Octoberfest. The legendary German festival which takes place every year. It’s on nearly everyone’s bucket list and I bet if you’re reading this you are no exception.
History of Octoberfest…
Why is Octoberfest legendary I hear you ask? Octoberfest started in Bavaria in 1810. It is a folk festival held from mid to late September and finishes the first Sunday in October. Octoberfest is known to locals as d’Wiesn which derives from the colloquial name for fairgrounds that is Theresienwiese. Octoberfest has become a defining part of Bavarian culture. Octoberfest is now celebrated all across the world.
At Octoberfest copious amounts of Octoberfest beer is consumed and Octoberfest goers enjoy German folk music, fairground rides and stalls as well as traditional German food and dancing to the small hours of the morning.
I’ve been to Octoberfest. But not the traditional big city Octoberfest. I went to a small local Octoberfest and I had such an amazing time I wanted to tell you all about it and provide you with some advice and lessons I learnt doing Octoberfest local style.
Octoberfest in big cities attract a more international audience alongside locals whereas smaller local Octoberfest’s are made up mainly of locals from the surrounding villages and towns which makes you feel like you’re having a more authentic experience.
I’m going to start by telling you about my Octoberfest experience and then go on to tell you my best advice for planning your own Octoberfest trip…
My October fest experience…
I did Octoberfest back in 2015 when I went to visit my friend Matilda. I met Matilda on a tour of the Outback in Australia in 2009 and we quickly became life long friends and travel sisters. Matilda is German and lives in Germany which is why I got the purely authentic Octoberfest experience.
Matilda lives in Fulda which is near Frankfurt. Frankfurt and Fulda are located in Central Germany. Fulda is a beautiful little town surrounded by the greenest countryside I’ve ever seen. We decided to go to an Octoberfest party in a village just outside of Fulda which Matilda booked tickets for us in advance.
First things first though, I needed a dirndl. Dirndls were originally worn in German speaking parts of the Alps such as Southern Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Ladies started wearing dirndls in the 18th century and they are based on what people who lived in the Alps traditionally wore, although today a dirndl is considered a folklore costume.
Now dirndls are expensive and whilst I should have had the foresight to buy one in advance on Amazon or Ebay I didn’t (Dirndls are usually found online in the price range of £10 to £20). With that we went shopping in Fulda for a dirndl. I saw so many beautiful dirndls, I wanted to buy them all. However, most were out of my price range. I found a pretty dirndl in a German version of Debenhams for 40 euros. Still pricey but it was pretty and the cheapest beautiful one I could find.
After we’d kitted me out in a dirndl we went back to Matilda’s to get ready before joining her boyfriend Nicky and his friends for pre drinks.
Now let me tell you German’s can drink and I mean drink! This is one of many nationalities I’ve learnt the hard and fun way that I can’t keep up with in terms of drinking.
Another nationality I tried and failed to keep up with in terms of drinking were Americans. Celebrating my 28th birthday in Kyoto, Japan with my best friend and a bunch of Americans from our tour group got very very messy. There were sore heads all round the following day and my knees have been dodgy ever since. God knows what I did to them(hands in my head emoji). Anyways, back to the story…
We spent a few hours playing drinking games, listening to music, taking photos and having ourselves a good ole’ pre party. But little did I know the awesomeness of the pre party was about to be taken to a whole new level when we got to the Octoberfest party. Yes, I hadn’t got a clue what was in store and how legendary this night was going to be.
When we arrived at the Octoberfest party I quickly noticed that there were no other tourists or non-Germans there. This made it instantly feel even more special as if I’d discovered an Octoberfest hidden treasure.
Everyone was dressed in dirndls and lederhosen so it was definitely a good call to invest that 40 euros in a dirndl. Lederhosen are traditional short or knee length leather breeches. Although worn in many parts of Central Europe in years gone by they are particularly associated with Bavaria, Germany. I was fascinated by all the beautiful dirndls and lederhosen. I’d never seen so many in one place before. It was quite surreal.
The tent was absolutely packed out. Now normally packed out tents would freak me out (anxiety often making me scared of crowds) but due to being tipsy from the pre party I was good to go. The first round of beers came and my goodness these beer glasses were absolutely humongous. I could barely hold the glass so I solved my problem 2 ways.
Number 1, by drinking my beer really fast. Number 2, getting on the shots. If my friend Megan is reading this she’s going to be gobsmacked that once upon a time I could do shots given that 5 years on I’m now severely intolerant to them but that’s another story for another day.
As soon as I started doing the shots I kept loosing Matilda but as a good wingman does Nicky’s friend Joshua made sure he stopped me from getting lost. Us English aren’t known for being able to handle our drink, myself least of all so it probably made sense to assign a member of the party to babysit the English girl.
Considering it was all German people I did a pretty good job at making new friends that night. I’m naturally a friendly bubbly person and that’s just amplified when I drink. I was having the best time socialising as if everyone in the beer tent were my lifelong friends. The alcohol clearly made it easier to communicate despite the language barrier although most people I spoke to spoke English.
