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Updated: 4/16/20

Prost! I hate to break it to you, but the most wonderful time of year is not Christmas.  It’s September in Munich during the glorious festival known to Bavarians as the Wiesn, and to the rest of the world as Oktoberfest.  Going to Oktoberfest requires some serious planning, (well maybe not that serious), and I’m here to give you an all you need to know Oktoberfest Guide about this amazing festival and celebration!  This ULTIMATE Oktoberfest Guide will help you successfully plan your Oktoberfest adventure, give you Oktoberfest tips, and even help you know what to wear at Oktoberfest!

 

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The History Of Oktoberfest:

Oktoberfest is held every year in Munich, Germany. Munich lies in the German region of Bavaria, which is much closer to Austrian culture than North German culture.  Munich was the birthplace of Nazism, and during World War II over 80% of the city was bombed and had to be rebuilt.

On October 12, 1812, Prince Ludwig I of Bavaria married Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. The wedding was a grand ceremony. Five days after the wedding the Dukes threw a party with horse racing, gambling, and many other shenanigans for the common people to celebrate the wedding, and boost common morale. This was the first “Oktoberfest”.  The festival was held on the Theresienwiese, named in honor of Princess Therese.  In 1818 beer kiosks, a carousel, and swings were set in place to quench thirst, and to keep people entertained.  In 1898, with the support of the Bavarian breweries, the first beer halls were erected.

Since then the festival has continued to grow every year, with over 7 million people attending from all around the world. Most people in attendance are German, and over 72% of them are Bavarian. Only 15% of Oktoberfest goers are foreigners.

What is Oktoberfest?

Oktoberfest is a 16-18 day festival celebrating, well, mostly beer.  It is a drinking marathon and a once in a lifetime experience for most people.  There are 14 beer halls, carnival rides, food, and a general festival-like atmosphere.  There is a smaller festival in the spring known as Spring Fest.

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When is Oktoberfest?

The festival ends every year on the first weekend in October.  This is because of the difference in weather in Germany from September to October.  So while you would think Oktoberfest would be in October, it takes part mostly during September.

Hours for Oktoberfest:

Opening Day 12:00pm-10:30pm
Weekdays: 10am – 10:30pm
Weekends: 9am – 10:30pm
Tents Open Late: Käfers and Weinzelt open until 1:00 am

You can easily walk to Theresienwiese from the main train station.  Just follow the crowds, you won’t be able to miss it.

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Oktoberfest Guide: What a Day at Oktoberfest Looks Like

To get a table and seats you need to be in line for the festival by 7:30 am at the latest.  Gates open at 9 and people will be standing in line a few hours before then.  Be prepared for the wait and bring breakfast snacks, a disposable bottle of water, or even some beer for the wait outside. No Oktoberfest Guide would be complete without mentioning you are going to want to have an umbrella with you while you wait in line.  Plan which tent you want to be in ahead of time! There are 14 different ones. My recommendation is the Hofbrau or Augustiner tent, both are sure to be a great time.  Once you pick a tent, stick to it.  All of them will provide a great time and are generally the same.

 

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If you don’t want to do the whole stand in line and wait thing, you can always make table reservations!  This is done through the specific tents themselves.  Making a reservation is something that is required early in advance – typically done January – April of that year.  You can reach out to the tents directly to make reservations via phone or email (or even fax I believe!)

Here is the official website for Oktoberfest where you can find all of the tents for the upcoming year to make reservations at.  Be aware that to make a reservation will most likely require a $300-$600 payment, depending on the table, the tent, and the day.  Most tables seat 6-8 people and they expect the table to be full.  The price of a table does include some food and drink.   I would only opt for a table on the weekend or at dinner time.  If you’re young and full of spite, you’re probably better off just standing and waiting.

If you didn’t opt for a reservation…as soon as the gates open RUN, get inside, and STAY SEATED.

Do not pass go, do not collect $200.  Do not get up for a while or someone will take your seats! The first 30 minutes is sheer madness.  If you don’t make it in during this time, the wait time outside the tent can be up to 3 hours to just get in during weekends, and there’s almost no chance of getting a seated table if you don’t during the first rush.

