Begin your Bavarian beer adventure in the state’s capital, Munich. Once you land, a comfortable 40-minute transfer will see that you make it from the airport to your hotel on the sophisticated Maximilianstrasse.
When you’ve settled into your room at the Hotel Vier Jahrezeiten Kampinski, which has had the distinguished honor of hosting famous faces like Elton John, Sophia Loran, Elizabeth Taylor, Queen Elizabeth II and even Sissi (Elisabeth of Bavaria), you’ll have the afternoon to explore the town.
A good way to spend your time might be to stroll down Maximilianstrasse and check out the luxury stores that line its pavement. Then take a quick stroll along the pedestrian Theatinerstrasse, towards Odeonsplatz, and prepare your taste buds for Maelu. The café and patisserie is adored by locals for its delectable miniature mousse cakes, macaroons and éclairs.
If you have the energy, finish your afternoon by taking a tour of the Munich Residenz — the former home of the Bavarian Royals. Admire the Antiquarium, a magnificent 66-metre long hall featuring antique sculptures and paintings, the Emperor’s Hall with impressive ceilings painted by Peter Candid, the marble floors, golden ceilings and silver reliefs of the Ornate Chapel and the ostentatiousness of the Ornate Rooms.
While the Oktoberfest — or “Wiesn” as it’s known locally — has gained worldwide repute, the auspicious nature of its beginnings is rarely known. Today you’ll learn all about the royal history of the grand event as you set off on a beer- and Oktoberfest-themed walking tour of Munich.
After breakfast, you’ll make your way to Marienplatz, a grand square in Munich’s old town, where, in front of the magnificent gothic Neues Rathaus (the new town hall), you’ll delve into Munich’s colorful history. Your first taste of the Bavarian beer tradition will be the carillon — the largest glockenspiel in Germany which features 43 bells and plays out two important historical (and beer related) scenes. The first (top half) is the wedding of the man responsible for the erection of the Hofbräu brewery, and the second (bottom half) is a Cooper’s Dance, performed to sell beer during the time of the black plague. Your guide will tell you how the events paved the way for the Oktoberfest.
From here, you’ll continue through the streets and alleyways of the old town, listening to stories of the past. You’ll learn why there’s a devil’s footprint inside the Frauenkirche (Cathedral of Our Dear Lady), how the people tried to save the opera house with beer (of course) and become better acquainted with the amusing Bavarian royals.
Towards the end of the tour, you’ll head for the famous Hofbräuhaus where you’ll find out how the historic beer hall transformed from a wheat beer brewery to a royal brew house to the beloved Bavarian home of beer and food that it is today. Here you’ll also have your first chance to try the famous local beer as well as a giant pretzel and Obatzda (a traditional mix of cheeses, spices and seasoning), which was created to complement the Bavarian beer.
One of the more charming aspects of Oktoberfest is the traditional costume or “trachten”. The gentlemen don Lederhosen (leather pants) and the ladies colorful Dirndls (corseted dresses) before they head out for a day of beer and fun.
On day three, you’ll have a chance to join the colorful crowds and learn more about the Bavarian dress as you partake in a trachten shopping expedition. Your guide will take you into busy trachten stores on Tal in Munich’s old town, where you can spy — and try — the latest fashions over a glass of prosecco. You’ll then make your way to the fancy Lodenfrey and Angermaier stores to see designer versions of the traditional garb. Along the way, your guide will tell you a little about how trachten should be worn: the gentlemen will learn about the colors of their Lederhosen and the meaning behind the stitching, while the ladies will discover how they should tie their aprons and why.
After a successful shopping experience, you’ll finish off your day with a traditional German cooking class. Master chef Alfons Schuhbeck will take you from entrée through to dessert, teaching you how to harmonize authentic ingredients to create delectable Bavarian dishes. And, once you finish cooking, you’ll get to sit down and eat the fruits of your labour.
The charming town of Landshut, which lies an easy 70 kilometers northeast of Munich, is a heaven for history and nature lovers. Surrounded by rolling hills and full of Baroque and gothic architecture, it is the sort of place that can transport you to a different time, one of royalty and splendor.
After breakfast and a drive through the Bavarian countryside, begin a tour of Landshut on Altstadt, a historic street that dates back to the 12th century. Listen to colorful stories as you admire the buildings that line its sides: the pink-hued Pappenberger Haus (one of the oldest and most important), the three-gabled historic town hall and the elaborately painted Alte Post (old post office). Then stroll south towards the Stadtresidenz, an impressive 16th century palace which has the distinct honor of being the first renaissance palace north of the Alps. Take a tour of its impressive interiors and learn more about the royal Wittelbach family, including Ludwig I (the king responsible for Oktoberfest) and the Birkenfeld Rooms in which he lived while studying in Landshut.
Finally, stroll along the Isar and settle into a local cafe or restaurant for lunch, before making your way to the Burg Trausnitz; the castle on the hill. A tour through the 13th century stronghold will give you further insight into the history and tumultuous lives of the Wittelbachs.
