The 6 G's of Surviving Bayreuth Festival

By Truman C. Wang
Special to Classical Voice

1.      Get tickets

  • Slow way – standard application via box office waiting list. (up to 10 years).  First-time applicants must (1) email Bayreuth box office to request a ticket order form in the snail mail; put your name, address and phone number; (2) receive your ticket order form in 3-4 weeks; (3) carefully peruse the ordering instructions, note the online order URL, login info and the start date of order processing; (4) submit your ticket request on the exact date (For 2017 tickets, order starts on 10/15/2016) either Online or via postal mail; (5) successful orders will receive an invoice confirmation by Jan 15, no news means no luck this year. You will not get confirmation for an unsuccessful order.  A limited number of single tickets (for non-Ring operas only) may be made available on Feb 12.  For existing ticket applicants on the waiting list, you should receive a new order form by postal mail in late September/early October, follow the same instructions #3-5 above.  
  • Fast way – (1) wait for returns at the box office at least 2 ½ hours before each performance, many get there at 8-9am, (2) hotels and travel agents, (3) join one or more Wagner Societies around the world, (4) join the Gesellschaft der Freunde von Bayreuth (Society of Friends of Bayreuth)  €205 per year.  The last option costs more but is the best way (only 2-3 year wait)

2.    Get there

Fly from U.S cities to Nurmberg (1 or 2 stops), then take the 1-hour train, taxi or drive to Bayreuth. A few hotels in the outskirts run a bus to the Festspielhaus.  Staying in town is recommended to avoid the hassle of Germany’s overcrowded and unreliable trains or parking your car.  

3.      Get a room

  • Goldener Anker near Margravial Opera House (€200, direct booking only), Goldener Hirsch is walking distance from the Festspielhaus and next to the train station,  Hotel Lindenmuhle (€99, free opera bus, post-opera snacks in lobby and hotel restaurant), Hotel Ramada Residenzstadt (free opera bus & seat cushion, next to cemetery and Liszt House)
  • For hostels and B&B’s contact the Bayreuth Tourist Office
  • Book your room at the same time you receive the order confirmation, either directly or through the Box Office. Beware that most hotel rooms are not air-conditioned.

4.      Get food

  • In-house dining – (1) the formal dining needs to be booked in advance, (2) self-service cafeteria a popular bratwurst stand and several bars, (3) outside food carts.  The common food theme is limited variety and lots of pork items.
  • After the show (10-11pm) – (1) Weihenstephan Restaurant, (2) Kraftraum (vegetarian)
  • If you choose to eat afterward, beware that post-performance taxi and hotel bus lines can get crazy.
  • There is a McDonalds at the train station if you cannot stomach another bratwurst or pork schnitzel.
  • My recommendation is snack a lot during the day and in between acts, and pig out afterward.  German meals are heavy and you don't want to be in a food coma during the performance!
Tannhäuser  at the Festspielhaus

Tannhäuser at the Festspielhaus

5.      Get with the program

  • Dress code – black tie/evening dress formal, but 50% of people wear simply ‘business casual’.  Look what the people wear here (notice the three people in jeans in photo #2).  High heels not recommended due to cobblestoned ground.  Make allowance for tropical heat, night chill and possible rain.  As of the date of this writing, the Festspielhaus is not air conditioned and the doors are closed during a performance.
  • Get to the Festspielhaus one hour before curtain.
  • Curtain time is 4pm (or 6pm for “Das Rheingold”), with one hour intermission between acts.
  • You can rent seat cushions and binoculars from the theater. 
  • Bring lots of cash in small bills for programs, snacks, drinks, cafeteria and gift shops.

6.      Get out and about

There is not a lot to do in Bayreuth outside of the Wagnerian happenings.  Do check out the Richard Wagner Museum, the Margravial Opera House and the Hermitage if they’re open (check with the Tourist Office).  Click here for other local attractions.  You can hike up and down the hill from the Festspielhaus for exercise, or do the ‘beer trail’ in nearby village Aufsess.  Take a day trip to Bamberg, Warzburg, or Nuremberg. 

Richard Wagner Museum at the Wahnfried house

Richard Wagner Museum at the Wahnfried house

New Bayreuth security measures for 2016

- Visitors should plan more time than before for the arrival. Best to arrive 45 minutes before the screening
- Do not forget a valid ID
- Bulky, sharps are not allowed to the Festspielhaus. Also bags and backpacks, bottles and other liquid containers are prohibited. Excluded are evening bags.Umbrellas may continue to be issued in the cloakroom
- Also seat cushion may not be taken
- Direct access from the parking lots to the Festspielhaus is only possible on a path