Top 25 Tips For Attending Oktoberfest:
Top Ten Tips For Attending Oktoberfest In Munich: 2020 Survival Guide.
1. Visit On Weekdays If Possible:
With over 600,000 daily visitors, Oktoberfest isn’t your average small town county fair, so you have to plan ahead to avoid the crowds. To put Oktoberfest into context, this massive festival has more visitors than each of the 3 largest state fairs in America combined, and it can reach one million people a day on the weekends. Because of the huge crowds, you want to avoid the weekends if possible when planning your visit to Oktoberfest.
If you are able to shift your visit to Oktoberfest in Munich to be on weekdays you will have a lot more enjoyable experience. The crowds are much smaller during the weekdays which gives you the flexibility to hop between the beer tents, sample the different food & drinks, and explore the festival grounds more in-depth.
From 10am-3pm on the weekdays there are also are hidden deals at tents and stands displaying the “Mittagswiesn” sign which most tourists never notice. These deals usually mean you can get 30% off everything from rides and games to food, but they exlcude beer. There are also extra special deals on Tuesdays, especially on the rides as it is considered the family day.
On weekdays the grounds open at 9am, the tents open at 10am, and the unreserved seating doesn’t fill up until 2-3pm. In contrast, on weekends the grounds and tents both open at 9am, but line form for the unreserved seats starting at 6am. If you can’t avoid the weekends, see our next few top tips for Oktoberfest on how to still get into the beer tents with some planning.
2. Book Your Hotel Early:
You should book your hotel 6-12 Months in advance if possible as they start selling out really early. Just like Mardi Gras in New Orleans, even the low level hotels in Munich will be 2-3 times their normal ratesduring Oktoberfest. Expect to pay $200-300 a night if you book very early or anywhere from $400-1,200 per night if you wait too long. Try a couple searches on www.booking.com to see what you can find and see our list of the best hotels in Munich HERE for some recommendations.
Read More: Best Places To Stay In Munich.
3. Know How To Get Seats:
Since there are only 80,000 seats located inside the main beer tents at Oktoberfest, but more than 600,000 daily visitors, it is very important to plan out how you are going to get a seat in the tents. Table reservations start to book up to a year in advance and can be difficult to get as a non-local, but you still have options. Each tent is required to keep 50-70% of their seats open for first-come-first-served seating, however, you still need to plan ahead to get these precious spots.
As mentioned above, it is always better to visit Oktoberfest on a weekday as on Monday-Friday the unreserved seats don’t fill up until 2-3pm. This allows you flexibility to tent hop or roam the grounds at your leisure before settling on a beer tent. In contrast, on the weekends there are lines to get in by 6am and failing to get here early can result in having to wait over half the day to get into a tent. Luckily, we have a full guide on how to get table reservations at Oktoberfest like a pro and how to easily get into the tents any day without a reservation.
Read More: How To Get Reservations At Oktoberfest.
4. Prioritize Your Beer Tents:
With 15 mega-sized beer tents and 22 small tents plus beer gardens littering the Oktoberfest grounds, you really need to know what your options are ahead of time. Each of the tents is fun, but they have slightly different atmospheres and specialty offerings which can be quite unique. Learning about the best beer tents at Oktoberfest ahead of time is a great way to help learn about which tent may be the best for you and how you shoudl prioritize which ones your visit. This gets even more important if you are visiting on either a week night or weekend where it gets crowded enough that you may only be able to get into one tent so you’ll have to be informed and choose wisely.
Read More: Best Beer Tents At Oktoberfest.
5. Learn The Popular Songs:
From brass Ompah music to modern-day hits, music is what really drives the atmosphere at Oktoberfest. Expect around half the songs to be in German, half to be in English, and after dinner time they even ramp it up by adding guitars into the bands. There are many short iconic songs like “Ein Prosit” that repeat multiple times an hour in each tent which can be really important to know about so you can join in on the fun. Knowing the hidden meaning and words to many of the most popular songs at Oktoberfest ahead of time will also help you to better enjoy the festival.
Read More: Most Popular Songs At Oktoberfest.
