Q: What is the one event that stands above all others as a mecca of American college students, European travelers, and liters upon liters of beer?
A: Oktoberfest. Oktoberfest is the world’s largest beer festival held annually in Munich, Germany for 16 days. It runs from mid or late September to the first weekend in October.
Without fail, every fall thousands of people from all over the world flock to Munich to participate in this world-renowned festival – and now I can tell you why. I am a firm believer that the atmosphere and energy of the crowd are what make or break any event, and at Oktoberfest, the ambiance was top notch. The festival fairground is filled with fun carnival rides and beer tents. Everyone is dressed in typical German attire, making you feel like you are a part of an old-time celebration. Add in thousands of people singing, gigantic pretzels, and beers the size of a small child, and you have a recipe for a wild and crazy time.
The festival takes place in an area right outside the center of the city, consisting of upwards of 15 tents and several carnival rides and food stands. Each tent can hold anywhere from 5,000-10,000 people, and each one has a different reputation. As a group of American college students, my friends and I chose to head to the Hofbräuhaus tent.
This particular tent is full of young people from all over the world, and certainly the place you are most likely to find other Americans to bond with (I even ended up running into a friend from high school). There are also wine tents, smaller tents, and tents famous for their celebrity clientele.
No matter which tent you go to, get there early. When it comes to getting a table without a reservation, the early bird truly does get the worm. Get there at least two hours before the doors open.
Pro Tip: Book your flights and hotel early! This is the busiest time of year for Munich’s tourism industry, so prices quickly surge when the festival gets closer.
What to Wear
If there is one piece of advice I can give about the outfits, it is to just go for it! I was unsure at first and put off ordering a dirndl (traditional German dress). I ordered one online, only to have it arrive and realize that it would be more appropriate for a toddler than my 5’8” self. Considering most dirndls are long enough to hit your knee, I decided against wearing this one and went for a more simple outfit of a skirt and flannel. However, I did feel a little left out because I wasn’t wearing one. They are part of the atmosphere and fun – so definitely go for it! Just proceed with caution when ordering online.
Food and Drinks
At Oktoberfest, if you’re drinking, you’re drinking beer. And big ones at that. The traditional drinks are served in liters, and have a much higher alcohol content than American beers – so be careful! They also serve water, sodas, wine and other options for those looking to keep their wits about them. When it comes to food, getting a brezel, the famously large pretzels you’ve been seeing all over Instagram, is a must. The grounds are also lined with food tents with delicious chicken and sausage sandwiches – two things that Germany is known for. At Oktoberfest, bigger is truly better, and I’m certainly not complaining.
All in all, Oktoberfest was messy, loud, and glorious…and definitely worth the trip. Prost!
– Abby Rasweiler
Follow more of Abby’s travels on Instagram.
Photo Credit: Abby Rasweiler and damenmodes.tk