Oktoberfest is definitely the most popular beer event in the world. Hosted by the city of Munich in Germany, it gathers more than 6 million visitors during the 16 – 18 days it takes place. The location is a huge field of 42 hectare named Theresienwiese or Wiesn. All the famous beer brands of Munich (and no other place!) come here and organize their tent. In fact those are not tents at all, but enormous beer houses made of solid building materials, with a combined capacity of about 100,000 seats. The fair is so popular that despite its size, it is difficult to find some free seats in many days, especially during weekends.
Oktoberfest is in 2011 at its 178th edition, starting on September 17th and ending on October 3rd. It’s a tradition that Munich’s mayor officially starts the party by tapping a keg in one tent and shouting “Ozapft is”.
The beer is served only in one liter mugs called Maß. Looking at the crowds that are heading towards Theresienwiese at 8 or 9 a.m. to have a few liters of beer early in the morning, we can assume that nobody has an issue with the large amounts of beer served. Since you can have some chicken, pork steak or Brezn (a traditional bakery product that accompanies beer in Bavaria), the beer can never be too much. The price for a Maß of beer varies between €8,30 and €8,90. Not cheap, but you are also paying for the incredible atmosphere. It is a pleasure to see people dressed in their traditional Lederhosen (leather trousers) or Dirndl (traditional dress), cheering up with some bottles of Augustiner beer on their way to Wiesn. Munich is an international city, but the atmosphere around the Oktoberfest area gets even more international, since you hear people talking in lots of languages.
If you are smoking, make sure you use only the specially designed areas. Bavaria has one of the strictest anti-smoking laws in Germany and the authorities will strongly enforce it during the beer festival. Of course you are not allowed to drive, but neither to ride a bike if you are above a certain alcohol limit, so take a taxi or the subway on your way back home.
Even if it sounds strange, Oktoberfest is not only for heavy drinkers. It has lots of theme park attractions, including a gigantic wheel, so it is also a family event. Oktoberfest actually dedicates the Tuesdays to families, having special discounted prices for families and children.
Only the numbers can show how big the event really is. Participants drink about 7 million liters of beer, eat half a million of chicken, 120,000 pairs of sausages, 40 tones of fish and of course many other things like coffee, wine, soft drinks etc.
Plan your visit to Oktoberfest carefully, since it is more crowded than you may think. People often come at 8 or 9 a.m. and queue in front of the tents, even if they open a little bit later. Weekends are the most crowded, so it is better to avoid them if possible. It is a tradition to move from one tent to another and have a few beers in each of them, but this is risky when crowded since you may end up without a place at a table. Tents have strict rules for preventing them getting overcrowded, in order to maintain a nice atmosphere inside. Simply put, they close their doors when all the seats are taken and may open the doors from time to time if enough people leave. Beer is served starting at 9 a.m. during weekends and starting at 10 a.m. during work days. The last beer is served at 10.30 p.m. and the tents close at 11.30 p.m. Nevertheless, there are a lot of options for an after Wiesn party, many discos around organizing such things for people still able to dance.
All in all, Oktoberfest is a great event, no mater if you enjoy beer or not, no matter if you are single, married or with kids. If you haven’t tried it yet, you will immediately get fond of it!