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Oktoberfest Travel Tips
Munich is famous for its Bavarian Beer Halls, but from the 19th September- 4th October 2009, the city will brew up a storm for the 176th annual Oktoberfest.
This hop-mad festival draws thousands of people from all over the world, to quaff over 6 million litres of beer every year. Bavarian Beer is known as the best in the world, with tight regulations on keeping the brew ‘pure’ – just hops, water and barley.
Oktoberfest isn’t just about the beer – from the Bavarian Beauties trussed up in traditional gear, to the live bands, delicious German food and huge funfair, it’s the atmosphere that draws the crowds year after year. Even if you aren’t into guzzling pints, there’s plenty to keep you entertained.
But the festival is huge – with around 20 tents in the main field alone, and a whole range of ‘fest etiquette’, from tipping to reserving a table, Oktoberfest can be a little overwhelming for first timers.
So if you are planning on heading to Oktoberfest 2009, get the best of the beer fest with our handy oktoberfest beer guide:
Where to Drink
The festival is spread out over several tents - each tent has its own unique atmosphere, and is hosted by a different beer company, so you'll get a different brew and a different vibe whereever you go. Remember that you can only pay by cash in each tent, unless you have beer vouchers. Here are a couple of suggestions:
The Big Tents
Big tent or small? Some of the huge traditional tents have been around for years, and draw huge crowds.But if you're after a typical taste of Oktoberfest, and some Bavarian style food and fun, go with the famous tents - Bräurosl, Schottenhamel (the largest tent, with 10,000 seats, and where the festivities kick off) and Löwenbräu-Festhalle - (although be ready to listen to a Lion roar 'Löwenbräu' every few minutes). Hofbräu-Festzelt is very popular with Americans and Australians.
This is one of the smaller tents, and is truly 'hip' - attracting a young and edgy crowd of drinkers. People go there to see and be seen, and mingle with the mix of scenesters and TV crews filming the action. There's a sleek sparkling 'sekt' wine bar alongside the usual beers.
One of the oldest and most traditional tents, Schichtl has been the home of beer based fun since 1869. The entertainment factor is high here - the tent is famous for its cabaret showing fake beheadings. Head next door for a tent serving steaming plates of organic meat and sausages.
There are a selection of smaller tents at Oktoberfest, and whilst you may have to get in earlier to grab a seat, the atmosphere is a little more laid back and less touristy than the larger tents. Glockle Wirt is the smallest of all Oktoberfest tents, with a cosy and friendly atmopshere. The walls and ceiling are decorated with a kooky mix of old instruments and paintings, and it all feels surprisingly homely.
This is a slightly quirkier traditional tent - watch crossbow shooting competitions to the sound of oompah music.
This tent is one of the prettiest places to sup a pint. Sit around the square tables, with a 'heaven' of clouds and stars hanging above your head. If you're fed up of brass bands, check out the Rock and Roll Band performing every evening at 5:30pm.
Add a little chic to your fest at this posh tent, owned by a gourmet grocery. The food is all high end here, so eat BEFORE you just want something to soak up the alcohol.
Who says you have to drink beer at Oktoberfest? This wine tent attracts a more refined and older clientele, with a selection of more than 15 different wines and a range of Sekt (sparkling wine) and champagne.
For a guide on what to drink at the festival, check out our Oktoberfest beer guide, with prices, pint sizes, and tips for the best brew for you!
What to Eat
Eating certainly isn't cheating here - you'll need a little more than German sausage to soak up at that booze! Luckily Oktoberfest is all about the best of Bavarian cuisine, with a couple of other gastro delights along the way. Whilst most tourists stick to guzzling roast chicken and pretzels, you can make like the locals with sauerkraut, radishes and oxtail at the Ochsenbraterei tent.
Here are a couple to try:
- Schützen-Festzelt is one of the best tents for food. Boasting 4,442 seats and the “Niederalmer” music group, come for the entertainment, and stay for the food - a delicious combo of tender sucking pig prepared in an authentic Bavarian manner, served with malt beer sauce and potato-salad.
- It's not really a tent, but Zur Bratwurst, a traditonal timbered house, sells yummy fried sausages grilled over a wood fire, oxen bratwurst and roast pork. The Augustiner beer, live band, and discounts (for kids and around midday), go down a treat too.
