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Top 15 Tips for Celebrating Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany



What began as a royal wedding reception back in 1810 has evolved into the world's largest folk festival, and now, celebrating Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany is a bucket list item for millions of people worldwide! From the lively atmosphere of the beer tents to the savory aromas of traditional Bavarian cuisine, Oktoberfest offers an unforgettable celebration of German culture. We’ve had the pleasure of experiencing this larger-than-life celebration on two separate occasions now (2019 & 2023), and we learned a few tips and tricks along the way, so in an attempt to help you make the most out of your Oktoberfest experience, we want to share our Top 15 Tips for Celebrating Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany!



For a closer look at our experience at Oktoberfest in Munich, check out our Oktoberfest video on YouTube!




 

Before we dive into the tips and tricks, let’s cover the basics of Oktoberfest…


Brief History:

Oktoberfest (or more commonly called “d'Wiesn” by locals), has a rich history dating back to 1810. It originated as a royal wedding celebration for Crown Prince Ludwig (later King Ludwig I) and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. The citizens of Munich were invited to join in the festivities held on the fields in front of the city gates, which were later named Theresienwiese ("Therese's Meadow") in honor of the princess.


The festival featured horse races, parades, and various entertainment to commemorate the royal wedding. Over time, the horse races were discontinued, but the festival continued to evolve, gradually incorporating beer tents and stands selling food and drinks.


By the late 19th century, Oktoberfest had transformed into the beer-focused event we know today, with large beer tents operated by Munich's breweries. These tents became the heart of the festival, offering traditional Bavarian beer, food, and live music.


Throughout its history, Oktoberfest has faced challenges such as war, economic downturns, and pandemics, but it has persevered and grown into the world's largest folk festival. Today, millions of visitors from around the globe flock to Munich each year to partake in the lively celebrations, making Oktoberfest an iconic symbol of Bavarian culture and hospitality.


When:

It may surprise you to read this, but Oktoberfest doesn’t happen in October! Well… At least not the majority of it! Oktoberfest officially begins on the second to last Saturday in September at noon when the mayor of Munich taps the first barrel at the Schottenhamel Tent, crying "O'zapft is” (It's open) and the festival concludes the first Sunday of October unless that Sunday falls before October 3rd (German Unity Day) in which case the festival is extended to include that. But just to avoid any confusion, be sure to check the official Oktoberfest Website for exact dates.


Where:

Oktoberfest takes place in Munich, Germany at the Theresienwiese, often referred to simply as the Wiesn. Theresienwiese, which covers an area of about 42 hectares (103 acres), is a large open space located in the Ludwigsvorstadt-Isarvorstadt district of Munich, Germany and as mentioned earlier, the name "Theresienwiese" translates to "Therese's Meadow," named after Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen, whose wedding celebration in 1810 marked the origin of Oktoberfest.


How Much:

Admission to Oktoberfest is 100% FREE! This includes its many beer tents as well! It's only at the Oide Wiesn (the most traditional area of the festival) that you'll need to buy a €4 ticket for entry. However, after 9 p.m., you can enter for free! You will need to purchase tickets to ride any of the rides (3€-12.50€) and of course, food and entertainment come at a cost, but entrance to the festival remains free.


 

1. Plan Ahead

Planning ahead for Oktoberfest is crucial for ensuring a seamless and enjoyable experience at the world-renowned beer festival. With millions of visitors flocking to Munich during Oktoberfest, securing accommodation well in advance is essential to avoid last-minute struggles and inflated prices. Similarly, making reservations for beer tents is highly recommended to guarantee seating, particularly during peak hours (more on this topic later). Planning ahead also allows you to arrange transportation where needed, set a budget, and review the festival schedule to prioritize must-see attractions and events. The most important thing to plan ahead in our opinion is accommodations, and here are some properties that we recommend…


⭐⭐⭐ Marc München



2. Dress the Part

As an American, Dressing in traditional Bavarian clothing, like dirndls for women and lederhosen for men, when attending Oktoberfest may seem silly, but is more than just fashion—it's a key part of the festival experience. Embracing these traditional garments immerses you in the rich cultural heritage of Bavaria and Oktoberfest itself. Not only does it add authenticity to your experience, but it also fosters a sense of camaraderie and unity among festival-goers who similarly embrace the tradition. Plus, it creates fantastic photo opportunities, capturing the essence of the festival and the joy of celebration. These traditional outfits can be quite expensive though, so unless you want to spend a small fortune on your Oktoberfest outfit, we recommend purchasing before you arrive, just avoid anything that has the word “costume” in the description as these are very cheap looking and can be offensive to the Bavarian culture. We ordered ours through Amazon a few months ahead of time and were very pleased with them. Just a few notes on how the traditional dirndl ribbon should be worn: right means you’re taken, left means you’re single, center means you’re a virgin, and back means you’re a widow. Don’t forget to check out the little stores, they sell authentic German goods, hats, and rose crowns to help you look authentically Bavarian. 


