There are three steps you must take to truly experience Oktoberfest in Munich.
Step 1: Get thee to Munich!
Step 2: Meet up with a group of other likeminded friends and travelers, with a native German or two thrown in for a real adventure.
Step 3: Put on a Dirndl…
Okay, so step three wasn’t on my bucket list but, it totally took my Oktoberfest experience to another level!
As I left the states for Germany, fall was just around the corner. Halloween candy and decorations had started to make an appearance on the shelves and the trees were changing color in the Northeast. The arrival of fall in Munich however is a very different story. In all of Germany but especially Munich, for 16 days, fall equals the celebration of over 200 years of tradition, that began as a celebration of the Royal marriage on October 12, 1810, between Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese of Saxony. The field where the celebration took place, and still does today, was named Theresienwiese (Theresa’s Fields) in her honor.
That first celebration must have been so epic, that Germans decided to repeat it year after year, creating the now modern Oktoberfest. Oktoberfest is held in September in order to take advantage of the better weather and longer days.
My Oktoberfest journey began on a cold rainy day via high speed train from Frankfurt to Munich I was traveling with several industry colleagues at the invitation of our hosts Daniel Deoscher and David MacGregor from the Rocco Forte Hotel group. We kicked off our journey with some champagne and a lovely boxed lunch compliments of our Frankfurt host hotel, The Villa Kennedy. Simple food, new friends and a bottle of bubbly made the ride go quickly! Full of champagne and snacks we arrived in Munich where we were met at the end of the platform in the Munich train station, by a representative from The Charles Hotel, a Rocco Forte property, who took our luggage and escorted us just 2 short blocks walk to the hotel.
After checking in and freshening up, we set out hoping to catch the last of the Oktoberfest parade just a few blocks walk from our hotel. We made it just as the last several groups of marchers filed past. After the parade, we took a detour to the Marienplatz, hoping to see one of the city’s most loved oddities, the Munich Glockenspiel, or carillon. This chiming clock was added to the tower of the Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall) the year the building was completed in 1907 and recounts a royal wedding, jousting tournament and ritualistic dance, all events which have etched a mark on Munich’s popular folklore. Alas, we were too late as the clock only plays at Noon and 5:00 p.m. daily but, it is a sight that is worth seeing.
Upon our return to the hotel we were all proudly presented with traditional Dirndl’s and Lederhosen in preparation for the festivities, courtesy of ours hosts from Rocco Forte and The Charles Hotel, Daniel Doescher and Roman Barthemann. These outfits were the real deal! Clueless and in a daze, I googled “how to wear a dirndl”, praying it would fit, and fretting over exactly what shoes to wear, I then proceeded to get in close touch with my latent German heritage!
(Photo Courtesy of Cara Sharrat)
I think we all looked amazing!
In Munich, you cannot ignore the hundreds of thousands of people dressed in Lederhosen and Dirndl’s drinking barrels of beer, singing drinking songs and eating copious amounts of roasted chicken, pork, pretzels, and dumplings. I really had no idea of the actual size and scope of Oktoberfest, and I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of people and the size of the space. The grounds of Oktoberfest reminded me of a giant carnival, with rides, food stands, games and two dozen beer halls that were jam packed with revelers from all over the world. The tents and carnival trailers were decorated in hops and barley instead of the traditional fall decor that you would expect, such as cornstalks, scarecrows and pumpkins.
Our group from Rocco Forte was being hosted in the Schützen-Festzelt tent, which is one of the oldest tents and owned by Löwenbräu Breweries, it holds up to 5,100 people inside and another 1,400 outside. That is just in one of the 24 tents! Each tent brews its own special beer just for Oktoberfest. Every year over six million people attend the 16 day celebration and I have it on good authority that, many locals attend daily during the celebration. Having now attended myself I can see why!
Inside the tent, there were bodies everywhere singing and dancing, eating and drinking. The Walter Bankhammer and Die Niederalmer band were fantastic and played everything from traditional German Oktoberfest songs to ABBA and the Spice Girls! We had a birds eye view from the reserved gallery table and could watch all the action. I dare you to go to Munich and Oktoberfest and experience it for yourself. It is difficult to ignore 6,000 people singing Dancing Queen without joining in or happily toasting and singing, Ein Prosit, which goes, I prosted, I prosted, I prosted at the top of your lungs. Surprisingly, the food was quite good and plentiful. I ate a roasted pork rib so huge it could have been from a brontosaurus and not a pig.
The entrance to the festival and tents is free and solo travelers or couples can enter without reservations but usually only early in the day, or mid-week as evenings are usually filled to capacity. To reserve a table for a group you must purchase food and drink vouchers for each of the 10 people (minimum required for a table) attending directly from the specified beer tent well advance. Warning — if you reserve 10 spots and only 4 people show, you will automatically be making a 6 new friends.
Reservations can go on sale as early as December the year before, and most reserved tables are booked up by locals months in advance. The system works similarly to season tickets, in that returning guests get first dibs on reservations. Frontiers is a proud partner with Rocco Forte Hotel Group, and as a partner we can often offer our clients special amenities and rates that booking direct cannot. The best way to experience Oktoberfest is to allow Frontiers and The Charles Hotel to help plan your adventure from your luxury accommodation to your very own costume of Dirndl or Lederhosen!