- Another popular choice for families is Wildmoser’s Roasted Duck and Chicken, the perfect accompaniement to Hacker-Pschorr-beer. There are special discounts for children, and loads of space inside the 320 man tent.
- If this sounds a bit like a meat feast, Fischer Vroni will be kinder to your cholesterol. This fish stall sells a delicious selection of fish cooked on a stick, along with healthier options like sushi.
- For something a little sweeter, try the baked goods and pastries at Bodo’s Café Tent. This cosy and family friendly cafe sells cakes, strudel and coffee in the mornign, and amps things up with a live band and exotic cocktails at night.
Where to Party
When the major tents close, a couple of other tents have a licence to stay open until the wee hours. Try the Käfer tent first, but be warned - everyone rushes there after closing time, so you might have to turn up an hour before closing.
If you can't get in to Käfer tent, then head back to the city for some clubs. Try Kultfabrik (close to Ostbahnhof), a huge complex of bars, pubs, and clubs, or the Parkcafe (close to Stachus).
The P1 Club is always popular for after-parties, or check out Das Wiesnzelt, an Oktoberfest themed after-party. The venue is run by the same brothers who run the Schottenhamel tent, so expect waitresses in Dirndls, lots of Maßbier, and a traditional band. Entry is only 10 Euros, and you'll find it at the Löwenbräu Keller, Stiglmaierplatz [U1].
Find Oktoberfest Costumes
For most locals, Oktoberfest is less about the drinking, and more about parading around town in national costumes. The festival actually begins with a traditional costume parade including marching bands and dance troupes.
Women wear a dirndl, bodice, peasant blouse and apron, and men don a fetching pair of lederhosen leather shorts. Costimes can work out pricey though - if you buy one from the offical Oktoberfest site, you're looking at about 120 euros a pop!
Try Ebay and Amazon for far cheaper options, or go second hand or discount at a 'Trachten' outlet store when you get to Munich. You'll end up spilling stuff all over yoruself anyway, so it's not really worth splashing out!
Where to Stay in Munich
The Atlas City Hotel is a budget hotel in the heart of the city center, and 400m from Oktoberfest. The private ensuite rooms are modern and comfotable, and there's parking available outside.
The Hotel Mons am Goetheplatz is a sleek and stylish boutique hostel, within walking distance of the festival. The fresh and funky decor are the main draw here, but there's free wi-fi and a cool lounge where breakfast is served.
If there's a big bunch of you going to the Oktoberfest, there is still some availability for group bookings at the Hotel Blutenburg, Haus International and 4 You Muenchen Youth Hostel - all three properties are perfect for a party atmopshere!
If you worried about bringing the kids along - don't be. The festival is surprisingly family friendly, with plenty of fun attractions and discounts for children.
Young kids or teenagers aged 16 or over are allowed to stay in the evening, and they are allowed to drink beer, but no strong German alcohol. A couple of rules to remember -
• Children under the age of 16 must be accompanied by a parent if they want to stay longer than 8 pm.
• If they are under the age of 16 they are not allowed to drink alcohol.
• If they are under 16, a parent has to be present to enter the beer tents, but the kids will not be allowed to drink alcohol.
• If they are under the age of 6 years, they have to leave the tent at 8 pm, even if a parent is present.
Here's a few tips for doing the festival with kids:
- The best time for children to visit Oktoberfest is on weekdays before 5 p.m.
- Tuesday is 'Family Day' with discounted prices on fun rides, shows and goodies from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.
- Kids eat cheaply at Oktoberfest - check out the food tents for child discounts.
- Augustiner-Festhalle is a great family friendly beer tent. With one of the friendliest atmopsheres at the festival and loads of entertainment, you're more likely to bump into locals than boozehounds. Most families feel comfortable here compared to the more manic tents.
- Bored of beer tents? The Tower is a brand new attraction, a giant playground with a 3D space and volcano adventure inside, and tthrill rides like spinning wheels. Even better is the ride to the top, with views of the festival and Munich from 28 meters high! The Funfair is also a big draw - there are dodgems, a ferris wheel, and even a water ride for adrenaline junkies and big kids - not a great idea after a few beers!