Love beer or not, Munich's Oktoberfest is the place to be

UPDATED ON SEP 26, 2014 08:35 PM IST 6 Photos
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If you dislike crowds, noise or beer, this is not the time to visit Munich. Even though it is called Oktoberfest, one of the world's largest fun fairs has already started and is drawing in its usual crowd of millions. But if you do like them, or want the beer despite those other distractions, now's the time to go. The fair, whose start was moved forward into September long ago to profit from the late summer, goes on this year until October 5. Here's all there is to do at the annual do that was was first celebrated in 1810 when Crown Prince Ludwig married Princess Therese and invited Munich's citizens to join the party on the Theresienwiesen ("Therese's meadow"), the fields in front of the then city gates. (Text: Reuters, Photos: Munich Tourism Board)

If you dislike crowds, noise or beer, this is not the time to visit Munich. Even though it is called Oktoberfest, one of the world's largest fun fairs has already started and is drawing in its usual crowd of millions. But if you do like them, or want the beer despite those other distractions, now's the time to go. The fair, whose start was moved forward into September long ago to profit from the late summer, goes on this year until October 5. Here's all there is to do at the annual do that was was first celebrated in 1810 when Crown Prince Ludwig married Princess Therese and invited Munich's citizens to join the party on the Theresienwiesen ("Therese's meadow"), the fields in front of the then city gates. (Text: Reuters, Photos: Munich Tourism Board)

UPDATED ON SEP 26, 2014 08:35 PM IST
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Late night: All but a few beer tents have served their last round at about 11 pm. A few places, like the Schuetzen-Festzelt, have a ritual last song of the night. If you're into Rainhard Fendrich, an Austrian pop star who goes down well with the Bavarian crowd, head to the Schuetzen for a recital of his love song "Weus'd a Herz host wia a Bergwerk" ("Because you have a heart like a mine" - yes, it works better in German). You can either go on to Weinzelt ("wine tent") or the Kaefer tent, both of which still serve alcohol after midnight. Alternatively, there are after-parties all over the city. Follow the locals. Surely by now you will have befriended some.

Late night: All but a few beer tents have served their last round at about 11 pm. A few places, like the Schuetzen-Festzelt, have a ritual last song of the night. If you're into Rainhard Fendrich, an Austrian pop star who goes down well with the Bavarian crowd, head to the Schuetzen for a recital of his love song "Weus'd a Herz host wia a Bergwerk" ("Because you have a heart like a mine" - yes, it works better in German). You can either go on to Weinzelt ("wine tent") or the Kaefer tent, both of which still serve alcohol after midnight. Alternatively, there are after-parties all over the city. Follow the locals. Surely by now you will have befriended some.

UPDATED ON SEP 26, 2014 08:35 PM IST
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Other activities: For your first view of the fair, try a turn on the Ferris wheel. For the more adventurous, try one of the stomach-turning rollercoasters before, rather than after, sampling the beer. The Toboggan, offering the sight of punters struggling to stay upright on an uphill conveyor belt, is a favourite and explains why "Schadenfreude" (deriving pleasure from someone else's misfortune) is a German word. Its entertainment value makes up for its lack of gut-churning potential. If the weather is not kind to you, you could head to the Marienplatz in the heart of Munich to check out the city hall and the cathedral and find a restaurant in the pedestrian zone.

Other activities: For your first view of the fair, try a turn on the Ferris wheel. For the more adventurous, try one of the stomach-turning rollercoasters before, rather than after, sampling the beer. The Toboggan, offering the sight of punters struggling to stay upright on an uphill conveyor belt, is a favourite and explains why "Schadenfreude" (deriving pleasure from someone else's misfortune) is a German word. Its entertainment value makes up for its lack of gut-churning potential. If the weather is not kind to you, you could head to the Marienplatz in the heart of Munich to check out the city hall and the cathedral and find a restaurant in the pedestrian zone.

