There are plenty of other intoxicating Munich beer halls. Spatenhaus is the opera-goers’ beer hall, serving more elegant food in a traditional setting on the square facing the opera and palace. The trendy Andechser am Dom, at the rear of the Frauenkirche, serves Andechs beer – my favorite – and great food to appreciative regulars. Nürnberger Bratwurst Glöckl am Dom, just across from Andechser am Dom, is popular with tourists for its delightful little sausages. Dine outside under the trees or in the dark, medieval, cozy interior – patrolled by wenches and spiked with antlers.
The partying gets turned up a notch every fall, when the city celebrates Oktoberfest. The festival lasts just over two weeks (Sept. 1 7-Oct. 3 in 2016), starting on the third Saturday in September and usually ending on the first Sunday in October (but never before Oct. 3— the day Germany celebrates its reunification).
Oktoberfest kicks things off with an opening parade of almost 8,000 participants. Every night, it fills 32 beer tents with more than 100,000 people. A million gallons of beer later, they roast the last ox.
The Theresienwiese fairground (south of the main train station), known as the Wies’n, erupts in a frenzy of rides, dancing, and strangers strolling arm-in-arm down rows of picnic tables, while the beer god stirs tons of brew, pretzels, and wurst in a bubbling cauldron of fun. The triple-loop roller coaster must be the wildest on earth (best before the beer-drinking).
Munich is so into its beer culture that it even has a Beer and Oktoberfest Museum, which tells the origins of the city’s Oktoberfest celebration. While it may be a museum, the exhibit comes with a malty bias and seems designed to make two points: beer is truly a people’s drink, and you’ll get the very best here in Munich.
Wandering through the legions of happy, companionable drinkers in the beer halls and enjoying the relaxed, small-town atmosphere of the Marienplatz, I mused that Munich is about as gemütlich as it gets. Gemütlich is a unique word for Bavaria’s special coziness and its knack for savoring the moment. You can feel it anytime you spend an evening clinking frothy mugs with new friends, or wandering the atmospheric lanes of this city that respects its past while looking energetically into the future.