O’zapft Is! A Complete Guide to Oktoberfest 2017 in Munich
It’s that time of year again where Bavaria becomes the center of attention in Germany, and throughout the world. Munich’s famed Oktoberfest celebration will take place from Sept. 16 – Oct. 3, hosting around seven-million beer drinkers sporting both ironic and non-ironic Lederhosen ready to celebrate German culture in all its folk glory. Located in Theresienwiese, a meadow just outside of Munich’s city center, this massive scale folk festival will host parades, carnival rides, endless food purveyors and of course, dozens of beer tents. Though this year’s event is just around the corner, it’s still plausible to plan a last minute jaunt to Germany. After all, even though Oktoberfest expects over seven-million attendees, there’s always room for more at this welcoming festival.
Normally, the first move you would make after purchasing your plane ticket and hotel rooms would be to look at getting a reservation at one of the famed beer tents. Nowadays however, most of the big tent’s tables are booked far in advance, some even generationally reserved for decades. Your best bet here? Avoid putting too much stock in getting a seat in the big tents (i.e. Käfer’s Wies’n-Schänke, Hacker-Festhalle), and look towards the smaller, more intimate tents like Fisch-Bäda, Café Kaiserscharrrn or Heinz’ Sausage and Chicken Grill which serve seafood, pastries and grilled meats, respectively – contrary to the worldwide recognition of the Heinz name, this tent has been a family-run Oktoberfest establishment since 1906. Obviously you want to look for an open table first, but if you’re a couple, or just few friends, look to squeeze in with another table that may have some extra space. Not only may this be the only way to find seating, but it’s the perfect way to make new friends. Historically, younger, international college-aged students prefer the livelier tents like Hofbrâu, while the lesser known tents tend to be filled with older, local Germans looking to eat and drink with their counterparts. Regardless of your preferences, it’s recommended that first-timers bounce from tent to tent to get the most out of your Oktoberfest experience.
Bavarian beer served in giant steins are obviously the go-to for most. These mammoth vessels can hold up to a liter of beer and average about $9 to $10 USD. Be mindful though, Bavarian beer generally falls to around 6% ABV. Now, while this is higher than your standard American lager, regular craft beer drinkers should fear not as these brews generally sport a comparable ABV. Those looking for something other than beer should look to champagne. As the second most popular drink at Oktoberfest, big tents like Marstall have devoted much of their business to this sparkling drink. Wine lovers should also rejoice in the Weinzelt tent which year-after-year is filled with all manner of German wines.
Food wise, you’ll find no shortage of animal parts. Hendl is a traditional roast chicken that’s worth ripping into with your bare hands. Seriously, it’s a local faux pas to ask for a fork and knife. Instead, look to the tableside wipes to clean up post-feast. Across the grounds, you’ll also find plenty of head-sized pretzels, pork knuckles, brats, smoked fish, or head to the Ochsenbraterei for an unlimited variety of ox dishes.
Just a short train ride away from the Weisn, a.k.a. the meadow, is downtown Munich, making Oktoberfest all the more accessible to out-of-towners. When it comes to hotels, this is one of those elite European cities housing trendy design hotels well worth your money. Anna Hotel, for instance, offers a variety of rooms that feel more like apartments than hotels. When was the last time you had a hotel room with a hardwood floor? Meanwhile, their lobby restaurant serves up Asian-fusion by way of pristine steamed dumplings. Cortiina follows a similar path, though more design focused. Their loft-style rooms are awash with mid-century modern highlights while Grapes Weinbar awaits your post-Oktoberfest nightcap. Louis Hotel makes use of natural furnishings of oak and stone, reminding you every step of the way that you’re in Europe. Soak in the sun on their rooftop terrace over some breakfast as well. After you settle into your accommodations, take a relaxing train out to the countryside, you’ll arrive in the meadow just in time for the elected mayor of Munich to declare “O’zapft,” or “It’s tapped,” signifying the official start of Oktoberfest 2017.
Oktoberfest will take place in Munich from Sept. 16 – Oct. 3. No purchase is necessary to enter the grounds or tents.