6. Dress The Part:
If you really want to blend in and truly experience the festival, the best tip you can follow is learning how to dress for Oktoberfest. This could easily be our top overall tip as it really is that important. Even at the most touristy of the beer tents at Oktoberfest (Hofbrau), 75% of the party goers will be in traditional clothing (known as Trachten) and at most of the main tents this number reaches 90-100% of the visitors being dressed up. This is largely because a vast majority of the over 6 million annual attendees at Oktoberfest are either from Bavaria (70%) or the rest of Germany (15%) so dressing up for Oktoberfest has become the norm.
While you really should dress up, what you want to avoid is dressing in a cheesy American-style Halloween costume. These costumes not only look silly, but usually fit poorly and don’t even have pockets. To help guide you between the lines of tasteful and tacky, we created a complete guide on how to dress for Oktoberfest in Munich.
Read More: How To Dress For Oktoberfest.
7. Decide What To Pack:
Although packing for Oktoberfest many seem straight forward there are a few things you need to consider. The most important thing your can do while packing is to check the 10-day weather forecast before you depart. If it looks like a chance of rain then you need to make sure you buy a couple cheap $1 disposable rain ponchos at stores like Target, Walmart, or Amazon. This way you can stay dry on the walk there, dispose of it when you enter, and save yourself gettiing wet since very inconvient to bring a travel umbrella into the beer tents.
It may sounds obvious for any vacation, but when attending Oktoberfest you need to make sure you have packed some headache medicine. Even if you don’t drink much at Oktoberfest, because the beer has a limited number of ingredients and higher alcohol than American beer it can give you a headache. We haven’t noticed this to be a huge problem, but you’ll definitely want some packed in your bag as on Sundays the stores in Old Town Munich will be closed and you would have trouble buying headache medicine in person.
Clothing-wise either pack your Oktoberfest outfit or leave room in your luggage to bring home any outfit you may purchase. Assume an outfit will take up the space of three pairs of paints if you are saving room. Guys may want to bring an extra checkered shirt and women need to bring a comfortable pair of shoes like ballerina flats or mary-janes for Oktoberfest. You can leave any novelty t-shirts or shirt from the city you are from at home as these make you stand out like a tourist and not in a good way. If you are on a budget or stand-offish about dressing up, then a checkered shirt with jeans will do.
8. Learn The Lingo:
Remember that the glasses used at Oktoberfest are called Maß (mass) and they are not called steins which are stone or ceramic. The average full 1-liter beer Maß weighs 5 pounds when filled.
Read More: Beer & Wine Tips For Oktoberfest.
9. Know The History:
So you made it to Oktoberfest, but do you really know why the festival exists? There have actually been large festivals in the Fall around harvest time in Munich going back to Medieval times, but the modern Oktoberfest was started in 1810. Just years after Bavaria became a Kingdom, there was a huge wedding celebration for Prince Ludwig I who was getting married to Princess Therese of Saxony. The wedding festival lasted for a week and the whole town decorated for daily parties for the upper class citizens of Munich and their guests.
On the last day of the celebration, a horse race took place on the current Oktoberfest grounds which all of the commoners were invited to. The contest was a welcomed event as the famous Scarlet Race from Medieval times had been stopped nearly 30 years earlier. Following the race, the field was dubbed Theresienwiese (“Theresa’s Meadow”) in honor of the Princess. The fanfare and unity that the race created turned into an annual event which grew and became the modern Oktoberfest.
Read More: History Of Oktoberfest.
10. Bring Cash:
It can be difficult to pay with a debit or credit card at the Oktoberfest grounds, so make sure that you plenty of cash with you. There are a dozen ATMs on the grounds and usually one inside each of the main tents, but you don’t want to waste your time in line or risk having the machine being out of order, so take money out ahead of time.
Beer and wine is usually 10-12 euros a piece and expect that you will spend at least 40 euros on food throughout the day plus tips for your server. Because of this, a good rule of thumb is to bring around 200 euros with you in cash when you head to the grounds in addition to bringing your debit card just in case. Some of the big tents take Visa or Mastercard but even in places that take cards your server will like you a lot more if you pay in cash.
