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10 Things You Need to Know About the Oktoberfest

The 181. Oktoberfest will be kicked off in Munich on September 20. It’s been three years since I’ve been there for the last time and so I’m uber happy to announce that I’ll be there once again this year. My Dirndl has been freshly laundered and is just as excited as I am to be taken out once again. Let’s get that party started! If it is your first time and if you want to enjoy your visit to Oktoberfest as much as I do, read my 10 ultimate tips for a successful ‘Wiesn’ visit.

1. Getting Into the Beer Tent: The Comfy Way

There are two ways to get into one of the beer tents. The comfortable one is: Having a reservation. Making a reservation usually is for free – except for a certain minimum consumption – and you can come whenever you want within the time of your reservation. You’ll get a smaller table at the edge of the tent or on one of the balconies (yes, the big beer tents are two-storied and actually have balconies!). The bad news: If you want to come to the Oktoberfest this year, you are nearly one year late to make a reservation. Tents are booked in no time, of course. Well, except you are ready to pay. On eBay, you’ll get a reservation for ten people and tokens for two Maß (two liters) of beer and a grilled chicken for around 3.000 Euro. Selling a reservation isn’t illegal.

Insider’s tip: 
It’s never too early to think about next year and plan your trip to Munich.

A sign above Schottenhamel says the tent is temporarily closed due to overcrowding. Photo by Sanfamedia

2. Getting Into the Beer Tent: The Other Way

If you don’t have a reservation you can still get into a tent. Getting up early is well worth the effort – especially on weekends. Tents open at 9 and by that time people already queue in front of the tents. They’ll only let people in until the tent is crowded and close the entrance after that. Depending on the weekday this can happen in minutes. Once the doors are closed you can only enter with a reservation. It is difficult to meet somebody who is not in the same tent later or make any appointments with latecomers. On Fridays and on weekends, the tents are crowded by midday. And whoever leaves doesn’t have a chance to get back in if the tent is closed. So basically, you’ll spend the greater part of the day in a beer tent.

Insider’s tip:
Go on a weekday, preferably, a Friday. On Fridays, you’ll get into the tent without queuing if you arrive early but you’ll still experience a good party in the afternoon and evening hours.

Oktoberfest heart attack. Photo by Markus Spring

3. Choose Your Tent – Because They Are All Different

Which tent is yours? You can chose between 14 big beer tents: Marstall, Armbrustschützen-Festhalle, Hofbräu-Festzelt, Hacker-Festzelt, Schottenhamel, Winzerer Fähndl, Schützen-Festzelt, Käfer’s Wies’n-Schänke, Weinzelt, Löwenbräu-Festhalle, Bräurosl, Augustiner-Festhalle, Spätenbräu-Festhalle und Fischer-Vroni. There are a couple of smaller tents on the fairground. But the good Oktoberfest parties take place in the big tents. Schottenhamel is the most famous tent as it hosts the traditional key tapping that is the opening ceremony of the Oktoberfest. If you are there for celebrity spotting, you are well served in Käfer’s Wies’n-Schänke, and the atmosphere in the Bräurosl tent is legendary.

Insider’s tip:
I prefer the Hacker-Festzelt (or the Heaven of the Bavarians as people from Munich call it).

Hacker-Pschorr: Heaven of the Bavarians.

4. How to Get Out of the Tent Without Leaving it

Just in case you like to smoke an occasional cigarette with your beer as I do: You are not allowed to smoke inside the tent. But there are some designated outdoor areas such as balconies and beer gardens. You can also go there if you feel like you need to get out of the tent for a while.

Insider’s tip:
Some beer gardens are located at the southern side of tents – this is where you can enjoy the autumn sun if the weather is good.

You won’t be able to try any of the fun rides while you are in a tent. But at least you might be able to see them from the beer garden. Photo by Raging Wire

5. Practice Some German Schlager

If you have managed to get into your tent of choice by 9 am, keep in mind that the music and serving won’t start before ten – on weekdays, that is. Which doesn’t mean there’s no party spirit at this time of day. Don’t worry, somebody will start to sing and a couple of other will join in to form a many-voiced a-cappella choir sooner than you thought that might happen. There’s a certain kind of music that is very likely to be played at the Oktoberfest. They are songs that are also played in the German part of Ballermann and at Carnival parties – German Schlager. Even if you don’t know any German at all, you might find yourself singing with everybody else.

