Munich Oktoberfest 2014 – Guide & Travel Tips
The Munich Oktoberfest or Munich Beerfest is considered to be the world’s largest public fair held annually at Munich, Bavaria, Germany. Oktoberfest is a 16-18 day festival and attracts over six million visitors (72% Bavarians and 15% tourists). As history tells it, the festival begins on the first Saturday after September 15th and ends on the first Sunday in October. Following the same tradition, Oktoberfest 2014 starts on Saturday, 20th September until Sunday the 5th of October.
The festival traces its roots to the wedding of Bavarian crown prince Ludwig to Princess Therese from Saxony-Hildburghausen (hence the name Theresienwiese or Therese’s green) on October 12, 1810. Later a large public horse race was organized to ensure that the Bavarian folk could also partake in the wedding celebration. It was the decision to repeat the horse races in the subsequent years that gave rise to the tradition of Oktoberfest.
Opening of Oktoberfest is marked by tapping of the first barrel by the Mayor and declaring the “Wiesn“ – as the Munich people call it – officially open.
Today the festival in Munich consists of lots of beer and food, served in huge tents owned by different breweries, restaurants and other establishments. There are bands playing traditional Bavarian music, as well as modern bands in the evening hours that play rock, pop, and dance music. Some of the traditional band members will throw in a more modern tune when you least expect it and the whole tent will cheer. Singing along with the band is not only common it is almost natural as everyone will be standing on their benches and swaying in unison. You can try to abstain but it won’t last long. Everyone eventually caves in to the party atmosphere and begins to sing and dance whether you know the song or not. Knowing the words is not a requirement to this fun.
Contrary to what you might think with regards to what people wear at Oktoberfest, most of the people who attend the festival do keep with tradition by wearing traditional clothes: Lederhosen for men; Dirndl dresses for women.
An estimated 6.4 million people visited Oktoberfest 2013 and the festival served 6.7 million liters of beer !
Events like Oktoberfest are very popular worldwide and tickets do sell out. If you are planning on going with a large number of people whether it is for a family reunion, company event or even a bunch of friends getting together and want to make sure you can get in to one of the tents, it is highly recommended to reserve a table in a tent ahead of time as they do fill up and fill up early. Here is a list of some large beer tents, with small description of what characterizes the tent, you can check this year :
Armbrustschuetzen – Bull’s Eye!
Augustiner-Braeu – Family friendly and great fun
Braeurosl – True Wiesn tradition
Kafer Wies’n-Schanke – Celebrity meeting place and gourmet temple
Fischer-Vroni – For Fish lovers
Hofbrau Festhalle – World famous
Hacker Festzelt – Bavarian Heaven
Loewenbraeu – A lion marks the spot
Marstall – Hippodrom makes way for the all new Marstall tent from the Family Able
Ochsenbraterei – All kinds of oxen
Schottenhamel – Pure Tradition
Schuetzen-Festhalle – Under Bavaria’s eyes
Winzerer Faehnd’l – A toast to Gemuetlichkeit
Weinzelt – A glass of wine …
Reservations must be made with the tent directly.
Here is a little insider tip; if you are not in one of the tents, NO BEER. If you are in a tent but not sitting in a seat, NO BEER. If you want a beer while you are at the festival get their early, 4:30pm on weekdays at the latest and as the tents open on the weekend, which is 9am. It may sound too early to start drinking beer but if you really want to get a seat or if you have a large group that is your best bet (unless you have reserved a table ahead of time). The beer prices for the 2014 festival ranges from €10,10 to €9,70 a liter which is up over 2.5% from last year. The smaller tents have the less expensive beer prices.
Food and Fun
While you are on the festival grounds there are a variety of food tents and carts serving both traditional Bavarian foods and other international fares. You can choose from a wide range of foods including Pork Knuckles (eisbein/schweinshaxe), Bratwurst and Apple Strudel (apfeistrudel). There are also many amusement rides to enjoy that add a bit of excitement – these include a Ferris wheel, roller coaster, and many other rides. Oktoberfest is not only for kids outside the beer tents. While you are there you will see families enjoying the festival and each other.
How to reach Bavaria
There is a comprehensive network of roads and rail links in conjunction with Munich, Nuremberg, Augsburg and Frankfurt airports and reliable car rental providers who can help you reaching your destination. Depending on your time, budget and preferences you can choose a mode of transportation that best suits your needs. The fastest way, of course, is to go by plane. Leaving the Berlin Tegel Airport (TXL) and arriving at the Munich Airport (MUC) takes about an hour flight time. From the airport you can take an express bus into the city center for about 2.23€ ($3.00). Your plane ticket will cost you approximately 112€ ($150) round trip. You can also travel by train which costs about €138 one way ($185) and takes a little over 6 hours.
