Munich can hold its own against much bigger European cities. The hip destination packs in world-class museums, designer boutiques and grand architecture, making it a great choice for a city break. However, it really comes into its own during the 16-day Oktoberfest.
The world’s biggest festival attracts around six million visitors who fly to Munich from all over the world to enjoy the enormous party.
The 2013 event runs from 21 September until 6 October and as usual it brings together frothy, golden beer with glorious food like buttery chicken, salt-strew pretzels and spicy sausages, not to mention one of the best party atmospheres you’re ever likely to experience.
As you tour the 14 giant beer tents, expect to see German stereotypes reinforced: many of the men will be squeezed into their lederhosen and toasting a flagon of beer, and the ladies will be wearing the traditional dirndl dress with a blouse underneath and a pinafore. As the years have passed, these outfits have become more of a caricature on the traditional dress, but it’s all in the name of fun.
It may be a little too late to get in on the action this year, but if you’re thinking of booking a trip to the party of your life for 2014, think ahead and book your flights to Munich now. Emirates frequently fly to this German city, so get in there quick before all the seats sell out!
Oktoberfest: A Survival Guide
Whether you’re planning on spending the full 16 days filling your belly with the food and swigging back the beer or you’re just looking to hop over for a couple of days, here are some tips to help you get the most out of your visit.
If you’re travelling in a large group, it’s worth trying to reserve a table in the tent of your choice (although be warned – they book up very early). Bookings are made per table, which means you commit to paying for a set amount of food and beer for all places at the table (usually 10). Don’t worry if you can’t book ahead, especially if you are travelling in a couple or small group, as providing you arrive early when the tents open you should find seats.
You must be seated to be served, so don’t expect to be able to pop into a packed tent for a quick beer. Get there early and bag a spot at a table, then don’t leave!
Take out cash before you arrive. There are cash machines on site, but you don’t want to have to queue if you can help it.
It’s customary to shout “Prost” as you clank your beer glasses together with your neighbour. It’s deemed good manners to look them in the eye as you toast, as according to German tradition if you avoid eye contact you are destined to seven years of bad sex.
When to visit:
If you have a choice of days to visit, weekdays are best as they are quieter. It’s virtually impossible to get seated in the packed tents on a Friday or Saturday night without a reservation, and the tents doors get locked down when they get full.
Don’t wear your favourite designer gear for this event. If the traditional costumes aren’t your thing then dress in comfortable clothes that you’re happy to get drenched in beer. As the day wears on, the beer toasting gets more vigorous and as you squeeze your way through crowds it’s likely you’ll end up with some down your back at some stage.
Only take with you what you can afford to lose. As with all large events you need to take care of your belongings as pick pockets will see opportunities. Plus drinking means you’ve got a good chance of forgetting your camera or losing your bag.
It makes sense to go on fairground rides before you get started on your drinking; you don’t want to throw up on the person sitting next to you on a ride.
Be kind to the server who is looking after your table. It’s polite in Germany to state the amount you are paying as you hand over your money, rather than waiting for your change and then tipping. At least a euro per beer should be enough. (Tipping outside of Oktoberfest usually only involves rounding up to the next euro as waiting staff service is included in the bill).
Accommodation books up a year ahead, so be sure to plan your trip as early as you can. Ideally stay within walking distance, but as the event is near the train station you can stay anywhere on the main train route. There’s even a campsite nearby if you are on a budget, so visiting the festival doesn’t need to cost you a fortune.
Obviously, with that amount of booze and long, leisurely days with nothing to do but sit and drink, it can be tempting to overdo it. Remember, the beer is stronger than you might be used to, so eat well to soak it up and try to stay sober enough to enjoy yourself. Make sure you have some good hangover cures with you, and drink plenty of water after your drinking session. It’s not about getting sloshed, it’s all about the amazing atmosphere, so don’t ruin it.