This year marks the 183rd Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany. The festival will run from September 17th to October 3rd where people from all over the world will come together and drink the days away.
I went to my first Oktoberfest last year and it was hands down one of the best drinking experiences I’ve ever had. I was there with Andrew and met up with my German cousin, her husband, and a friend of his. Without our veteran Oktoberfest friends to help guide us, we would’ve been wandering the grounds and feeling not so sure of where to go (it is the world’s largest festival after all). So I’ve compiled this guide to help future Oktoberfest goers get a sense of what to expect and how to prepare for an amazing party!
Oktoberfest is known for their beer tents but I think it would be better described as a glorified state fair (with beer). There are carnival rides, food vendors, ferris wheels, and parades that attract both families and seniors, locals and tourists of all different nationalities. Before you settle in at a beer tent, take a walk around and explore. The carnival games are fun and we went on a bizarre ride called Poseidon (highly recommend for the cheese factor alone). It’s a fun atmosphere and everyone’s in good spirits. Night time gets understandably more rowdy but it never feels unsafe.
What to wear
A good number of people dress in traditional Bavarian clothes. Men wear lederhosen and women wear dirndls. You’ll see tons of people walking around the city with them and if you’d like to join in, you can purchase your own costume just about anywhere, including Munich Hbf.
Lederhosen cost about 150€ and there are different styles (above or below the knee, with or without suspenders). That’s just your bottoms and you can bring a button up shirt to wear up top. A dirndl is about 100€ but if quality isn’t all that important to you, you can find cheaper ones in the 50€ range.
It’s always fun to dress up but totally fine to go as you are. Andrew and I went in our every day clothes and I was initially worried we’d be those people who show up to a Halloween party not in costume but we never felt out of place. The costumes are expensive so if you don’t want to drop the cash, don’t worry about it.
No matter what you’re wearing, the key is to layer. The day will start off mild, then warm once you’re in the tent, and cold at night. Bring a sweater with you and a jacket for the evening when you leave.
Admission into the grounds and the beer tents is completely free. You can sit at a table at no cost too. There may be a lineup to get into the tent if it’s at capacity but there’s absolutely no fee to get in.
You do have to pay for anything you consume. A stein of beer will set you back about 10€, 15€ for a meal, and 5€ for snacks. The carnival rides and games are generally under 5€ and gifts and souvenirs are also available for purchase. I’d bring about 75-100€ in cash to be safe. Remember, you’re going to be there for most of the day!
Each tent attracts a different crowd. Käfer Wies’n-Schänke is a smaller, exclusive celebrity hot spot, while Weinzelt caters to the wine enthusiasts. Big Boy Travel covers all of the tents in this post.
We spent most of our time at Schützen-Festzelt and it was a fun, young vibe. There wasn’t a single seat available when we arrived so we squished ourselves between two rows of tables, standing and drinking there for a few hours. We made friends with a nearby table and when some people left, they invited us to join. Our patience paid off when the Terminator himself showed up and stood just a few feet from where we were. It was pretty glorious.
At the end of the day, the best tent is the one you can find a seat at. You’re guaranteed to have a fun time at any one of them!
Food and drink
Grilled meat is abundant here and the grilled chicken seemed to be a popular choice. Enjoy with a side of french fries. I don’t eat meat but had a noodle dish and plenty of pretzels to keep me going. There are menus available and your server can provide an English one.
Outside of the tent, there are numerous vendors serving up delicious eats. Sausages, sandwiches, crepes, waffles, you name it. There’s also grilled skewered fish if that’s more up your alley.
If you’re going to Oktoberfest, beer should be your drink of choice. The beer is served in 1 litre stein glasses and they’re quite heavy and you’ll be tempted to drink fast to lessen the load. You’ll only find 6 types of beer(Löwenbräu, Paulaner, Spaten, Hacker-Pschorr, Hofbräu, and Augustiner), all from Munich breweries, and each tent will only serve their sponsoring brewery.
You’ll get carbonated water if you ask for water so make sure you specify if you’d like still. A half litre of carbonated water is 5€. Expensive but your head will thank you tomorrow.
There are a couple of tents that serve wine, like Weinzelt. If you really can’t stomach the taste of beer you can also get a Radler.
Finding a seat
Finding a seat will be tough, unless you go right when the festival opens. Andrew and I got there before my cousin and even at 11am, we couldn’t find anywhere to sit for two. There were a slew of tables outside of a tent but the weather was a bit chilly and it wasn’t the same atmosphere outside.
You can reserve a table through the tents directly but they’re supposedly pretty pricey and preference goes to German companies and groups (yes, companies book them for their employees). Start inquiring early in the year as they’ll go fast.
If you’re a small group, I suggest not making a reservation and hanging around until people leave their table. You’ll be served if you’re standing too so it’s a good opportunity to peruse the place and find a lively spot to hang around.
How to get there
Oktoberfest is held on Theresienwiese, the official grounds of the festival. There are plenty of ways to get there via public transportation, which I’m assuming you’ll be taking since no one should be driving to a beer festival. We stayed at an Airbnb near Kolumbusplatz station and there was a bus that took us right outside the entrance in 20 minutes, door to door. It was super convenient and easy.
Where to stay
Staying anywhere with easy access to the S or U-Bahn would be sufficient. It’s really quite easy to get to and as long as you can hop on the subway, you’ll have a way there.
Booking your accommodations in advance is highly recommended and be prepared to pay premium prices. I inquired at over 30 places on Airbnb in March and only one was available at a reasonable price. The only other place that accepted my reservation later wrote me that he was going to charge 3x the price after realizing it was during the week of Oktoberfest! If you can’t find anything in Munich, worst case you can book something outside of the city. It’ll mean a longer trek but you’ll have a place to stay.
When to go/how long to stay
It’s best to go early in the day, before lunch, because the place really starts to fill up after that. Weekends are especially crowded so aim for a weekday if you can.
Most people spend the day there. The excitement is infectious and you will no doubt meet new people, especially after a few beers. It’ll be a long day of drinking, so pace yourself and carb up to soak in all that beer in.
We spent one day at festival, which is good enough to give you a taste of the Oktoberfest experience. I honestly have no idea how anyone could survive more than three. Best to space your days apart to allow room for recovery.
Oktoberfest is not cheap. We almost nixed the idea of going to Munich altogether because the flight alone was so expensive. But we realized we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to experience Oktoberfest so we made the leap and had the most amazing time. Prost!
Have you been to Oktoberfest? Share your tips!
Are you planning a visit? Let me know what questions you have!