If you are one of those who like to be in control, you can always drive the 600 kilometers (370 miles) from Berlin to Munich. Like the train, it will take about 6 hours to get there and all you would have to pay for is the fuel which will cost you about €1.63 a liter ($2.19 US). But your fuel bill might be more than airfare! So think before taking on the driving wheels. Your last option is the bus, while it is the cheapest it is also the slowest. The bus trip will take you about 9 hours to go from Berlin to Munich. The ticket will cost you approximately €40 one way ($53). If you have a great deal of time and not so much by way of money then bus is the best way. You can even take a metro train from the airport directly to party central.
The same rules apply while arriving from Frankfurt with the following exceptions. Airfare from Frankfurt (FRA) to Munich (MUC) will cost you about €186 ($250) round trip; the train ride will cost you about €110 ($147) one way and take about 3 ½ hours travel time. As for the miles to drive, this route only has 392 kilometers (244 miles) so you will use less gas. The bus fare will be about €30 one way ($40) and take about 5 hours.
Remember Munich is a major tourist destination and European transport hub still available accommodation and flights become non-existent prior to the opening day of Oktoberfest. So plan ahead to avoid disappointment and stay clear of missed reservations. Same goes with table booking at beer tents, if you are planning to attend Oktoberfest next year, better think about booking a table before hand.
How to Get to Oktoberfest in Munich
The best way to get to Oktoberfest is by public transport. Trains and subways run every 10 minutes until 2 a.m. on weekends and until 1 a.m. on weekdays during Oktoberfest. The closest subway stop to Oktoberfest is Theresienwiese (take the lines U4 and U5); good alternatives in peak times are the subways stops Goetheplatz and Poccistraße (lines U3 or U6). You may choose to hire a cab or rent a car to festival ground but be warned, during the peak times of Oktoberfest, driving to Oktoberfest can be a hassle as the streets of Munich are congested and it would very difficult to find parking spots
With regards to where to stay while you are enjoying Oktoberfest, there are a number of hotels within walking distance to the festival grounds. Depending on your budget, on the high side you have the Rocco Forte the Charles Hotel which is a 5 star luxury hotel with rooms starting at €744 ($1000) per night and is 1.4 kilometers (.87 miles). On the lower side is the Smart Stay Hostel Munich City which will get you 1 ½ stars but will only cost your about €83 ($112) per night and is only .64 kilometers (.40 miles). If you want to say at the closest hotel you can try The TRYP München City Center Hotel which is a 4 star hotel with rooms starting at €428 ($575) a night and only .54 kilometers (.34 miles) from the festival grounds.
You can also get many cheap alternatives like B&Bs, camping sites and rent caravans or containers.
Other places of interest
One of the best part of the festival is, besides the obvious party aspect of the event, its proximity to so many other activities and places in Munich. One such adventure is a day trip to visit the town of Füssen Germany. This is where the Neuschwanstein Castle is located. If you have ever visited any Disney park and have seen Cinderella’s castle, you may like to know it was modeled after the Neuschwanstein Castle. By taking a train ride for approximately 2 hours and at the cost of €25 ($33) one way you will find yourself in the quaint city of Fussen, which is the closest major city to Munich. Spend the day exploring many small shops along the winding narrow streets. If you want to spend the night (highly recommended) check out Brauereigasthof Bräustüberl where you can get a room for about €88 ($119) per night and enjoy some amazing Bavarian food at the same location. It is also walking distance from the train station.
If you do not want to step out of Munich, here are a few places of tourist interest in Munich city :
1. Marienplatz – Marien Square and the New Town Hall of Munich
2. Frauenkirche – Cathedral of Our Blessed Lady – The Catholic Cathedral of Our Blessed Lady is the largest church of Munich
3. The English Garden – Munich’s largest park which is bigger than Central Park in New York
4. Residence Palace of Munich – Former royal palace of the Bavarian monarchs.
5. Museums Ensemble – Unique ensemble of three museums each of them highlighting a different period in European art.
Come, enjoy and explore all that Oktoberfest, Munich and Bavaria have to offer. Rest assured you will take back fond memories of a life time experience.