Oktoberfest is the world’s largest beer festival, drawing over 6 million people a year to Munich, Germany for the Bavarian beer-drinking festivities. The grand event takes place at the famous “Theresienwiese” field where large tents are constructed over a three month period that begins in the summer.
Oktoberfest dates back to the marriage celebration of Prince Ludwig to Princess Therese in 1810. On this special day, the people of Munich were invited to participate in the celebration which was held for five days on the fields in front of the city gates. What may have started as an average alcohol-fueled wedding party has since turned into the world’s largest fair. From that day on, the festivities have continued more or less on an annual basis (outside of the 24 times it was canceled due to war and cholera).
"What may have started as an average alcohol-fueled wedding party has since turned into the world’s largest fair."
Over the decades, the festival has evolved into an elaborate affair spanning from late September to early October.
Oktoberfest Must Sees and Dos
All About the Tents
Entry into Oktoberfest is free! You may enter both the festival and tents free of charge (with the exception of the “Historical Wies’n” which requires a small fee). Oktoberfest showcases 14 spectacular tents with 1,000 - 8,500 seats which are owned by various restaurants, breweries and other establishments. There are also a number of smaller tents and beer gardens in the vicinity.
All tents are unique and have their own charm, so if you have the time, we recommend trying to check them all out! The tents serve Bavarian beers, traditional eats, and are booming with live music throughout the day and night. Music performances are comprised of a mix of both traditional Bavarian music and contemporary bands playing later in the evenings.
While it’s possible to visit all of the tents, the issue is whether or not you can get a seat, especially on weekends and during bad weather. Although tents do offer reservations, they can be next to impossible to get. Reservations are typically given to large German companies and groups, and the tents always serve their existing customers from previous years first.
The remaining requests are put on a daunting waiting list; nonetheless, it’s still worth a shot! If you’re travelling in a small group of 2 or 3, you can patiently wait until someone leaves, and then quickly grab their table. And if it’s a pretty crowded day, you’ll be better off remaining at the table instead of venturing off to another tent where you’ll likely meet another long wait. Note that tents will be closed if they become too full, and will be re-opened later when more space is available. For a map and details on the fourteen tents, check out Oktoberfest’s Tent Guide with photos and descriptions of each tent.
Beer & Other Beverages
The Oktoberfest beer is by far the event’s most popular attraction. Large one liter beers are served in traditional German “Maß” mugs. The Club of Munich Brewers maintains strict regulations on exactly which brands of beer can be served at the festival. There are currently only 6 breweries whose beer meets the criteria. In doing so they must adhere to the Bavarian Purity Laws established for beer brewing in 1487 and the beers must be brewed within Munich city limits. Check out more details on the breweries here.
At the 2015 festival alone, a whopping 7.7 million liters of beer were consumed. A typical beer costs between €9.70 and €10.10 and is sold in the tents between the hours of 10 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. during the weekdays and between 9 a.m. and 10:30 p.m. on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. Many companies hand out beer tokens which can be redeemed for beers and purchased from tent owners directly. For more details on the beer, including which tents serve your favorite beers, visit Oktoberfest’s ‘It’s all About the Beer’ Guide.
Not a beer drinker but still want to party with all of your beer-guzzling pals? No need to worry! All of the tents offer wine, and some are now offering trendy ciders. If you’re a wine connoisseur, be sure so check out the Kufflers Weinzelt wine tent.
While the Oktoberfest beer is the primary attraction, the Bavarian eats come in close second and taste even more divine after a beer or two. Various Bavarian specialties are served in the tents such as roasted chicken (Hendl), sausages (Wurst), white sausage (Weisswurst), pretzels (Brezeln), pork knuckle (Schweinshaxe), potatoes (Kartoffeln), cheese egg noodles (Spätzle), sauerkraut, and a fancy traditional cheese spread (Obatzda).
Embrace the Bavarian culture by sporting your very own Bavarian outfit! Having the right outfit for the festival is key. The Tracht (attire) consists of the male Lederhosen and the female Dirndl. Lederhosen are leather breeches which are either knee length or shorter and can be worn with or without suspenders. A Dirndl is a traditional dress which consists of a bodice, blouse, full skirt and apron.
The colors are typically rich and dark. Something very important for all ladies to know is how to tie your Dirndl. Traditionally, the placement of the knot on the apron indicates a woman’s marital status. A knot tied to the right of the apron means a woman is married or engaged. The most interesting one is the one the left, which means SINGLE. If you dawn this left tied knot be prepared to hear a whole new slew of potentially lame pickup lines!
How to Get There
Munich has a large airport with connecting flights around the world. From the airport you can take a quick tram ride into Munich’s main station (Hauptbahnhof) at the city center. Getting to the festival from the city center is easy as it’s located quite close. From Hauptbahnhof you can take the u-bahn/metro one stop to Theresienwiese. The festival can also be reached easily by foot from Hauptbahnhof (ask anyone for directions toward the “wiese,” or simply follow the herds of people in lederhosen and dirndls). Taxis are a convenient option, especially when it’s raining. Ask to be dropped off at the main entrance or ‘Hippodrom’ if you want to start on the north-end, and ask to be dropped off at ‘Bavaria’ if you want to start on the south-end.
When heading in for the night, follow the masses back to the U-Bahn station. The Theresienwiese, Schwanthaler Höhe and Goetheplatz are the closest stations to the festival. Taxis are a good way to travel if it’s raining.
Where to Stay
You should book accommodations as far in advance as possible, preferably by May. By summertime, many hotels are fully booked. As Oktoberfest approaches, room prices can triple. Since getting a taxi can be difficult during Oktoberfest, it is advisable to book accommodations within walking distance of the festival if possible. There are many hotels around the central Hauptbahnhof metro station which are within walking distance of the festival.
Many people prefer to camp at Oktoberfest. Not only is this cheaper, but it’s also a lot of fun. Most campsites have easy access to the festival via foot or u-bahn.
If you want to discover other Oktoberfest parties around the world, check out our article about them.