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A non-drinker’s guide to Munich’s Oktoberfest


I never drink beer. I don’t like beer. But when my friends told me they were going to Oktoberfest, I didn’t want to miss out on any of the fun. I got a few strange looks, given that the whole event is based around the drinking of the noxious stuff, but it really is possible to enjoy Oktoberfest without enjoying the beer! I promise. Here are my tips for making the most of it.

Drinking

First, you’ve got to come to terms with the fact that you will have to drink some beer. In most cases there really is no other option. Don’t turn up (as I did) thinking that there must be an alternative, you must be able to order a wine or a cider at least? No. It’s beer, beer or water. If you’re going to tackle the marathon amount of beer that is in a German stein glass, my advice is to get in training before the event. Start with a half pint that is 10% beer and 90% lemonade and work your way up. Then, when you arrive in Munich, order a “Radler” – that’s German for shandy. I never progressed beyond the Radler, earning myself a new surname. They’re just about bearable, and by the time you’ve drunk a couple of steins it all goes down a bit easier. There is one, and only one, tent at the festival that sells wine. Persuade your friends to go there at least once during the trip. They will complain that the drinks are too expensive and the beer isn’t as good. You will not be able to tell the difference.

Eating

If the beer is a bit of a struggle, you can placate your taste buds by ordering some food to go with it. All the tents have delicious roast chickens, pork knuckles, sausages and other meaty treats, although the menu options can be a bit limited. Don’t expect too much in the way of side dishes; you might get a bit of potato salad or cabbage, but often it’ll just be a big plate of meat. If you’re a vegetarian as well as a beer-hater, you’re stuffed. Just stay at home; it’s not worth it!

Entertainment

Your friends might sneer at you for not appreciating the beer, but you can get into the Oktoberfest spirit in other ways. The tents are very sociable places – you sit at long tables on benches which you share with other parties. You will meet people from all over the world and have a good chat and a laugh because there always plenty of unusual characters, like the Dutch guy who showed us a picture of his cannabis plant, which was taller than his mother. They also have lively traditional bands and you will soon be up dancing up on the benches, swinging your stein and singing along (or trying to). Outside the tents, there’s a great selection of rides and rollercoasters which you will be able to enjoy more than your friends, having drunk less beer. Many people in the crowd will be dressed up in Lederhosen or Dirndls and there are plenty of shops around the festival site where you can buy your own. If you don’t want to go the whole hog, what about a hat? (Comedy or traditional, it’s up to you!)

Accommodation

You can justify your presence on the trip by checking out accommodation options well in advance. Hotels in Munich raise their prices during Oktoberfest and they book out early, so your friends will thank you for getting on top of the situation. Also, not many people in Munich speak English, so if you’ve got a bit of high school Deutsch in the back of your head somewhere, that’s another good reason for them to stop teasing you and be glad that you’re coming along. Getting a hotel within walking distance of the festival grounds is best for everyone. But booking the hotel yourself means that you can choose a location that suits you! Get one that is also close to some of Munich’s other attractions. Then if it all gets too much and you can’t face another sip, you can easily skip a day in the beer tents and take a look at what else the city has to offer. The Goethe Hotel is a 3 star that would fit the bill – it’s between the festival site and the Old Town. The Schweiz Hotel is another good 3 star in this area, with reasonable prices.

Paul Joseph is a London-based travel writer. He first went to Germany on a school exchange at the age of 14 and has been a big fan ever since. He particularly like the cities of Munich and Berlin and has checked out many of the hotels and attractions there and in other parts of Germany. He currently writes for sletoH.com, where you can compare prices on hotels in Germany. If you enjoyed his piece on Oktoberfest you can use the maps and reviews to check out Munich hotels.

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