The Munich Oktoberfest, known by the locals as the ‘Wiesn’, is the biggest public festival in the world and should be on every traveller’s bucket list.
Spread across 16 hectic days, it’s not hard to see why this famous beer drinking celebration is one of First Festival Travel’s most popular tours, and as a result, they sell out each year. Last year, 5.9 million visitors attended Oktoberfest and of course they took their thirst with them; 7.7 million litres of beer were consumed in 2015! That’s more than a litre per person so when you consider it’s also a family event… That’s a lot of beer.
This year, the Wiesn will officially begin on Saturday 17th September at the Schottenhamel tent where the Mayor of Munich will tap the first keg of Oktoberfest beer. Once the opening ceremonies have begun, all visitors will then be allowed to quench their thirst.
What a lot of people don’t realise about this festival is that you must be seated to be served. A lovely ‘Fraulein’ will be allocated to your table, and she will be your best friend for the next few hours. These waitresses are incredibly impressive and can often carry as many as 14 steins at once. That’s 14 litres of beer plus the hefty glass mug itself!
Every day is exceptionally busy, but the weekends are the most popular times to visit Oktoberfest. In order to get a seat in one of the 14 main beer halls, festival goers must get up very early and quite often, be prepared to wait in line before getting in. Once you are in, head for a table and wait for your beer; don’t be upset if you don’t manage to sit with your friends – one of the best parts of this event is making new friends. Beer is served from 9am on weekends or 10am on weekdays (with the exception of the opening day where you’ll have to wait until midday!) and shuts about 11.30pm each night. The festival officially ends for 2016 on Monday 3rd October at 11.30pm.
Oktoberfest is a trip some travellers prefer to organise on their own, but alternatively there are great benefits of booking through a tour company – why not let someone else plan your weekend and show you the best tents to go to so you can sit back and enjoy the beer? Accommodation prices skyrocket over this period too, so you will often find it better value to book with a company who can guarantee you a place to stay.
First Festival Travel has transport and/or accommodation packages for each weekend to suit every budget and style. All of the accommodations stay within easy reach of grounds and the most popular one is less than a 10 minute walk to the beer halls. Because the company has been visiting Oktoberfest for over 20 years, they are able to offer their passengers an exclusive table reservation at the famous Schottenhamel on each Sunday. No need to wait in line early in the morning and you may appreciate the sleep-in after a big day on Saturday. What’s even better is that included in the seat reservation is two litres of beer, table nibbles and a chicken meal; and if you go to Oktoberfest and don’t have a roast chicken, you haven’t really been to Oktoberfest.
If you do decide to go to Oktoberfest this year, here are my top tips:
– Speaking of tips… this is my number one suggestion! Frauleins have hundreds of thirsty people to serve and put in a huge amount of effort when it comes to Oktoberfest, so a tip is highly recommended, and expected. You should budget approximately 11-12 Euros per stein with a tip
– Take cash, and if possible, have the correct amount. Make your waitress’s life easier (and most likely, she will serve you again quickly) by having the right money available. If you are in a large group, allocate someone to be in charge of ordering and gather the money in one go
– Be sure to dress in an authentic dirndl or lederhosen. You can find these online, but I’ve found the best value ones can be bought from the main train station in Munich – Hauptbahnhof
– Make sure you have a wander around the rest of the grounds – the festival offers so much more than beer including rides, stalls and food (did I mention the chicken?)
– Collect some pegs! There are a few stalls around the grounds where you can get a souvenir peg with your name on it. Why not start collecting for each year you attend?
– Don’t try to impress your mates back home by stealing a ‘souvenir’ stein… Security in 2015 stopped 110,000 people from taking their drinking vessel home with them…
– Learn some German words like ‘prost!’ and the famous drinking song ‘Ein Prosit’ which I guarantee you’ll hear several times a day
– Remember, a woman’s bow on her apron means very different things… Tied on the left side indicates she’s available, but if on the right, she’s taken. If tied in the front, she’s a virgin. Unfortunately this doesn’t have the same effect or tradition for a man in lederhosen, so ladies you will just have to ask!
If you are interested in joining First Festival at Oktoberfest this year, check out their packages at www.firstfestivaltravel.com/Oktoberfest-Tours