This post was previously published on Germany Ja in 2013 & 2014. We are bringing it out of the archives – and have updated the dates – so that you see it as you prepare for this year’s Oktoberfest, which will run from September 19th to October 4th, 2015.
CONTRIBUTED BY MICHELLE KING
Oktoberfest 2015 is right around the corner and they’ll be celebrating 182 years! That’s a lot of beer! The fest this year will begin September 19 – October 4th. People from all over the world look forward to these 3 weeks of junk food, fair rides and plenty of beer. After all it is the world’s largest fair! Over 6 million people visit Oktoberfest each year!
Oktoberfest is often thought of as a huge beer fest. Around 7 million liters of beer are consumed during the 16 day fest. Many people come to eat and drink delicious Bavarian food, but don’t forget why it all started. King Ludwig got married in October 1810. The citizens of Munich were invited to attend the festivities. There were horse races to signify the closing of the festival. Although they don’t race horses anymore they are still included in the parade which happens on opening day of Oktoberfest. The fest was originally held in October but was moved forward for better weather. Over the past 200 years Oktoberfest has been canceled 24 times due to epidemics and war.
If you want to attend Oktoberfest on opening day be prepared that you cannot drink beer until noon. Since 1950, there has been a traditional festival opening: A twelve gun salute and the tapping of the first keg of Oktoberfest beer at 12:00 by the incumbent Mayor of Munich with the cry “Ozapft is!” (“It’s tapped!”) When I attended Oktoberfest last year we were there for this moment (not really knowing what was going on) and everyone goes crazy when that first keg is tapped and rounds of beers starting coming out!
Finding a place to drink beer can be difficult. There are 14 beer tents, and you can read about each one on this Oktoberfest site. All of these tents require a reservation. If you were hoping to get into a tent this year, sorry to burst your bubble, but your chances will be slim. Reservations for Oktoberfest start to fill up a year in advance! To make a reservation you have to pick which specific beer tent you want, go to their website (from the Oktoberfest website) and pay for your reservation, and they don’t come cheap. Some beer tents allow single person reservations; others require a minimum of 6 people for a reservation. Even though you have to pay for your reservation most of them have a voucher includes beer and food.
If you did not make a reservation, there is still a small chance you could get into a beer tent. If you plan to try to get into one be prepared to wait in line for quite some time. Also be prepared to be cut and pushed out of the way. Large crowds and alcohol don’t always have the best outcome. Many people arrive at the Oktoberfest fair grounds around 4 or 5 in the morning to get in line and they typically wait all day (on a weekend). Those with reservations obviously get in first and once they leave, that spot opens up and they’ll allow someone in line to take that spot.
When my husband and I went last year we waited in line for about an hour and finally, after fighting our way to the front, got into a tent. But once we got in, there was nowhere to sit. Most of the beer tents have a beer garden that does not require a reservation; this is a first come first serve type situation. The plus side to this is you don’t have to pay for your table and you can still get beer and food. The down side is you don’t get to experience what the inside of the beer tent is like and you can’t hear the Bavarian bands playing.
Aside from beer tents, beer and food, the rest of the fair grounds are for everyone! There are plenty of rides and attractions, and of course those amazing stands that sell chocolate covered crepes, candy and, well, everything.
There is a schedule for Oktoberfest as well. They have opening day with the tapping of the keg, a costume parade day, kindergarten day, and family day. Check out the schedule to help plan your trip!
My husband and I attended Oktoberfest twice last year. Both days had different experiences. We noticed that on opening day it was an older crowd or the “regulars.” Our second day seemed to be a much younger crowd. There were a lot more people who were drunk, passing out and throwing up. If you have younger kids and you still want to go, I would suggest going on a family day. Also, days in the middle of the week are going to be less crowded. If you have the opportunity to go in the middle of the week I would. The weekends can get a little crazy.
Please remember that this is also a place where theft happens often. Remember to keep an eye on your belongings and to drink responsibly. A great way to get to and from Oktoberfest is to take the train! It’s about a 10 minute walk from the Munich train station to the fair grounds.
Go, have fun, drink beer, and eat sausage! Oh and don’t forget your dirndl and lederhosen! Prost!
Note: Michelle first published this article on her website, but graciously shared it with Germany Ja as well. Thanks Michelle!