Celebrating Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany has been on my bucket list FOREVERRRR. I was beyond excited that I finally got to go this past September / October. It was also great to be able to celebrate this crazy festival with one of my best friends and fellow Canadian (aka lover of beer aka drinks more beer than water) Candice.
Before going, from a little bit of research and learning from past experiences of our friends we knew some of the best tips and info. However we learned a LOT after experiencing it for ourselves as well. The following are my BEST tips for celebrating Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany.
All of these people need a place to stay too!
1. Book Accommodations FAR in advance
This is one of the number one tips everyone recommends for attending Oktoberfest. Over seven million people visit Munich over the 16 day period of when Oktoberfest is held so you can imagine that not only is accommodation hard to come by but it can also be a tad bit pricey.
We booked an AirBnB at the beginning of July and there were slim pickings by then. We had a couple applications turned down and then finally we found a place. The host was great and the location was only a 15minute walk from the Oktoberfest grounds (when we didn’t get ourselves lost or hadn’t drank a few too many litres of beer…).
Long story short book way before July, book as far in advance as possible.
Me and my 40 euro dirndl trying to blend in
2. Dress the Part
In my opinion at least 75% of the people in attendance were dressed up in one type or another of the traditional Bavarian dress of lederhosen for men and dirndls for women. The first day I went to Oktoberfest I didn’t have time to get a dirndl so I just went in jeans and a t-shirt. I didn’t feel like I stuck out like a sore thumb or anything but everyone dressed up literally looked like they were having that much more fun. Also where else in the world is there a festival where everyone attends and dresses up in costume like this? You don’t have to, but you will have that much more fun if you do.
One of a dozen + shops selling dirndls and lederhosen in Munich
Note that they do NOT sell these outfits on the Oktoberfest grounds but there are many shops near the grounds, especially by the train station that pop up for the two weeks of the festival selling them at a discount. Throughout Munich there are some shops as well that sell them year round and they are the proper traditional costumes however they are very expensive. If you just want one to wear for some fun for a couple of days, go to one of the cheaper shops by the train station. Expect to pay anywhere from 25 to 100 euro.
3. Don’t go on the weekends
The weekends are insanely busy and it is also when a lot of the locals are in attendance. Avoid the weekends at all costs if possible and/or expect to have some very early mornings to get a spot in the beer halls if that is your only option.
There is a lot of tasty food
Just 1/2 of the menu in the Hofbrauhaus, so many options!
4. Bring Cash
Surely this one is a given. The beer halls are pumping out beer as fast as they can and they don’t have time to wait for your credit card. Having cash is key. There are ATMs on the fair grounds or get money out before you arrive.
As of 2015 a litre of beer costs 10 euros and it is recommended to give a tip of 1 or 2 euros with each beer. The better you tip the better and quicker service you will get as well. I would Budget for at least 60 euros a day to spend on beer, pretzels, 1/2 chickens, sausage and more. Also don’t forget to tip the ladies in the washrooms. I was literally SHOCKED at how nice and well maintained the toilets were at every beer hall at Oktoberfest, these women deserve your tips!
Learning the history of Oktoberfest from our tour guide Austin
5. Take a tour
Going to Oktoberfest for your first time can be quite overwhelming especially when you don’t know what to expect and since it is so massive it can be quite hard to comprehend. Taking a tour on your first day at Oktoberfest is a great way to get your bearings, learn about the history of the festival and also find out where the best tents are. Candice and I took the Oktoberfest Tour with Viator and although it was a bit pricey it was an awesome introduction to Oktoberfest and we might have been quite lost without it.
The biggest bonus from taking this tour was definitely that we got seats at a reserved table in the Hofbräuhaus for 5 hours and it included 2 litres of beer and 1/2 a chicken per person. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable and gave us a great tour of the fair grounds and lots of history as well. He even taught us one of the most important songs that you sing while in the beer halls. Ein Prosit – learn it.
Once we got these great seats we stayed put for a good 8 hours
6. Once you get a seat don’t leave
Candice and I had it in our minds that we would go beer hall hopping from place to place. Do a couple of hours here, a couple of hours there so that we could experience all of the beer halls. We quickly realized however that once you find a seat (if you can) you stay put. One of the nights we decided to change beer halls at the wrong time and then every other beer hall we tried to get into after that was so full that they weren’t letting people inside anymore. We eventually found seats in one of the halls where they specialized in desserts and almost everything but beer. Don’t get stuck in the non-beer tent like us!
