Oktoberfest is Munich’s famous beer festival. It is one of the largest festivals in the world.
But first things first: why is Oktoberfest called “Oktoberfest” when it really begins in September?
The answer is as follows. The historical background: the first Oktoberfest was held in the year 1810 in honor of the Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig’s marriage to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen. The festivities began on October 12, 1810 and ended on October 17 with a horse race. In the following years, the celebrations were repeated and, later, the festival was prolonged and moved to September. By moving the festivities up, it allowed for better weather conditions. Because the September nights were warmer, the visitors were able to enjoy the gardens outside the tents and the stroll over “die Wiesen” or the fields much longer without feeling chilly. Historically, the last Oktoberfest weekend was in October and this tradition continues into present times.
Everyone wants to have fun at Oktoberfest. To make sure all visitors are safe and enjoy themselves, there are a few rules:
1. Rucksacks and large bags are generally be banned from the Oktoberfest. Leave any non-essential items at home. You will make it into the Oktoberfest much quicker if you don’t bring any bags or rucksacks with you.
2. Any bags or rucksacks you do bring must not exceed a volume of three liters or a size of 20 cm x 15 cm x 10 cm.
3. Even if they fit in your smallest bag, the following items are also prohibited: Aerosol spray cans with hazardous contents; corrosive or staining substances; objects that could be used to cut, slash or stab. Glass bottles are also banned.
4. Small children will get the best view of the Oktoberfest from their strollers. While there is no general ban on large strollers, they will be subjected to checks by security staff.
5. Pushchairs are banned from the site all day on Saturdays and on the public holiday for the Day of German Unity on 3 October. Furthermore, pushchairs will not be allowed onto the site from 6 p.m. on all other days.
6. Animals are not permitted in the Oktoberfest at any time.
7. Plan your journey: Where possible, find alternative forms of transport to underground lines U4 and U5 and Theresienwiese station. If you are arriving into the central railway station, you can also walk to the Oktoberfest. If you are traveling on the underground from the west, get off at Schwanthaler Höhe if possible.
8. Use all of the entrances around the Oktoberfest grounds.
9. The Oktoberfest is at its best when there aren’t any large crowds. The Wiesn Barometer shows you the best times for a quiet stroll around the site. Here you will find the barometer.
10. No matter how much fun you have, every trip to Oktoberfest has to come to an end some time. No visitors are permitted on the festival grounds between 1.30 a.m. and 8 a.m.
Oktoberfest is also aimed at families – with lots of fairground attractions. These include spectacular rides such as the “Höllenblitz” (“Lightning from Hell”), the “Skyfall”, the “Teufelsrad” (“Devil’s Wheel”) or, for those seeking something gentler, the “Krinoline” (an old-fashioned merry-go-round). There are also candyfloss stalls and shooting galleries.
You can book tables at the tents at Oktoberfest. In fact, many people do. It’s nice to know you have a place to sit down, but other than on weekends or at night, it seemed like you could always find an open seat, even if you had to stand for a while. General hours are 10.00am to 10.30pm (from 9am on Saturdays and Sundays). It is pretty packed at weekends; many locals prefer to pop in during the week.
All the tents are free to enter. Beer is typically 10 euros, and most full meals are 12–15 euros. You can get snacks and small meals for around 5 euros. You can also buy alcohol outside the tents (but not beer), and the drinks cost around 8 euros. You’ll also have to put a 2-euro deposit down on the glass they give you. You’ll find tons of stands everywhere with sausage and wurst for 4 euros too.
Also, each tent has its own personality. Some tend to be heavy on Americans, Australians, older Germans, rich celebrities, etc. So consider this before booking a table.
To get a more rounded feel of the event, try some of the tents (there are 14 in total), such as the Hackerbräu (decked out in Bavarian blue and white) and the Winzerer Fähndl (complete with beer garden). The Augustiner Festhalle is more moderately paced and popular with families, particularly on Tuesdays. The largest tent is the 10,000-seater Schottenhamel, where the first beer of the season is poured to rapturous applause and cheering. The smallest is the Glöckle Wirt, has room for just 98 people, and its walls are lined with traditional instruments, cooking utensils and paintings.
Book accommodation early. It fills up quickly — and some hotels and hostels book out up to a year in advance. The closer you get to the festival grounds, the more expensive beds are and the quicker everything fills up. Rooms can cost as much as 120 euros per night. Hostel rooms can cost 60–80 euros.
You can find cheap accommodation at “The Tent,” a hostel (really, a massive tent) outside the city for 40 euros per night. That’s about as cheap as you will find unless you Couchsurf (which is hard, because locals get a lot of requests from people looking for a free place to stay) or have friends you can stay with.
You cannot go to Oktoberfest without the traditional Bavarian outfit (it just wouldn’t be right or as fun), and those are not cheap. A good lederhosen outfit begins at around 140 euros. Dirndls, the traditional outfit for girls, begin around 100 euros. (You can, of course, find cheaper outfits, though, if you aren’t looking for something of quality.)
If you don’t like drinking beer, Oktoberfest is probably not for you (especially with water costing around 8.73 euros per liter). That said, the Weinzelt (wine tent) is where you can choose from more than 15 different wines (and there are some excellent ones in Germany, especially from Franconia) in addition to different types of Sekt (sparkling wine) and champagne. Bodo’s Cafe is where you can find all manner of cakes and pastries (including strudel) to go with your coffee or, if it’s that time of day, cocktail.