Prost! Fall is here and to German traditionalists and beer enthusiasts alike that can only mean one thing: Oktoberfest. Oktoberfest is a historic and lively 16-day beer festival in Munich, Germany.
People travel far and wide to experience Bavaria's one-of-a-kind celebration, and needless to say, it demands ample preparation. While it is free to attend Oktoberfest and to get into the many tents, you will need to pay for the beer and the food, as well as some kind of lodging for when you're finished celebrating.
Travel to Munich
Once you have arrived in Munich, the best way to get to the festival is by public transportation. There are plenty of trains and subways that make extra runs during Oktoberfest. You should try to plan out train and subway tickets and routes before you arrive. All relevant information about trains and subways can be found on the Munich Metro website. Planning ahead will save you time and stress so you can start enjoying the festival sooner.
What to Expect
While at Oktoberfest, you will see people dressed in traditional Bavarian clothes, and have many opportunities to drink, eat, and sing along to lively folk songs. Want to match the official staff of the famous Munich beer hall, the Hofbräuhaus? Stop into one of the many shops around the city that sell all the Lederhosen you could need. Once you've suited-up you're ready to attend all the exciting events and activities, including the Oktoberfest opening ceremony and the Oktoberfest Costume Parade.
Oktoberfest is largely now about sampling many beers, so you may be surprised to see many children at the festival. However, Oktoberfest offers activities for children, such as the parades, Ferris wheels, and roller coasters. Despite the stereotype, Oktoberfest usually has quite a family-friendly air to the portion of the festival that is not under the tents.
What Not to Miss
While most people come to Oktoberfest to drink beer, there are several other events and activities that you should not miss. First is the Oktoberfest opening ceremony, which takes place on the first Saturday of the festival in the Schottenhamel tent. The mayor of Munich taps the first keg of Oktoberfest beer, and the festival officially begins. Plan to be present at the opening ceremony; you will not regret it.
The Costume Party is also something that you should go to. All of the parades at Oktoberfest are great but the Costume and Riflemen's Parade is one of the best. The parade showcases a beautiful and colorful display of Bavarian history and culture. It takes place on the Sunday after the opening ceremony.
Should I Reserve a Table?
Although entry to the tents is free, you should probably reserve a table. The tables inside of the tents fill up fast, and if you do not reserve a spot, you will most likely have to wait in line. In order to reserve a table at Oktoberfest, you need to first decide which tent you would like to be in. Each tent is a little different, and it is important to find the right one for you if you want to have a really good time. Information about each tent can be found online at Oktoberfest's website.
Once you have found a suitable tent, you will need to contact them. The beer tents all have their own websites, and you should be able to find out how and when you can reserve a table. Do this early in the year, between January and March, to make sure that you will get the table you want in the tent that you want. However, be warned, punctuality is key because the tent may give away your spot if you're late.
If a table reservation isn't your style, you can still experience Oktoberfest to its fullest. You can either grab a Bavarian pretzel for while you wait in line for a table, or you can focus your time outside of the tents. According to travel blogger Matt Kepnes, located outside of the beer tents is "a carnival. Literally a carnival with games, rides and even haunted houses."
So you should be able to have a great time whether you are inside the tents or not. If you don't have a table reserved, at least plan to get into a few beer tents. It will be worth the wait. If you get there early enough, you may not even have to wait in line.
If you're unable to attend the real deal in Munich this year, check out this blog post on Alternative Oktoberfest Celebrations.