Oktoberfest Guide For Beginners
"He was a nice man who invented beer" - Plato
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
Beer was the first alcoholic drink that I ever tried. I remember it was the day our graduation results were out. While some of us were celebrating, the others were trying to get over the fact that ‘they didn’t make it’ :D nonetheless, we had a great night! (How was your first encounter with beer? Do let me know in the comments below) Okay, moving on to Oktoberfest now. I am sure everyone knows of "Oktoberfest" and I am also sure it is on your travel bucket list (It sure is on mine). Locally known as Wiesn, this is the world’s largest beer festival that is celebrated in the Bavarian capital of Munich. Spread over 16 to 18 days, this festival starts on the second-to-last Saturday of September and ends on the first weekend in October.
Now you must be wondering why call it Oktoberfest when it is celebrated in September? While the first ever Oktoberfest did take place in the month of October (Oct. 12, 1810, to be precise) today the celebrations start in the month of September owing to the better weather conditions. The nights in September are a little warmer which lets people enjoy without feeling chilly.
Are you gonna be a first timer at the Oktoberfest? You have come to the right place. Scroll down coz we have brought you the Ultimate Oktoberfest Beginners’ Guide that will answer all your when, where and why! Don’t forget to bookmark this page 😊
How did it all start?
It all started with a fairy-tail wedding, when the Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig got married to the Saxon-Hildburghausen Princess Therese. The 12th day of October in the year 1810, this day was celebrated with great pompous. With the entire city at the palace gates, celebrations lasted over five days. The main event of the Oktoberfest was in fact supposed to be a horse race. What followed was a round of annual celebrations that became more elaborate every passing year.
Oktoberfest, as it is celebrated today
Let’s just call it a big party that lasts over two weeks where the entire world is invited. You get the picture, right? There is joy all over, the crowd is boisterous, the atmosphere is merry, the beer is flowing (of course 😉), people are gorging on grilled chicken and the band is pumping the traditional German drinking songs like “Eins … zwei … g'suffa! Prost!”
- Beer - Brew|Enjoy|Empty|Repeat
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
Ah! The beer. The beer served at the Oktoberfest is called Märzen. This beer comes from one of Munich's six breweries—Paulaner, Spaten, Hacker-Pschorr, Augustiner, Hofbräu and Löwenbräu. Adhering to the strict German Standards of beer brewing, Märzen is bottom-fermented and is lagered for at least 30 days. With 6% alcohol that precisely makes use of the four ingredients; barley, hops, malt, and yeast; beer in Oktoberfest is served in the Maß, a one-litre beer mug.
- Food - Enjoy it all
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How can we forget the food? Customary varieties include Hendl (spit-roasted chicken), Blaukohl (red cabbage and apple dish), Steckerlfisch (charcoal-fired fish-on-a-stick), Weißwürste (steamed white veal sausages with sweet mustard sauce), Kaiserschmarrn (sugary pancakes served with raisins), Dampfnudel (steamed honey-dumpling), Gebrannte Mandeln (pan-roasted, sugar-glazed almonds), Zuckerwatte (cotton candy), and pretzels. Now you don’t want to be drinking empty stomach, do you?
- Music - You can't OD on music ;)
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
Brass bands performing folk music, marches, and polkas add to the perky atmosphere that Oktoberfest is. As the nights start coming closer, the music starts getting louder. People begin to sing, swinging their beer mugs while some dance and sway on top of the tables. Offering a toast to “contentment, congeniality, and relaxation,” the band will perform "ein Prosit der Gemütlichkeit" before each break.
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What to do at Oktoberfest?
That thing you have always wanted to do, drink all day. At the centre of Munich, in a big park called Thereseinweise is where you need to head. With 14 massive and 21 smaller tents, like I said before, you drink all day. There is music, food and the German spirit that keeps you hooked all day.
How much does it cost?
Entry to the beer festival and the tents is free. Getting a table is also free. But everything that you consume is chargeable. A Maß will typically cost you EUR 10. If you are buying alcohol outside the tents (other than beer), a drink will cost you between EUR 8 to 12. Expect to pay anything between EUR 12 to 15 for a full meal where are a quick snack will cost you EUR 5. It is advisable that you carry cash. It is also advisable that you take care of the cash you are carrying.
