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A Backpackers Guide to the Oktoberfest

Making the Most of the Munich Mayhem

Originally a mass gathering held to celebrate the marriage of a Bavarian Prince to his Princess, these days at the Oktoberfest things are a little different to how they were back in 1818. In essence it is a huge orgy of beer-guzzling and associated antics... quite different to anything else in the world.

How it Works

Imagine an English pub, an American bar, or even a German biergarten. Then multiply the people, the beer, and the general level of raucousness by millions. You then can envisage the Oktoberfest.

Run by six of Munich’s oldest breweries, the Oktoberfest takes place over the 16 days leading up to the first Sunday of October (contrary to its name, the festival is held predominantly in September). During this time, upwards of six million people visit and they’re all united by one common bond: drink!

As a result, the Oktoberfest is both awesome and a little tricky. With such a heaving mass of (let’s be honest) largely intoxicated drinkers packed into the festival’s 14 beer tents, the atmosphere tends to be merry, if a little frenzied.

While it’s undoubtedly a great event, the Oktoberfest does need a little bit of forethought before you head off into its boozy bowels. Here, then, are some survival tips on how to make the most of the Oktoberfest.

Accommodation

Accommodation for the Oktoberfest gets booked up fast. Really fast. As with most hostels in Germany, the hostels in Munich are excellent, so it’s worth booking well in advance to ensure you have a bed for the festival.

What’s more, the majority of the Munich hostels are centrally located, and happily close to the Oktoberfest site at Theresienwiesen, which means that stumbling walk home after a day’s drinking doesn’t have to last longer than fifteen or so minutes — however much you’ve imbibed!

What to Expect

It’s probably impossible to overstate the importance of preparing for your trip to the Oktoberfest. In a way, there’s not a whole lot you can do, but turn up with the wrong expectations and the experience can be pretty daunting, to say the least.
For a start, the Oktoberfest is almost unimaginably busy. Each beer tent holds between one and nine thousand people, who sit squished into tables of 10. Beer is served to the table, so many people try to grab one as soon as the festival opens at 11, and then stay there until closing time (save, of course, a few quick visits to the toilets).

If you want to beat the crowd, the best bet is to go at lunchtime during the week. Things get steadily busier as the day, and the week goes on. So if you’re keen to taste the beers amongst relative calm, head to the site early and get a few in before others barrage their way into the mix.

The other important thing to prepare for is the cost. This is the world’s biggest beer festival, but it’s pretty much run by a cartel (the same six breweries are present year in year out), so don’t expect an easy time on the wallet. Litres of beer cost around €8, and a full meal can be three times as much.

Since it’s all but impossible to take anything into the site, make sure to eat a hearty breakfast before you leave in the morning. It may also be worth sinking a cheeky couple of brews before walking through the festival gates, just to line the stomach, as it were.

Get into the Spirit of Things

There’s a reason why the Oktoberfest is packed to the rafters: it’s one of the most enjoyable festivals in the world. After all, this is a massive two-week eating-and-drinking marathon, and everyone is there to have a whole lot of fun.

Whether you’re squashed shoulder-to-shoulder on a table, dancing haphazardly to one of the many live Bavarian bands, or chomping on a pretzel outside the tents, the Oktoberfest is all about meeting people and letting yourself get swept away in a tidal wave of beer-fueled merriment.