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Traditional and secluded - the Hirschgarten in Munich

It might seem strange for any reasonable person to be thinking about an event called “Oktoberfest” in late June, but not so in Bavaria.  From September 19th to October 4th thousands of wannabe pro-bingers will flock to the undisputed king of all fairs in Munich. As always, the venue will be the famous “Theresienwiese” – in the off-season a barren strip of semi-bituminised land, which also houses a hall of fame for some of Germany’s greatest minds. (No, seriously, it looks like an ancient Greek temple!) The Oktoberfest is a dream come true for all party animals, a heaven for beer fans, and undoubtedly the most famous tradition of culturally induced mass-hangover.

And RIH tells you: Ditch it!

With beer prices soaring and corporate suits increasingly hijacking the brewers’ tents, the clever traveller turns to the real thing: the good old beer garden, of which there are a staggering number in Munich. In the weeks and months to come RIH will take you to some of the best beer gardens in the Bavarian state capital.

First up: the “Hirschgarten” – Beer with deer

The “Royal Hirschgarten” is a real insider’s tip. Tucked away in the cosiness of Munich’s precious Nymphenburg district, this restaurant and its beer garden nestle up against a small park in the west of Munich. A truly unique feature is the small deer park right next to the beer garden, making the place truly live up to its name (Hirsch” is German for deer). The owners claim that with its 8,000 seats it is Europe’s largest beer garden.

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One of several outdoor tap rooms

Among the beers on tap are one of Munichs oldest brews, “Augustiner” Lager, and the fairly exclusive “Tegernseer Pils”, which traces its roots all  the way to Benedictine monks in the 11th century A.D. The charge for one litre of beer, in Bavaria called a “Mass” (in English commonly known as beer stein), is around 6.40 euros. Half-litre glasses are also available.

In terms of food, this is where it gets interesting. You may want to go for a giant pretzel or a  “Steckerlfisch”, which is a grilled and marinated trout or mackerel, but that becomes bland and boring rather quickly. Instead, go for the real deal: bring your own food. A unique feature of real beer gardens is that guests can bring their own food and picknick in designated areas where there is only self-service. It is a genuine part of Bavarian lifestyle to plunder the fridge, prepare a hearty meal and spend the day with friends at the beer garden.  For travellers, who may not have a kitchen readily available, a trip to one of the grocery stores nearby will do the trick. It saves you a lot of money, which you can then invest in… yes, beer. And that is why you came in the first place, right? Besides, falling victim to the lure of hops and malt is a lot less troublesome in the vicinity of disinterested deer than among a bunch of pissed tourists at the Oktoberfest.

The Hirschgarten plays host to a number of events, most of which are dedicated to Bavarian folk tradition, with brass music and costumes. Among the largest is the upcoming “Magdalenenfest” in July.

Königlicher Hirschgarten
Hirschgarten 1
80639 München

www.hirschgarten.de