If Oktoberfest in Munich happens to be missing from your bucket list, it’s time to update the list!
We chose to go on the first weekend, due to all of the ceremonial events that took place in the first 48 hours. So, we flew into Munich the Thursday before and unfortunately, by the time we got to our hotel and settled in, it was about dinner time. We took the opportunity to check out our little neighborhood and found a small bar/restaurant not too far from us. We ordered some amazing schnitzel and beers, and let the little one be entertained by drink coasters. Win-Win for everyone involved!
We woke up Friday, ready to explore! Fortunately, we chose our hotel due to its proximity to the Underground, so after a few stops we were in the heart of Munich, or Royal Munich. Our first stop was the Englischer Garten (English Garden). This place was huge, over 1,000 acres of land with streams, bridges, beer gardens, etc…basically, plenty of room for an almost 2-year-old to run. We found the Greek temple, built in 1837 for King Ludwig I, and the Chinese pagoda beer garden, erected in 1790.
After a light lunch of pretzels and beer (don’t worry, the child had legitimate food to eat besides pretzels), we took off to continue our tour of Royal Munich.
We did a lot of walking on Friday…with no purpose of visiting anything specific. Because of the walk we eventually happened upon the Hofbrauhaus, Munich’s most famous brewery. It’s been around since 1589, with some major renovations in 1950, after its destruction in the war. Anyway, due to Oktoberfest starting the next day, to say it was busy is a mild understatement. There are no hostesses to get you a seat, no reservations to be made; it’s a game-on atmosphere where you hope for the best in finding a place to sit and eat, & you share a table with strangers.
Fortunately, having Sarah with us actually helped. These two older gentlemen were giving me the eye and told me they were leaving if we wanted their spot! Yah! We sat down with two young guys, who I’m sure were super-excited to have a little child ruining their buzz with her stares. Regardless, we got some very tasty food and beers, and our waitress loved Sarah and brought her some entertainment in the shape of coloring pencils and paper. Not that she needed it though. Between the brass band about 15 yards from us, people talking to her (because it’s apparently the cutest thing to have a little one there), and just the overall happy loudness of it all, she was perfectly fine. We loved this place. Put it on your list if you make it to Munich.
After our early dinner, we continued our tour until we were ready to call it a day. A perfect day in Munich.
Unfortunately, Saturday’s weather was total crap! Rainy, cool, and windy. Not a great first day of the festival. Regardless, we bundled up, put on our rain gear and headed to the Oktoberfest grounds, Theresienwiese, or Therese meadow.
We made it in time to watch the ceremonial arrival of the brewers and beer-tent landlords. They come in on horse-drawn carriages covered in flowers. Pretty neat to see.
We also ‘heard’ the tapping of the first barrel–no way we were getting in that tent! Truthfully, I was completely overwhelmed by the amount of people there. We were shoulder to shoulder, at times completely surrounded. and not moving for minutes at a time. No one was rude, but it was not the most comfortable feeling, especially when Sarah wanted nothing more than to get down, and that sure wasn’t happening! After the tapping, the crowds dispersed throughout the festival and it wasn’t too bad.
So, the beer tents. What Oktoberfest is really all about. Huge, ornately decorated tents; some able to seat 10,000 people! There are 14 major tents and 21 smaller tents. Everyone is welcome inside, but in order to sit, eat and drink, you must make seat reservations at least 6 months in advance. Unfortunately for us (i.e. Matt), we didn’t do that and could only check out the tents with no beverages in hand. They each had beer gardens, but they fill up immediately, and people DO NOT MOVE!
We walked around the festival, which is just like an upscale state fair, but much more expensive. We did end up finding a merry-go-round beer garden that had a small table that we snatched up. We finally had a beer at Oktoberfest.
We’ve been asked multiple times about having Sarah there and would we do it again. She desperately wanted to just get down and run and due to the crowds of people, that couldn’t happen. We were ‘those parents’ for a bit and put one of those harness things on her so that she could walk but not get too far away from us. (We got a few stares, but whatever, we never lost her!) So, we’d definitely do it again, but not with a toddler, or on the first day/weekend!
Because we were leaving late Sunday night, we had plenty of time to be tourists again throughtout the day. We headed towards the City Center and Royal Munich areas, with the goal of going to the Marienplatz and to the Residenz. The Marienplatz is a square of shops and cafes in the heart of Munich, known for a gold statue of the Virgin Mary that was erected in 1638. When the statue was taken down for cleaning in the 60’s, a small casket, containing a splinter of wood said to be from the cross of Christ, was found in the base. That seems kind of important, right?! The Rathaus-Glockenspiel is located here as well and is known for its chimes and re-enactments of two stories from the 16th century-a marriage of Duke Wilhelm V, and Schäfflertanz, or the coopers’ dance, regarding the plague of 1517.
While walking around, we happened upon the Costume and Rifleman’s Procession. Another Oktoberfest ‘top event’–according to the guidebooks. It’s Europe’s biggest folk parade with horse-drawn carriages and marching bands! Around 9,000 people from all over Europe walk, in full folk regalia, a 4-mile route to the Oktoberfest grounds. Sarah loved it, she would wave to people and they would wave back! It was all so extremely cool to see!
After the parade and a quick lunch we headed to The Residenz (Royal Palace.)
Started in 1363, it is considered one of Germany’s true treasures. We spent most of the afternoon here, just touring the Residenz Museum and Ground Floor (due to time, we chose not to include the Treasury or Cuvillies Theatre.) The Ancestral Gallery and Antiquarium are worth the visit alone, but there was so much more to see and it should also be on your list of places to see!
As morbid as this is, perhaps our favorite room was The Reliquary Museum room. A collection, founded in 1577, of religious relics mainly from a Catholic standpoint; bones of saints encased in gold, or children’s mummies encrusted with jewels. It took me a few minutes to realize what I was looking at (i.e. bones inside ornate, jeweled shrines) but once I did, I had to start over. Completely amazing!
We had a list of things we wanted to try to see while we were there and only one place was missed, so that’s not too bad. Especially when traveling with a tiny person that doesn’t like her routine disrupted (i.e. late afternoon milk and Peppa Pig.) We have every intention of going back when Sarah is old enough to understand the history of WWII, so that we can visit some of the more somber places of Munich history. All in all, another great trip!