11. No Bags or Backpacks:
Although tied in under How To Dress For Oktoberfest, it can’t be overstated that you can not bring backpacks, bags, or large purses into the Oktoberfest grounds. If you attempt to you will now be able to get through security and will have to ditch your bag or bring it either back to your hotel or to the paid bag storage outside the grounds. The bag storage is inside a large shipping container in the middle of the street on the North side of the grounds and for a fee they will hold your bag until you leave. It is a bit of a hassle and there can be long lines, plus you may forgot to pick your bag up.
Because of the no bags rule, you need to plan ahead and avoid bringing a bag. As a rule of thumb you should follow the same small bag guidelines you would have at an American NFL game as the maximum size is 20cm x 15cm x 10cm. This means you’ll want a clutch, cross-body strap, fanny pack or drindl wallet to carry your stuff. We even tried to bring a camera bag that was slightly under the maximum bag size and got denied. Even if this security precaution wasn’t in place, you really don’t want a bag or large purse inside the crowded Oktoberfest tents anyway.
12. Be Cozy With Community Seating:
Just like the beer halls and gardens around Munich, all of the unreserved tables at Oktoberfest are community-style seating. This means that you will often be joining total strangers at open spots on 8-10 person tables which can be intimidating for shy visitors but is actually one of the best aspects of Oktoberfest. If you are confused you can always ask a server for help or go up to a table with open spots to ask Ist dieser Platz frei? (Is this seat free?) or simply Ist frei?
Joining any table of strangers you become friends quickly as everyone is looking for the same good time and music often serves as the universial language. The most famous of the Oktobefest songs is plays very often and has the words Ein Prosit (Eyn Pro-zit) Der Gemütlichkeit (Dare Ga-mute-lic-kite) meaning I Salute To Our Cozy Friendship & Good Times We’re Having Together. This aspect of Bavarian coziness comes through the best with the shared joy you will have with your fellow table mates.
13. Try The Food & Drink:
You are going to see gingerbread heart cookies, called Lebkuchen, colorfully decorated and hanging everywhere in Munich during Oktoberfest. They are like German Valentine’s Day card as you buy them for someone you care about. The two most common phrases written on the the cookies are Ich liebe Dich meaning I Love You and Gruß Vom Oktoberfest meaning Greetings From Oktoberfest.
14. Tip Your Servers:
There are a few rules of Oktoberfest etiquette that you should know about which range from traditions and safety to common sense. One of the biggest ones is that you should 100% tip your server at Oktoberfest which may seem odd since tipping isn’t overly common in Europe. This is because tips are how your servers make a lot of their money in the beer tents and also because it is very important to have your server like your group. Attempting to order in German or at least using a simple “please” or “thank you”can go along way and we cover that later in this Oktoberfest list under language tips.
15. Get Out Of Servers’ Way:
Also with servers if you here a whistle blowing behind you it means a server is trying to get through and you need to yield to them. In many of the tents there are even dedicated walkways for serving staff only that you need to stand clear of and avoid walking into. These walkways are typically marked with large signs that say “Servicegang”.
16. Don’t Stand On The Tables:
While drinking or dancing, never stand on top of your table unless you are ready to be kicked out. The tables not only aren’t built to be stood on, but they get very slippery so for safety they are pretty strict about this rule. For the most part you can dance on your bench, but make sure you aren’t wearing high heels.
17. Know How To Cheers:
One of the most overlooked etiquette is what to do when you say cheers, which is Prost (pa-roast) in German. You want to make sure to make eye contact during your cheers or it’s said you will have 7 years of a bad sex life. Tapping the bottoms of your glasses is also very important as if you tap the tops they are more likely to chip and no one wants pieces of glass in their beer. After cheersing, you need to take a drink, even if it is a very small one.
Read More: Beer & Drinking Tips For Oktoberfest.
18. How To Order A Drink:
In the beer Oktoberfest tents, beer is usually only sold in a 1-liter glass Maß (pronounced: mass). Wine is commonly served in a half liter glass called Halben Liter in German. Even if you aren’t comfortable with fully ordering in German, make sure to be polite and at a minimum use Bitte (bit-ta) for Please and Danke (dunk-ah) for Thank You.
