Photo by foottoo
Photo by foottoo

Conquering Oktoberfest

by Emma Bareihs
Stripes Europe

The iconic Oktoberfest may be one of the top things on your Germany bucket list. You’ve heard of the fun shared among tourists and locals in the festival that brings thousands together to share a beer. Oktoberfest is a tradition that everyone should experience. This autumn make attending Oktoberfest a reality and be ready for the atmosphere that will greet you in the tents where beer is spilled and songs are sung.

What to expect

If it is your first time partaking in the massive German affair, prepare for the events about to unfold. The world’s largest folk festival, Munich’s Oktoberfest, is not just about drinking beer. Over two weeks, from mid-September to early October, you’ll find parades, carnival rides and concerts at the Oktoberfest. Opening day, the first Sunday of Oktoberfest, shows the colorful side to the festival, presenting a parade of floats through the city streets of Munich.

Away from the drinking tents, Munich welcomes families. The fairground rides are accompanied with cotton candy booths and merry-go-rounds. There are typically two designated family days in which families can enjoy carnival rides, game booths and food stands for a reduced price.

Held outside of the city center in a meadow called the Theresienwiese, you’ll hear locals refer to the Oktoberfest as the Wiesn. In the meadow are 14 big beer tents and several smaller tents. With numerous tents to choose from, each offers a different atmosphere. The Schottenhamel is where the first beer of the season is poured, greeted with applause and songs. Other tents are smaller and more orderly and some are dedicated tents such as the wine tent. 

The tables inside the tents are shared among groups. Feel free to get to know the people sitting next to you. A "wiesenbekanntschaft" is known as an “Oktoberfest acquaintance,” of which, you’ll meet many. Locals typically attend on the weekdays as it is less crowded than weekends. Although the same exciting environment, it is less chaotic and frankly, faster to order a beer. If you get a seat in a tent, you will have table service, otherwise, you’ll find people standing at booth windows in line to order. Beer is only served in a one-liter mass, not a stein. Try to learn the German lyrics to “Ein Prosit!” The atmosphere includes several drinking songs and hollers and “Ein Prosit” is a great one to learn.    

Everyone around you will be wearing a Bavarian dress. Even tourists buy the outfit! The typical outfit for women is a dirndl. A dirndl consists of the dress, blouse and apron. The typical dress for men is lederhosen, a traditional Bavarian outfit. Besides the white or colorful button-down, the outfit is complete with an alpine hat and long socks.

General tips

  • Download the Oktoberfest.de app to stay up to date on the festivities.  The app explains each tent and has a navigation function.
  • Public transportation is your best friend. It is recommended to park at a Park&Ride station in Munich and take a direct train connection to the fest.
  • Security is tight around the festival. Bags with a volume of more than 3 liters or larger than 20 cm x 15 cm x 10 cm will not be permitted.
  • Oktoberfest is a cash-only event, like many events in Europe. Be prepared to pay in cash and tip in coins for beer prices of more than 10 euros.
  • Pets are not allowed.
  • Wearing closed-toed shoes is recommended in the field with thousands of feet, broken glass and spilling drinks.
  • Plan on booking a hotel six to 12 months in advance.

Last-minute tips

  • If you don’t have cash, there will be some ATMs around the grounds. If you don’t live in Germany, know your bank’s conversion rates.
  • If you don’t have a reservation you will want to arrive as early as 6:00 a.m. to wait in line for a seat. On weekends, most tents close their lines before 11 a.m. due to overfilling. During the week, the tents stay open into the afternoon.
  • If you didn’t have time to grab dirndl or lederhosen before arriving in Munich, you can find traditional wear in the city. Kaufhof, Karstadt and Hertie are all department stores with a Trachten department. Steindl and Angermeiers are Trachten shops where you’ll find everything you need.
  • Price will be high for any accommodation at this time of the year. The best option is to look outside of Munich and take a train into the city. Dachau, Nuremberg, Bamberg and Augsburg are close enough by train and will have more open spaces.
  • If you’re coming from an airport, drop your suitcase or backpacks off at the hotel before you get to the festival, as security will turn you away.

With a full belly, you will leave the annual Oktoberfest with a new experience under your belt. Follow these tips whether you are a first-timer or not to ensure a top-quality experience. Start planning your next visit as soon as you leave. If you soak in the atmosphere of friendlies and food, you will leave the tents singing “Ein Prosit” awaiting the following year!

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