It’s time! Time for Munich be busy and crazy again with all the tourists and drunkies around the streets, for all hotels be completely booked, for the Tracht be once more used and time for the largest and most famous people’s festival in the World to begin… it’s Oktoberfest time!
Over 6 million people pays a visit to the Oktoberfest each year, it is no doubt one of the most famous festivals in the World, copied by many other countries, including Brazil. But what do you know about the Oktoberfest? Do you know where it came from? How it all started? How is it like when you are there? How does it work? Let me help you with that…
The origin of the Oktoberfest is dated all the way back to October 12, 1810, when the Prince Ludwig – later King Ludwig I – married Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. The population of Munich at that time was invited to the royal celebration, which took place on the fields in front of the city gates, later on named after the Princess: Theresienwiese, which means Therese’s fields in German. The Bavarians then abbreviated the name to Wies’n, another name for the Oktoberfest, commonly used among the locals.
Throughout the years, the festival expanded more and more, and held horse races and an Agricultural Show, intended to improve the Bavarian agriculture. Today, only the Agricultural Show happens, every 3 years. In 1818 carousel and swings were set up for the first time during the festival – later becoming a themed park – and it was only in 1896 that beer stands were included in the event, later becoming tents, famously called Zelte or Bierzelte – Beer Tents. This year of 2014, the Wies’n will happen for the 181th time in its history!
When? What time?
On the contrary to what many people think, the Oktoberfest does not start in October, but in September. It happens in the last 2 weekends of September and ends in the last weekend of October, so this year it will begin on 20/09 and will go on until 05/10. The Bierzelte are open from 10:00 until 23:30 on weekdays, and on the weekends and holidays from 09:00 until 01:00, and believe me, the Germans do drink beer at 09:00.
How does it work?
There is no entrance fee for the festival. Arriving there you will have many activities to choose from: visiting the shops, food stands, playing in the themed park – riding carousel, roller coasters and so on – and of course, getting a table at one of the famous Bierzelte to enjoy the real experience of the Oktoberfest with a Maß of beer – those big glasses of 1 liter – and eat a traditional Bavarian dish like pork knees, white sausage and roasted chicken.
To get a place in a Bierzelte, you must make a reservation probably 1 year in advance, get there early or just wait in line until there are places available. The main Bierzelte are the Augustiner, Hacker Pschorr, Hofbräu, Löwenbräu, Paulaner, Spaten, they are all beer breweries from Munich. Some of these tents have seats for 11.000 people! Can you imagine?
How is it like?
Packed! Yes, packed, especially on the weekends! But that is no surprise. Even so, it’s very fun, especially in the Bierzelte, where traditional bands play, the Germans sing all the time and drink beer like crazy. On the other hand, some prefer to enjoy the rides of the themed park, eat cotton candy and other sweets, wander around the festival; it really depends on what you like!
What to wear?
You might have heard about or seen the traditional cute outfit used by the Bavarians called tracht. Well, you can wear that, or feel free to go as you like. As it is typical of the Bavarian region, many Germans don’t have one, so they just wear normal clothes. If you are interested on wearing a traditional costume, you can learn all about it on my post The Traditional Bavarian Costume.
Who can go?
Humans and animals… probably aliens too, which means: everyone!!
Good to know
There are a few things that can make your visit to the Oktoberfest more fun and simple. I have gathered a few tips for you, which I have learned by experiencing the festival myself in the last years:
- Your chances to get a place to sit in the Bierzelte increases if you go during the week.
- When you order something in the tents, you pay when you get it, not when you leave.
- Bring cash, that is how it works in the Oktoberfest. Don’t forget to tip the waiter/waitress.
- The tents differ one from the other, if you go the Augustiner tent, that’s the beer you will be drinking, and so on.
- I know you would love to take one of the beer glasses with you as a souvenir, but you have to pay for them! There is security outside each tent, so please be honest!
- Even though you don’t pay an entrance fee for the Oktoberfest, things there can be a little expensive, like souvenirs and a Maß of beer (between 8 and 10 Euros)
Numbers & Facts
- Over 6 million people visit the Oktoberfest every year
- Sitting: approximately 100,000
- Liters of beer served: almost 7 million liters!
- More than 100 cows, 500,000 chickens and over 140,000 pairs of pork sausages are eaten!!
- There are over 900 toilet seats and 1 Km of urinals.
- Lost items: around 4,500, where 450 are mobile phones.
- Over 800 drunk people are assisted by the local ambulance each year.
With U- Bahn (metro):
U3 or U6 to Goetheplatz or Poccistraße
U4 or U5 to Theresienwiese or Schwanthalerhöhe
With S-Bahn (suburban trains):
S1 – S8 to Hackerbrücke
S7, S20 and S27 to Heimeranplatz, and then the U4 or U5 to the Theresienwiese or Schwanthalerhöhe stations.
With the Bus:
MetroBus-Line 53 to Schwanthalerhöhe
MetroBus-Line 58 to Georg-Hirth-Platz or Goetheplatz
StadtBus-Line 131 or 132 to Hans-Fischer-Straße
StadtBus-Line 134 to Schwanthalerhöhe
With the Tram (Straßenbahn):
Line 18 or 19 to Holzapfelstraße or Hermann-Lingg-Straße