The Munich Oktoberfest is one of the world’s largest festivals, running from September 22 to October 7 this year. Over the past decade, this famous festival has attracted around six million visitors a year. Between them, they manage to guzzle down almost seven million litres of what Oktoberfest is most known for, and gorge on thousands of grilled sausages, giant pretzels and wild oxen.
Oktoberfest dates back to October 1810 and was held in honour of the wedding between Bavaria’s Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. The wedding was celebrated with five days of eating, drinking, dancing and horse racing. Now the celebration is an annual event.
But here’s something you should know about Oktoberfest: it’s not all about the beer. Of course it plays a large role in the festival, but there’s plenty more for you to see and do while you’re here. Beyond the tents, there are many other activities you can try during your visit. In fact, you may be surprised at just how many other things you can do at Oktoberfest besides the obvious. If you’re staying more than one night, it would be a pity to miss out on the other stuff.
Let’s take a look at 20 super things you can do at Munich's Oktoberfest – you won’t want to miss them!
20 Try the classic Bavarian foods
While most visitors soak up the booze with grilled sausages and chicken, don’t miss out on trying some of Bavaria’s classic foods. Pork knuckle, Käsespätzle, Weißwurst and candied almonds are not to be missed. It would be a shame to come to Oktoberfest and not taste these delicious foods. If you can, try them all.
Part of the experience of Oktoberfest is the food. Rich and wholesome, these foods are the perfect accompaniment to a drink. We know eating might be one of the most obvious activities at this event, but not everyone strays further than a grilled sausage or giant pretzel.
19 Watch traditional dancing and musical performances
If you’re coming to Oktoberfest with no intention other than to guzzle, you’ll be missing out on a lot. See Oktoberfest, despite its reputation, is a folk festival where history comes to life. In two of the tents, you’ll find people in vintage costumes performing traditional dancing and playing traditional music. If you want to experience some of the traditional culture, you will love these performances. They’re lively, fun and entertaining.
While you may be otherwise preoccupied, make sure you don't forget to enjoy the wonderful live entertainment. The Oide Wiesn is a better choice for those who want a calmer vibe.
18 Start Oktoberfest with a bang – attend the parades
On the first Saturday and Sunday of the festival, Oktoberfest hosts an incredible parade that features breweries and the landlords in floats and carriages. On Sunday, you’ll see the traditional carriages as well as a display of various vintage costumes from all over Germany. The marching band music brings this all together in one fantastic lively display that you won’t want to miss.
The experience will certainly be a memorable one. This year, the parade will start at 10 o’clock on September 23. Around 9500 members participate in this parade, presenting a wide range of traditional costumes and dancing routines.
17 Test your bravery on a festival roller coaster
Unless you want to puke mid-ride, it’s a good idea to go on the festival rides before heading into the tents. In addition to all the great tents, Oktoberfest is also home to some amazing rides like the Olympic Rings Rollercoaster. This ride is not for the faint-hearted.
With its five loops, this roller coaster will have you screaming your heart out. The problem is, most people only develop the bravery to go on these rides when they’ve gulped down several liters of various drinks in the tents. But we guess that’s all part of the experience, isn’t it?
16 Watch the flea circus
One of the more unusual activities at Oktoberfest is something called the flea circus. Believe it or not, it really is how it sounds.
At the flea circus, you can watch real life fleas pulling small wagons, playing soccer and spinning rides.
It’s definitely a unique experience that you won’t want to miss while you’re here. It’s generally more suited to children but that doesn’t mean adults won’t find the whole thing totally entertaining – they will indeed! The flea circus is no new thing. It actually has a long history and was popular in the nineteenth and early twentieth century.
15 Take a stroll through the English Garden
Want a little break from the bustling festival? There’s no better place to relax and chill out than at the English Garden. This 900-acre park is one of the biggest parks in the world that’s been attracting visitors since 1789.
