Here is the ultimate Oktoberfest guide to help you make the most out of your experience:
The Oktoberfest in Munich is the biggest and best beer festival in the world and is one of Germany’s most popular tourist attractions. The first Oktoberfest was held in 1810 to commemorate the marriage of Prince Ludwig to Princess Therese and has since evolved to become a remarkable event devoted to celebrating the best of Bavarian heritage.
Imagine unlimited steins of excellent locally produced beer, German sausages, pretzels, an amazing funfair, dancing and you will have some idea of what to expect at the Oktoberfest. Excitement buzzes in the air and the smell of sweet roast almonds lingers, mingling aromatically with the scents of beer, roast chicken and sizzling sausages.
To get started, it is worth finding a bit about the fourteen beer tents, each of which has its own unique character. Some tents have a more traditional ambience, while others tend to attract a younger and more international crowd, so wisely if you’re reserving a table – many people book the wooden picnic-style tables up to a year in advance! If you haven’t booked arrive early to get a seat or simply wander around and see what takes your fancy. Friday to Sunday is by far the busiest time so you have a greater chance of getting a table on a Monday or a Tuesday.
Here is the lowdown on six of the large tents:
- Hippodrom: This tent usually attracts a younger crowd and is one of the smaller ones albeit with a capacity for 4,000 people! It serves sparkling wine as well as beer and is thought to be a good place to meet like-minded singles.
- Hofbrau: One of the most well-known tents as it is affiliated with one of Munich’s best-known beer exports so it’s popular with international visitors who are familiar with the beer. One of the few tents to have standing room so it’s a good place to go if you can’t get in anywhere else.
- Augustiner: Bavarians will invariably tell you that this is the tent that serves the best beer in Bavaria. This tent has a more traditional feel than some of the others- it’s popular with locals and is widely regarded as the friendliest tent at the Oktoberfest.
- Hacker: This tent holds 9,300 people and is known for its amazing ceiling decorations of blue sky and clouds, and its lively rock and roll band.
- Lowenbrau: This tent has a lively vibe and is a popular meeting place. It’s easy to find as it has a fourteen-and-a-half foot lion by the entrance, which lets out a welcoming roar every few minutes.
- Marstall: The latest addition to the big tents is worth checking out for its friendly ambience and horse-themed decor.
The beer tents can accommodate 980,000 a people a day, so, although it will be crowded, you should be able to find a spot. If you find a seat in one of the popular tents, don’t worry if you are surrounded by unknown people on either side. It’s all part of the experience and after a few beers, you’ll be sure to be singing along to ‘Ein Posit’ together.
Singing along to the many bands is an integral part of Oktoberfest. You will hear many renditions of well-loved songs such as ‘Hey Jude’ and ‘Sweet Home Alabama’. One invaluable tip is to learn the words to ‘Ein Prosit’ beforehand. This is the official toasting song of Oktoberfest and you will hear it many times throughout the day! As soon as you hear the stirring brass band intro, grab your glass of beer, toast everyone you can see and make eye contact to avoid a terrible fate! From six o’clock the party really gets started – loud music takes over, people get up on benches and start singing along – it’s an unforgettable experience.
Note: Standing on the benches is allowed but don’t stand on the tables or you will be asked to leave!
What to Wear
To really get into the spirit of the event, it is fun to wear traditional Bavarian clothing, which is known as ‘Trachten’ and consists of lederhosen for the men, knee-length woollen socks, and a felt hat. For women, Trachten involves a dirndl, which is a full skirt with a low-cut white blouse, often with puffed sleeves and a pretty embroidered apron.
Genuine Trachten garments are not cheap so look out for second-hand bargains online or in Munich second-hand shops. It’s worth making the effort as it goes down well with locals and helps you to become fully immersed in the Oktoberfest experience.
The Fun Fair
Step outside the beer tents for a breath of air and to experience the fun of the fair and the magical carnival atmosphere created by hundreds of stalls, traditional fairground rides, music, and carnival games. Best experienced at night-time when the bright lights of the fair help to create an unforgettable scene of riotous merriment.
Some Final Oktoberfest Do’s and Don’ts
- Do be prepared to see all of what Oktoberfest has to offer – it’s a good idea to be open-minded.
- Don’t forget to book a hotel well in advance.
- Don’t forget to tip the bar staff- you’ll get served more quickly next time!
- Do be aware that Oktoberfest beer is served in one-litre glasses and is extra-strong.
- Pace yourself, line your stomach with some of the tempting food on offer, and don’t get too drunk. Don’t be what the Germans call a ‘beerleichen’ which translates as ‘beer corpse’ – in other words getting so drunk that you pass out on the ground.
- Finally – enjoy yourself! Oktoberfest is an unforgettable experience and one visit is seldom enough!