Twelve thunderous guns salute the beginning of the Oktoberfest and the Mayor taps the first barrel to the cry “O’zapft is”. The waiters bring the first steins of beer, the bands start the music and the mighty Ferris wheel begins to turn. Finally, the world’s biggest festival has begun. For 16 days everything in Munich revolves around the Oktoberfest.
The first Oktoberfest was held on 12th October 1810, and was to celebrate the marriage of Ludwig 1 to Princess Therese of Saxony. Then, the celebrations included horse fairs and races. It was so successful that the citizens of Munich decided to repeat it the next year and as they say “the rest is history”. The Oktoberfest begins in mid September and ends on the first Sunday in October.
The opening ceremony is preceeded by a parade through the city by the landlords and other dignataries. The beautiful dray horses pull flower bedecked carriages carrying the landlords, their families and some chosen staff. On the first Sunday there is the parade of the Riflemen who wera their traditional dress and often carry their kill with them.
Only the six Munich breweries are allowed to manage the tents at the Oktoberfest (Fest), although tents is not a good description as they are huge solid structures bigger than a football pitch and can hold up to 10,000 people. Building begins in July and takes 2 months.
In the big tents you can only buy beer or soft drinks with the exception of the Weinzelt (Wine Tent) or the Hippodrom which has a champagne bar. The food is excellent and hearty - just what you need to soak up the beer. Oktoberfest food specials are Wies'n Hendl (half a spit roasted chicken), Schweinhaxe (pork knuckle) or ox in the Ochsenbraterei. Beware the Oktoberfest beer is stronger than normal beer, so remember to eat or you will not last the pace!
The atmosphere is noisy and lively, girls dressed in their dirndls and men in their lederhosen fill the benches and the band plays a mixture of Bavarian Oompah and more popular songs such as Country Roads.
All the tents are good; the Schottenhamel is where the first barrel is tapped, the Hofbraeu is where the young people gather, the Augustiner is where the locals drink but find your own favourite as you have 14 to choose from! See individual tent descriptions in Festivals.
It can be difficult at busy times such as weekends to get a seat in a tent. The best advice is to arrive early, find a table that is vacant all day and enjoy. During the week as long as you have found a seat by around 4pm you should be okay. When it gets busy later (around 6pm) the doors will be closed by security and they will only allow people in when others have left. It is possible to reserve tables but booking begins early January and can be difficult - it is not really necessary.
As well as the beer tents there are also smaller food tents that can accommodate about 300 people, they do serve beer and occasionally have live music but the atmosphere is not the same as the big tents.
As well as the beer tents there are souvenir stalls selling a variety of goods such as t-shirts, souvenir glasses, pin badges, silly hats, jewellery and other such items.
The funfair is a popular attraction but if visiting then it is suggested you do this before drinking your beer!
From Hauptbahnhof take the U 4 / 5 for one stop to Theresienweise. From here the escalators will take yo directly into the festival - don't worry there will be you and thousands more on the train - you will know which way to go!