You can ride a bike, go for a jog, or simply enjoy a relaxing stroll through the park to enjoy the lush scenery. Whilst you’re here you’ll probably spot geese, ducks and squirrels during your stroll. There’s also a field here in the park where you can watch a game of soccer.
The English Garden is the epitome of peacefulness and relaxation.
14 Go shopping at Viktualienmarkt
Located at Munich’s central food market, Viktualienmarkt sells a variety of gourmet products. There are over 140 stalls here for you to check out and we’re sure you’ll find something interesting to take back home with you. Alternatively, you can just eat it there and then.
Some things you will find here include fruits, vegetables, cheese, pretzels and different kinds of meat. You will also find stalls selling pretty flowers. If you’re not interested in buying anything, you can also sit down at one of the garden’s many tables to enjoy a nice meal. It is open from Monday to Saturday from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm.
13 Take snaps at Marienplatz
If you want to see more from Munich other than the festival itself, you must see Marienplatz, which is the heart of the city.
During the middle ages, the square was a marketplace as well as the location where festivals took place. Today it is a tourist attraction full of visitors with cameras and selfie sticks. Why don’t you join them?
There are many famous sights to see in the square such as the Mariensaule, New Town Hall, Carillon, Old Town Hall and Fischbrunnen. It’s definitely a place worthy of at least a dozen pictures. And if you’re here in Munich to experience the city itself, don’t skip it.
12 Go River Surfing
Surfing in Munich? Believe it or not, Munich boasts Germany’s premier surfing destination. It probably isn’t what you were expecting from this city, which is all the more reason to see it for yourself during your stay.
Head to the Isar River to watch surfers catch the Eisbach wave and you’ll find the whole thing very entertaining. Since the 70s, it’s been a favorite pastime in the city but it’s actually only been legal since 2010. Many people come here for river surfing and if you’re lucky, you might even find a few pros practicing their skills in the waters.
11 Go see a puppet show
At the Marienplatz Glockenspiel, an elaborate of clockwork engineering, you can watch 32 life-sized mechanical puppets on the Tower Hall balcony acting out 17th-century folk tales. This 15-minute performance happens three times a day at 11 am, noon and 5 pm.
Want to get the best view of the performance? Head to the third floor of the Hugendubel bookstore which is just across the road. It’s far different to the theme of Oktoberfest but it would be a shame to miss it. This is such an iconic part of the city of Munich. Whilst you are here, do give it a visit – and a watch.
10 Get a caffeine fix
We know most people come to Oktoberfest for one beverage and one beverage only, but we thought you should know that they also make some pretty great coffee here in Munich.
If you head to Man Versus Machine, you’ll receive a crocodile-emblazoned coffee cup of handmade brew. Well, you can choose between handmade or machine-made brew. It’s a fun concept that the locals of Munich love and we can see why.
The baristas put a great level of care into making coffee, which is probably why Munich locals rate this coffee highly. So if you find yourself craving a different drink, you can always come here for a fresh brew of coffee.
9 Swim at one of the world’s most beautiful swimming pools
Although we wouldn’t recommend swimming after downing several steins, anyone will certainly appreciate the beauty of Müller’sches Volksbad.
It’s not just Munich’s most beautiful swimming pool – it is one of the most beautiful swimming pools in the world. With breathtaking decor, art nouveau baths and that stunning roof, it’s not hard to see how it earned its title.
If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of Oktoberfest, come to Müller’sches Volksbad and relax. You can really calm down and chill out here. Whether you want to swim or just relax in one of the steam baths, there is something for everybody.
8 Stop off for some cake at Dallmayr Delicatessen
Between all those steins, it’s good to get some tasty food. If you’ve already had enough sausages and pretzels, why not stop off for something sweet at Dallmayr Delicatessen?
This is Munich’s most famous delicatessen. Saying that, you’re definitely not short of traditional tea houses where you can grab something to satisfy your sweet tooth.
