If you are in Europe during late September/early October, you are most likely heading to Munich for some Oktoberfest activities. More than six million people attend this festival of beer annually since its inception in 1810, gathering to consume millions of litres of beer and enjoy German specialties like roasted pork, chicken, ham hock, sauerkraut and sausages. The beers served at Oktoberfest must meet specific criteria, one of which is that they be brewed within the city limits of Munich. For the non-beer-drinker, there are thousands of litres of wine, water, and lemonade on hand as well. Spend a day or two wandering between the thirty four tents and sampling their various specialties. There’s something a little different to be found in each one.
If you’re looking to hit Oktoberfest but stay on a budget, Munich’s Thalkirchen Camp Ground is a good option, with an onsite grocery store and regular buses heading to the festival. Munich has plenty of well-reviewed hostels with bus or train service to Oktoberfest, but if you’re looking for a five star experience, check into the Hotel Konigshof.
You can expect to be racing for a seat in the morning – beer taps open at 10 am on weekdays, 9 am on weekends. If you’re looking for a quieter drinking experience, aim to show up around lunch time on a weekday. You can reserve tables online, but you’ll have to be organized because they sell out months in advance. Beer is served in one litre mugs and go for about 8 euros. When you toast with your beer, be sure to yell “PROST!” (pronounced prawst)
If you can’t make it to Germany for the world’s biggest kegger, why not settle for the second-largest? For North Americans, the best way to experience Bavaria outside of Bavaria is Kitchener-Waterloo’s nine-day Oktoberfest in Southern Ontario. The event attracts up to one million visitors each year. There are sixteen festhallen (Oktoberfest venues) where beer and traditional food is served with polka music and dancing. Popular events include a Saturday Pancake Breakfast, Keg-rolling Race, concerts featuring rock musicians (Rocktoberfest) and hip hop artists (Hip-hoptoberfest) and a nationally broadcast parade.
If you’re planning on travelling to Kitchener-Waterloo for the North American festivities, be aware that they also book up quickly. There are a number of chain hotels, including Best Western, Comfort Inn, Hilton and Radisson, but for a unique experience head to the Walper Hotel centrally located right on the parade route. It has hosted guests including Eleanor Roosevelt and Sarah MacLachlan and is noted for its turn of the century architecture and historic charm.