HERE is a Link to Natalie's EXACT Dirndl (traditional Bavarian dress) from Amazon, & HERE is the link for the white shirt. Amazon sold out of the original Lederhosen (traditional Bavarian leather shorts/pants) that we bought for Matt, but THESE look similar and have great reviews!




3. Make Reservations… Or don’t!

While securing beer tent reservations for Oktoberfest isn’t necessary (we never have), it can significantly enhance your festival experience, especially if you’re visiting with a group of 8 or more. By reserving a table in advance, you ensure that you and your group have guaranteed seating amidst the bustling crowds, avoiding the uncertainty of finding space in the packed tents. This not only saves you time but also allows you to fully immerse yourself in the festivities without the stress of searching for available seats. Additionally, reservations offer flexibility in choosing the date and time of your visit, enabling you to tailor your Oktoberfest experience to your preferences. Whether you opt for a quieter weekday visit or a lively weekend atmosphere, having a reservation ensures that you can enjoy Oktoberfest on your terms. Moreover, some beer tents provide personalized service and additional perks for reserved tables, such as dedicated waitstaff and special food and drink packages, further elevating your VIP experience. 


All of that said, there is no centralized portal or consistent method for booking reservations since each tent handles its own reservations. Some can be made online, others over the phone, and we’ve even heard that some ask you to fax in your request! What!? People still use fax machines? You get the point though… Reservations aren’t the easiest thing to obtain, and on top of that, you’ll have to pay on average 350 euros for your booking. Given, this comes with VIP treatment and vouchers, so you get your money back in the form of food and beer. Tents typically begin accepting reservations 8-10 months in advance, but the best thing to do is contact the tent that you plan to visit and see exactly when and how they handle their reservations.


At the end of the day, it’s up to you whether or not you think making reservations is the right decision for you and your party.


Pro Tip: There is no hostess at Oktoberfest Tents, so if you see an open table, go ahead and claim it! And if you see just a few open seats at a table, simply ask the people sitting at the table if you can join!




4. Bring Cash

Bringing cash to Oktoberfest is highly recommended for several reasons. Firstly, many vendors, including the beer tents, only accept cash payments. While some larger tents might have card machines, it's not guaranteed, and smaller vendors outside the tents often deal exclusively in cash. Additionally, having cash on hand can speed up transactions, especially during peak times when lines can get long. Lastly, it's always a good idea to have some cash for tipping servers. So, if you don’t bring cash with you, you might find yourself spending your time at Oktoberfest waiting in the ATM line.




5. Learn Some German Phrases

While it's not necessary to be fluent in German to enjoy Oktoberfest, learning some basic words and phrases can enrich your experience and help you make the most of your time in Munich. Here are a few to get you started…


  • Hallo (hah-lo) = Hello

  • Maß (mahss) = A liter of beer

  • Danke schön (dahn-keh shun) = Thank you

  • Bitte (bitt-eh) = Please

  • Bitte schön (bitt-eh shun) = You’re welcome

  • Prost! (prOHst) = Cheers!

  • Entschuldigung (ent-SHOO-lee-gung) = Excuse me or Pardon me



6. Know the Rules

I know, I know… I hate to be a buzz kill, but despite popular belief, Oktoberfest isn’t the drunken, lawless party that it’s been made out to be. Ok… Maybe it is partly that, but not the ‘lawless’ part! It actually has a pretty strict set of rules that are helpful to know before visiting. So be sure to know them so you’re not caught with any surprises when you arrive…


1. Backpacks and large bags are generally forbidden within the festival area. It’s best to only bring the essentials. It is much quicker to get into the Oktoberfest and in beer tents if you don’t have a bag or backpack with you.


2. Any bags and backpacks you bring must have a maximum holding capacity of three liters and maximum dimensions of 20 cm x 15 cm x 10 cm.


3. The following items are forbidden, regardless of the size of the bag: Aerosol spray cans with dangerous contents, substances that can irritate or stain, and items that can be used as weapons (stabbing, slicing, or cutting). Glass bottles are also forbidden.


4. On Saturdays and public holidays, prams/buggies/strollers are not permitted. On all other days of Oktoberfest, prams/buggies/strollers are not permitted after 6 p.m.


