Prost! The most wonderful time of year to visit Munich is 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 not that serious), and I’m here to give you an all you need to know guide about this amazing festival!
Oktoberfest is held every year in Munich, Germany. The region Munich is in is called Bavaria, 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.
This year marks the 183 annual Oktoberfest. 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”, or as they called it then, October Festivities. The festival was held on the Tereisenwiesn, 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 6 million people attending from all around the world. Most in attendance are German, and over 72% are Bavarian. Only 15% of Oktoberfest goers are foreigners.
So Why is Oktoberfest in September?
The festival ends every year on the first weekend in October. This is solely because of the difference in weather in Germany from September to October. It’s cold in September, so waiting to enter into tents and riding rides in the freezing October weather isn’t pleasant for anyone.
Lederhosen and Dirndls: Do people really wear them? (Check out my full packing guide here)
The short answer is yes. From my experiences at Octoberfest I would say that around 95% of people at Oktoberfest wear traditional lederhosen and dirndls. Not only were they wearing them in the festival, but the locals rock them during the day, on Sundays, for special events, and family gatherings as well.
Real men wear lederhosen, as it as seen as a sign of prestige an manliness. The women wear their dirndls as a sign of femininity and sexiness. In today’s times women are also seen wearing lederhosen, a relatively new approach to the festivities, and a cute one at that!
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. There are many places in Munich where it is possible to buy dirndls, for relatively decent prices. 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. These are a cheap imitation of Bavarian culture, and though they may look good and sexy online, wearing one of these to Oktoberfest makes you look cheap, and borderline disrespectful. If you don’t want to commit to purchasing a dirndl, wearing street clothes is a perfectly acceptable option.
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 go tie the knot on your apron is equally as important.
- On the left means you are single.
- On the right means you are married, engaged, or otherwise occupied.
- Directly in the front means you are a virgin (mostly seen worn by young girls).
- Directly in the back means you are a widow, and I will buy you a beer for that.
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.
The price of lederhosen start at a slightly higher price than the womens’ dirndls. A cheap pair of lederhosen will cost around €100, and these are generally made of goat skin. Nicer ones are made of deer skin, and will cost around €175 and upward. There are two different styles of lederhosen, the shorts, and the 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 choose blue or red. A hat with a feather works as well, and socks combined with a pair of Germanic-looking shoes complete the set.
How to do the Day Properly:
At the beginning:
To get a table and seats you need to be in line by 7:30 at the latest. Gates to the park open at 9 and people will be standing in line hours before then. Be prepared for the wait and bring snacks, a disposable bottle of water, or even some beer for the wait outside. Plan which tent you want to be in, there are 14 different ones. My recommendation is the Hofbrau or Augustiner tent, both are sure to be a great time.
As soon as the gates open run and get inside and STAY SEATED, do not get up for a while or someone will take your seats, as 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, and there’s still almost no chance of getting a table.
Once people are seated your waitress will come around you your table and start to take orders. To have the best experience at Oktoberfest, tip the waitress hefty here (I’m talking like €25). She will serve you first and be back around a lot more often. After this tipping at €1 per beer is appreciated and expected. A happy waitress means a happier and more drunk you!
The beer at Oktoberfest is solely served in Stein glasses, or a Maß (pronounced mahs) as the Germans call them. Each stein is a liter, which is 2 pints, so keep that in mind when you’re chugging! Remember to pace yourself. You want to be able to remember this day, not vomiting over random strangers (a strange girl wandered up to our table on opening day and puked everywhere). Try not to loose your friends, and get rowdy, but also be able to enjoy yourself!
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 without a break! Guys and girls alike will partake, but if you aren’t prepared, or are bad at chugging, don’t stand on the table!
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 loose jackets and form, and people start loosing clothing. Chicken wings, toilet paper, shoes, umbrellas, and more will fly through the air.
When you’ve had your fill:
After you’re full of beer and can’t drink any more, 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 you can still drink beer on the outside as well.
At the End:
Last call for beer at Oktoberfest is 10:30 on weekends, and closing time is midnight. Head home and sleep off all the amazing food and beer, and get ready for round 2 the next day!