UPDATED ON SEP 26, 2014 08:35 PM IST
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The Oktoberfest tents serve local delicacies such as thirst-provoking oxen, pork knuckles and salty pretzels. But for a less pricey version and possibly more authentic Munich meal, try one of the city's many beer halls or gardens. The Augustiner beer hall in Munich's main pedestrian zone is a favourite after-work meeting spot. The Chinese Tower beer garden in the English Garden park, known for its tall wooden pagoda, is a classic, but farther away from the festivities. Once you are inside a tent, where the oompah of the brass bands mingles with sing-alongs and the cheer of merry drinkers, find a table, order drinks and food, and have fun. Prost!

The Oktoberfest tents serve local delicacies such as thirst-provoking oxen, pork knuckles and salty pretzels. But for a less pricey version and possibly more authentic Munich meal, try one of the city's many beer halls or gardens. The Augustiner beer hall in Munich's main pedestrian zone is a favourite after-work meeting spot. The Chinese Tower beer garden in the English Garden park, known for its tall wooden pagoda, is a classic, but farther away from the festivities. Once you are inside a tent, where the oompah of the brass bands mingles with sing-alongs and the cheer of merry drinkers, find a table, order drinks and food, and have fun. Prost!

UPDATED ON SEP 26, 2014 08:35 PM IST
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Remember the beer not only comes in a 1 litre (1.8 pint) 'mass' glass, but at around 6% is also stronger than the brew you might be used to. Pace yourself or risk passing out and becoming a "Bierleiche" ("beer corpse"). The litre will cost 9.70-10.10 euros ($12.40-12.90) this year, roughly 30 cents more than last year. If you want to get into a beer tent but have no reservation, be ready to turn up before noon. Tents open at 9 a.m. on the weekends. While there is seating for some 115,000 people in total, they shut once they are full. On rare occasions, access is shut to the entire Wiesn site due to overcrowding.

Remember the beer not only comes in a 1 litre (1.8 pint) 'mass' glass, but at around 6% is also stronger than the brew you might be used to. Pace yourself or risk passing out and becoming a "Bierleiche" ("beer corpse"). The litre will cost 9.70-10.10 euros ($12.40-12.90) this year, roughly 30 cents more than last year. If you want to get into a beer tent but have no reservation, be ready to turn up before noon. Tents open at 9 a.m. on the weekends. While there is seating for some 115,000 people in total, they shut once they are full. On rare occasions, access is shut to the entire Wiesn site due to overcrowding.

UPDATED ON SEP 26, 2014 08:35 PM IST
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Other sights: For some fresh air, or maybe to cure a hangover, try a walk around the English Gardens, a rare oasis of tranquillity during the Oktoberfest and one of the world's largest urban parks. Don't be taken by surprise if you wander into the area reserved for naked sunbathers. The Free Body Culture (FKK) movement was founded in the early 20th century and succeeded in taking much of the smut and embarrassment out of nudity. Another curiosity is the surfers riding the small waves at the mouth of an artificial stream running through the gardens, not far from the P1. An alternative relaxing destination just out of town is Lake Starnberg, formed from Ice Age glaciers from the Alps and offering stunning mountain views on a clear day.

Other sights: For some fresh air, or maybe to cure a hangover, try a walk around the English Gardens, a rare oasis of tranquillity during the Oktoberfest and one of the world's largest urban parks. Don't be taken by surprise if you wander into the area reserved for naked sunbathers. The Free Body Culture (FKK) movement was founded in the early 20th century and succeeded in taking much of the smut and embarrassment out of nudity. Another curiosity is the surfers riding the small waves at the mouth of an artificial stream running through the gardens, not far from the P1. An alternative relaxing destination just out of town is Lake Starnberg, formed from Ice Age glaciers from the Alps and offering stunning mountain views on a clear day.

UPDATED ON SEP 26, 2014 08:35 PM IST

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