Oktoberfest is a great addition to any bucket list. There is history, culture, and a modern take on festivals that is quite different from what we find in the United States.
Oktoberfest takes place in Munich, Germany, from the last week in September through the first week in October.
The first festival occurred in 1810 as the multi-day wedding celebration between King Louis 1 and Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen and included horse races. In 1818 food and drink booths began, and by the time the 20th century arrived, those booths had turned into large beer halls.
Today, each brewery in Munich sponsors a tent that can seat up to 6000 people. While the beer is the main attraction, the festival also includes rides (e.g., Ferris wheels and bumper cars), food stalls with as much bratwurst and pommes (fries) as you may want, and games. The festivities kick off with an opening ceremony that includes Munich’s mayor pouring the first glass.
Approximately six million people annually attend the festival, consuming two million gallons of beer.
The beer is served in huge 1L mugs that must be held with two hands. And it is delicious.
There is only one way to be served beer at Oktoberfest: you must be at a table. There are two types of tables, inside and outside.
Every tent has indoor tables; to sit at those, you must have a reservation. Reservations require parties of 4-10 and must be prepaid. Access to these reservations opens up months in advance and sells out quickly. So, if this interests you, plan ahead!
Some tents have outdoor tables and seating as well. For those, you do not need a reservation. Take a seat and wait for someone to come by and take your order! It is first come, first served.
All tents also serve food, so come hungry and thirsty!
Germany’s Natural Beauty
As long as you’ve made the trek to Germany, you should plan to see the countryside. Take a break from beer and festivities, rent a car and drive to some of the most breath-taking spots.
About one and a half-hour southwest is Garmisch-Partenkirchen. It’s a beautiful mountainside town close to the Austrian border, and so you’ll see part of the Alps as they spill over into Germany. It’s also close to several other great things to see. For instance, Partnach Gorge:
The Gorge is a protected area and thus requires a fee to enter (cash only). The best way to access it is to park at the Olympic stadium and walk the 20-minutes it takes to get to the Gorge entrance. The Gorge is, as you see above and impossibly long. There’s a very narrow walkway on the side (you can see it on the left of the picture). It’s not treacherous in that it’s flat and pretty level, but it is wet. So, water-protective clothing and comfortable shoes are a must when coming here.
Another nearby site to see from Garmisch is Eibsee Lake. The lake is surrounded by mountains and hiking trails. Weather permitting, you can come here, take a hike, and then stop by the lodge restaurant for a hot meal!
You can also see the Zugspitz from the lake area, which is the highest peak in Germany.
If you’re a Disney fan, then make Neuschwanstein Castle a stop on your road trip. Disney castle is modeled after this!
The castle offers tours, and the town below has options for food and shopping to help you pass the time.
Other Cities Worth A Visit
If you have time, add Berlin to your list of stops. You can take the train from Munich or make the drive if you still have that rental car. The East Side Gallery and the Holocaust Memorial are two of the best things to see.
If you like to attend shows, theater, and entertainment, then the Friedrichstadt Palast, which is the Berlin theater, is an excellent option. They played a dance show and drama number with a combination of fashion, dance, and acrobatics, plus some humor. The best comparison is maybe something like Cirque du Soleil.
Taking pictures during the show isn’t allowed, unfortunately.
Heidelberg is a college town housing the famous Heidelberg University. Getting around is easy with public transportation, and you won’t be bored with all the things to do. Stop by here for all the college-town vibes.
While you’re there, check out Heidelberg Castle, known for being the most famous castle ruin in the world.
The place looks like a postcard:
See more about driving in Germany in the post Facing the Autobahn: A Guide to Driving in Germany.
Germany is well worth a visit, especially around festival season. The way festivals are celebrated abroad differs greatly from what we experience stateside. Take the time for an authentic, local experience. You won’t regret it!
All images courtesy of The Female Professional.