Insane amounts of beer, German singing and plenty of lederhosen: Oktoberfest is something you have to experience at least once in your life. But to get the most out of your trip and avoid being ripped off, you’ll need some help from the experts. We asked five Munich locals for their best Oktoberfest tips…
1. Let’s start with the Basics
- A litre of beer costs around €10.50
- The best way to order a beer is in the regional Bayern dialect: “No a Maß, biddscheen!”
- Oktoberfest 2019 takes place in Munich, Germany from 21st September to 6th October
- Last orders are at 10.30pm and all the tents close at 11.30 pm, except for two: Käfer und Weinzelt, which close at 1am.
- Try to visit during the week if possible, when it will be slightly less busy
2. How to experience Oktoberfest like a local
“The best tent for beer is the “Augustiner Zelt”, and make sure you avoid the “Hofbräuzelt” as it’s really touristy” advises Angela, a Munich local who now lives in London. “The final evening of Oktoberfest is the best and I would recommend spending it in the Hackerzelt, where they light big sparklers and play the German folk song ‘Sierra Madre’ in the darkened tent. The atmosphere is incredible, but you’ll need to be there by 1pm to get in and guard your place the whole time you’re there!” so Angela.
Angela also has a few tips for surviving a day in one of the Oktoberfest tents:
- Don’t bring too much with you! A small bag and an extra layer is plenty.
- If you want to see the official opening in the “Schottenhamel” tent then you need to get there by 7am. The tent opens at 9, but you can’t order beer until 12 noon.
- Tie your jacket to one of the table legs so that you can easily find it again at closing time.
- Never stand in the walkways, you can’t order beer here.
- Never question what the waitresses or security staff tell you 😉
- Give a good tip and be polite, because in the tent, the waitresses are your best friend.
- Get enough cash out before you arrive, since the cash points often have massive queues.
- You’re not allowed to smoke in any of the tents.
3. Reserve a table if you can
The Munich-based blogger Franzi advises any would-be Oktoberfest visitors: “Always, always try to reserve a table if you can, otherwise your visit can be quite unpleasant at peak times. People start queuing at 8am and by the time the tents open their doors, all of the unreserved seats are gone in minutes. Even if you manage to bag a table, you’ll spend the rest of the day avoiding going to the toilet and trying to defend your spot. A spontaneous visit to the Oktoberfest is best done during the week, when the tents are slightly less full.”
“If you manage to get a group of 10 together you’ll get a table to yourselves. It’ll cost about 25 euros per person, but you’ll normally get 2 litres of beer and half a chicken included in the price. Some tents need to be reserved months in advance, so the earlier you book, the better.”
4. How to get into an Oktoberfest tent without a reservation
Rebecca has worked for years as a waitress at the Oktoberfest: “If you haven’t reserved a table you’ll need to start queuing at least two hours before the tents open to stand a chance of getting a seat. If you can, try to go during the week or eat outside and wait for a lull in the tents when you can get in without too much queuing.”
Most importantly: “With a bit of patience and a relaxed attitude you’ll have a great time whether you make it into one of the tents or not: Outside the tents you’ll find hundreds of cocktail and shot stands and it can be just as good an atmosphere.”
Angela and Martina at the Oktoberfest
5. Avoid public transport
If possible try to walk to the Oktoberfest. The public transport (especially the U-Bahn) gets insanely busy and it can often be quicker to walk. Take Rebecca’s advice and grab a beer from a corner shop (“späti”) and you can start to get into the Oktoberfest spirit on your journey there.
6. Get up high for the best views…
According to Angela, you’ll get the best views by taking a ride on the ferris wheel or, if you’re feeling brave, by taking a ride on the carousel.
7. Experience Bavarian traditions
Local blogger Steffi recommends the following for anybody interested in seeing some local traditions: “For most people, Oktoberfest is just an excuse for a big party. But if you look hard enough, you’ll find plenty of local customs. On the first Sunday of Oktoberfest, for example there a wonderful parade known as the “Trachtenumzug” and at the southern end of the Oktoberfest grounds you’ll find the ‘Oide Wiesn’, a mini-Oktoberfest with old fashioned rides and stands.”
8. Get nostalgic at the fair ground
According to Steffi: “Even in the main part of the Oktoberfest grounds you’ll find some traditional stands, such as the curiosities theatre (“Schichtl”) or a special carousel with live music from a Bavarian brass band (“Krinoline”). However, my favourite ride is the toboggan, especially towards the end of the day when people have had a bit too much to drink in the tents.” For Rebecca, the “Devil’s wheel (“Teufelsrad”) is the top insider tip in the fairground.
9. Get some quality lederhosen or dirndl
Haven’t got Lederhosen/Dirndl for your Oktoberfest visit? Then take Franzis advice: “There’s nothing worse than the poor quality, plastic lederhosen and dirndl that you can buy at the airport or train station. For the real deal you’ll need to spend between 150 and 200 euros, but if you have time when you get to Munich take a look in some of the vintage shops around, where you’ll find authentic second hand Oktoberfest gear for much less. If you don’t plan to visit Oktoberfest every year and can’t justify spending money on something you’ll only wear once, then just go in normal clothes as many visitors do.”
Very important info for the ladies: where you tie your dirndl has a special meaning at Oktoberfest. On the left means you’re single, on the right means you’re taken. At the front and in the middle means you’re a virgin, at the back and in the middle means you’re a widow (though many waitresses tie their dirndl in this position for practical reasons).
10. Enjoy the Oktoberfest atmosphere away from the crowds
If you need a short break from the crowds and tents, head to the Bavaria beer garden which is right next door to the Oktoberfest. According to Rebecca “it’s a bit less hectic here, but there’s still a great atmosphere, plus you’re food and drink will arrive a lot quicker than in the tents!”
Check out our hostels in Munich and start planning your Oktoberfest adventure.
What to read next?
- The A to Z of luxury hostels in Europe
- Lights, sushi, action! How to visit Japan in 10 days
- 12 reasons why everybody is obsessed with Lisbon right now
- How travel helped me overcome my depression and fall back in love my life