly napped. I saw a lot of goats, though.)
I loved Oktoberfest, and I would totally go back again. It’s certainly an experience. Next time, I’d head to the festivities for an entire sober day to enjoy all the fairgrounds have to offer. I’d also go out for a tamer night, so I could wind up at one of the after hours places later. I hear a ton of cool things! Also, I wouldn’t mind learning more German! Mostly everyone spoke English, but it was nice to speak the little I knew, which I have already lost in my year since the trip. It definitely made traveling on the U-Bahn easier. One final note: To enjoy the music at Oktoberfest, I didn’t need to understand German. I heard “Sweet Caroline” way too often in one night for my entire existence. Also a fab German rendition of “Teenage Dirtbag”. So if you’re headed to the festival this year – Prost! – have a beer for me!