What to do in Munich, Germany
The first Oktoberfest took place on the 12 October 1810, to celebrate the marriage of Prince Ludwig of Bavaria and Princess Therese of Sachsen-Hildburghausen. All citizens of Munich were invited to a meadow (Wies’n) situated in front of the city tower, subsequently renamed the Theresienwiese in honor of the bride. In the early years of the fair, horse races were held, and then as the event grew, an agricultural convention, which still takes place every fourth year, was added to the program. In 1896, businessmen working with the breweries in Munich built the first giant beer tents at Oktoberfest, and beer drinking has been the primary focus ever since. Today, the Oktoberfest is the best known beer festival around the world and has been replicated on all continents. In 2011, the Oktoberfest hosted 6.9 million visitors from around the world who drank 7.5 million liters of beer and ate the equivalent of 118 oxes and 522,821 roasted chickens. At the center of the spectacle are 14 large beer tents, which are set-up along the Wirtsbudenstrasse in the northern part of Theresienwiese. These have seating capacity of up to 8,500 inside the tent and additional hundreds or thousands of seats in the adjacent beer gardens. Here only beer of the 6 major Munich breweries (Augustiner, Hacker-Pschorr, Hofbräu, Löwenbräu, Paulaner, Spaten-Franziskaner) is sold.
Especially on weekends you should try to get in the tents before 10AM. During the week, most tents are open all day; however it is not easy to get a seat if you are a larger group. It is a general rule that you will not get served if you do not have a seat. The exception is the Hofbräu Festzeltwhere beer is also served in a standing area. It is not recommended to leave the tent if you want to get in it later since it might be crowded by that time. There are also smaller beer tents, which also offer beer, Bavarian food and Oktoberfest music and it might be possible to still get a seat there when the large tents are already full. However, the Oktoberfest has more to offer than the parties inside the the beer tents. In the Schaustellerstrasse you can ride numerous roller coasters – assuming you are still able to do so after enjoying the Munich beer.
Accommodation will be hard to find and prices can easily double during Oktoberfest.
Smoking is not allowed in the tents, but some tents feature designated outdoor smoking areas. Think twice if you want leave a tent for smoking since you may not get in again.
The closest underground station “Theresienwiese” is very crowded and will sometimes be closed because of this. As an alternative, go to the underground station “Goetheplatz”. It’s crowded too, but you will still have some air to breathe there. Just follow the crowd when you get out of the station.
In most beer tents the bar closes at 10:30pm while the tent closes at 11:30pm. You should have finished your beer before then since the security will ruthlessly clear the area.
Tents open at 10am usually (9am on weekends). The first day is tapping day (german “Anstich”). There is no beer served before noon and since the tents will surely be crowded by then, it will take some time until everyone is served.
If you are with small children, try to avoid the weekends. Every Tuesday from 12 to 6pm is family day with discounts on many rides.
Do not steal the 1 liter beer glasses. They might seem like a great souvenir, but bags are checked and everyone trying to steal a beer glass will be handed over to the police. If you really want one of these glasses, you can buy them for a few Euros.
Stay out of fights – the police will arrest you and and if you are crazy enough to hit and injure someone with a beer stein you will get charged with attempted manslaughter!
Maibaumaufstellen On the 1st of May (which is a public holiday in Germany) strange things happen in some Upper Bavarian villages and even in Munich… Men in Lederhosn and girls in Dirndln carrying long poles meet on the central square. With these poles an even longer white-blue pole is erected. There is usually an oompah band playing, booths selling food and drinks and tables where you can sit down and enjoy this non-touristy spectacle. The large white-blue pole you find in almost every village and dozens in Munich (e.g. on the Viktualienmarkt) is called Maibaum (meaning may tree – known in English as a maypole) and the villages compete who has the tallest and the straightest one. It is cut down every three to five years and re-erected in the following year. Ask a local which village or district of Munich does it this year and be there not later than 10AM. There are several traditions revolving around maypoles, like the dance of the unmarried men and women. The weeks before May 1st, each village has to guard its maypole, because if some other village manages to steal it, they’ll have to buy it back. Usually with beer.
