On Saturday, September 16th the mayor of Munich will open the 184. Oktoberfest by tapping a huge wooden beer keg in Schottenhammel Festzelt.
The largest folk and beer festival in the World is the kind of attraction you either love or hate.
During ten years of calling Munich our home, we visited Oktoberfest many times. In this post, you’ll find some tips on how to have a perfect time.
Wiesn (as locals call Oktoberfest) dates back to the beginning of the 19th century when a royal wedding was celebrated at Theresienwiese (Meadow of Therese), and all citizens of Munich were invited to attend. A beer festival and a great tradition were born. Nowadays, Oktoberfest attracts around 5 million visitors every year.
Oktoberfest isn’t only a tourist attraction. In Munich, it is the fifth season. While other European cities get decorated for Christmas, in Munich it is all about hops, beer and pretzels. For many locals, Wiesn is a must go Event.
At Oktoberfest, you need to sit down to be able to order a beer. There are 13 big beer tents and a wine tent. The biggest of them offer space for more than 8.000 guests.
Each tent is unique in its atmosphere.
- At Schottenhamel, mostly young people meet to celebrate.
- Armbrustschützenzelt is all about Gemütlichkeit – a Bavarian way to “meditate”.
- Ochsenbraterei is famous for various ox meals.
- Augustiner Festhalle is the most traditional tent where locals meet.
- Winzerer Fähndl is a nice tent with great atmosphere where everybody feels good instantly. On top of that, it is where the FC Bayern fans meet.
- Löwenbräu-Festzelt is where the TSV 1860 (Munich’s second football team) fans meet.
- Schützen-Festzelt is one of the oldest tents. Its guests are mainly from Munich and Upper Bavaria. It’s also the tent where Arnold Schwarzenegger conducted the Oktoberfest band.
- Hacker-Festzelt is a beautifully decorated tent, called Himmel der Bayern (Bavaria’s heaven).
- At Fischer Vroni you’ll get delicious fish meals.
- Hofbräu-Festzelt is probably the best-known tent, so it’s no wonder visitors come from all around the world.
- Pschorr-Bräurosl is known for its legendary parties.
- Käfer’s Wies’n-Schänke is where celebrities and FC Bayern players meet.
- Marstall is the newest of the tents, nicely decorated with rather younger visitors.
- Weinzelt, the wine tent, is for those who prefer wine to beer but still want to enjoy the atmosphere.
It doesn’t matter which one you chose. You’ll have fun everywhere.
Each tent also has a Biergarten. On sunny days, it is an excellent place to spend the afternoon with a Maß or two.
Besides large tents, there are many small ones. There’s a tent specialised in grilled chicken, a wheat beer carousel or a café tent.
A word of advice: Oktoberfest is crowded. If you see some free spots by the table, that is already taken, just ask, if you can join in. Don’t forget to say Prost (cheers) to your bench neighbours.
Be careful: As it gets later, most guests will already have drunk a couple of Maß. It doesn’t take long until the dancing starts. You are allowed to dance only on benches, not on tables. Security guards are strict about that. Also, pay attention while dancing. The table arrangement is tight, and sometimes you’ll get the back of your neighbour, which might lead to a fall. Stay alert. Maßkrugverletzung (beer mug injury) is very painful.
There is a strict non-smoking policy in all tents. You’ll find smoking areas in beer gardens and on tent balconies. But you might lose your spot while smoking.
The tents serve beer from one of the six original Munich breweries. Except for wine tent, of course, which serves a variety of wines.
The beer is specially brewed for the occasion. You should be aware that the Oktoberfest beer is stronger (around 6,2 % alcohol) compared to regular Munich beer (around 5,2%).
Each beer tastes a little bit differently. Every year we have a favourite. Last year, it was Hacker-Pschorr. Let’s see how this year’s brews will turn out.
The beer at Wiesn is only served in Maß, which is 1 litre. There are no smaller mugs. You can also get a Maß of non-alcoholic beer, and some tents serve a Radlermaß (shandy), which is beer mixed with lemonade. In smaller tents, they serve wheat beer in 0,5-litre glasses. You’ll also get water, coke and some lemonades, but the prices are severe. (At some places, 0,5-litre water costs up to 8 €.)