Once your tour is done, wave goodbye to Landshut and prepare for a picturesque hour-long drive through the Bavarian countryside to the quaint village of Aying. This pint-sized place is well known among Bavarian locals for its award-winning brew. Once here, embark on a beer experience that will familiarize you with Bavarian beer culture, the 15th century purity law that governs beer production to this day and the meticulous brewing process. You’ll also get to taste nine Ayinger beers and locally produced spent grain bread. Finish with a traditional dinner at the atmospheric Brauereigasthof, which neighbors the brewery, before heading back to your hotel in Munich.
The long awaited first day of Oktoberfest is here. Begin by donning your new trachten (traditional garb), meeting up with your Oktoberfest guide and making your way to the Theresienwiese, the field where Oktoberfest takes place. From here you’ll have the perfect vantage point to watch the parade of the landlords and breweries as they ride decorated horse-drawn carriages and floats onto the festival ground.
The official opening of Oktoberfest will take place at 12pm in the Schottenhamel beer tent, where the mayor of Munich will use a mallet to open the first keg. From that point on Oktoberfest will whirl into action; rides, carnival games, food booths and, of course, immense beer tents will be ready to delight your senses.
Make your first stop at the Cafe Kaiserschmarrn, named for a traditional pancake-like dish typical of Bavaria. The café, run by Rischart, one of Munich’s best-known bakeries, offers several variations of kaiserschmarrn for your breakfasting pleasure.
After you’ve had a taste of festival goodness, indulge your other senses by taking a stroll through the immense 42-hectare grounds of the fair. Try your hand at “schießen” (shooting), take a spin in a dodgem car or carousel, step into the wine tent for a glass of bubbly or a Hugo (a traditional Oktoberfest spritzer involving mint, prosecco and elderflower syrup), buy a traditional Oktoberfest gingerbread heart — each of which has a special message written in colorful frosting — or check out the "Oide Wiesn” (old Oktoberfest), where you can see Punch and Judy, folk dancing and Bavarian music shows as well as old-world rides and attractions.
Don your trachten (traditional dress) once more and prepare to experience what Oktoberfest is all about. Head for one of the beer tents and start the day with a traditional Bavarian breakfast — two boiled white sausages, a pretzel and a beer.
Once your appetite’s been satiated, sit back and listen to the traditional brass band belt out merry tunes. These are usually a mix of traditional Bavarian songs and English cult favorites like Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline, so don’t be afraid to join in if you know the words…or if you don’t!
The beer comes in one-liter glasses (called “Maß”), so by the time you’re on your second or third, it’ll be time for lunch. For this, try the “Wiesn Hendl” — a traditional Oktoberfest chicken stuffed with herbs and roasted to juicy perfection. Then, once you’ve licked your fingers clean and drunk your glass empty, squeeze your way out of the tent you’re in and head into another one for more Oktoberfest beer and cheer. When you’ve had enough merriment, grab a “Hax’n Semmel” (a pork knuckle sandwich) or a meter-long bratwurst at one of the many food booths on the way back to your hotel.
Take it easy after two days of Oktoberfest by heading to the peaceful Schloss Nymphenburg (Nymphenburg Palace). This magnificent 17th century palace served as a summer residence for Bavarian royals and its 200 hectares (490 acres) of park continue to provide a getaway from the hustle of the city.
After breakfast at your hotel, learn more about the colorful royals of the area and see how they lived as you tour the insides of the Nymphenburg Palace. See the green room in which “mad” King Ludwig II was born, the sophisticated audience room of Queen Caroline, and King Ludwig I’s infamous hall of beauties, which includes a portrait of his mistress, Lola Montez.
Then head outside for some fresh air and stroll the expansive grounds of the palace gardens. Take one of the quieter side paths down to the lake and keep a lookout for rabbits, birds and even the occasional deer or stop for lunch at the café in the botanical garden. If you’re so inclined, take a look at the impressive royal carriages in the Marstallmuseum (carriage museum); it boasts one of the best carriage collections in Europe.
Finally, head back into the center of Munich’s old town and finish your day with a traditional meal at the Ratskeller, the restaurant that occupies the basement of the impressive Neues Rathaus (new town hall) at Marienplatz.
After one final breakfast at your hotel, wave goodbye to Munich as you get driven to the airport and board your flight home.
With more than 200 years of history and culture behind it, it’s no wonder that the Oktoberfest is the world’s largest and most famous beer festival. Every year millions of people gather to celebrate with beer, Bavarian music, hearty food, Dirndls and Lederhosen. This year you’ll join the crowd as you embark on your very own eight-day Oktoberfest adventure.
Customized for 2020, this beer and Oktoberfest-focused walking tour of historical Munich will launch you into a time, long ago, when Bavarian royals ruled the land and beer shaped the course of history more than once. You’ll learn of the beginnings of Oktoberfest and become better acquainted with its culture, as you undertake a traditional costume shopping expedition, an authentic Bavarian cooking class, a trip to the historical town of Landshut and an excellent brewery tour in the village of Aying.
When Oktoberfest begins, you’ll see the opening parade and the cracking of the keg and join in the merriment. You’ll drink beer, taste traditional food, take part in local attractions, listen to Bavarian music and explore the fair to your heart’s content. Finally, a visit to the dreamy historic Nymphenburg Palace will conclude your Bavarian adventure.
Related information: if you're interested in experiencing world-class culinary masterpieces while in Germany, you may be interested in Zicasso's German food tour, featuring 12 Michelin stars in seven days.
$2395 per person (excluding international flights)
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