Once everyone is settled in your waitress will come around to your table and start to take orders.  To have the best experience at Oktoberfest, tip the waitress a hefty amount this first order!  She will serve you first and be back around a lot more often.  After a large first tip, you should continue to tip at a minimum of €1 per beer. This is greatly appreciated and (sort of) expected!  A happy waitress means a happier – read: more drunk – you!

The beer at Oktoberfest is exclusively served in stein glasses, or a Maß (pronounced mahs).  Each stein is a liter, which is 2 pints, so keep that in mind when you’re chugging your delicious German brew!  Each stein costs around €10 – I highly recommend bringing plenty of cash to make yours and your waitress’s life much easier.

While you’re in the beer tent:

Standing on the benches is perfectly acceptable, and people are constantly climbing on benches.  What you don’t want to do is make the mistake of standing on a table – unless you have the intention of chugging a full stein of beer!  Guys and gals alike will partake in this fun challenge, but if you aren’t prepared, or are bad at chugging, don’t stand on the tables!

As you’re in the tent expect it to get progressively louder and drunker as time goes on.  The music gets more hyped, the musicians start to lose jackets and form, and people start shedding clothing as well as their sanity and dignity.  Chicken wings, toilet paper, shoes, umbrellas, and more will fly through the air.  The music will get louder.  Your face will become more flushed.  Its magic.

When you’ve had your fill:

After you’re full of beer and can’t drink anymore, the next step is to head outside to the rest of the park!  Eat amazing food, play games, ride carnival rides, and more!  The outside of the beer tents has just as many amazing things to view and see and will give your liver a quick break!

I recommend eating lunch outside of the tents before you head back in for a second round.  While inside the tents delicious rotisserie chickens are served – and I have seen one up close as it was flung across the hall by a drunk Australian – it will cost you much more inside than out.

Get some traditional German food at any of the stands and truly appreciate the wiesn and the atmosphere around you.  Then get immersed in more debauchery in a new tent!

At the End:

The last call for beer in most tents at Oktoberfest is 10:30. The Käfers and Weinzelt tents are open until 1:00 am on weekends – you will want to arrive before 10:30 so you can get in and potentially have a table or place to even stand.

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Oktoberfest Guide:  The Beer Halls and What They’re All About

There are fourteen main beer tents at Oktoberfest.  Some are new and some are old.  Some cater mostly to Americans while several cater to locals and a few even opt to show off their rich celebrities.  Here is a comprehensive list of the main tents to be found at Oktoberfest, and a few to spare.

