If you fancy dusting off your lederhosen or dirndl and heading over to Munich, here’s some tips on how to plan now. Prost! Did you know that the world’s most famous beer festival isn’t just about the beer? There’s a lot of food, huge fun fairs, and a good helping of Bavarian folk music, too.
With around 6 million visitors every year, Munich's Oktoberfest is the biggest folk festival in the world. Its story dates back to 1810, when the decision was made to mark the wedding of Prince Ludwig of Bavaria and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen with a great outdoors celebration. However, the festival as we know it today didn't really take shape until about 80 years later, with the addition of beer tents, performing acts and other attractions, all illuminated with the new miracle of electric light.
The modern Okoberfest regularly sets new records for the amount of alcohol washed down in its 38 beer tents. Venues like the Schottenhamel (which kicks off the festivities each year with a ceremonial keg tapping) can sit as many as 6000 visitors, and there's enough room in the Ochsenbraterei to roast a whole ox. The folk festival has over 20 large scale rides, including a colourful traditional Ferris wheel and swing carousel as well as modern rollercoasters and drop towers. Then there are stalls where you can buy gingerbread hearts, take a swing at a strongman game or listen to some traditional Bavarian bird whistling.
- When is it? The 188th Oktoberfest Munich runs from Saturday 18 September, 2021 until 3 October. - Where is it? Festivities take place in the Theresienwiese, a 100 acre meadow close to the old town and bounded to the north by the tall Gothic steeples of St Paul's church. It's because of this that the local name for the festival is "Wiesn".
- Oktoberfest with children. Youngsters are welcome any time. Full size prams aren't allowed, but there are areas for parking buggies, changing nappies and preparing baby food. The Familienplatzl beer garden on Street 3 is set up with child-friendly decorations, games, rides and stalls selling snacks and necklaces of sweets. The two Tuesdays of the folk festival are Family Days, with lots of special discounts.
- How to get to the festival? Green and yellow U-bahn lines travel from the main train station to the Theresienwiese stop. This stop can get crammed during peak hours. If this is the case, try travelling on to the next stop, Schwanthalerhohe. For S-bahn lines, the nearest station is Hackerbruche, a 10 minute walk away. - What to wear? There's no dress code, but one way to really get into the spirit of things is to rock some traditional Bavarian garb. For men, that means lederhosen, while women kit themselves out in a dirndl (a dress with an under the bust bodice) and a lace blouse. Dirndls and blouses of different skirts lengths and cuts are available, so you can opt for a mini version, or one that shows less cleavage that some of the more traditional designs. There are even special dirndl bras available.
Tip for the ladies: if you tie your dirndl apron with the bow to the left, it tells the guys you're single. A bow on the right means you're spoken for.
To make the most of the Oktoberfest deals from lastminute.com, Munich has a lot else to offer besides beer and leather shorts. Here are a few suggestions to round out your vacation.
Shopping. Stylish malls like the Funf Hofe and the Schaffler Hof (both on Theatinerstrasse in the old town) give you the chance to browse boutiques and sip coffee among sumptuously elegant architecture and décor. Maxilimilianstrasse is the place to check out the city's most exclusive designer stores, both homegrown and international. Or head to Marienplatz and Karlsplatz for a selection of top department stores.
Museums. The Alte Pinakothek gathers together four hundred years' worth of paintings up to the 18th century, while the Neue Pinakothek takes the story up to the present day. Meanwhile, the Deutsches Museum covers the sciences and natural history.
Live entertainment. The Nationaltheater and Gartnerplatztheater are the main destinations for opera lovers. In the meantime, The Deutsches Theater puts on glitzy musicals and the Prinzregentheater stages cabaret shows and concerts.