July 30 2009 by Claudia Kunkel
When my husband and I were in Munich a few years ago, we made sure we made it to the Hofbrau House to sample their "liquid gold" or in layman's terms - beer. A trip to Munich or anywhere in Germany would not be complete without sampling some of their famous beer. I'm not particularly fond of beer, but as the saying goes "when in Rome, do as the Romans do". I have to admit; sitting in the famous Hofbrau House with the locals and watching the women carry the huge steins of beer and singing "Eins, Zwei g'suffa" was a lot of fun. I thought maybe this beer thing wasn't so bad after all! I thought at the time that it would be a kick to come back and visit the beer tents during Oktoberfest.
Which brings me to the point of this blog, our daughter is going to spend her fall semester of college studying in France and quite naturally, as most college students want to do, she and her friends want to plan a trip to Munich to experience Oktoberfest. As a parent, it might not be your first choice of "cultural experiences" that you want them to have, but I have a feeling they're going to go ahead and check it out. I decided I might as well get involved in the planning as we have heard it's virtually impossible to find a hotel, hostel or any other accommodations during Oktoberfest not to mention trying to get into one of the beer tents. So, here are a few hints for any of you that might be thinking about going to Munich for Oktoberfest, which runs from September 19 - October 4, 2009. One other little fact for you, over the 16 days, there will be seven million people drinking over six million liters of German's "liquid gold".
First and foremost - you need to book your accommodations and do it as soon as you've decided to go. There are a large number of hotels, hostels, B&B's within walking distance of the festival and many more that are accessible from the mass transit system. Of course, the closer in you stay, the higher the cost of the room, especially during this time of year. With the wonderful transit system Munich has, lodging choices become much easier and more affordable the further away from the festival you get. My choice for staying near the festival would be the Best Western Hotel Cristal which is within walking distance of the festival. Be prepared for higher rates anywhere in Munich and the surrounding communities during Oktoberfest!
So, you have a place to stay and you think you're set. Not so fast, when seven million people are all trying to get into one of the 14 beer tents, someone isn't going to get a seat to the show. It is difficult, but not impossible, to get reservations in one of the beer tents. What you need to do is contact the individual beer tents and try to put your name on a reservation list. Even at that, there isn't a guarantee that once you get there you can get in, but it would be a good idea to go ahead and make a reservation. There are many tour websites that will take you in a group to one of the beer tents, but if there are just a few of you, just look up the popular beer tents for Oktoberfest, find their contact number and make the reservation yourself. If you're lucky enough to be there for opening day, the tent you want to be in is the Schottenhammel Tent. At noon, the Mayor of Munich will kick off Oktoberfest by tapping the first keg of beer. The Schottenhammel Tent is the oldest, largest (seating 10,000) and presumably the best place to party for the younger crowd.
There are many options to choose from when selecting the tent you want to experience Oktoberfest in. Some are good for celebrity sightings; there are family friendly tents where children are welcome and traditional music is played; tents for the college crowd and tents for the slightly "older" crowd. Or, you may decide to try a tent a day - just make your reservations or take your chances.
One last piece of advice - don't bother renting a car. It is never recommended to drive in or around Munich by car especially when going to Oktoberfest. With Munich's wonderful mass transit system, getting around is extremely safe and efficient. Plan ahead and buy your train passes early and take advantage of the special ticket prices for individuals or families.
That's it! Just a few words of advice to make your trip to Oktoberfest a little more enjoyable and relaxing--if you get there, be sure to let me know which beer you liked the best.