  • Augustiner Festhalle – This is one of the larger tents.  It hosts is own meatball.  The beer is served from 200-liter wooden barrels!  It’s considered the most family-friendly and is a big local spot.  It can be harder to get a table and make reservations here.
  • Armbrustschützen Host to a crossbow competition since 1885!! One of the most popular tents. A mixed crowd of young and old and from all over the planet.
  • Festzelt Tradition– This tent sports lots of folk-dancing with a big band! A very family-friendly tent.  The Festzelt Tradition Hall only joined the w in 2010. A little cozier than your standard tent.  A mixed crowd of everyone, but especially those with a taste for nostalgia.
  • Fischer Vroni Sick of heavy meat?  Head to this tent to mix things up where the main dish is…you guessed it, FISH!
  • Hacker Festzelt This beautiful tent has a blue ceiling painted with clouds, that when weather conditions allow, open up to the sky.  Very Hogwarts- Esque, yeah? A very popular tent.  A rock n’ roll band, with a traditional flare play for the partiers in this tent.
  • Herzkasperl– Young folk music that is wild and rebellious.  All sorts of bands come to play here, this is the music tent.  It tends to lend itself to be mostly acoustic as well!  This is one of the smaller tents.
  • Hofbrau Festzelt This is the tent I have particularly spent most of my time in, though not all!  This tent is popular among Americans and Australians and is absolutely massive. It’s one of the busiest but it gets ROWDY.  A blast of a time, you won’t want to miss the Hofbrau Festzelt.
  • Käfer’s Wies’n-Schänke – This tends to be a hot spot for both local and international celebrities!  There is also a later closing time at this tent.
  • Kufflers Weisnzelt– A host of interest food apart from German food can be found here!  There are also other drink options, wine, prosecco and more are here in this tent!  This tent stays open until 1 am as well.
  • Lowenbrau Festzelt– This tent tends to have a little bit of an older crowd.  It’s also a huge draw for the Italians and the Australians.  There is a giant lion at the entrance.
  • Marstall The newest tent at the festival.  Caters to a younger, more hipster crowd.  You can even get vegetarian food here!  Tons of traditional music can be found here.
  • Ochsenbraterei A large brass band, this tent is one of the oldest.  It famously serves mostly ox dishes.
  • Paulaner Festzelt –This tent has been an integral part of Oktoberfest since 1895. This boasts an amazing beer pipeline that can pour 15 steins in one minute.  This also has stunning outdoor seating for some of the more lovely Autumn German days.
  • Pschorr- Festzelt Braurosl– This tent has its own yodeler and also boasts a Gay Sunday. All the gays congregate here on the first Sunday of the wiesn.
  • Schottenhamel Festhalle – This is where the very first beer of Oktoberfest is poured on opening day by the mayor.  It’s the oldest tent at Oktoberfest and can host up to 10,000 people.  It’s definitely a party tent!
  • Schutzen Festzelt– A little off the main area so it’s easy to beat some of the crowds. You might even be able to find some royalty or local celebs here!
  • Zur Schonheitskonigin– The original folk singer tent! The dress from the employees is more 1900’s than traditional Bavarian. There is also a folk singing competition here.

What to Wear to Oktoberfest Guide

Check out my full Oktoberfest Packing Guide here!

No Oktoberfest experience is complete without partaking in the traditional outfits of dirndls for the women, and lederhosen for the men!  It’s not nearly as fun to go to Oktoberfest not dressed up, and you will be one of the few in street clothes without a doubt.

Dirndls:

There are many different styles, patterns, colors, and lengths for dirndls.  Traditional dirndls fall just below the knee, have a full skirt with a fitted corset-type top, with a small white blouse underneath.  For a nice sturdy, handmade dirndl that looks quality made (because it is) you will spend around €150. There are cheaper options, the lowest price you will find in Munich, or anywhere really, will be around €40.

What you don’t want to do is buy a “Halloween costume” style dirndl.  You will stick out from the crowd, and not in a way you want.

You can purchase dirndls around Munich (there are tons of stores everywhere) or you can purchase one online before you go.  Either way is perfectly acceptable.  Here are some amazing dirndls on Amazon!


APRON:

Usually, an apron is already paired with the dirndl at purchase.  Other times it is not, and if this is the case you want to be sure to purchase an apron that is the same length as the dress, not shorter, or longer.

Where you tie the knot on your apron is equally as important as making sure you have an apron!
  • On the left – you are single.
  • On the right – you are married, engaged, or otherwise “occupied”
  • Directly in the front – you are a virgin (mostly seen worn by young girls).
  • Directly in the back- you are a widow, and I will buy you a beer for that!
SHOES:

If you’re like me then you probably have some stress about what shoes to wear with your dirndl. I brought two sets, so I would have options. The first, a wedged pair of tie-up suede pilgrim shoes, and the second lace up pointed brown suede flats.  I ended running with the flats because it was raining, and I’m glad I did.  There is a lot of standing at Oktoberfest, and comfortable closed-toed shoes are the way to go.  Honestly, the next adventure I take to Oktoberfest I am going to wear my Birdies without a doubt.  They match, are comfortable, I can wear them all day, and are absolutely adorable!  Another great option is a pair of Dr. Marten boots, if it’s rainy this is a fantastic option to keep your feet warm and dry!

CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT ADORABLE BIRDIES TO WEAR TO OKTOBERFEST

Lederhosen:

The price of lederhosen starts at a slightly higher price than the women’s’ dirndls.  A cheap pair of lederhosen will cost around €100, and these are generally made of goatskin.  Nicer ones are made of deerskin and will cost around €175 and upward.  There are two different styles of lederhosen, shorts, and longer capri- style ones.   Men will generally only buy one or two pairs in his adult life, and they will last him, without having to be washed.  Paired with the lederhosen comes a checked shirt in whichever color you like, most men tend to choose blue or red.  A hat with a feather works as well, and knee-high socks combined with a pair of Germanic-looking shoes complete the set.

