I went into Oktoberfest with New Year’s Eve expectations. You know – it’s been so hyped up that the night ultimately can’t meet expectations and you wind up disappointed in a corner with no one to kiss at midnight? Just like that! I had heard from friends about the amazingness that was Oktoberfest; so, I finally had to see for myself.
I can 100% tell you – the experience EXCEEDS all expectations!
Oktoberfest is a sixteen-day long festival in Munich that begins in September (that’s right, it doesn’t actually take place in October!). Nearly six million people attend the event every year, and last year, I was lucky enough to be one of them. I researched the trip extensively before attending but I think the following are the key tips you need to know!
I felt a little foolish as I left my Airbnb wearing a dirndl, but as I turned the corner, I spotted others donning the same get-up. Most people at Oktoberfest wear the traditional German clothes. A dirndl for girl and lederhosen for guys. Don’t feel silly in the outfits because once you enter de Weisen, you’ll be surrounded by people in all sorts of traditional clothing.
While you can buy your dirndl or lederhosen ahead of time in the United States (I had a friend order off Amazon and it looked great!), there are plenty of stores selling the clothes in Munich. They have stores that sell authentic dirndls, which are more expensive, or outlet stores selling much more reasonably priced dresses. Read my Girl’s Guide to Oktoberfest here.
If you are going for the beers, everyone will tell you that you need to get reservations, especially for the weekends. While I read on every blog that you need reservations, it’s nearly impossible if you decide last minute to attend or if you even start planning after March! Most of the reservations go to people who have been attending the event for years and for the most part, you can’t get reservations for Saturday evening.
While I recommend attempting to get reservations if you would like to ensure you have a spot in the big tent, I don’t think they are totally necessary (especially if you are a girl; sorry boys!). Outside of the tents, there are beer gardens where you can sit and still enjoy the great beer and great food. The gardens are still rowdy and there’s a great atmosphere, but you won’t get the band and singing (which was my favorite part). If you want to get into a big tent and you don’t have reservations:
- Get to Oktoberfest early. The tents open at 10am on the weekdays and 9am on the weekends. Make sure you’re there for opening hours if you definitely want a spot. Pace yourself though, it’s a long day!
- Don’t try for the most popular tents. When you think of Oktoberfest, you probably think of the Hofbräu Festzelt, Hacker (the Bavarian heaven tent) or Shottenhamel (the tent that kicks off the fest). These tents are extremely popular and therefore, extremely difficult to get in. We waited two hours to get into the Hacker tent on Saturday with no luck! After waiting, we headed to Ochsenbraterei and got into the tent – on a Saturday afternoon, without reservations! Remember, the tent you get into is the best tent at Oktoberfest!
- Be friendly and polite! While we did get into the Ochsenbraterei tent, we managed to do so after a) a little liquid courage and b) being polite to our beer garden waiter and flashing a smile to a security guard!
- Go in small groups. It will be infinitely easier to get into a tent if you only have three people who need seats as opposed to 10. Once you get into the tents, you have to have a seat to be served (except for 1 or 2 tents). So, security will be more likely to let you in if you don’t need too many seats. If you do have a big group, consider splitting up and then texting the next group which door to try.
[2016 Update] I attended again in 2016, and because of recent safety concerns in Europe and Germany, Oktoberfest in general was not crowded. We went on Friday and Sunday and were able to walk in to any tent we wanted and secure a table.
Enjoy More than the Beer
At Oktoberfest, you’ll find that there’s more than beer! In fact, next to beer, the chicken at Oktoberfest is almost just as famous. I swear, it’s some of the best chicken I’ve ever had! If you’re a vegetarian (like one of my friends), there is a fish tent or most menus will have pretzels and a cheese and fruit plate. Not as satisfying, but you won’t be drinking on an empty stomach!
Oktoberfest is more than just a drinking event. There are rides and games and stalls of food and souvenirs. There’s truly something for the whole family!
Book Your Hostel, Airbnb or Hotel in Advance
Nearly six million people attend Oktoberfest, and most of them need a place to stay! When I started looking in March, all the hostels were already booked and most of the decent hotels were unavailable. I booked through Airbnb, and we stayed about 20 minutes from the grounds. So, if you know you want to go, get your group early and get your residence booked!
The beers at Oktoberfest are huge! At 1 liter (10 euros each), each beer is about 6% alcohol – it’s the law! The beer goes down easy, especially when people are constantly prosting; so, make sure to pace yourself so you can experience the most of Oktoberfest!
Go More than One Day
I only went one day to Oktoberfest, and I think this was my biggest mistake. We only got to see one tent, and we didn’t experience any of the rides because we were waiting in line to get into the tent. I wish I would’ve gone at least two or three days so I could’ve seen the inside of the other tents – and gotten to meet more people!
People from all over the world come to Oktoberfest. You’re bound to make new friends! We table hopped in our beer tent and sat with people from Germany, Australia, Italy and even from Wisconsin (small world!). Everyone is so friendly and there to have a good time – make sure you’re doing the same!
The tents are cash only but there are ATMs on the grounds.
Know the Words to John Denver’s “Country Roads”
I swear this song played at least 30 times in the four hours I was in the tent! And don’t be worried if you don’t know the words to the German songs. Have a local teach you and you’ll be singing along in no time.
Munich was one of my favorite cities! The people were so hospitable, the food was fabulous and the sites were breathtaking. Make sure you get out and enjoy the city when you need a break from Oktoberfest!
Have any questions about Oktoberfest or Munich? Let me know below!