Fall is the perfect opportunity to check off a bucket list item with beer, brats and even lederhosen at an Oktoberfest getaway in Munich!
We love Munich and have visited several times, but never during Oktoberfest. When we looked at prices of airfare to Europe going down, down, down over the past several months, we knew: This fall would be the perfect opportunity for an Oktoberfest getaway in Munich.
Munich, the seat of the German state of Bavaria, has held Oktoberfest (which really occurs from mid-September through the beginning of October) since 1810. Originally, it was a celebration to which the citizens of Munich were invited by Crown Prince Ludwig (later King Ludwig) on the occasion of his marriage to Princess Therese. The fields in front of what were then the city gates were renamed Theresienwiese (Therese’s meadow) in her honor. Oktoberfest is still celebrated at this location. which has its own UBahn stop. Other cities in Bavaria and the rest of Germany hold similar events, but Munich’s is the daddy of them all.The festival grew through the years and became an annual event with an agricultural show, parades, beer halls, amusement rides, bands, a traditional flea circus, a 12-gun salute and keg-tapping ceremony, with an official proclamation by the mayor. An Oktoberfest getaway in Munich will consist of lots to see and do, as this is the largest Volksfest (People’s Fair) in the world. This year, Oktoberfest will be held September 16 through October 3. What to Expect During Your Oktoberfest Getaway in Munich
Expect to share your Oktoberfest Getaway in Munich with a great number of the approximately six million other folks who will visit. Two-thirds of these will be from Bavaria. More than 30 temporary wooden tents are specifically constructed for the festival, each serving its corresponding beer or wine. There are six official breweries which are the only ones allowed to produce Oktoberfest Beer™ under special criteria and serve it at the event.
Safety and security are paramount. Rides and structures are performance tested; an on-site service center with police, firefighters, medical personal from the Bavarian Red Cross and administration has a specific emergency number: 5003220. Ambulance and hospital services, including surgery, are present, with additional emergency vehicles and staff on call. Dogs and glass bottles are banned. There are lockdown rings, controlled access to the festival, and overhead flight bans in place. Crowds and transportation can be quickly diverted and even suspended in the case of a security-related event. This year backpacks and heavy bags over 3 liters are prohibited and a security fence has been built. Entrances are monitored and the UBahn entrance to Theresienwiese has been modified.
Get in the Spirit for Your Oktoberfest Getaway in Munich
You may want to consider wearing traditional Bavarian costume during the festival. For women, this means Dirndl (a gathered skirt and blouse combination). If you loop the tie on your dirndl at the left, this means you are single and open to “friendship.” On the right, you’re off the market. For men, the traditional lederhosen (literally leather pants) and cuffed loferl (which are best described as a diamond-patterned cuffed leg warmer or footless sock) are de rigueur, as well as the hat with feather or brush adornment, For both men and women, the charivari watch-chain with charms and coins dangling is worn. For ideas, click here.
Collectors’ souvenirs such as classic beer steins and mugs, stone pitchers, glass jugs, beer glasses and coffee mugs will tempt you. These items can range in quality and price from cheap trinkets to artisan limited editions.
What Should You Do During Your Oktoberfest Getaway in Munich Besides Drink Beer?
If it’s your first visit to Munich, you’ll want to focus on Marienplatz in the Altstadt neighborhood. This is the historic city center, with attractions like the Rathaus (City Hall) with its mechanical clock, the twin-spired Frauenkirche, the Viktualienmarkt (fresh farmer’s market), museums, and 18th century beer halls such as the Hofbrauhaus (Hofbrau is one of the sanctioned Oktoberfest brewers mentioned above). The UBahn and SBahn (think Underground and Surface to differentiate the trains) both have Marienplatz stops.
For retail therapy inspiration, check out our photo essay: Shopping in Munich. Perhaps you’ll want to spend some time in a residential neighborhood for a real locals vibe. If so, review our post on Schwabing for ideas, or see some of our recommendations from the Nymphenburg neighborhood, below.
Where Else Should You Go to Drink Beer During Your Oktoberfest Getaway in Munich?
Depending upon the amount of time you’ve planned to spend in Munich, we recommend additional beer-related experiences aside from the Oktoberfest venue. Fortunately, as this post about public transportation shows, Getting Around Munich is a piece of Black Forest cake.
