August 23, 2016

Oktoberfest-2016-Hero Get ready for plenty of dancing and singing – Image by Flickr user leigh wolf

I’ve seen many of Europe’s key cities and visited several of their annual festivals, from foodie markets to Mardi Gras. For me, though, one event always stands out for being the most carefree and jovial of them all, and it’s known across the world as a brilliant celebration of Bavarian culture and history. I am, of course, talking about Oktoberfest.

The festival is about 200 years old and is held in Munich each year. It’s a really unique experience and definitely not one for the faint of heart! That said, Oktoberfest is more than just drinking beer, with plenty of rides and fairground fun to enjoy. Plan your trip using my handy tips for Oktoberfest 2016.

Get up early!

While you might not feel like waking up early the morning after a long Bierhalle session, it’s a great idea to beat the crowds and secure a seat in your tent of choice. Many people queue as early as 8 a.m. if they haven’t reserved a space, so bear this in mind. Waking up early also gives you more time to enjoy a hearty German breakfast – I recommend a feast of liverwurst slices, Comte and Emmental cheeses and soft pretzel rolls with jam.

wurst

Prepare your appetite for wurst, chicken and plenty of brez’n. © Flickr user 5chw4r7z

Book ahead

If you’re visiting on the busier days (Saturday and Sunday), you’ll have to book a table at one of the tents if you want to get a seat. Each tent is different, with something special on offer at each one. Hacker-Pschorr, for example, has beautiful cloud decorations adorning the walls and ceiling, Ochsenbraterei is a chilled-out tent boasting delicious traditional Bavarian cuisine and Hofbräu-Festzelt is a much livelier option.

Hacker-Pschorr tent

Inside the pretty Hacker-Pschorr tent. © Flickr user Jim Kelly

Visit during the week

Visit during a weekday and enjoy a more relaxed atmosphere overall. While it’s still worth booking a table, regardless of the day you visit, visiting during the week means rubbing shoulders with more of the locals, while the weekends are incredibly busy with tourists.

Dress the part

If you’re in Munich for Oktoberfest, it’s great fun to dress up. Finding suitable Tracht (traditional Bavarian clothing) can easily be done online before you travel, or at one of the many traditional clothing shops in Munich. Local department stores such as K&F, C&F and Kaufhof will also stock plenty of costumes around festival time. You can choose to dress in a traditional style, or simply have fun with what you wear!

For traditionally clothed women, the main features include a short-sleeved white blouse, worn beneath a Dirndl dress, which should be calf-length. A pinafore should be worn over the dress and should be the same length, worn with low-heeled black shoes or loafers.

For men, a plain white or checked shirt can be worn with leather trousers (Lederhos’n) and these can come with or without braces, although with braces looks quite fetching! For the complete outfit, men should wear off-white slouchy socks with authentic Haferl shoes, but regular black shoes will look OK, too.

Want a beer? Take a seat

With the exception of the Hofbräu-Festzelt tent, if you want to order a beer you need to be seated. Staff won’t look at you if you’re milling around, so make friends with a group who are seated if you can’t find a bench for yourself. This is also another good reason to book in advance.

Take enough cash

When you’re out and about exploring the huge Oktoberfest grounds, the last thing you want is to unexpectedly run out of cash. While some parts of the event do take card, most of the tents take cash, so before you set off each morning, make sure you’ve got enough for the day depending on what you’re up to. For a couple of beers, a main meal, a brez’n (pretzel) and your local transport fare to and from the event, you’ll need about 50 Euros, and don’t forget to tip your waiter or waitress (about 10-15%). Personally, I always carry a little extra cash, just in case.

Don’t put your foot on the bench (unless you’re prepared to chug)

While many people stand around their respective benches to stretch their legs, don’t rest your foot up on the bench unless you’re prepared to chug your beer. Doing so will win you the glory of the tent, however remember to pace yourself throughout the day. All of the tents serve soft drinks and water, so you’ve got plenty of options if you’re taking a break from beer.

busy tent

Inside a busy tent. © Flickr user Roman Boed

Learn the local tongue

It’s polite to learn at least a little of the local language when you’re travelling abroad, so memorise a few phrases before you go. Here are some to help you on your way:

Please

Bitte

Thank you

Danke

You’re welcome

Bitteschön

Yes

Ja

No

Nein

Pardon me

Entschuldigung

I’m sorry

Es tut mir leid

Cheers!

Prost!

I don’t speak German very well

Ich spreche nicht sehr gut Deutsch

Do you speak English?

Sprechen Sie Englisch?

[When asking for a seat] Excuse me, is there room for me and my friends here?

Entschuldigung, ist hier wohl noch ein Platz frei für mich und meine Freunde?

Please repeat

Bitte wiederholen

Where is the subway?

Wo ist die U-Bahn?

Where are the toilets?

Wo ist das toiletten?

One beer, please!

Ein bier, bitte!

Excited to travel to Oktoberfest in 2016?

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