Insider’s tip:
Practice Atemlos by Helene Fischer, just in case.

6. At the Oktoberfest, it’s Okay to Drink Beer at 10 am!

You think that you can’t drink beer at 10 in the morning? Oh yes, you can! And you’ll be glad you’ve done it afterwards as the atmosphere gets party mood is taking up speed very fast. There are no smaller measures than the Maß, a one-liter glass. If you don’t think you can bear drinking a liter of beer at once, you can also order shandy or non-alcoholic drinks.

Insider’s tip:
One liter of beer really is a lot. You would have to drink pretty fast in order to avoid it going stale in the end. Just leave the last sips in the glass when you order a new beer.

Beer mugs. Photo by Yuting Hsu

7. Tipping and Pricing

You don’t like beer? No problem. You will get wine and champagne in the wine tent (Weinzelt). Not from a one-liter mug though, but from a one-liter bottle. When you pay, tip the waitress generously – no matter what you ordered. Did you every carry ten one-liter beer mugs at once? Eight hours a day? Three weeks in a row? The Oktoberfest is a good bargain for the service personnel – and involves a lot of hard, physical work. Those who give a good tip will get served faster the next time they order something, and that’s just how it works.

Insider’s tip:
Your first tip should be between 2 and 3 Euro. It’s okay to round up on your last order. Expect to pay around 9.80 Euro and 10.10 Euro per beer, depending on your tent.

A waitress brings beer. Photo by Christian Benseler

8. How to Choose a Perfect Dirndl

A Dirndl fits perfectly if it feels one size too small. Under the Dirndl you usually wear a short-sleeved white flouncy blouse that frames your décolleté. Which can be a bit deeper than usually and with breasts pushed up a bit. Dirndls traditionally come in red, blue, dark green and light rose. Nowadays you’ll get them in every color you can think of – even neon colors – but you’re on the safe side with the colors named above. Wear your hair in braids!

Insider’s tip:
Don’t pick a Dirndl that’s too long. You wouldn’t want to knock over beer mugs once you start dancing on the ale-bench. It’s also good to chose a solid material because if you won’t spill the beer somebody else will do for sure.

Whatever length your hair is: Try to braid it! Photo by nothing to hide

9. For the Men: How to Dress Like a Pro

Men are well-dressed in traditional leather trousers and a checked or lumberjack shirt. A woolen waistcoat and a felt hat would also be nice. Pull your socks up over your calves!

Insider’s tip:
If you don’t have leather trousers and don’t want to buy them, it’s okay to wear short pants in brown, black, dark green or grey. It goes without saying that you’ll need to wear suspenders with these.

That’s what genuine Bavarians look like. Photo by Sharpals

10. The After Party: Where to Go and What to do

After your visit in the beer tent take a stroll over the Wies’n. There is a lot to see – even apart from the big tents: Shooting galleries and fun rides, candy floss and sugarcoated gingerbread hearts and some smaller tents will wait for you outside of the big tents. If you’d rather relax, head to the meadow at the end of the fairground where you can sober up next to the Bavaria before you head to one of Munich’s clubs to keep the party going.

Insider’s tip:
Depending on how many beers you had, it is not advisable to take the five-loop roller coaster. At least, that’s my experience
.

About the Author

Anna loves travel, photography, and writing. All at once, everyday. She collects entrance cards, plane tickets, and old atlases and has been searching for the perfect globe for some years. Follow Anna on Facebook or Twitter!

8 Comments

  1. Thanks for the Oktoberfest primer, Anna. I’ve always thought about going, but it’s good to know what’s involved. After reading your description, I don’t think I’d be able survive a full day in one of those tents drinking those giant steins of beer (though I might look good in the lederhosen). Maybe someone will stream it live this year so I can enjoy it with a beer at home …

    • Hi Adrian! It’s best to make reservations just after the Oktoberfest – the tents usually accept them from November on, although in many cases you won’t get a confirmation before February, so no need to worry if you don’t get a prompt answer. You can do it by email and you’ll find the contact details on oktoberfest.de (they also have an English version). The publicans – or hosts – all operate individually so you’ll have to chose your tent in advance. Don’t save it for too long 😉

      Cheers! Anna

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