There’s a huge difference between seeing Oktoberfest on television and seeing it in person for yourself. So if you’re flying to Munich to be a part of the quintessential German party, then we’re going to give you a little inside look on what to do at the world’s largest funfair.
What’s it all about?
The very first Oktoberfest was held in 1810 to honor the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. Locals were invited to eat, drink and be merry for five very full days of fun. Everyone enjoyed the parades, drinking, horse racing (hasn’t been done since the 60s) and music so much that they held it at the same time every year.
When, and where does it happen?
If you’re looking to try your hand at downing mass quantities of beer with likeminded revelers, then you’ll want to get to Munich in mid-September. It’s going to last until the first Sunday in October – that’s usually a good two weeks’ worth of partying. The main Oktoberfest goes down on the original meadow that’s been named after King Ludwig’s wife, the Theresienwiese. The general hours are from 10 am to 10:30 pm during the week and from 9 am to 10:30 pm on the weekends.
How do we get there?
Getting to the meadow isn’t as big a trek as some may think. The meadow is just a tad south of the center of Munich. And the site is easy to get to from most anyplace in town with the tram system. A typical day pass will cost you $8 for single riders and family/partner tickets will run you $15.
Does it cost anything to enter?
No use trying to sneak in since it’s absolutely free to enter the grounds and soak up the atmosphere. But you will pay for any food or drinks and for rides on the grounds.
Do we need to be there for opening day?
You don’t have to be there for the opening, but it’s your choice to miss the fun of the ceremonies. There’s a huge parade of floats, carriages and people in all sorts of costumes that wind through the streets of Munich. You can keep up to date on what’s happening by checking out the full list of events going on during the celebration.
Are tents still a thing at Oktoberfest?
Of course tents are still a part of the celebration. But they’re a lot different that the tents Ludwig and his wife had back in the day. Today there are 14 tents on the grounds. All of them quite sturdy, showcasing colorful facades that make these tents major attractions in their own right. Each tent also has long wooden tables and benches, and usually that’s the setup on more than one level. Some of these structures can comfortably hold up to 10,000 people.
Which tents should I visit?
Have you ever been barhopping during a night on the town? Same thing works here, just substitute tents for bars. And with 14 tents each sporting its own theme, you’re going to keep yourself busy for as long as you’re there. The traditional Schottenhamel tent is the site’s biggest tent on site and is where everything begins as the Mayor of Munich taps the first keg to officially open Oktoberfest. The Hacker-Festzelt is a sight to see in person with its painted blue sky and fluffy white clouds on the ceiling. The crowd inside skews young, so just be ready for lots of wild times inside. The Fischer-Vroni tent boasts a nautical theme and is a favorite amongst older visitors. Families tend to head to the friendly Augistiner-Festhalle for some fun for every age group – especially on Tuesdays with cheaper prices.
Those tents get busy. Should I reserve a spot in one of them?
The beer tents are the busiest place you’ll see at Oktoberfest, and also the toughest seats to get in town. If you know you’re coming for the event in enough advance (around early February), then book directly with the beer tents. Otherwise you’ll need to get to the tent of your choice as early as you can to claim a spot at an unreserved bench. Travelers staying at some high-end hotels can actually have the hotel reserve a tent spot on their behalf.
Do we have to dress up?
You’re going to see a lot of Bavarians dressed in Lederhosen and Dirndl (that’s the traditional dress with full skirt, apron and tight bodice – for the ladies, of course) at Oktoberfest. And some of you will want to dress the part, but just understand that’s purely voluntary. If you do want to dress the part you can find a number of shops in town that can help you get the right outfit for the occasion.
What about the beer?
Ah, yes – Beer. It’s why many come to Oktoberfest in the first place. All the beer you drink (all of which is brewed at Munich breweries) at the meadow comes in one-liter glasses and costs $13 per glass. If you feel like pacing yourself, then ask for a Radler (beer with lemonade) to help keep you stand upright for a little while longer.
Is there something other than beer to drink?
Not a fan of Homer Simpson’s favorite libation? No problem. Just stroll on over to the Weinzelt tent. That’s where you’re going to find 15 different wines that were made in the area. There’s also a few different types of Sekt (sparkling wine) and champagne to sample.
What is there to eat?
Nobody’s going to go hungry at Oktoberfest. The standard food around the area is roasted chicken and giant pretzels. You can also buy bratwurst, pork knuckles, roasted duck, and fish at the various tents. Grab some Weisswurst (veal sausage and sweet mustard) at the Kalbsbraterei tent. Bodo’s Café Tent and Café Kaiserschmarrn are where you want to satisfy your sweet tooth with all sorts of cakes and pastries you can stuff in you piehole.
Can families have fun at Oktoberfest?
It might come as a shock, but Oktoberfest is also geared toward families. There are plenty of fairground rides for kids to have plenty of fun riding. Cotton candy? Yep, they’ve got that too. Live music and other entertainment are around to give you a chance to relax and just enjoy the time together.
Where should I stay?
Munich has no shortage of hotels near the festival site. And most of the hotels are just short subway ride away from the fun and frivolity. But they do fill up as you get closer and closer to Oktoberfest. A good rule of thumb is if you’re booking space at one of the beer tents, then you should just go ahead and get your room at the same time. Prices will be as reasonable as you can expect at that time of year, and your odds for finding a room should be better. If you decide to get your room closer to the event, then expect higher room rates – A four-night stay can easily run up to $1,400 at most 3- and 4-star hotels. People that want to stay as close as possible to Theresienwiese should look to Hotel Bavaria, Hotel Krone, and Hotel Seibel. Our recommendation is to stay near the Munich’s train station at hotels like Meininger Hotel München City Center and Westend Hotel. That way you can be close to the action and still ride the rail to see what else Germany has to inspire you.