If you are visiting Bavaria, and even if you are not a beer drinker, you need to go to the Hofbräuhaus Munich. Outside of Oktoberfest season, it is probably the number one destination for tourists from all around the world. This large, loud, and bustling beer hall is open every day of the year and it is almost always packed. Here you get to do what we think you should do in Germany: drink great beer, eat delicious food, sing loudly, and clank large beer mugs together in friendship.
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1. Not Just for Tourists
There is absolutely no doubt that at whatever time you enter the Hofbräuhaus, you will find tourists. Lots of them. The beer hall can seat 1300 people, and there are people there from all over the world. However, they are not all tourists, surprisingly the Hofbräuhaus had many regulars.
Each time we visit, we meet interesting locals, and this last time we met Stephan who works in the city archives. He was an archive of information all on his own. Only having lived in Munich for the last seven years, he started visiting the Hofbräuhaus at least once a week right from the very start. Why? He said it was to meet people from all over the world.
2. Beer Steins and Beer Tokens
Since there is such an interest in the beer, the management has always catered to regulars. There are hundreds of people who have standing table reservations each week. There is even a list of them on the Hofbräuhaus website. Although most of the regulars are attached to a group, some are not and just come for the fun. They will collect their tankard from a locker, order a maß (mass or beer-1 liter) which he will then pay for with a special Biermarke or token.
There are over 400 tankard lockers located around the main area of the beer hall, some of which have been handed down from generation to generation. However, like my friend Stephan, he was able to start renting his locker after being on the waiting list for just one year. I asked him if it was expensive to rent them and he said only a few Euros per month, but the waiting list has hundreds of people on it. He has a friend who has been waiting for four years.
While we were sitting there, Stephan pulled out his Biermarke and paid for his beer. A Biermarke, or token, can be bought for a small discount per beer or you can buy ten tokens and get the eleventh beer free. For someone like Stephan, this saves considerable money over the course of a year.
3. Customs You Should Know
People have been going to the Hofbräuhaus for over 400 years since it first opened its doors in 1897. Many of the customs are old Bavarian customs, and even though there are plenty of tourists that go and do fine, you can have a much richer experience if you know how to do a few things.
First of all, even though there are 1300 seats, you will walk in and the hall will seem completely packed. No tables are ever completely free. No problem. It is a German custom to ask if the empty spots at the table are taken. You can do this in English, but you can also ask like this? “Ist hier frei?” In this way, you can not only secure a spot, but you will get to know the other people at your table. I have met so many people by just plopping down in free seat and starting up some jovial conversation. Probably the most fun was the time when we went for lunch and ate with a German astronaut who had trained at NASA.
You can always tell the locals by the trachtenmoden, or traditional Bavarian dress, that they are wearing. Before moving to Bavaria, I thought lederhosen and dirndl were only for tourists or restaurant workers, but I was wrong. Many, many Bavarians own their own and proudly wear it for any number of occasions. You can buy the traditional felt hat and pins right there in the Hofbräuhaus, but as you walk around Munich you can also buy all kinds of traditional Bavarian clothes.
One very important tradition that you should be ready for is singing. Every night a Bavarian band plays, and about every 15 or 20 minutes you can hear one or both of these songs: the “Hofbräuhaus Lied” (the Hofbräuhaus song) or “Prosit” (Cheers). Both give the visitors a chance to clink their beers with the person sitting next to them and have a toast. Don’t be shy! It is a lot of fun!
The Hofbräuhaus song is actually quite long, but you will only notice the chorus. The song goes like this:
Ein Prosit, ein Prosit
Ein Prosit, ein Prosit
And then yell! OANS! ZWOA! DREI! G’SUFFA!
In München steht ein Hofbräuhaus: Eins, zwei, g’suffa!
Note: I found these lyrics and more explanation at this website .
4. A Special Hofbräuhaus Angel
It’s no secret that Müncheners love their beer, and if you pay attention, you will see a short little brown-haired angel hanging around the Hofbräu beerhall. His name is Aloisius, and before he became an angel, he was a porter for the brewery and would end his day with a tankard. When he met his demise from working too hard, he went up to Heaven where he found that no beer existed. He was not happy about this and when the city government of Munich needed some Heavenly advice he volunteered for the job. He was sent down to help, but the draw of his beloved beer was too strong and he made a detour to the Hofbräuhaus where he can still have a tankard or two. Unfortunately for the city officials, they are still waiting for that heavenly advice to come their way.
Some places you can spot Aloisius are the he Hofbräu beer tent at the Oktoberfest or on the deckels and coloring books at the Hofbräuhaus, so keep your eyes open and say a “prosit” to him while you are there.
5. Who Else Has Visited the Hofbräuhaus?
The Hofbräuhaus has been a draw for tourists for hundreds of years. So many people have made it a point to visit, and some even became regulars. Here are some famous people who’ve visited the Hofbräuhaus:
• Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
• The Empress Elisabeth of Austria
• Vladimir Lenin
• John F. Kennedy
• Thomas Wolfe – American Writer
• Josephine Baker – American Dancer
Due to its Gemütlichkeit, or feeling of comfort and coziness, many people have tried to replicate the Hofbräuhaus. Hong Kong has their very own Hofbräuhaus, as do five American cities: Newport (Kentucky), Las Vegas, Pittsburg, Chicago, and Cleveland. So even if you can’t get to Munich, maybe you can make it to one of these other taprooms.
You can’t always eat at the Hofbrauhaus, there’s some other great places around it to try as well. Check out the Modern Bavarian Restaurant – The Pfistermühle.
Have you been to the Hofbräuhaus? What was your experience?
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