Here are our tips for Germany based on our two week stay in Berlin and Munich, during the Oktoberfest period.
A shout out to John, who is a good friend of ours from New York City who met up with us in Berlin and continued on with us to Munich for Oktoberfest. We love visitors!
Before delving into Berlin and Munich’s highlights we think it’s most important to discuss German food!
German food is full of flavor, texture and deliciousness and it is one of our favorite cuisines in the world. Ensure to try the many bratwursts, saucy currywurst sausage varieties, and mustards (omg!!). A visit to Germany is not complete without enjoying a crispy pork knuckle (or 5) with sour kraut. That crackling is to die for! Not forgetting German’s other favorites; roast pork, roast chicken & roast duck with gravy & other condiments. Then wash it all down with some steins of beer and if you’re still hungry, a salty pretzel awaits you on any corner.
You also must check out their amazing Bier Gardens and Bier Halls.
NB: We mention our favorite restaurants, under the Berlin & Munich sections below. Also, nearly all restaurants have an English menu so just ask, as it’s not always displayed, although it is fun to try and work it out for yourselves 😉
Where to stay in Berlin
If you’re after convenience to many bars, cafes, clubs and transport hubs then stay in the area of Friedrichstein or Kreuzberg. If you want to be closer to the historical sites and tourist attractions stay in the area of Mitte. We stayed at an Airbnb private room with a recent American expat of our age, so it was great getting his insights and tips. Airbnb options are endless in Berlin. If you find yourself staying in Friedrichstein be sure to make a visit to historical and atmospheric square, Boxhagener Platz. On Saturday it has food markets from 8:00am-2:30pm along with many other things to buy.
What to do in Berlin
- Walking Tour – Take a free walking tour with Sandemans as this helps you get your bearings of the city with some insightful history thrown in, mainly focused on WWII and the Cold War. See where Hitler’s bunker was, get lost in the Halocaust Memorial, see Charlie’s Checkpoint and learn about the significance of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany. We were both very taken back by the recent history of Berlin, and it was a very fascinating tour. It’s hard to believe we were learning about history that happened less than 25 years ago.
- Although the traditional walking tour is very popular in Berlin, if you already know all of Berlin’s history and want to visit the more grungy, graffitied side of Berlin then you could take an Alternative Berlin Tour which will take you through the older neighborhoods.
- Reichstag Dome – A popular free attraction with amazing skyline views. You need to book ahead for this online at least 2-3 weeks before hand. This is something we didn’t do ourselves, so we unfortunately missed out.
- Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp – About 1.5 hours out the city is one of the earliest “re-education camps” / death camps from the Nazi regime. Definitely get a local guide or audio guide here to learn about the atrocities that happened. This was a very moving experience.
- East Side Gallery – Art and graffiti painted onto a preserved area of the Berlin Wall. The wall goes for over 1km and if you are coming from the west, walking east, you will end up at Alexanderplatz.
- Alexanderplatz – or Alexa for short. Huge shopping malls, outdoor squares, cafes, restaurants and more. Easily found as its marked by the tall disco ball looking TV tower. During Oktoberfest, this turned into a big beer garden too.
- Mauerpark + karaoke – (see above) A true Berlin experience. Definitely go here on a Sunday afternoon to chill out, have some beers and enjoy the entertainment around you. Mauerpark is an outdoor area with vintage markets, food stalls, musicians, buskers and the highlight is the karaoke stadium which starts at 3 or 4 PM on a Sunday. This runs from Spring to late Autumn.
- Visit chocolate shops – Ritter Sport and Fassbender & Rausch Chocolatiers. Similar to the Magnum Pleasure Store, Ritter Sport allows you to make your own chocolate bars. mmmm.
- Tiergarten Park – Walk, bike, run, picnic in this massive green 342 hectare park.
- Markthalle 9 – On Thursday evenings, from around 5 PM to 10 PM, aspiring chef’s who don’t yet have their own places, set up booths offering fresh takes on street food from all over the world.
Where to go out in Berlin
Berlin is one of the biggest nightlife arenas of the world. There are tons of bars & clubs to choose from. There are a handful of clubs that are open from Thursday night and will not shut until Monday afternoon :O. Berliners know how to party.
Below are some of our fav places/recommendations in the Friedrichshain area.
- Blechbilder Bar
- Santa Maria Eastside- Mexican
- Silo Coffee- Breakfast, avocado toast & eggs
- Burgeramt- Delicious Delicious burgers!!
- Kptn A.Muller- Dive bar, cheap drinks, good before you go out.
- Hops and Barley- So many beers on tap
- Primitiv Bar
- Cake Bar
- Berkain (research how to get in before going here)
- KitKat (research if you’d fit in before going here… it’s not for everyone!)
Although we would love to throw out a lot of different tips for our time visiting Munich, we unfortunately (depending on which way you look at it ) were only there for Oktoberfest so our days were made up of putting on costumes, eating pork knuckles, drinking steins of beer, riding on rides, sleeping and repeating. We did however spend one of our days in Munich exploring what the city had to offer.