5. Bicycles, scooters, skateboards, and similar vehicles are not permitted on the festival grounds.


6. Drones are not allowed at Oktoberfest.


7. Animals are not allowed at Oktoberfest at any time (except for service dogs).


8. No one is permitted in the festival area between 1:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. 


For a full list of all the rules with more detail, check the official Oktoberfest Website.




7. Learn the Lyrics to “Ein Prosit”

"Ein Prosit" is a traditional German drinking song that is by far THE most sung song at Oktoberfest and ends with raising your glass and toasting with fellow festival-goers! You can expect to hear this song played every 15-20 mins at each beer tent! Of course, this is a strategic move as it encourages everyone with a beer in their hand to drink resulting in more beer sales! Regardless of the reason, knowing the lyrics allows you to fully participate in this cherished tradition, fostering a sense of camaraderie and unity with those around you. So… This is how it goes…


Ein Prosit, ein Prosit

Der Gemütlichkeit

Ein Prosit, ein Prosit

Der Gemütlichkeit

Oans, zwoa, drei, g'suffa!


Which translates to…

A toast, a toast

To cheer and good times/well being

A toast, a toast

To cheer and good times/well being

One, two, three, drink!


And here’s how to pronounce it…

Ayn pro-set, ayn pro-set

Dare g’moot-lich-kite

Ayn pro-set, ayn pro-set

Dare g’moot-lich-kite!

Owns, zwo, dry, g’sufa!



8. Arrive Early

Arriving early to Oktoberfest allows you to maximize your time, beat the crowds, and fully immerse yourself in the festive atmosphere, and unless you’ve made reservations for a beer tent in advance, you’ll need to arrive at whichever tent you’ve chosen by 10 a.m. on the weekend or 12 p.m. during the week simply to secure a spot. We didn’t make reservations for either of our visits since it was just the two of us. For our first visit in 2019, we arrived at the Hofbrau tent (the largest and most popular) around 10 a.m. on a Sunday and were able to grab seats immediately. By 11 a.m. the pickings were slim, and by noon, there wasn’t an empty seat in sight. For our second visit in 2023, we opted for a weekday visit and had no problem getting seats at most tents all the way into the early afternoon. That said, many tents start clearing out tables around 4 p.m. to prepare for the reserved seating customers for the evening shift. So, if you would like to have more than and hour or two to take in the beer tent festivities and you don’t have reservations, I would advise arriving by 12 p.m. at the latest.




9. Know Your Limit

Oktoberfest is an ALL DAY affair, so knowing your limits when it comes to alcohol consumption is crucial for a variety of reasons. Firstly, it ensures your safety in the bustling and crowded environment, where impaired judgment could lead to accidents. Secondly, it will improve your overall experience by avoiding the negative effects of excessive drinking, such as dehydration and hangovers. Additionally, drinking responsibly demonstrates respect for the festival's customs and atmosphere, contributing to a positive experience for yourself and others. Ultimately, knowing your alcohol limits enables you to have a safe, enjoyable, and memorable time at Oktoberfest while appreciating the unique culture and traditions of the event. Remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. A few notes about the Oktoberfest beer that you should know before you go:


  1. Beer is served between 10 a.m. and 10:30 p.m. on weekdays, and 9 a.m. and 10:30 p.m. on weekends.

  2. The beer is cold! Yes, you heard that right! Despite what you may have read on the internet, Germans do drink their beer cold.

  3. Beers are served by the maß (pronounced mahss) AKA liter (33.8 fluid ounces)  and you can expect to pay between 12-15€ per maß.

  4. All Oktoberfest beer has to meet the Reinheitsgebot criteria, meaning that it has to be brewed within the Munich city limits and have a minimum of 12.5% Stammwürze (original gravity), making it around 6% ABV. There are only 6 breweries that meet these requirements.

  5. If you need to pump the brakes a little but don’t want to slow down the party train too much, you can always order a Radler which is 50% Helles (light beer) and 50% Sparkling Lemonade (think Sprite). It will cost you the same as a maß of beer, but keep you in the game longer!


If beer isn’t your thing, many tents do offer wine, soft drinks, and water. There is also a wine and Prosecco tent called Kufflers Weinzelt, which is the only tent to our knowledge that offers wine instead of Oktoberfest beer. And if you’re looking for a coffee or cocktails, check out the Rischart’s Cafe Kaiserschmarrn tent!




10. Tip Your Servers

While it typically isn’t the norm in European culture, tipping your server at Oktoberfest is expected. 10-15% is acceptable, but adding a little more can keep you at the top of your server's refill list. Just remember, they are serving a LOT of people, so be patient and kind.



