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It’s Oktoberfest time! If you’re in the UK then you’re too close not to make a stop over in Germany at some point for this amazing festival. Beer, bratwurst and Bavaria – Oktoberfest is one of Germany’s biggest and most anticipated annual events, and every year millions of people from all over the world converge in Munich for the 16-day festival. First held to celebrate a royal wedding in 1810, Oktoberfest has undergone numerous changes over the centuries as it grew in popularity, but the core theme of eating and drinking all the best Bavaria have to offer has remained the same.
For first-time visitors, the festival can be daunting: more than six million people attend every year, and it’s fair to say a sizeable proportion of them will be drinking heavily. But don’t be put off by this – it’s a friendly and welcoming festival with some incredible experiences you won’t get anywhere else. Here’s a quick guide to enjoying Oktoberfest:
Getting There & Accommodation
Travelling to Oktoberfest by car is not recommended, as there will be nowhere to park. Taxis are a possibility but there might be a long wait – it’s much better to use one of the many park and ride schemes or get the subway to Theresienwiese, the closest stop to the festival.
Munich has a wide selection of great hotels, but unsurprisingly rooms fill up quickly in the months preceding the festival, so book early. Choosing city centre accommodation, such as the Hotel Kempinski, will ensure you don’t have far to travel – which can be a real bonus at the end of a long night!
There are 14 huge main tents at the festival. They all have their quirks: Schottenhamel is generally considered the “main” tent and it’s where the festival begins; the Hippodrom is trendier and known for attracting celebrities; the Hacker-Festzelt has rock music rather than the traditional oompah bands, and the Käfer Wies’n Schänke is smaller but stays open later than the others. You’ll no doubt be told that this one or that one is the best, but they all contain massive quantities of food, drink and music so you can mix and match as you like.
The smaller tents are well worth a visit for local delicacies like cheese, pies, soups, meat and cakes, and can offer a bit of respite from the hustle and bustle of the main festival. In all tents, you’ll do well to arrive early: seats can be hard to come by after 11am. However, most also have table service, so there’s no need to worry about someone stealing your place when you get up for a drink!
It’s worth noting that Bavarian beer is quite a bit stronger than the stuff we’re used to in the UK – usually 5.8 to 6.3 per cent alcohol content, something many revellers from overseas fail to account for. In fact, the locals have a charming expression for Oktoberfest tipplers who pass out through over-indulgence: Bierleichen, or “beer corpses”.
As you would on any holiday, keep your senses about you and take a break if you feel you’ve had too much – passing out in a busy public place is a good way to lose your wallet. Smokers should also bear in mind that lighting up inside the tents has been banned for the last few years of the festival.
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