Munich Oktoberfest. How to Have a Successful Experience.
“Cloudy with a chance of cleavage.”
A little history.
Munich’s Oktoberfest began life as a wedding for the Bavarian crown prince Ludwig to princess Therese from Saxony-Hildburghausen (hence the name of the Theresienwiese) on October 12, 1810 and attended by the local community. Today the Munich Beerfest traditionally takes place during the sixteen days up to and including the first Sunday in October.
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Upon walking into the festival, I was instantly transported back to my hometown and the feeling of summer at the San Diego County Fair: Rides and food vendors throughout the fairgrounds, and cheesy souvenirs, but instead of the exhibit halls full of arts & crafts and the latest gadgets, you’ll enter the land of beer heaven. These tents aren’t exactly “tents” in the sense that I imagined; they’re permanent buildings for each German bier haus to celebrate the tasty beverage and enjoy the 182nd year tradition.
Two days celebrating at Oktoberfest is enough… In fact, one and a half days is my ideal. Either way, use these steps as a helpful guide to a happy and entertaining experience…
How to have a successful Oktoberfest Experience:
Day 1 – Motive: Find a table outside.
1. You MUST dress up. Some people say it isn’t worth it and ‘not everyone dresses up’, but trust me, you WILL stick out. And who doesn’t love a good themed party and an excuse to wear a lederhosen??
2. If going on Opening Day (Sept 19), arrive at the festival by 10am and grab an outside table at the Hofbrau House. This is the more touristy of the beer tents, but in my experience, had the most available tables. Don’t expect to get inside the tent on the first day; it’s extremely crowded and you’ll set yourself up for disappointment.
3. If you’re not traveling with a group already, now is the time to MAKE FRIENDS! We ended up meeting a group of people from Couch Surfing, since we only use the app for social events and not to actually host or be hosted, and it really is a great way to make friends when you don’t know anyone in the area. I must admit, it was quite the eclectic group; about 20 people from Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Italy, Jamaica, Syria, Canada, Japanese Brazilian, Singapore, Argentina, California and Alaska.
4. Sit outside on Opening Day. Some arrived at the Hofbrau House tent at 8am to grab a table and unfortunately ended up waiting for three hours with no luck. We showed up around 9:30/10am, and all of the outside tables were completely empty. So instead of standing in line hoping to find a seat inside, we opted for outside. And I’m SO glad we did.
5. Be patient. The first steins are served at noon on Opening Day (10am on other days) and it takes the servers another 30-45 minutes to get everyone their first beer. They carry 12 steins at a time and there’s only one type of beer so don’t be that person saying, “What kind do you have?”
6. Tip, Tip, Tip! You pay in cash each time (10.30 EURO) a server brings you a stein – there are no ‘tabs’ – and you’re expected to tip $2 per stein. If you don’t tip, they won’t come back.
I attempted to carry five steins at once. And was successful. HIRED!
7. Once everyone has a beer, PROST!
10. Sneak inside the tent before the band ends. Around 9pm, walk to the back of the Hofbrau House and you should be able to walk right into the tent. Find a table (aka make friends with someone who already has one) and spend the rest of the night dancing and singing. An absolute BLAST!
Note: You have to stay until the very end (10:30pm). The band leaves for 30 minutes, but then returns and closes out the night with the top five hottest songs. Trust me, it’s worth it.
Be prepared — At the end of the night, it looks like a war zone outside. Bodies everywhere, people getting arrested, peeing in the park, etc. It’s not pretty. Be smart and stay safe.
Day 2 – Motive: Get Inside the Tent.
1. Only make Day Two a half day — if you know what’s good for you 🙂 But in order to be successful, be sure you have someone with you that is on the same page — Set a time to leave and stick to that! Time flies and before you know it it’ll be 7 hours later and you’ll be 8 steins deep.
2. Get inside the tent. Hopefully you’ll get lucky like us and have friends that arrive at 9am to save a table so we could show up at 1pm and not have to search forever for a seat. By the way, it’s completely common for random people to walk up and join your table if you have room. That’s how you make friends!
3. Check out a new beer tent. We arrived at the Lowenbrau Bier Haus around 1pm, met a few Couch Surfers that showed up at 9am, and totally lucked out with seats right by the stage and band. It’s fun to see different tents and taste other beers.
4. Don’t pay for a reservation, but be aware of where you sit. When you don’t have a reservation, be sure to grab a table that says “No Reservations All Day”; otherwise, you’ll get kicked out at 6pm when the reserved guests arrive.
Additional helpful tips can be found here.
- Go to Oktoberfest
- Drink a stein and eat a pretzel – They’re HUGE! Cheese please?
- Wear a lederhosen
- Learn about the Betchers/Bottcher – met a cousin, Felix!
- Watch the Mayor of Munich tap the first keg
- Buy a real lederhosen
- Book your accommodations EARLY! Hotels, hostels, and Airbnbs sell out fast and early. If you don’t want to pay an arm and a leg, then book as soon as you know your dates.
- Even if you get inside a tent, you won’t get served unless you’re sitting at a table
- DRESS UP! Everyone does so if you don’t you’ll look ridiculous. You can find cheap outfits in Munich so don’t stress. Then donate it to someone when you leave if you don’t have room in your bag. I got lucky because one of the girls I met had an extra outfit so I didn’t have to buy anything. Also, don’t order the Halloween costume lederhosen, they’re too short and you’ll look ridiculous.
- Yes, the tents sell food. EAT! Don’t be stupid.
- TIP your server! Otherwise, she won’t come back.
- When you “prost” (aka cheers), you’re supposed to clink glasses hard enough that your beer goes into theirs and vice versa. That’s how they know you didn’t poison yours. Or so the legend says 🙂
- There’s a parade every weekend and a band from the parade comes to each tent to play music all day. As the band enters the tent, you can sneak in before they close the doors again, but you gotta be quick.
- Don’t go to the festival at 7:30am, you’ll just be wasting time – Sit outside at Hofbrau, then walk around the back later in the evening through the back entrance.
- Stay for the last songs of the night – The band leaves then comes back 30 minutes later and plays the top five popular songs. Everyone dances on top of the tables. So fun!
- Don’t pay for a reservation. Go early for a table (easier not on the first day), or sit outside. Both are great.
- Opening day you won’t get served till noon. Every other day, beer at 10am. Closes at 10:30pm.
- For the mature audience, get a reservation. Otherwise, you’re stuck with the drunk Aussies and Americans.
- Two days is plenty at Oktoberfest.
- Be sure to walk around the festival and check out the booths and rides on the second day before you start drinking again.
- The line for the outside bathroom is absolutely insane. If you can’t hold it, cut. It’s intense. But the lines inside are usually better. If you can’t get inside, be prepared to wait in line for an hour. No joke.
- On Opening Day, the parade comes through the grounds around 11am and then the Mayor taps the first keg at noon to signify the official start of Oktoberfest.
- Love the hats with feathers that the locals wear!
- What’s with the giant cookies??
- Met some locals!
- Lots of bachelor/bachelorette parties
We took the train from Innsbruck to Munich. We were expecting delays and some chaos due to the refugees and everyone trying to get to Munich, but there was nothing. It was one of the smoothest travel days we’ve had. No delays. Even upon reaching the Munich Train Station, it was calm. No sign of refugees. Perhaps this is contributed to Hungary and Croatia closing their borders. Either way, we were shocked. But I guess that’s better for the Oktoberfest crowds coming in. Munich can’t handle much more at this time, I’m sure.