As summer comes to an end join in the cheer at Bavaria’s Oktoberfest and raise a litre in an iconic Maßkrug at the world’s largest and most famous beer festival.
Now in its 184th year, 2017 will see millions flock again to Munich to drink and eat and make merry over nearly three weeks of boozy celebrations. Everything kicks off at noon precisely on Saturday September 12, when Munich’s mayor taps the first barrel and announces the “Wiesn”, as locals call it, officially underway. Running until Monday October 3 there is plenty of time to make sure you catch the action and join in the party in both mammoth marquees and smaller tents.
The history goes back to a horse race, held by the National Guard to mark the marriage of Ludwig, Crown Prince of Bavaria. The race was repeated and 60 years later stalls began to increase in number until in 1896 beer tents popped up selling Munich beers. The beer may have eclipsed the original race, which was last run in 1936, but the tradition of only local beer being served remains – and with such a variety of excellent brews no one is complaining.
For those who don’t mind a crowd – and to get a taste of the sheer scale of things – head to one of the seven Wirtsbudenstraße, the largest of the tents, where capacities reach well into the thousands. The largest, Winzerer Fähndl (the Paulaner tent) can hold nearly 11,000 and it is not rare to see the odd celebrity showing their face. Others have their own special touches that might appeal, the Augustiner tent is the only to serve from wooden barrels rather than the steel seen elsewhere, and any dedicated carnivore’s eyes will widen at the sight of spit-roast oxen at the Ochsenbraterei tent.
For those looking for something more intimate (and preferring some grilled fish to go with your stein) the cosy Fischer-Vroni tent serving Augustiner by the entrance might be a good place to start, though with celebrities and local and international VIPs often congregating at Käfer’s Wies’n-Schänke or in the gallery at the Hippodrom, these are worth a look in too. With the former be sure to get there well before 11pm to enjoy its late licence before the crowds spill out from the other closing tents to continue a little longer into the night.
As an ever popular event drawing millions – and given that alcohol is a focus – consider some options to help make the most of the festivities without getting trampled underfoot. Events organisers still have some table reservations allowing your group to enjoy prime seating, with tischreservierung-oktoberfest.de offering midday and evening reservations for groups from a few hundred Euros to €10,000.
The Mandarin Oriental is an excellent place to stay; housed in the former opera house it offers the timeless elegance that guests would expect. The location in the old town is fantastic for shopping along Maximilianstrasse, and the newly re-opened roof top bar is well worth a visit before the weather turns.
So make your way to Munich for a beer festival without comparison. Don’t forget the white-knuckle rides and ferris wheel (all best tried before one too many), the musicians and the folk groups in traditional costume, and the stalls selling sweet treats. But of course once all that is done, the focus must return to the local beer, so brace yourself for a spectacular party this early autumn, in true Bavarian style.
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