Planning a trip to this year’s Oktoberfest? If so, do you really know what to expect? Are you aware there are 14 main tents to choose from, that you need to be up before the milkman to guarantee yourself a seat if you’ve no tickets booked, and that you'll be expected to do more than your fair share of singing?! Read on for our tips on how to survive the largest public festival in the world...
Plan to be in Munich in September, not October
Contrary to what you may think, most of Oktoberfest actually takes place in September. For instance, this year the festivities begin on September 22nd and regrettably come to a halt on October 7th. Why is this you ask? While it was originally held entirely in October, a number of years later proceedings were moved back a couple of weeks so the festival would experience more favourable weather. Nursing a hangover in the sunshine is far nicer than doing so in the cold it seems.
Rise and shine!
Calling all sleepyheads! If you’re visiting this year’s festival on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday, you don’t have your tickets pre-booked, and you’re prone to hitting the ‘snooze’ button on your alarm over and over before finally tearing yourself from your bed, it’s time to change your ways. To guarantee a place in a tent so you can begin drinking (and possibly cause a return visit to your bed earlier than you had predicted) you’re going to have to get down very early. And we’re not talking 12 noon early, more like 8am early. On the weekends tents and beer gardens fill up ridiculously fast so the later you arrive the bigger the queue you’ll face.
Pick your tent well
There are 14 big tents at Oktoberfest and each sit anything between 4,000 and 11,000 people. Depending on how many beers you consume, this can look like 8,000 or 22,000 people thanks to double vision. Many people don’t realise it, but each tent has its own characteristic, be it the type of food served, the decor inside, or the music played. Here are some of the best tents to watch out for:Hippodrom: One of the smaller tents seating ‘only’ just over 4,000 people, this is the first tent you see as you enter the Oktoberfest site. Known locally as a popular tent for singletons, it’s different to other tents as it also has a ‘Sekt’ bar that serves sparkling wine.
Lowenbrau-Festhelle (pictured): This tent at the bottom of Oktoberfest’s ‘street’ is popular among Australians, New Zealanders and South Africans. Thanks to the 4.5 meter lion that guards the main door it’s hard to miss it.
Hofbrau-Festzelt: Thanks to its affiliation with Munich’s best-known beer hall the ‘Hofbrauhaus’, the Hofbrau Tent is popular with revellers from overseas. It’s also one of the only tents that has standing room inside.
Hacker-Festzelt: Inside this tent is unlike any other, thanks to the blue sky and clouds that decorate the tent’s ceiling. Seating 9,300 people, it is also one of the largest. People flock to it around 5.30pm each evening to listen to its well-known rock 'n' roll band.
Augustiner-Festhelle: Ask any respecting Bavarian what tent they think you’ll get the best beer at Oktoberfest and many of them will tell you the Augustiner Tent. Owned by the Augusinter Brewery, it is considered one of the friendliest tents.
Open up to new people
Thanks to the millions of litre of beer flowing throughout the different tents, and the thousands of people losing all inhibitions due to it, it’s hard not to make new friends at Oktoberfest. So once you plonk yourself at one of the tent’s various tables and order a beer, don’t be shy – introduce yourself to those around you. And to save blushes as the night progresses, write their name on a piece of paper because due to the copious amounts of alcohol you’ll consume, you won’t have a notion of their name an hour after meeting them.
Keep an open mind
There’s no doubt about it – the number of conceptions in Munich during Oktoberfest must be astounding. Equally, the amount of children left with separated parents each October must be equally high. This is because over the course of your time at the festival you will see couples canoodling, others fighting, groups of men laughing like schoolboys and others (I hate to say it) vomiting. So keep an open mind because you will see all sorts here.
Be prepared to show others your vocal skills
As the day progresses in the tent, if you’re not singing along with the bands on the bandstand in the centre of the tent there’s something wrong with you. Songs such as ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ by Lynyrd Skynyrd, ‘Hey Jude’ by The Beatles, ‘Angels’ by Robbie Williams and ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads’ by John Denver cause thousands of people from all over the world to stand on the tables and join in night after night. You'll be joining them before you can say ‘who the hell are Lynyrd Skynrd?’
Make sure to build up an appetite
Drinking a beer larger than your dog is only part of the experience of being in a tent at Oktoberfest – ravishing on a pork knuckle or roast chicken is part of the experience also. Use one of those litres of beer to wash a good hearty meal down during the day.
Don’t get too drunk
It’s a bit of a cliché when it comes to Oktoberfest, but try not to get too wasted. Rather than weakening the beer for the festival, breweries actually make their Oktoberfest beer stronger (about 6% volume) to really test people’s capacities. So if you’re going and you want to enjoy it, here’s some friendly advice...pace yourself!