On that note for your information there are three tents that serve drinks other than beer and one in particular serves all wine. But honestly if you are at Oktoberfest and you don’t like beer… why are you there?
Candice and I meeting up with the lovely Vicky FlipFlop at Oktoberfest
7. Go in small groups
The larger your group the harder the time you are going to have finding seats altogether unless you are somehow able to reserve a table ahead of time. (Most reservations are grandfathered in by the locals and can be hard to get). Not all tables in the beer halls are reservable though so with a little bit of luck you can find a table to sit at and in the Hofbräuhaus at the back there is even a large area for standing only. Since Candice and I were only two people it made it a lot easier for us to find a table and squeeze on to a bench with other people. If you have a large group definitely go early in the day to find a spot.
Dancing on the benches!
8. Dance on the benches not the tables
The beer halls are made up of large tables and picnic table like benches and it is almost encouraged to stand up and dance around on the benches, however the tables are off bounds. You could get yourself kicked out if you stand on the tables and also for cleanliness sake of everyone, just stay off the tables. On that note also know that a lot of beer will be spilled. On yourself, on the floor and on the benches. It is hard to come away from Oktoberfest and be clean and not sticky.
Mid-week, early afternoon in the Hofbrauhaus before it gets even busier
9. Introverts need not attend
The crowds can be quite overwhelming at times but mostly once everyone is sat down inside they stick to their tables and stay in one spot. So although from pictures it looks like a mass of people that you might see at a concert, everyone has their own seat and space so its not nearly as claustrophobic. However the tables are close and everyone is squished tightly together so having people bump into you is unavoidable. Also you are going to need your best people skills to weasel your way on to someone else’s bench.
Sometimes you need a breakfast hefeweizen beer
10. Pace yourself
No one wants to be that guy that throws up in front of everyone at Oktoberfest. Pace yourself, drink water if you must and eat ALL of the pretzels to soak up the booze. Especially if you are planing on celebrating for a few days, you don’t want to have the worst hangover of your life after just the first night.
A view from the ferris wheel of Wirtsbudenstraße, the main road at Oktoberfest with the majority of the beer halls, only 1/3 of the entirety of the place
A man in lederhosen falls on the conveyor belt for The Tobaggan
11. Ride the Ferris Wheel
Not only is Oktoberfest a huge beer drinking festival but it is also a gynormous carnival which I had not realized before going. There are tons of different rides that you can go on and games that you can pay, haunted houses to go through and more. From the top of the ferris wheel you can also get the most spectacular views over all of Oktoberfest both day and night I definitely recommend going for a spin.
There are also a few “schadenfreude” based rides where the public watching gets pleasure out of the pain the people on the ride are enduring. A key example of this would be “The Toboggan” ride. The Toboggan is really a quite simple corkscrew wooden slide that you ride down on a carpet however to get to the top is the most hilarious part. Festival goers, drunk and non-drunk a-like are pushed on to a conveyor belt that whisks them up to the top however about 85% of the people fall down and tumble while being shot up this high speed conveyor belt and hilarity ensues. Hard to explain but Candice and I stood there watching it for a good 30mins one night with tears in our eyes we were laughing so hard.
The beer merry-go-round in all its glory
Beer merry-go-round close up
Spinning in circles on the beer merry-go-round!
12. Don’t miss the merry-go-round
On our first night we stumbled upon a merry-go-round. However this wasn’t your typical merry-go-round with unicorns, lions, flamingos and horses moving up and down with children riding them yelling “Weeee”. Instead the animals had been removed and in their place was a bar. A circular bar that went around the inside of the merry-go-round. People step up on to the merry-go-round that never stops spinning and order beer and hangout at the bar as they spin in circles for days. A beer merry-go-round. Possibly the best invention ever?
On the beer merry-go-round instead of serving litre beers they serve 1/2 litre Hefeweizen wheat beer. Perfect for a breakfast snack or a night cap or a mid-day beer. Whatever you would like.
Have you ever been to Oktoberfest in Munich? What other tips would you suggest?
To see more from this amazing festival watch my video:
My tour at Okotberfest was provided to me by Viator.com however all opinions and views expressed are my own as is all of the beer and many pretzels that I consumed.