Must Read: Alcohol for beginners
The planning stage:
Given the magnitude of this festival, you will need to prepare a checklist and start planning much in advance. With airlines releasing seats almost a year prior, it is recommended that you secure your seats at the earliest. Next, you need to book your accommodation. Now this can be tricky, with many options to choose from, you will be spoilt for choices. There are so many places you can visit near Munich. Plan a few side trips as well, check out our blog ‘what to do in Munich during Oktoberfest’ to find out more.
Things to carry to Oktoberfest:
- Adapters and chargers
- Aspirin – you are gonna need this!
- A deck of cards
- Books to read
- Eye mask, earplugs and other sleeping aids
- A small umbrella
- Fanny pack and passport pouches.
The drinking stage:
Bavarian Beer is brewed according to Reinheitsgebot (A Bavarian Purity Law from the early 16th century). This beer is usually stronger than your regular beer with higher alcohol and sugar content. There is a chance that you will be left with a massive hangover on the first day itself, hence keeping yourself hydrated is highly recommended.
Types of beer served at Oktoberfest:
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- Helles (Light Beer)
- Dunkel (Dark Beer)
- Radler (Shandy)
- 50% Helles mixed with 50% Lemon Soda (Sprite)
- Hefeweizen (Wheat Beer)
- Russ (Radler but with Wheat Beer)
Types of wines served at Oktoberfest:
Image Source: Flickr
- Weißwein (white wine)
- Rotwein (red wine)
- Sekt (champagne)
- Champagner (also champagne)
- Spritzer (1/2 litre wine mug)
Remember, moderation is the key.
Check Out: What to do in Munich during Oktoberfest
1. Can you bring your own drinks to Oktoberfest?
2. Are wheelchairs and other disabled aids allowed?
Ans: Yes. But you will be restricted to the ground floor as there are no elevators inside the tents.
3. How is the weather?
Ans: The days are sunny and warm while the nights can get a bit chilly. Expect an average temperature of 21 to 25 degree Celsius.
4. Do I need to pre-book my room?
Ans: With over 5 million visitors, Oktoberfest is the busiest time of the year. It is always recommended that you book your room in advance.
5. Are there any age limits?
Ans: Yes. Strictly no alcohol is served to kids between the ages of 6 and 15. Beer is served to anyone between the age of 16 and 17. If you are over 18, there are no limitations.
6. Where can I buy the traditional costumes?
Ans: Lederhos'n, the traditional leather trousers, can be bought online. You can also buy the costumes at a local store in Munich.
7. Do I need to get a reservation for the tent?
Ans: If you are a small group of less than 5 people, you will not need to reserve your seats. Now the bad news, there are no official reservations that are given out, though you can directly contact the tents and request them for a table. Some tents start out the process as early as January.
8. How long should I stay?
Ans: For the first timers, it is recommended that you stay for four to five days. You are gonna need that time to recover.
9. Do I need to tip the servers?
Ans: If you have a reservation, the tip is already included. If not, you can tip anything between 10 to 15% of your beer or food price. Tipping is not mandatory but appreciated.
10. Is smoking allowed?
Ans: Smoking inside the tents is strictly prohibited.
11. I do not want to drink beer anymore. Are there other alcoholic drinks available?
Ans: Yes. Other than the beer, some tents offer various wines and ciders.
12. Language: German or English?
Ans: Language is not a problem at Oktoberfest. English is widely used though it is recommended that you learn a few German phrases.
13. What about the bathroom situation?
Ans: There are plenty of washrooms available inside the tents.
Since most of your questions about Oktoberfest are answered now, let us take a look at some quirky facts I bet you don’t know about the Oktoberfest:
- It is only after the Mayor says so, that everyone lifts their glasses.
- Oktoberfest has been on for 205 years now and has been cancelled over 24 times in the past.
- This strong beer is specially brewed for the Oktoberfest and can be dangerous for some people. As a result, an on-site Red Cross tent is available.
- People start drinking at 09:00 AM and drink all the way till midnight. Later, they head out to after-parties.
- Albert Einstein worked as an electrician during the Oktoberfest 1896.
- Oktoberfest has its own post office.
- Paris Hilton has been banned from Oktoberfest :p
Now that you are planning your visit (I am sure you are!) here are a few Oktoberfest special phrases that you should start practicing 😉
2017: 16 September to 4 October
2018: 22 September to 7 October
2019: 21 September to 6 October
Ever wondered how much beer is consumed at Oktoberfest? – Well, get ready.. *drum roll* Almost 7.5 million litres of beer is consumed over 17 days! Let us take a moment to let that sink in!
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