More than just beer and pork knuckles, there’s a wealth of historical and cultural background behind the world’s biggest beer festival. The first Oktoberfest was held in October in the year 1810, in honour of the Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig's marriage to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen. The celebrations were repeated and gradually the festival was prolonged and moved forward into September – now starting on the 4th Saturday of the month. During the opening ceremony landlords, brewery staff, beer hall bands and beer hall waitresses (in the sexiest of traditional costumes – Dirndls!) parade, with the first barrel of beer tapped by the Lord Mayor at midday with a resounding 'Ozapft is!' - the keyword for everyone to start partying! One of the largest parties on earth and a celebration of Bavarian culture; fab beer, great food, a giant carnival and awesome music are central to the festivities. Bands perform in each tent mixing older German songs with more well-known contemporary music, whilst traditional Oompah bands play their brassy, grin-inducing variety of tunes, keeping the party going way past dark.
Each of the 6 main breweries in Munich have at least one 'tent' at the Beerfest grounds, along with various other temporary structures erected to keep the estimated 7 million visitors fed and watered, creating some mind dazzling stats in the process:
7,100,000 litres of beer at the Beerfest grounds alone
89,259 litres of wine
37,733 bottles of bubbly
245,335 cups of tea and coffee
505,901 chickens consumed
119,302 pork sausages (sausages are a German speciality, with over 1,500 variations; blood sausage, brain sausage... if it moves, the Germans will kill it, grind it up, and find a way to make a sausage out of it!)
62,2119 pork knuckles
980 toilets and 878 metres of urinals
Beerhalls open from 10.30am - 11.30pm; with last drinks served at 10.30pm (Sundays start even earlier - first drinks at 9am!) Many of the smaller wine cafes stay open for an hour or so later, but if you want to carry on into the small hours of the night Munich is the place to be. Schwabing - the area close to the university - has a super wide range of restaurants, cafes and bars from the ultra-cheap to ubertrendy, whilst the Kunstpark has the best concentrations of nightclubs in Europe. Entrance and drinks can be pricey, but the clubs are awesome, featuring some of the best, most ground breaking dance music around. Away from the beer grounds Neuschwanstein, a fairy tale castle commissioned by Mad King Ludwig, and Dachau concentration camp are at opposite ends of a wide spectrum of things to see in and around Munich, whilst the Englischer Garten, a huge park in the heart of the city complete with jogging, cycling, horse trails and a surfers wave; the Glockenspeil, a clock that puts on a show at 10am, 12 noon and 5pm, and the Hofbrauhaus, one of the most famous drinking establishments in the world, all lie waiting to be discovered.
- Weekdays: 10am - 10:30pm
- Saturdays, Sundays and holidays: 9am - 10:30pm
- Daily Tent Closing Time: 11:30pm
- The 'Käfer Wiesn-Schänke' and the 'Weinzelt' are open until 1am. Last call for alcohol: 12:15am
The estimated beer price will range between €8 and €8.30 per litre
Traditional Bavarian food
Bavarian food is very 'hearty', and largely revolves around meat dishes. There are however plenty of alternatives for vegetarians. Following is a brief list of a few traditional dishes:
- Leberknodelsuppe: Typical Bavarian soup with a dumpling from pork liver
- Schweinsbraten: Pork served in slices with gravy, accompanied by knodel (noodle)
- Schweinshaxe: Pork Knuckle!
- Krautspatzen: Spatzle (eggs, flour, water, salt), served with sauerkraut
Get the best from your fest....
- Good shoes are recommended - some tents will not allow flip-flops/thongs
- Know your limits people - the beer is brewed particularly strong for Oktoberfest, with some lager in excess of 7% and there’s plenty of it, so slow and steady is the way forward…
- Eating is NOT cheating – half chickens, bratwurst and pork knuckle are on offer for a reason (and taste damn good too!)
- Don’t be a tightwad – you’ll get served quicker if you tip, so have your pennies at the ready
- Learn a few words in German. Most Bavarians will speak English, but they will appreciate the effort
- Respect the locals and their culture. We are their guests
- Only take what you need. Thousands of items are lost each year (including passports), and when you’re up and dancing on the tables the less you have the better!
- It is a criminal offence to remove steins from the Beerfest tents. Police and security will check your bags and issue a hefty fine if you are found sneaking one out. It is cheaper to buy one from a shop
- Have the time of your life!