Every year, there is a heated discussion about Oktoberfest beer prices in Munich. And each year, it gets more expensive. This year you’ll pay between 10,60 € and 10,95 € for one litre. Compared to beer prices in some countries it is still a bargain.
When to go
Oktoberfest is held for two weeks and three weekends. This year, it is the longest Oktoberfest possible, starting on Saturday, September 16th at 12 noon and ending on Tuesday, October 3rd.
On weekends, the tents open and start serving beer at 9 am. On weekdays it’s one hour later. They close at 10.30 pm. Last order is usually around 10 pm.
Insider tip: If you want to stay longer, the wine tent closes at 1 am. Decide for yourself, if you are comfortable switching to wine.
If you don’t have a reservation, arrive early. On weekends, you should be there before the opening time. On a busy day, they even close the tents due to overcrowding. In such a case, you’ll have to wait. Don’t think about bribing the security, it won’t help you.
On weekdays, it is much easier to get into a tent. If you have the time, go around noon and enjoy the atmosphere without big crowds.
Where to eat
All tents offer decent food. It is mostly traditional meals like grilled chicken, pork roast, Schnitzel or Haxn (roasted pork knuckle). There are few vegetarian options like Käsespätzle (cheese noodles), but it is difficult to find vegan food.
Outside you’ll find many stalls serving delicious snacks like langos (a deep fried flatbread) or ox burger.
Cash is king at Oktoberfest. Almost nobody accepts credit cards. You’ll pay directly after you get your order.
Tipping, about 5-10 percent, is appreciated and will get you your next round faster.
What to wear
Almost everyone visiting Oktoberfest in Munich dresses in Dirndl or Lederhosen. The outfits are based on traditional Bavarian clothing, but should not be mistaken for a Tracht.
If you like it, you can buy a nice Dirndl for around 100 €. Decent Lederhosen-outfit will cost you around 200 €. It is also ok to wear jeans, t-shirt and a sweater. Decide for yourself. In our opinion, there is only one no-go: cheap costumes with Dirndl in screaming green, and Lederhosen made of plastic.
Wear solid shoes to avoid hurting your feet by broken glass.
If you want to see a real traditional Bavarian Tracht, you should attend the Traditional costume parade through Munich on Sunday, September 17th.
How to get there
Use public transport. There is a subway stop directly at Theresienwiese (U4 and U5 line). On weekends, it gets really full. It is better to get out one stop further at Schwanthalerhöhe and walk to Wiesn. Just follow the crowds in Dirndl and Lederhosen. It takes around 10 minutes.
You can also take the S-Bahn (suburb train) to Hackerbrücke and walk for around 15 minutes. Or take the Tram (line 18 and 19), get out at Hermann-Lingg-Straße and walk for around 10 minutes to Theresienwiese.
You’ll see many Rickshaws around Theresienwiese. It might be a fun ride, but they ask horrendous prices (up to 50€ per person) during Oktoberfest. If you don’t like public transport, you’re better off with a taxi ride.
Munich is a very safe place. If you keep to the standard travel rulers, you’ll be okay.
With recent events, security at Oktoberfest got tighter. The whole area is fenced, and you can only get in at dedicated gates guarded by security men. Usually, there is enough personnel and little to no waiting time.
Luggage, backpacks and large handbags are not allowed at Oktoberfest. There is storage available, but it isn’t cheap, and you’ll have to wait in line. Leave everything you don’t need at your hotel.
There is no entrance fee.
Where to stay
Hotel prices explode during Octoberfest. If you didn’t book in advance, consider finding a hotel out of Munich. There are lots of nice places in the suburbs. Look for a stay close to an S-Bahn station. All the S-Bahn trains stop at Hackerbrücke close to Wiesn. Use the S-Bahn plan for better orientation.
With Oktoberfest’s birthday celebrations in 2010, the tradition of Oide Wiesn (Old Oktoberfest) was born. In the area behind the Farris Wheel, two tents serve beer in traditional clay mugs, which is brewed according to a recipe from the 19th century. Also, you can enjoy yourself on historical carousels. There is a 3 € entrance-fee for the little journey back in time. The atmosphere is more relaxed and the music more traditional compared to the rest of Oktoberfest.
Every four years (last in 2016), Oide Wiesen cannot be held because the Bavarian Central Agriculture Festival takes place on its ground.
Ein Prosit der Gemütlichkeit, enjoy your Oktoberfest time!