Oktoberfest brings strong beer, big crowds, high prices to Munich
Stars and Stripes September 15, 2023
On Saturday, Sept. 16, the 188th edition of what’s surely among the world’s best-known festivals will officially open its gates. Over the course of the Oktoberfest’s 18-day run, it’s anticipated that up to six million locals and visitors will take part in the festivities.
The official Oktoberfest website publishes many facts of interest to the press and public alike. One of the most eagerly anticipated bits of information is the cost of a Mass, which approximates a liter’s worth of beer. The cost of such a pour in 2023, which applies to all the beer sold on-site at the Oktoberfest, will come in between 12.60 euros and 14.90 euros.
A visitor will naturally want to temper his or her intake of alcohol with the consumption of some hearty fare. An Oktoberfest classic treat is a “Hendl,” half a grilled chicken, which will go for up to 20.50 euros in some tents this time around.
To provoke laughs and amusement, the local press provides a list of some of the items that ended up in lost and found during the fest’s previous edition. During the first week of Oktoberfest in 2022, items gone missing included 160 wallets, 145 mobile phones, 75 sets of keys, two wedding rings, a snare drum and an XXX-L-size pair of Lederhosen.
Here are some tips for those new to the Oktoberfest scene:
The cost of renting a hotel room is out-of-this world ridiculous: It’s no secret that when a major event unfolds in a city or town, hotels always jack up their rates accordingly. But what happens in Munich during the time of Oktoberfest can be truly shocking. Hotels at all ends of the budget/quality spectrum charge prices that could keep a family’s fridge full for weeks. A Saturday-to-Sunday overnight stay in a double room at the posh Mandarin Oriental in the Old Town would set one back 1,888 euros. And a single traveler spending that same night in the much more modest Euro Youth Hostel would have to pay 245 euros for his or her bed in a dorm.
The workaround? Finding a hotel along a direct train route out of town. While the rates will likely still be heavily inflated, the savings might be enough to make this an attractive proposition. Another idea is just to make merry at the Oktoberfest by day and into the evening, then board a train or bus back home. For example, traveling between Munich to Stuttgart with the long-distance bus company Flixbus on one of the Oktoberfest dates could set you back as little as 11.99 euros. On-base services such as USO or Outdoor Rec might also offer transportation to and from the festival.
No two days have to be the same: Aside for drinking a bit too much in one of the beer tents (for which you’ll need a reservation at a table anyway), there’s lots of action everywhere, from scary rides to a midway packed with gaming booths. There are also plenty of one-off events, such as the traditional costume and hunter’s parade (10 a.m., Sept. 17), a brass band concert at the foot of the Bavaria statue (11 a.m., Sept. 24) and traditional gun salutes by the Bavaria statue (noon, Oct. 3).
There’s also plenty going on in Munich outside the Theresenwiese. Cultural happenings coinciding with Oktoberfest include a flea market at the Olympia Park (starting at 7 a.m. Sept. 16), a concert by Element of Crime at the Isarphilharmonie (8 p.m. Sept. 23) and a concert by Paul Weller at the Muffathalle (8 p.m. Sept. 26).
Explore the wonder of the Alps in early autumn: Combine a visit to Munich with fun activities outside the area, such as watching an Almabtrieb, a cattle drive in which cows or other livestock descend back into town from their summer grazing areas all done up in finery created from nature. Mittenwald’s cattle come back to town at 11 a.m. Sept. 17. The following weekend, Garmisch-Partenkirchen is the site of a lively Street Arts Festival (Sept. 22-24). The action unfolds along Ludwigstrasse in Partenkirchen.
Consider alternative Oktoberfests: While Munich’s Oktoberfest should be experienced once in a lifetime, this might not be the year for it. Other cities have their own versions of it, to include Mainz (Oct.2-29); Wiesbaden (Sept. 27-Oct. 13); Frankfurt (Sept. 16-17, 20-24; 28-30 and Oct. 1-3 and 5-8). Stuttgart’s massive beer bash, the Canstatter Volksfest, runs Sept. 22 through Oct. 8.