Augustiner Bräustuben – A classic Bavarian restaurant associated with Munich’s oldest brewery which dates from 1294, when Augustine monks laid the cornerstone of their monastery. One of the six brewers mentioned above. Choose from restaurant, roof terrace and beer garden seating. Walk from Oktoberfest, or take Trams 18, 19 or N19 along Bayerstrasse stopping at either Schrenkstrass or Hermann-Lingg-Strasse.
Chinesischen Turm Restaurant und Biergarten – Englischer Garten – What’s a beer garden doing at the Chinese Pagoda in the English Garden in Munich? Darned if we can explain but it works. This beer garden seats 7,000 people in the largest park in Europe. Check out the video we made of our visit last year:
Enter the Englischer Garten via Thiemestrasse a couple of blocks east of the UBahn Giselastrasse stop (or direct to the Chinese Pagoda from Busses 54, 150, 154 or N44).
Somewhat away from all the Oktoberfest festivities is the Nymphenburg neighborhood. Get there by SBahn via the München-Laim stop, busses 51 and 151 to Hirschgartenalle or Romanplatz, or trams 12, 16, 17, and N16. This is the home of beautiful Nymphenburg Schloss (Palace), which is surrounded by a lovely park and gardens, perfect for a day’s picnic. We lived in this beautiful neighborhood during a month-long housesit, smack dab between our two favorite beer gardens in Munich, one being the largest, and the other an elegant, intimate setting.
Königlicher Hirschgarten is the largest beer garden in Munich, seating 8,000 people. Surprisingly, this is not overwhelming, situated as it is adjacent to the original Royal Deer Park dating from the 18th century. Prior to that, the site was used for pheasant hunting and growing hops. When the Tiergarten (Deer Garden) gamekeeper was required to lease the opportunity to serve drinks and food to guests, the beer garden concept was born. With a restaurant that seats a total of 500 in a variety of vintage rooms, and outdoor service or self-service, you can enjoy meat-based entrees with spaetzle, fresh pretzels and a variety of cakes and ice cream. Or you may bring your own snacks to enjoy with beer tapped from five different taverns. Centuries old chestnut trees provide shade to the classic wooden tables.
In the Nymphenburg Schloss compound itself, venture down a side alley (on the map, it’s just up from the Romanstrasse back gate to the Schloss) along the auxiliary buildings to the Schlosswirtschaft zur Schwaige Restaurant. This is a very elegant baroque restaurant which serves themed dinners entitled “Sisi” (after the Hapsburg Princess), “Intoxication of the Senses,” and “King Ludwig,” as well as a 3-course menu with beer tasting. It is all breathtakingly lovely inside, but head through the garden gate adjacent to the main entrance and you’ll find the seasonal beer garden, which is shaded by the proverbial spreading chestnut tree. We regularly walked the dogs we were caring for here in the evenings, and would pretend we lived in the neighborhood permanently.
Other Tips and Practicalities: Oktoberfest is Munich’s busiest time of year, and while there is hotel availability as of this writing, my search revealed expensive rate increases during the festival to be the order of the day. For example, our favorite hotel, Le Meridien Munich (see our review here), prices out at well over €400 per night and even more on weekends.
But catch your breath, you can still afford an Oktoberfest getaway in Munich. Expand your search radius and consider neighboring locations. It’s easy to get to Munich by train; from the city of Augsburg, for example, it takes only about 45 minutes. Other communities and outer ring suburbs are even closer. Oktoberfest is only a 10-15 minute walk from the Munich Hauptbahnhof. Leave the station at Bayerstrasse and turn right. Turn left on Hermann-Lingg-Strasse and proceed about 400 meters. Prost!
Note:This guide is part of a Travel Buzz Media round up of editorial content about fall travel. You can read additional stories from Travel Buzz Media members about fall travel at the following links:
Traveling with MJ: Fall Travel Getaway Guide to Providence, Rhode Island
Boomeresque: Five Reasons to Visit Philadelphia in the Fall
Passrider: Where to Head This Fall to See Fall Foliage
Travel Photo Discovery: Fall Road Trip Through Croatia