Aficionados of the Munich Oktoberfest will tell you that the best way to experience it is inside one of the tents with a Mass, a one litre glass of beer, in your hand. But one of the best views of the Theresienwiese, the site of the annual festival, is from the tower of nearby St Paul’s Church.
Inside the Roman Catholic place of worship you’ll be able to experience a very different kind of mass to those served in the tents of the Oktoberfest. The airy, neo-Gothic edifice was designed by George Hauberrisser, the architect who also drew up the blueprints for the Neues Rathaus, the New Town Hall, on Marienplatz.
Part of Munich’s skyline
St Paul’s was built between 1892 and 1906 and its twin spires, which rise 76 metres on the western side of the church, are an integral part of Munich’s skyline. The tower that’s open to visitors dwarfs them by 21 metres, reaching 97 metres into the sky.
The narrow observation platform is at a height of 45.5 metres, providing a vantage point over the Theresienwiese and the rooftops of the Bavarian capital.
I didn’t count them, but have it on good authority that 252 steps run between the church and the observation platform. Despite it being an apparently calm day down at ground level a stiff breeze was blowing up there.
All the fun of the fair
The shrieks of people riding the roller coasters and the whirr of fairground rides rose through the buffeting wind. Looking down from the tower of St Paul’s makes it clear that the Oktoberfest really is much more than merely a beer festival. Locals are proud of the fact it’s the world’s biggest Volksfest or people’s fair. In 2014 6.3 million people visited, downing 6.5 million litres of beer. Many, though, come only to enjoy the fairground rides.
Heading up the tower allows you to observe the crowds ambling along Wirtbudenstrasse, the broad street running between the festival tents. Many of the women wear Dirndl dresses and the men Lederhosen, some of which are cut in the style of breeches and others reaching to the knee.
Spectacular in the evening
This, arguably, is a place best visited before you head into the tents for a beer. I visited during the middle of the day and was impressed by the views. Yet I imagine it’s a fantastic spot during dusk, when the evening sky is blue and the colourful lights of the rides and tents are visible.
If you enjoy photography, the tower of St Paul’s Church a good spot to click photos from an elevated position and offers a good alternative to the steps by the statue of Bavaria.
The St Paul Church (St-Pauls-Platz, 80336 Munich) hosts exhibitions and concerts, as well as services.
The Munich Oktoberfest begins at noon on the penultimate Saturday in September and runs for approximately a fortnight.
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