Tollwood — In summer this alternative festival takes place in the Olympic Park, in winter on Theresienwiese (the Oktoberfest area). These 3-week festivals combine ethnic food, craft and souvenir shops, concerts and theater performances. They are very popular among the locals and worth a visit if you want to see a lesser known side of Munich.
Streetlife Festival. Two-day street festival that takes place twice a year, attracts hundred thousand of visitors, and showcases live music, handcraft and other arts on Munich’s car-free streets.
Corso Leopold. Festival of art and music which is taking place simultaneously with the Streetlife Festival.
The “Isar island festival” takes place in September and offers music, culture and activities for kids.
Lange Nacht der Musik This festival meaning long night of music takes place in early summer and includes more than 100 concerts and music venues throughout the city.
Münchner Sommernachtstraum. The Munich Midsummer Night’s Dream is a music festival with fireworks that takes place in July.
Theatron Festivals. Two further music festivals in Munich, the Theatron Pfingstfestival during Whitsun and the Musiksommer in August.
St. Patrick’s Day Munich. Parade of Irish and Scottish unions that attracts 30.000 visitors and is the largest Irish event east of Dublin.
Impark. Summer music festival which includes a beach.
Christopher-Street-Day. The CSD Munich takes place in mid July.
Electronic Music Festivals Munich is a center for rave and electronic dance music in Germany. In fact, it currently has to offer more electronic music festivals than Berlin. Popular electronic music festivals in and around Munich include Isle of Summer, Utopia Island, Greenfields, Traumfänger, Back to the Woods, Schall im Schilf, FNY Festival, Wannda Circus Open Air, Contact Festival, EOS Festival and the Echelon Festival which takes place about 20 miles south of Munich.
Theater, Opera, and Music
Munich has many theaters and music venues showing different plays and performances:
Residenztheater— It houses the Bavarian State Theatre (Bavarian Staatsschauspiel), one of the most important German language theaters. Typically a variety of classical and modern plays are performed here.
Nationaltheater — Shows ballet and opera performances almost every night. The Bavarian National Opera Company is said by critics to be one of the best in the world. Several operas of Richard Wagner premiered in this venue, e.g. Tristan und Isolde (1865), Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (1868), Das Rheingold (1869) and Die Walküre (1870).
Herkulessaal in der Residenz— primary concert venue of the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, which was named the 6th best orchestra in Europe in a survey for Le Monde de la Musique and the 6th best orchestra in the world by The Gramophone magazine in 2008.
Philharmonie im Gasteig— Home venue of the Munich Philharmonics, another highly reputed symphony orchestra.
Staatstheater am Gärtnerplatz— Smaller than the National Theater, this is a very good alternative for interesting productions of operas, operettas and musicals. Tickets are generally still available on short notice, even when the big opera houses have been sold out for weeks.
Deutsches Theater— Musicals and theme shows are performed here (like MAMA MIA!, etc).
Kammerspiele— It often surprises viewers with very modern (and sometimes shocking) interpretations of famous plays.
Volkstheater— The plays performed here are somewhere between Bavarian Folklore and modern theater.
If you want to see a movie, keep in mind that foreign movies are normally dubbed with German voices. Advertisements will generally indicate if the movie will be shown in its original version (i.e., no overdubbing) with the abbreviations OV (Original version), OmU (Original with German subtitles), and OmeU (original with English subtitles). In the movie theater right next to the underground station Stiglmaierplatz, “Cinema”, movies are usually shown in the original language. Other options are the “Museums Lichtspiele” or the big Multiplex cinema “Mathäser” at Stachus, which usually show 1-2 movies in the original version.
Hockey – EHC Munich. This is the professional hockey club in Munich. They play in the Olympic ice arena in Munich’s Olympic Park.
River-Surfing — Watch surfers ride a wave at the edge of the Englischer Garten, at the bridge close to Lehel U-bahn station.
Skiing/Snowboarding — In winter, get a “Bayern ticket” for Bavarian public transport, and go skiing at Garmisch-Partenkirchen for the day. Autobus Oberbayern offers good value day trips to Austrian ski resorts such as Kaltenbach (Zillertal), St. Johann and Matrei.