So you’ve decided to go to Oktoberfest. Well, you can rest assured that you’re going to have a once in a lifetime experience. But what do you need to know before you go? From dirndls, to beer, to those ridiculous gingerbread hearts; I’ve got you covered!
What to expect
Believe it or not, Oktoberfest is a family friendly event– particularly during the day. There are countless carnival rides in addition to the famous beer tents, and hundreds of food options. There are 14 massive tents to choose from, each more epic than the last. It’s completely normal to only visit one or two tents per day depending on hour long you stay. If you get a good spot and are enjoying the environment, there’s really no reason to leave for another! Most tents have brass bands who play a mixture of Bavarian tunes and pop culture classics like Don’t Stop Believin’ on breaks. Feel free to join in on traditional drinking songs, and ask a local for the lyrics. You’ll feel like a natural in no time! Towards the close of the festival (11pm) the tents turn into a huge party with music you can’t help but sing along to.
When to go
The best time to visit Oktoberfest is during the week, as weekends are insanely packed. However, even if you go during the week, be prepared to face some serious crowds. During lunch hour (12:00-4:30pm) you’ll find families and business people. During the later seating period (5:00-close), the crowds grow bigger (and wilder). To get to and from the festival, public transportation is really your only option. Keep in mind that most stations don’t accept credit cards.
The most important part… The dirndl!
Without question, you must get a dirndl! It makes the experience so much more authentic, and you’ll be treated differently if you aren’t wearing one. It’s a bit of a splurge at around 100 euro and up, but you can convince yourself that you’ll wear it for Halloween every year. (At least that’s what I did). When buying the dirndl, here are some things to consider:
- Whether you want to purchase it ahead of time online or wait until you get to Munich is up to you. I chose to order one for $100 and paid $50 for shipping from Germany. My friend (Martha) decided to wait until we got there, and she found one at C&A for about 120 euro. You probably won’t save much money either way.
- If you decide to order online, make sure you measure yourself to ensure sure it fits as return postage to Germany isn’t cheap, and do not opt for a short one. At the most, it should hit slightly above your knees, or you’ll end up looking tacky.
- If you decide to buy it there, ask a local where to shop. There are tons of spots that cater to tourists, so you’ll want to make sure yours looks authentic– especially when you’re dropping that kind of dough! Martha’s from C&A near Marienplatz was absolutely adorable and super authentic!
Tip: The proper way to prost (cheers) is by clanking your mugs from the bottom up while locking eyes. The goal is to slosh a little beer from one glass to another.
Where you tie your apron is important!
- Right side: You’re married or seriously dating someone.
- Left side: You’re single. Be prepared for some extra attention.
- Middle: You’re a virgin.
- Back: You’re widowed or a waitress.
What else should you bring?
Keep in mind that anything you bring to Oktoberfest can and will get beer on it. I wore my Birkenstocks the first day, and lace up boots with a sweater the second day because the temperature dropped overnight. As far as purses go, bring one you don’t care too much about like an inexpensive crossbody. I brought my DSLR camera the first day, but I left it at home the second because it was too much to worry about. Your iPhone or GoPro will do the trick. Most importantly, make sure you bring plenty of cash! Credit cards aren’t really accepted at the fest, and running out of money is sure to ruin your time. I recommend at least 120 euro to be safe. Hopefully this goes without saying, but leave your passport and other valuables at home. And as always, keep an eye on your belongings. Other good items to bring include hand sanitizer, tissues, and a back up phone charger.
Don’t forget to eat!
Start your day off like a true bavarian with veal sausages, beer, and a pretzel with traditional sweet mustard. I was a little skeptical about the sausage, but was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it.
Pretzels are your best friend! You may not want to look at another one after a couple days at the festival, but it is absolutely essential that you keep your stomach full when drinking liters of beer. Unless you want to end up on the hill of shame or on one of those ‘Oktoberfest fails’ YouTube videos.
All hail the half chicken! *insert hands up emoji* This is an Oktoberfest classic. They’re extremely salty, but I promise they taste absolutely amazing once you’re a liter or two deep.
Around the festival, you can find other delicious treats like crepes, kettle corn, and bratwursts.
Getting a spot in the tents
This is by far the biggest battle you will face during your time at Oktoberfest. The tents are constantly full, and any open table is usually reserved. The rule is, if a table isn’t occupied within one hour of the reservation, it’s up for grabs.
The reservation windows are 12:00-4:30pm and 5:00-11:00pm
Our group got really lucky when we found an unoccupied reserved table at Schottenhamel, which is the “it tent” according to our AirBnB host, at around 5:30pm. Nobody ever tried to claim it, and we let other fest-goers join us to make our table complete. I highly recommend visiting this tent in the evening for an unforgettable time!
If you don’t see an open table, try your best to walk around and politely ask if groups have room for you to join. The smaller your party is, the better your chances will be. If you’re unsuccessful, there is usually open seating outside each tent. It just isn’t as fun.
A fan favorite tent is Lowenbrau, complete with a massive lion statue. The dreamiest tent (literally) is the Hacker tent with its cloud and stars theme. Hofbrau is world famous, and Augustiner is considered the most family friendly tent. For a map and complete list of tents, check out the official Oktobefest website.
Tours and reservations
If you want to play it safe, you can’t go wrong with a tour with The Thirsty Historian. Ours was 100 euro, which sounds like a lot, but it included a traditional bavarian breakfast (half liter of beer, two sausages, and pretzel), a private tour of one of the Pauliner breweries including another half liter of beer, a ferris wheel ride ticket, and a tent reservation at Lowenbrau from 12:00-4:30pm with two liters of beer and a half chicken. Plus, our host’s son was there and was the cutest thing ever.
The more the merrier!
If you have a table at Oktoberfest with a little extra room, it’s important to spread the love. When you see someone looking for a spot who seems friendly, invite them to join your group. We made friends with the sweetest couple from Australia and a few Germans, and they made our experience even more memorable.
Once you get to the festival, you’ll probably wonder why every girl is wearing one of those silly gingerbread hearts around their neck. Well, they’re meant as a sign of endearment from men and come in all different sizes with various sweet and funny phrases.
If you’re looking for something a bit more practical, I recommend a close pin with your name on it. This is what most of the locals wear. You can find them all around the festival with phrases like “Oktoberfest 2015,” but if you want a personalized one, they can be found inside the tents. We got ours at Hacker Pschorr. Of course, there’s no souvenir quite like your memories. Be sure to take lots of pictures!
Have any more questions about Oktoberfest? Just want to share your excitement after reading this post? Let’s chat in the comments!