- Marienplatz – The main hub of Munich. The historical centre, a very crowded square that is surrounded by 5 different buildings all with their own clocks. The streets are lined with a lot of good shops, a few cafes and tons of people!
- Viktualienmarkt – All year long you’ll find one of Munich’s biggest markets. Here you’ll find an array of flowers, gifts, fruits, meats, cheeses, souvenirs, bbq’s/food stalls and of course… beer!
- English Gardens (Englischer Garten) – One of the oldest and largest gardens in Europe. The park has large open green spaces with small creeks running throughout. The most famous part in the park is the surfing which takes place in one of the artificial streams. There is a standing wave produced by the water pumping mechanism. One surfer at a time will surf the wave and you will find the other surfers lining up taking turns to enter the water. Rain, hail, shine or snow and these guys/girls will be there.
- Free walking tour – Surprise Surprise 😉 Self explanatory tour around the city with an extensive history lesson.
Food & Restaurants in Berlin
Beer gardens and Bavarian restaurants are all throughout Munich. It’s the thing to do both during Oktoberfest and during a regular visit to Munich.
Below are the Bavarian restaurants that we ate at in Munich & recommend:
- Augustiner-Keller – There are a few of these located throughout Munich and you can’t go wrong with any of them.
- Hofbrauhus – The original.
- Wirtshaus in der Au
I believe we had pork knuckle and potato dumplings at every one of these…?! Whoops.
Augustiner Keller also has an amazing Beer Garden that is worth the visit if it’s a nice day out. We came here after Saturday’s crowd became too much at Oktoberfest.
Heading in to Oktoberfest, I (Emily) knew I was about to face the impossible… drinking beer! For people that know me, this has never happened and other than Oktoberfest, probably won’t again. This said, I was determined to get into the spririt of the festival and surprisingly drank my way through plenty of beer over the duration of the festival. Jacob was very proud of me & that’s what matters most. 😉
Oktoberfest is an adult’s playground. Although there are some rides for children, the children generally are no where to be seen past 11am, along with many punters who have already passed out around the festival. It really is an amazing time at Oktoberfest, although you do need to know some insider tips to ensure you have the best experience possible so read on for our tips and check out this very detailed description of Oktoberfest for even more.
Where to stay during Oktoberfest
Booking accommodation in advance is highly advised for this time of year. We stayed at Wombat’s Hostels which is a 10 minute walk to the festival and a 2 minute walk to the main train station. The convenience of this does cost though. It was €85 per bed in a 6 bed mixed dorm :O . It was, however, a really fun atmosphere and super clean! If you have more people, certainly get an Airbnb.
In general, if you want to save money you need to stay out of Munich and catch a train in to town OR pay up, and stay right in the center within walking distance to the festival. It’s handy after you’ve downed litres of beer.
How to dress at Oktoberfest
With 85% of people at Oktoberfest dressed up in the traditional Bavarian outfits (Dirndls & Lederhosen) it only makes sense if you get involved too! It makes it so much more fun and it’s awesome how many people get involved. The costumes can range between €40-500 depending on where & what you are buying. Obviously because we were only there for a few days we wanted to find something reasonably priced and there were plenty of stores within walking distance from our hostel to buy. For a full run down of what to wear & stores to buy in Munich visit here.
What time to go to Oktoberfest?
Weekdays: It’s inevitable that Oktoberfest will always be busy but the best way to avoid the crowds and get a table (you want a table!) is to head there around 10:30am during the week. Choose which tent you want to go in as soon as possible, because once you’re in, you’re in and you will stay at the same table for the rest of the day.
Weekends: The weekends are a whole other story. Weekends at Oktoberfest are extremely crowded and if you have no reservation and want a table to drink at, then you should be ready to wait in line at the tents at 7am. Sounds easy? It’s definitely not, especially after you’ve been drinking for a few days before hand. Waking up at 6:00am to line up to drink beer was a slight challenge. We managed to get in to our favorite tent (Hacker) for the morning but were later kicked out by those who had table reservations.
Oktoberfest Tent Guide
There are many different tents at the festival and they are all relatively similar, however, some are catered to the younger crowd, others to the older etc. Our favorite tent by far was the Hacker Pschorr tent. We came back here 2 of the 4 days and had an awesome time. The crowd is young, the vibe is roudy & alive, the waiters are fast and the band is engaging.
A very common event in this tent involves someone standing on their table with a 1L beer in their hand, while everyone cheers and they down their beer…the whole liter! If you are interested in Oktoberfest for next year, here is a list of all the tents at the festival and what they offer.
We had such an awesome time at Oktoberfest and would recommend anyone to go! It does put few dents in your wallet, but it’s absolutely worth it.
Married days survived: 198
Litres of beer consumed; 25+