Munich Oktoberfest Party Guide
For Two Weeks The Beer Tents Do Not Rest
The huge party goes on for two weeks in the massive beer tents.
With a toast and a "prost," big beers and no fears, oompha bands and cheering crowds, Oktoberfest is a party larger than even the tents that contain it.
Oktoberfest in Munich – the 2012 dates are Sept. 22-Oct. 7 – is an event on a gigantic scale. It has beer tents the size of airplane hangers. Pretzles the size of steering wheels. And beers the size of Bavaria.
Thousands fill the tents, all hoisting the 1-liter brews. They are seated at picnic tables and often jump up on the benches to a particular song that matches their mood. The sound echoes through the buldings, esentiallly joining everyone together under some type of Bavarian beer bonding.
The fun Frauleins cheer their big beers at Oktoberfest.
Waitresses manage to carry fistfulls of heavy beers.
Inside a beer tent during Munich Oktoberfest.
There are more than a dozen of these tents, though since they require patrons to be seated to have a beer, it's kind of like a controlled mahem. In the Hofbrau Haus, however, the word "controlled" should be only prefaced by the words: "out of," because it's the most untamed of the all tents.
For it is here that Okotberfest is at its most intense. The Hofbrau is the largest of all the tents, with a capacity of several thousand. One only needs to be in the vicinity of a table to be served – and considering the tables are packed so closely to one another and the aisles it's impossible to be anywhere else –and it has the youngest, the most international and the most party-heavy partiers.
The band, on an elevated stage at the center of the action, intices the antics with fun-style music and the continuous "Ein Prosit, Ein Prosit," cheers song, to which strangers and new friends clank the large, heavy mugs This is the precice scene everyone pictures when envisioning Oktoberfest.
The Hofbrau House is the most fun because it has the most fun party people.
Those big beers at the Hobrau Haus keep people laughing.
They sell those Alpine hats at Oktoberfest and it looks great on this gal.
The rocking Hofbrau Haus keeps people smiling all during Oktoberfest.
The Oktoberfest oompha band gets ready to enter a beer tent.
The mayor of Munich taps the first keg to open Oktoberfest.
Start here, finish here whatever; it's the place to be for Munich Oktoberfest.
Yet it's hardly the only party. To use a Formula 1 analogy, if the Hofbrau Hous is sitting on the pole, then Schottenhamel Spantenbrau is on the outside front row. It could easily be called the Stand-Up Tent because the entire crowd is on its feet. That's largely because the band is cranking not oompha tunes, but American rock classics. It's so large it has street signs identifying the table rows.
A similiar scene takes place simultaniously at the Hacker-Fetzelt, or Hackerbrau-Festhalle. The Lowenbrau tent and the Augustiner Brau Festhalle are fun, as well; well, more sedate by comparison but still with rauckous moments.
The scene at the Hofbrau Haus, the biggest and best of Oktoberfest.
The massive crowd at the Hofbrau Haus in Munich during Oktoberfest.
There is the formality in these tents that one has to be seated to be served. And just about every table has a reservation sign taped to it so initially it can be challenging to find a spot. For small grouns, say 2-4, it's always easy to walk up and join a group at a table, if even to just get a beer and walk around. If not, simply go to the next tent. Reservations for six or more are made with the individual tents and are recommended; this includes food and drink tickets. (See below for information on contacting specific tents.)
The waitress, dressed in traditional Bavarian dress, will take the order – just tell her how many beers to bring – and she will come back in minutes with literally fistfullls of suds. They typically carry 6-8 in a single trip but 10 or even 12 is not uncommon. It's cash only, pay as you go (8 Euros; leave at least .50 tip per beer).
Oktoberfest is actually a carnival with county fair-type rides – but other than the bumper cars nothing that would be recommended for anyone who has spent any time in the beer tents – and food and souvenir booths. All this is surrounded by more than a dozen of the large tents from the various Munich breweries.
The food ranges from beef and pork with side dishes (in the beer tents) to sandwiches, all manner of bratwurst, sweetened popcorn and even fish and pasta. But by far the most popular items is the roasted chicken, moist and delicious (6.50 for half a hendl).
The celebration of the harvest lasts jut two weeks starting the second Saturday of September, but the party seems to lasts a lifetime. "I'm here every night, " said one local. "Two weeks is plenty."
Munich Oktoberfest Top Party Tips
It's party time for two weeks in the beer tents in Munich.
• Oktoberfest 2012 is Sept. 22-Oct. 7.
• Arrive at least by 11 on Opening Day. The 2010 event is the 200th anniversary.
• Get a reservation for groups of 5-6 (or more) in the tent of choice; it's a must to be in the Hofbrau Haus on Opening Day.
• Get cash. ATMs are on-site at each of the two entrances.
• Tents open at 11 a.m., and close at 11 p.m. The Oktoberfest grounds stay open until midnight.
• There is a Metro stop at the entrance.
• Hotels fill up in town fast, so make reservations early, well before the summer. It's best to stay walking distance, which is anyywhere near the main train station.
• Biers are 1 liter and cost 8 Euros
• The words to the often-played beer cheers song is: "it's ein Prosit, ein Prosit, der Gemuetlichkeit....eins, zwei, drei g'suff."
• Dress comfortably; it's HOT in those beer tents!
• The official Oktoberfest web site.
WHEN TO GO TO OKTOBERFEST
The obvious temptation is to be there for opening weekend. It carries with it all the anticipated build-up to the tapping of the first keg. A parade goes down the event's main street with horse-drawn carriages carrying kegs to the individual tents. It has all the excitement of a major sporting event, especially when the band turns to march into a building.
The grounds open at 10 and the beer tent doors don't swing open until 11 – unless you have a table reservation. This is highly recommended on opening day, especially to even get into the Hofbrau Haus. Otherwise, it could be a vary frustrating experience to wait in a line, finally enter a tent and have all this beer around you only not be able to find a place to park it and partake.
The next day begins with what has to be the world's longest parade outside of Mardi Gras. Rolling down Schwanthalerst, it lasts three hours from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. At the festival, it's much more manageable to walk in and out of the tents with no lines.
Oktoberfest does continue during the weekdays and hardly slows down at all. In fact, it could be said this is the best time to visit. You certainly won't be missing anything because the tents are intense, the bands play, the beers flow and the crowds go crazy.
For this is Oktoberfest and for two weeks, it does not rest.
The entrance to Oktoberfest, here on Opening Day.
Moments before the band arrives, a crowd gathers outside the tents...
...the band enters the giant beer hall...
...and it's party time!
Contacting the Beer Tents
(Phone: +49, 89, then number)
Reservations include two 1-liter beers and a half-chicken
• Augustiner Festhalle. Manfred Vollmer. 23183266. Fax: 2605379.
• Hackerbrau-Festhalle, Anton and Christine Roiderer. 8170 7303. Fax: 8170 7385.
• Hofbrau Haus: Gunter and Margot Steinberg. 4489670. Fax: 4483587. E-mail: email@example.com.
• Lowenbrau-Festlalle. Ludwig Hagan and Stepanie Spendler. 477677. Fax: 4705848. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Festhalle Schottenhamel. 54469310. Fax: 54469319. E-mail: email@example.com.