We are SO sad that for the first time since World War II, Oktoberfest has been canceled for 2020 due to Covid-19. We were fortunate enough however, to have gotten to experience Bavaria’s world famous festival back in 2019 and we had the time of our lives. Even though there will be no Oktoberfest in Munich this year, it’s never too early to start planning your trip to the infamous German celebration. So, let’s dive in to some tips to help you have an amazing time at Oktoberfest like we did!
**More than 6.5 million people from around the world come to Oktoberfest each year, so planning ahead is a must! Everything from travel arrangements, to lodging, to tent reservations (if you have a large group), and everything in between should be booked 6-12 months in advance.**
1. Download the Oktoberfest App
This app has everything that you will need to get around and make the most of your Oktoberfest experience! From the festival ground map, to the schedule, to current seating availability for each tent, to location sharing with friends, and so much more, this app will be your best friend during your visit.
2. Make Reservations… or don’t
While making reservations isn’t necessary, it will definitely give you the peace of mind knowing that you have a table at the tent of your choice, especially if you’re coming with a group of 8 or more, and you want to visit in the evening, you’ll definitely want to make reservations. Before 3 p.m. on weekends and public holidays, 50% of the tables cannot be reserved and are left available on a first come first serve basis. After 3 p.m. 35% of the tables are not reservable. There is no centralized portal or consistent method for booking reservations, since each tent handles their 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 also have to pay on average 350 euros for your booking. Given, this comes with 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.
3. Arrive Early
Unless you’ve made reservations ahead of time, you’ll want to arrive at whichever tent you’ve chosen by 10 a.m. on the weekend or 12 p.m. during the week. We didn’t make reservations since it was just the two of us, and we arrived at the Hofbrau tent (the largest and most popular) around 10 a.m. on Sunday morning 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.
4. Dress The Part
As an American, you may think it’s silly or that you’ll feel weird dressing up in the traditional Bavarian attire, but we promise, you will feel much more awkward and out of place if you aren’t wearing a dirndl (for women) or lederhosen (for men). So, go all in and dress the part! And unless you want to spend a small fortune on your Oktoberfest outfit, we recommend purchasing before you arrive. 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.
Amazon sold out of our original Lederhosen but these look similar and have great reviews!
5. Know Your Limit/Pace Yourself
Oktoberfest is an ALL DAY affair. We went into it thinking that we would spend a few hours seeing the sites, get a few pictures, and would have gotten our fill of Oktoberfest, but that was not the case! We arrived on the festival grounds at 9:30 a.m. and didn’t leave until 4:30 p.m.! Remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. A few notes about the Oktoberfest beer that you should know before you go:
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.
Yes, the beer is cold! Despite what you may have heard, Germans do drink their beer cold.
You can expect to pay between 10-12€ per maß (a liter of beer pronounced mass).
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.
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 tent called Kufflers Weinzelt, which is the only tent that offers wine instead of Oktoberfest beer.
6. Experience it at Night
When we visited, 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! It was the perfect introduction to Oktoberfest! We got to see all of the carnival rides, food stalls, and tents with all of their flashing and sparkly lights and signs, plus we got a lay of the land before heading back over in the morning.
7. Book Lodging Close to the Festival Grounds
If at all possible, we highly recommend staying near the festival grounds. We stayed within walking distance and it was SO nice being able to walk back from a long day at the Wiesn rather than having to catch a train or bus. Lodging isn’t cheap during Oktoberfest (we paid $180/night for a small private room, shared bathroom Airbnb), especially when you’re staying so close, but we think it’s worth it.
8. No Large Bags Allowed
For safety purposes and to keep security check lines to a minimum, bags brought into Oktoberfest can’t exceed 3 liters in volume and must be no bigger than 20 cm x 15 cm x 10 cm (approximately 8 in x 6 inx 4 in). So, for you ladies, be sure to bring a smaller purse to carry your essentials, and if you carry a camera everywhere like we do, you’ll either need to condense your gear so it will fit in a bag that meets the requirements, or do what we did and just carry the camera without all the extra gear.
9. Lost & Found
Hopefully you won’t be like us and need to visit the lost and found, but if you do, we’ve got you covered! First off, the Wiesn lost and found is an impressive operation. Of course, when you are having to log and store the 4,000+ items that get turned in to the Oktoberfest lost and found each year, you have to be organized! It’s located in the police station that is on the festival grounds and they are super kind and make a not so great situation a little more bearable.
10. 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 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. 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! 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!
11. Bring Cash
Many of the food vendors, and almost all of the tents do not accept cards, so it is a must to bring cash. And if you don’t want to spend your time at Oktoberfest waiting in the ATM line, we suggest getting cash out before arriving at the festival grounds.
12. Tip Your Server
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 servers refill list. Just remember, they are serving a LOT of people, so be patient and kind. That said, we never had to wait for a refill.
13. Eat - recommend our favorites, price check
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, the candied nuts, the cinnamon bread, the wurst, the kasebrotchen… 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. Don’t forgot to buy a gingerbread heart cookie on your way out.
14. Learn the Language
You don’t have to, but learning a few key phrases can go a long way. Here’s a few to get you started…
Hallo (hah-lo) - Hello
Mass (mahss) - A stein of beer
Danke (dahn-keh) - Thank you
Bitte (bitt-eh) - Please
Bitte schon (bitt-eh shun) - You’re welcome
Prost! (prohst) - Cheers!
15. It’s Not Just About Tents & Beer
The official family day at Oktoberfest are Tuesdays from 10 a.m. - 7 p.m., where many rides and snack bars offer special prices. Saturday and Sunday mornings are family friendly as well.
We were actually surprised at how family friendly Oktoberfest was. Even if drinking isn’t your thing, there is so much to do and see. Like any festival or fair, there are tons of rides (more than 100 actually) and games to get your heart pumping. If shopping is more your speed, there are plenty of souvenir shops where you can shop for authentic german goods.
One of our favorite parts of Oktoberfest is the people watching. It was by far the best that we have ever experienced.
Oktoberfest is such a bucket list item. Afterall, it is the largest folk festival in the world! We truly thought we would go to Oktoberfest once and check it off the list, but after experiencing it, we hope to go back with a group of friends because we had so much fun. We really hope this blog has helped you plan your next visit or maybe just relive some of your favorite Oktoberfest memories. Either way, please let us know in the comments your favorite part of Oktoberfest! Prost!