11. Don’t just drink… Eat!

Not only is it smart to have something on your stomach to soak up the beer, but the food at Oktoberfest is delicious! The pretzels, the frites (fries), the candied nuts, the cinnamon bread, the wurst, the käsebrötchen… we could keep going, but you get it! Get out of your comfort zone and try something new! We didn’t have anything that we didn’t absolutely love. And don’t forget to buy a gingerbread heart cookie (AKA Lebkuchenherzen) on your way out!




12. Explore Beyond the Tents

Exploring beyond the beer tents at Oktoberfest offers a deeper and more diverse experience of this iconic festival. While the beer tents are undeniably the main attraction, venturing beyond them allows you to discover a whole world of fun and excitement. From Amusement Rides and Games to Cultural Exhibits and Food Stands, there’s a lot to see and experience beyond the covering of the beer tents!



13. Experience in the Day AND Night

When we visited the first time, we didn’t have any plans to see the festival at night since our train wasn’t arriving in Munich until after 9 p.m., but when we checked into our Airbnb, our hostess told us that we had to see it at night. We were so tired after a long day of travel, but we took her advice and we are SO glad that we did! Experiencing Oktoberfest in Munich during both the day and night offers two distinct and equally memorable experiences.


During the day, the atmosphere is lively with a childlike energy as fair rides whirl and joyous shouts and laughter fill the air. It's the perfect time to explore the various beer tents, sample traditional Bavarian food, and enjoy the colorful sights and entertainment with slightly smaller crowds.


As night falls, Oktoberfest takes on a magical ambiance with the twinkling lights and the sounds of laughter filling the air. The energy of the festival shifts as the tents become even livelier, with music reaching a crescendo and revelers dancing on the benches. The illuminated rides and attractions add to the festive atmosphere, creating a spectacle not to be missed.


You can’t go wrong visiting during either the day or night, but experiencing Oktoberfest during both times allows you to fully appreciate the festival's dynamic nature. Whether you're enjoying the sunshine and camaraderie during the day or soaking in the electrifying nightlife, each moment offers a unique and unforgettable Oktoberfest experience.




14. Be Prepared to Make Friends

As Americans, we can easily put up our walls towards strangers, especially when we’re in unfamiliar situations or foreign countries, but remember, you’re there to have a good time… and so are the other 6+ million people that visit each year, so be prepared for a lot of friendly interaction! All of the tents are set up with fest tables (picnic tables for us Americans) and you’ll be sitting with a bunch of strangers, but don’t worry, they won’t remain that for long. During our first Oktoberfest, we ended up sitting with two different groups of Americans for the entire day and had a rotating cast of Italians, Spaniards, and Germans as well! And for our second visit, we sat with an elderly German couple and their adult son who grew up attending Oktoberfest! In both instances, everyone was so kind and we had SO much fun getting to party with them. We still keep in touch with many of them to this day!




15. Explore the City!

Venturing beyond Oktoberfest to explore the city of Munich and its surrounding areas offers a multifaceted experience that enriches your visit in several ways. Munich's rich cultural heritage is on display in its iconic landmarks like the Marienplatz and Nymphenburg Palace, providing insight into Bavarian history and traditions. Sampling local cuisine at traditional beer gardens and breweries allows you to savor the authentic flavors of Bavaria while exploring charming towns and scenic landscapes offers opportunities for outdoor adventures and breathtaking views. Additionally, Munich hosts a diverse array of cultural events and festivals year-round, from classical concerts to contemporary art exhibitions, ensuring there's always something exciting to discover. And for those interested in shopping, Munich's markets and boutiques offer a treasure trove of souvenirs, fashion, and gourmet delights. Ultimately, exploring Munich and beyond adds depth and variety to your Oktoberfest experience, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in Bavarian culture and create lasting memories beyond the beer tents.


⬇️ Best Tours & Experiences in Munich ⬇️ 


⬇️ Entrance Tickets & Skip-The-Line ⬇️


⬇️ Day Trips from Munich ⬇️



For both of our Oktoberfest visits, we’ve built a couple of extra days into the itinerary to explore the area beyond Oktoberfest, and we cannot recommend it enough. For our first visit, we made a day trip out to Dachau which was a heavy and moving experience that we recommend to anyone visiting the area. On our most recent visit, we spent an entire day exploring the city and all it has to offer. If you would like tips on what to do in Munich, then check out our “One Day in Munich” blog post and if you want a closer look at our experience, check out our “One Day in Munich” YouTube video!



 

We hope that this guide has helped you make the most of your visit to Oktoberfest in Munich, and if it has, we hope you’ll consider following us on Instagram and subscribing to our YouTube Channel for more travel content!



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