I chose the best time to visit Germany because two of the biggest festivals in Europe happen in the fall. Bad Durkheim is the first, happening in September. It’s called a wurstmarkt (sausage festival) but it has grown into Europe’s largest wine festival! I also went to Oktoberfest in Munich, which most people know about. This is the largest volksfest (beer festival) in the entire world. It draws in over a million tourists every year!
Here’s everything you need to know before you go.
Bad Durkheim is the name of the town and the festival, located about an hour south of Frankfurt. It’s close to Ramstein, where I’ve been staying, so I bought a local train ticket right at the station. If you’re traveling from farther away, like Frankfurt or Munich, you can book online at trainline.eu!
Travel Tip: You can get very cheap group discounts! It was only €18 for five of us to get roundtrip tickets.
Once you get off the train just follow the hoards of people walking in the direction of the festival. Over 600,000 people come to this small town for the Wurstmarkt every year! You’ll know you’ve arrived because you’ll see rows upon rows of wooden cottages selling crafts and food as well as carnival rides and games. In the center you’ll find all of the tents with wine.
When you order wine you can get a regular glass or watered-down wine. Depending on how long you want to stay or how many glasses you want to drink, it would be wise to get the watered-down version.
The wines are organized by sweetness, and my favorite was the rosé. However, I didn’t try a single wine that I didn’t like. They are all delicious!
A great souvenir while you’re here is a flower crown. I bought one for only €5. And the best part? You can re-purpose it for Oktoberfest a few weeks later! This is a festival you won’t want to miss. Aside from the wine and food, there are craft vendors, carnival games and rides. I went on the swings and it takes you up high so you can see the entire festival, town and countryside. It was spectacular!
As always, be safe, drink water and know how you’re getting home.
I traveled to Oktoberfest in Munich this September, and it was just as I thought it would be! It was crowded and everywhere I looked I saw traditional dirndls and lederhosen. Actually, when I first arrived in Munich it was a Friday night and there was a drunk man vomiting on my train. So, that was my introduction to this festival. It’s definitely as wild as everyone says, but it’s also a lot of fun.
When you get off at main train station, hauptbahnhof, in Munich, head towards Theresienwiese. This is where you’ll find the festival. If you get lost, just look down! There are sidewalk signs pointing the way.
It’s so cool to see everyone in their traditional clothes! Even outside the festival, all around Munich at this time of year you’ll see women wearing dirndls and men wearing lederhosen. While these can be expensive, it’s worth it.
I saw this as a once-in-a-lifetime chance, and looking back on it I would be disappointed if I didn’t have one! My dirndl was €80 for the dress and €20 for the white undershirt. You can find tons of stores in Munich that sell them so don’t worry about buying them ahead of time! They come in all different colors and patterns, so there’s something for everyone.
Travel Tip: It’s worth it to get a sweater! They have beautiful hand-knitted sweaters in some shops. They’re usually cream-colored or black, and it is worth the money to add one. It will match your dirndl and you’ll stay much warmer. The weather in Germany is very unpredictable! The weekend I went it was about 60 degrees, and two weekends later it was almost 80 degrees. Be prepared!
Anyone can get into the festival. You can eat food, get on the carnival rides and play games. However, if you want to drink beer you have to buy a ticket to get into a tent. There are quite a few massive “tents” on the Oktoberfest fairgrounds and people crowd around to try and get in. These tickets are expensive and sell out months in advance, so you need to be prepared! That is not a last-minute purchase.
This is how you get the “traditional” experience with long wooden tables, ribbon decorations and I believe food is included in your ticket. This is what one of the tents looked like on the outside:
There are a few free tents you can go into, but they’re always crowded. You don’t get served unless you have a seat, so if this is your plan you better arrive early or make friends with people who will let you squeeze onto their bench. You can try waiting around for a seat, or you can do what I did.
Your first option is to drink cocktails. We found two booths selling cocktails inside the fairgrounds, and they were really good! However, they’re small and pricey.
Another option is to go to one of the many pubs just outside the fairgrounds. The beer is cheaper, but the people are just as lively and happy to be here. I was so excited to drink out of a traditional stein! My friend group had an entire picnic table to ourselves and chatted with people sitting around us.
You can’t go wrong at Oktoberfest. It’s going to be a blast if you’re with friends and have a positive attitude. And if Munich is too crowded, look around. Just about every German town celebrates Oktoberfest. The local festivals are much smaller and there are hardly any tourists, which is why most Germans avoid Munich.
When I was in Berlin I accidentally stumbled upon their Oktoberfest celebrations! I had to grab a stein to celebrate one more time.
Have a blast at these fests! And don’t forget the German word for “cheers”: prost!