There were local bands playing traditional German folklore music and the atmosphere was just electric! We were dancing on tables and benches and having an all round brilliant night.
Someone even proposed to his fiancé in front of everyone and the crowd went wild. Now if you’re going to do a public proposal that’s definitely the way to do it!
As the night was winding down my drunken self decided it was time for food so I did the most English thing I could do, wolf down a currywurst like I hadn’t been fed in a year. Currywurst is a German fast food made up of steamed and friend sausage topped with curry ketchup. Currywurst is generally served with chips making it the perfect drunk food.
The rest of the night I wasn’t quite so graceful. The reason why I don’t get drunk now is because I can’t get away with being a sick dramatic mess in my 30’s like I could in my 20’s and this night was no exception. We were staying at Nicky’s family home as well which made my lack of class even more humiliating.
In the morning Matilda and Nicky’s friends came round for breakfast and that was an even bigger eye opener in to how well the German’s can handle their drink. They’re all sat around the table laughing and singing and I’m sat there sipping water trying not to die. Yes German’s can handle their drink but wow they absolutely boss the hangover. Hangover? What hangover?
Despite the raging hangover it was still one of the best parties of my life. The raging hangover was a long intense one which started the moment we left Octoberfest to mid afternoon the next day but totally worth it!
Lucky for me Matilda took pity on my poor hungover self and took me back to her house after breakfast to veg out and watch American sit coms.
However, come the evening it was time to go out again and at 27 years old I’d already lost the ability to drink 2 nights in a row. So whilst I tried I quickly gave up on the drinking.
We went to a local German club though which was super interesting. For starters there was a variety of ages there which amazed me. At 27 I would be starting to look old in UK clubs then. Now I’m 32 there’s no way I’d even dare go near a club in the UK these days.
The mix of ages gave the club more personality and it was great mixing with different generations on the dancefloor.
Secondly, food in clubs! I’ve never seen this in the UK. I loved that I got to eat chips whilst on the dancefloor. Greatest invention ever! They also served pizza and other takeaway favourites. It would’ve saved me from many a drunken night at university if this existed in the UK.
Lastly, the variety of old and new music was awesome. I am forever the girl who listens to music that came out when I was 16 years old so getting to dance to 90s/00s music instead of pretending to know current music I was in my element.
On my last day we went walking in the beautiful countryside surrounding Fulda. It was so breath-taking. The fields were the most luscious green and the rolling hills were stunning.
I learnt a lot from this weekend and I want to share with you my top advice for when going to Octoberfest…
- Go to a local traditional Octoberfest
I cannot stress this enough, it is so so worth it! If you don’t know any local German’s personally get creative as to how you can meet some in order to go to a local Octoberfest.
Ok, I know that sounds weird but stay with me here. I’m an active member on some female travel Facebook groups so when I’m visiting a new country I post on these groups in order to find fellow travellers who will be there at the same time as me or locals who can introduce me to some local hidden gems. It sounds crazy but I met my other travel sister Laura through the Girls Love Travel Facebook group who like Matilda is a friend for life. So tangent aside, get creative in discovering local Octoberfest’s to go to. Search the internet, ask if anyone you know knows someone who lives in Germany, there’s so many ways you could find a local Octoberfest to go to.
2. Get your dirndl or lederhosen sorted before you go
Dirndl’s and lederhosen can be pretty expensive especially if you only plan on wearing it a handful of times and as I said earlier I definitely got caught out with this one. Ask around see if anyone has a dirndl or lederhosen you could borrow or try and find a cheap one you can buy either second hand or on Amazon. You’d be amazed at what you can find in charity shops and what with the invention of Schpock and Facebook marketplace there’s no end of options to find a dirndl or lederhosen second hand.
3. Be prepared to drink!
Brace yourself, the alcohol is definitely going to be flowing! If you don’t like getting drunk or being around drunk people Octoberfest might not be for you.
4. Have your hangover cures ready!
Now even if you’re not a drinker this still applies as you will be recovering from a night of dancing your socks off till the wee hours of the morning. For me diet coke is my go to hangover cure so I made sure I had plenty of it on tap come the morning after.
5. Incorporate a couple of days of sightseeing and exploring in to your trip
Germany has so much more to offer besides Octoberfest (and Christmas markets). It is a country so rich is history, culture and natural beauty that it would be such a shame if you went all the way to Germany and didn’t see any of it. So yes go all out for the Octoberfest parties but definitely set aside some (non-hangover) days to go adventuring around this beautiful country.
I did a day in Frankfurt the day before Octoberfest and as I talked about earlier the day after my serious hangover day we went walking in the countryside. On my next Octoberfest visit I’m going to explore some of Germany’s iconic castles. I’d also like to visit the much loved Munich to see for myself how amazing people say it is.
So in this blog post I’ve given you a story of my Octoberfest adventure as well as some advice on how to make your own Octoberfest an epic one.
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