Even if the idea of getting sloshed with hundreds of random strangers doesn’t sound appealing, a trip to Oktoberfest is definitely something to add to the old bucket list.
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Kicking off with a parade and the mayor tapping the first keg, the annual booze fest takes place in Munich and surrounding German towns at the end of September (go figure) and lasts just over two weeks. If you plan on making the trip, here are the top five things to know before you go.
Timing is everything
While there are numerous huge tents to choose from, they can fill up surprisingly fast. Oktoberfest draws millions of visitors every year, and once people find themselves in a tent it’s rare that they leave! With that in mind, make sure you get there early unless you happen to have a table reserved (you lucky duck, you).
If you’re visiting on a weekday, you’ll likely be able to walk right in and maybe even find a seat if you arrive before 3 p.m. However, weekends are absolute madness and partiers have been known to start lining up at 6 a.m. just to guarantee entrance.
Once you make it inside, the next challenge is to find a spot at one of the coveted tables. If possible, grab a seat at a non-reserved table near the stage, so you can enjoy the band all day long.
On weekdays, beer is usually poured from 10 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., while weekend hours are 9 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. The exceptions are the wine tents which tend to stay open a couple of hours later.
Bring lots of money
You will likely be shocked by just how much hotels and hostels get away with charging during Oktoberfest—think three times the normal room rates. With that in mind, it’s important to secure accommodation very early, or look at staying somewhere a bit outside the city and take the train back and forth.
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Bring lots of cash once you get to the grounds as the ATM lines can be outrageous, and at 10 euros per beer you’ll be going through your money quickly! While that may seem expensive for one drink, a stein is actually the equivalent of about two pints so it’s not exactly highway robbery. Fortunately there is no admission charge to get into Oktoberfest.
Dress the part
In my opinion, dressing up in lederhosen or the dirndl is one of the best parts of Oktoberfest. It’s not mandatory, but what’s the fun in that? In the likely event you don’t have any in your closet, you can pick up a cheaper outfit in Munich for about 50 euros or spend hundreds of euros on a stylish, high-quality getup.
Final wardrobe tip: wear comfortable shoes as you’ll be on your feet for most of the day.
Don’t forget to eat
As most of us have learned the hard way, alcohol on an empty stomach can turn out badly. Fortunately you can order food right at your table, and if you’re there early enough in the day you might even be able to take advantage of a lunch special.
Alternatively, take a break from the tents and head outside to grab some grub from one of the many food stalls. With everything from spit-roasted chicken to pretzels and gingerbread cookies, there’s sure to be something to satisfy your appetite.
Just go with it
Even if you don’t speak a word of German or know the difference between bratwurst and schnitzel, Oktoberfest can be great fun if you allow yourself be swept up in the festivities. There is always a lively traditional band in the centre of a tent, which will play German drinking songs sporadically throughout the day that you will quickly learn all the words to. It’s awesome to see how fired up everyone gets—especially as the cold beers continue to arrive.
WATCH: A drinking song at Oktoberfest
Finally, a warning: you will be getting very cozy with whoever happens to be sitting at your table. A booth that would normally fit four people comfortably somehow manages to hold eight as more revelers pour into the tent, and then suddenly you will find yourself standing on the bench. The reason for this isn’t a better view—no, it’s so your little table can suddenly hold 13 people!
All in all, Oktoberfest is a fantastic tradition that you should try and attend at least once in your life, even if you don’t plan to get so sloshed you’re dragged out by your lederhosen.
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Munich and the Oktoberfest has been my home, life and work for many years. I know the adrenalin feeling when I had to take large group of guests around the area and into the packed tents. Having worked many years for breweries I also know the behind the scene world and there is a massive work. Beer is made special for the event and no matter which one you drink all beer brands taste fantastic. I would suggest visiting Oktoberfest on the first weekend, and getting there around midday, when the Oktoberfest parade takes place (on the first Saturday). This is way the best time to visit, with not drunk people around, staff is fresh, and the atmosphere at its best! Thanks for sharing your insight. Have fun! 🙂
Thanks Michela, totally agree the parade is a great event to time your visit for!