Oktoberfest Guide: Where to Stay in Munich

My best advice when it comes to accommodation in Munich for Oktoberfest is to book it early.  Places tend to sell out, and prices are higher than they would typically be.  Weekends are going to be much busier, so if you’re traveling during the week you’re like to get something much better.

Hotels to Stay at in Munich

Hotel Mio – Elegant and modern hotel in the center of town.  Breakfast included and a stunning bar. The exterior of the hotel is grandiose.
H+ Hotel München–  A clean and quiet hotel in the center of town.
Vier Jahreszeiten Kempinski München Exquisite classic Hotel in the City Center. You’ll feel like a Bavarian Princess in these rooms.  A relaxing pool and a phenomenal bar as well as a rooftop terrace.

Hostels to Stay at in Munich

Festination Oktoberfest Camp– The Cheapest Accommodation around the time of Oktoberfest will be camping!  It’s a rough go of it, but loads of young people do it and say how much of a blast it is!
Wombats Hostel Munich– A popular Hostel chain, these dorms aren’t the cheapest I’ve ever seen, but they’re clean and in the city center!
MEININGER Hostel– I can’t quite remember, but I’m pretty sure this is the accommodation that I used when I went to Oktoberfest for the first time! If not, it’s pretty dang close.

Oktoberfest Guide: Essential Survival Tips for a Day at Oktoberfest

Pace Yourself – The best pro tip I can give you for Oktoberfest is to remind you to pace yourself!  This is a marathon, not a sprint.  Don’t drink too much early on, make sure to eat a pretzel now and then to soak up all the alcohol.  PS – if you see people snorting a substance in the open off of tables its ~probably~ not nose sugar…it’s snuff, tobacco that you snort.

Stay Hydrated – Survival mode in this Oktoberfest Guide is all about the pre-hydration game.  Leave lots of water and Gatorade out for yourself when you get home, and make sure to chug lots of water in the morning as well. Drink water while you’re at the event!

Eat Outside the Tents – Eat a cheap sausage or hotdog for a few Euros outside the tents, instead of paying €20 for a rotisserie chicken inside them.

Keep your belongings Safe – Ladies, this is going to be more of a struggle for you than the guys with pockets, but you’re going to want to keep your belongings safe somehow!  If wearing boots (like the Dr. Marten’s I recommend you wear!) I just shove my money in there, along with my ID and shove my phone in my bra somewhere.  Try and avoid bringing a bag if you can, as it will be annoying to carry it around all day, another option is to invest in a stylish belt bag you can slip under your apron to pack minimal items!

Book Early: Everything from accommodation to reservations needs to be done early in advance.  By the end of July, reservations need to be made.  If you’ve run out of time and haven’t made reservations, I recommend at that point you do everything on the fly.

Set a Meet-Up Point and Time:  Where no one ever plans to get drunk, disorderly and lost from their friends…things happen. Especially at a world-renown drinking festival.  Set a meetup time and place for when you inevitably lose your group and don’t have any cell service #travelprobs.

Wear Comfy Shoes:  As with any festival, carnival, or party this Oktoberfest Guide is going to tell you something IMPORTANT- comfortable footwear is a MUST.  Birdies or Dr. Marten’s will save your life standing all day, piss poor drunk.

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the ULTIMATE Oktoberfest Guide - All you need to Know Oktoberfest Survival Guide - not only will this blog post help you to understand how to Navigate Oktoberfest, but it will also help you find the best hotels in Munich during Oktoberfest, which tents are the best fit for you at Oktoberfest, and what to wear at Oktoberfest! #munich #munchen #Oktoberfest #Germany #traveltips #festivals Oktoberfest Travel Tips | How to Plan an Oktoberfest Trip | Oktoberfest 2020 | Oktoberfest Packing Guide