In October (well technically end of September), Munich, is a city transformed. Beer lovers from all over the world throng the Bavarian capital to attend the Oktoberfest, the world’s largest beer festival. I travelled to Munich in 2017, with the main aim of experiencing Oktoberfest, but was so amazed with everything that the city has to offer.
Major Disclaimer : Oktoberfest may not happen for a few years and may never be the same again (I hope not) but it is simply an unmissable event for anyone looking for a wild experience!
“Where are you from?” asked an Italian guy dressed in Bavarian costume. “I am from India!” I replied, somewhat meekly, not knowing how to strike conversation. I had reached Theresienwiese (the Oktoberfest grounds) early in the hope of getting a seat. It was a bright & sunny Thursday morning. I could see scores of people lining up to get into one of the tents. “First time in Oktoberfest?” asked his friend. “Yes and looking forward to it!” this time more profoundly. “Go easy, it’s stronger than you think it is!”. “Sound advice!” I smirked at them and then the gates opened!
My first reaction entering the grounds was – Wow, this is huge! There are tents serving beer on either side of a wide road and little shops dotting the area leading upto the swings. I would describe it as “Disneyland for Beer Lovers”
What to expect at Oktoberfest?
It is big, it is wild! There are people dressed in traditional Bavarian clothes. Most people are tourists. There is beer (lots of it). There is a lot of singing in the tents. People are well behaved, in great spirits and are there just to have some fun. You are not allowed to carry bags (small cameras and phones are ok).
How much does it cost?
Reserving a table is recommended if you are in a group and costs about 300 euros and seats 10 people. If you are traveling solo (like I was), arrive early else you may not get a place to sit (there is no standing at the bar! No seat, no beer!). Beer mugs are about 8-11 euros and full meals are about 12-15 euros (plus tips). Book your accommodation early as they get booked out by tour companies.
Choosing a Tent to sit in
If you are only going for a day or two, it is impossible to visit all the 14 tents. Each tent is run by a family brewery. These are the ones I would recommend based on personal and other travelers’ experiences :
- Hofbrahaus (for the best atmosphere and in my opinion the best tasting beer)
- Hacker-Festhalle (great ambience, painted blue sky and white clouds on the ceiling that look quite cool)
- Winzerer Fähndl (the largest of the lot)
- Augustiner (old school tent, who still serve beer from wooden kegs)
- Armbrustschützen-Festhalle (popular with sports fans, if you love to mingle with football supporters, go here!)
- Weinzelt (not the best but remains open till 1AM)
- Pschorr-Bräurosl (feel like singing along to Bavarian music?)
What else to do in Munich?
Munich is a lovely city and is there is a lot to do in there. It has a a beautiful city center, large parks and gardens, and beer halls filled with friendly people.
1. Visit the BMW Museum : If you love cars, the BMW museum and is an absolute must. The tour features exhibits about the history of BMW vehicles. Tickets are about 10 euros.
2. Explore the Marienplatz: Munich has a beautiful market square in the heart of the city, which you can explore at your leisure. You will find some amazing buildings like the Neues Rathaus which are well worth a photo pitstop.
3. Visit the famous St Peter’s Cathedral : Apart from it being a religious symbol, it is also a great viewing spot to get a 360 degree view of the incredible city of Munich
4. Walk, sun bathe, surf or just have a beer at the English Garden : The English Garden is huge and offers a lot including an artificial surfing area and beer gardens.
5. Visit the Allianz Arena : Allianz Arena is home to the mighty Bayern Munich (one of the most successful football teams in Europe). The stadium is a modern spectacle and looks absolutely fabulous at night when it is lit.
6. Experience a night like no other at the Hofbräuhaus
Home to the most popular beer in Munich. While this is a museum, it also has a brewery which locals have been frequenting for ages. They also have live music playing which makes for a lovely ambience and the beer is just amazing!
Oktoberfest is an event like no other. It brings together people from all over the world, all looking to have some great fun. The beer is amazing, the food is delicious and the setting is just lovely. Like everyone else, we are really looking forward to the times when it will be safe to travel like before, share a pint with others and sing along with thousands of people. We couldn’t have an Oktoberfest in 2020, but here’s to a 2021 where we see a return of the “Wiesn”.