There are plenty around. However, few compare to Dallmayr Delicatessen, with its huge range of sweets and cakes. You’ll also find a great deli, a gourmet restaurant and a champagne bar all on the same site. Now that sounds interesting!
7 Take a tour around the Deutsches Museum
If you want to see more of the cultural and historical side to Munich, take a trip to the Deutsches Museum, the world’s largest museum of science and technology. The museum is home to over 28,000 exhibited objects and receives approximately 1.5 million visitors each year. This is definitely worth a visit if you want to step back in history and see something interesting.
As you wander through the museum you’ll hear machines hum and telescopes zoom. Whether or not you’re a science or history enthusiast, you’ll certainly have an interesting time here at this popular, world-famous museum. Check it out.
6 Explore the Olympia
The last time the Olympic games were held in Munich was in 1972. Still, that doesn’t mean that the park is totally useless now. The Olympia park still has so much going on. Many artists still perform in the stadium which holds 60,000 people. In addition to that, there are still many athletic festivals going on at the Olympia Park year round.
In other words, this is no ghost town. It’s worth visiting whilst you’re in the city. You can even take a dip in the Olympic pool if you feel like it. In the winter time, feel free to ski down the slopes in a sled.
5 Go for a drive at the BMW museum
Munich is home to the only BMW museum in the world. So if you’re a car fan as well as a pint fan, you are really going to love it here in Munich. At the museum, you can learn all about the car brand’s history as well as its special models. You can even test drive simulation cars to test out the newest break systems and lots more.
It’s definitely the right place to check out if you’re an automotive enthusiast. You will also find motorbikes on display here too. This place is your chance to admit BMW cars and drive like a fanatic if you want.
4 When the Oktoberfest tents close at 11 pm, the party continues at Kunstpark
If you didn’t already know, the Oktoberfest tents close at 11 pm. Anyone who wants to keep the party going can head to the Kunstpark, an area full of bars and clubs in Munich. You don’t just have one bar to choose from here, you have endless.
It depends on what you’re in the mood for. Whether you fancy hip-hop, house music, or anything in between, you’ll definitely find the right place to suit your needs in this party area of Munich. In order to get there, you will need to take the S-Bahn – the fast train.
3 Admire the Residenz Royal Palace
Inside the Residenz Royal Palace, you will find the Crown Jewels, the Herkulessaal concert hall, the Residenz Theatre, and the State Collection of Egyptian Art. Outside of the building itself are fountains, courtyards, a chapel and more.
Most travellers consider this a must-see. Even if you’re not so interested in history, you’ll find this palace intriguing to say the least. Plus you’ll be able to take some amazing pictures. If you have time, make sure you have a stroll to admire the Residenz Royal Palace. Travelers recommend you buying a combined ticket for the Residenz, the Cuvilles Theatre and the Treasury.
2 Visit the Modern Picture Gallery
Munich is not short of galleries and museums. It is certainly what one would call culturally-rich. As awesome as Oktoberfest is, tourists should also check out what else the city has to offer because it offers a lot. There are just so many sightseeing opportunities here.
The next one is at the Modern Picture Gallery, a sleek gallery museum that holds countless exhibits related to architecture, modern art and design. The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm if you’re interested in going. The admission costs 10 euros for adults and is free for children under the age of 17.
1 Get your own Oktoberfest outfits from Kleidermarkt
If you want to take the memory of Oktoberfest back home with you, first of all, forget about trying to sneak one of the steins back home with you. You won’t get past security!
However, that doesn’t mean you can’t take something traditional back home with you, like a pair of lederhosen. Although there are probably some people who would prefer to only wear them whilst at the festival. Anyway, you’ll find lots of bargains at Kleidermarkt. This three-storey secondhand store sells lots of unique things for reasonable prices. If you go on a Tuesday between 10 am and 3 pm, you’ll get a 30% discount.
References: Oktoberfest.de, happytowander.com, munichbeergardens, aviewoncities.com, travel.usnews, vagabondish.com