The most common way to ask for a beer is “Ein Liter Bier, Bitte!” (ine lee-tah beer bit-teh) which means “1 Liter of Beer Please”. You can also specify the type of beer with “Ein Maß Helles Bitte” (ine mass hell-las bit-teh) meaning “1 Liter of Light Beer Please”. The most formal way to order a beer would be “Eich Haette Gern Ein Bier” (eek hatta gur-na beer) meaning I Would Like To Have A Beer.
19. Where To Find Wine At Oktoberfest:
Although Oktoberfest is the largest beer festival on the planet, there are surprisingly many options to get wine at the festival.
20. Know Your Drinking Limits:
Everyone wants to be a hero and chug full liters of beer in one drink right? No, no they don’t, but even if you drink modestly you have to know your limits. The giant one-liter beers not only go down fast at Oktoberfest, but they are a little stronger than many foreign visitors are used to which can mean you get drunk in a hurry. Time also seems to fly by and you can quickly find yourself 3-4 giant beers in and realize you haven’t had any water or food. Making sure to work in water and delicious German food as you go is the best way to make sure you can last at Oktoberfest without become a beer corpse.
What is a beer corpse? A beer corpse, known as a Bierleichen (beer lie-kin) in German, is what locals call the people who get super wasted and pass out midday at Oktoberfest. You can find most of them sleeping on on the grassy areas behind the Hofbrau Tent called the Vomit Hill or Kotzhügel (cuts-whoo-gull) . You can still drink a ton, but know your limits and work in some food so you don’t wake up on Vomit Hill.
21. See The Oktoberfest Grounds:
Oktoberfest is much more than a than the beers tents and is actually a lot like a mega-sized state fair. There are tons of carnival games, free-standing drink & food booths, and tons of rides to go on. From giant Ferris Wheels and a full roller coaster there is a ton to see around the Oktoberfest grounds. If either don’t get into a beer tent or get here early enough on a weekday you definitely should explore.
Our three favorite things around the grounds (excluding the beer tents) are the Wheat Beer Carousel, the Devil’s Wheel ride, and the Lady of Bavaria Statue. The Wheat Beer Carousel is a vintage carousel that slowly rotates while you get your beer. The Devil’s Wheel is a vintage hand-powered spinning wheel that you sit on with other guests as you all try to see who can stay on it the longest as it gets faster and faster. The Lady of Bavaria Statue is a huge bronze statue which you can climb inside and have a bird’s-eye view down onto the Oktoberfest grounds.
22. Be Aware Of The Bathrooms Options:
Having over 6 million visitors means 2 weeks of slow cell phone service near Oktoberfest, that is if you even have international service. The best way t meet your friends at the tents is to pick a tent and a side. The Tent Entrances are labeled with the directions they face like S or N above the door making it super easy to set a meeting point.
23. Have A Meeting Point:
Having over 6 million visitors means 2 weeks of slow cell phone service near Oktoberfest, that is if you even have international service on your phone plan (which you should). Because of service or phone battery issues, the best way to meet your friends at if you are split up is to pick a tent and a side. The beer tent entrances are all labeled with the directions they face like S or N above the door making it super easy to set a meeting point.
24. You Can Bring Your Kids:
We see a very wide range of ages at Oktoberfest which is actually a lot of family-friendly than you’d think. The Oktoberfest grounds itself is like a huge state fair with tons of stuff to do from rides to games, plus the tents themselves allow kids in with their parents. Tuesday are even considered family days with special deals, but no kids under 6 are allowed in the tents after 8pm. It is worth noting that they don’t allow child strollers on the grounds on Saturdays, German Unity Day (October 3rd) or any other festival day after 6pm.
While the minimum drinking age in Germany is 16, bulk of the visitors to Oktoberfest range from 18-50 and we’ve seen 80-year-old grandmas slamming full beers at the tents too. The average age varies from tent to tent depending on if it is more for partying or families. If we were bringing our kids and wanted to go into a party tent we would go to the Tradiations Tent inside the Old Oktoberfest (Oide Wiesn) section which also has cheap family rides.
25. Make Time For The Town:
We already mentioned that you definitely should make time to see the rest of the Oktoberfest grounds outside of the beer tents, but you should also make time to see Old Town Munich. If you are planning on visiting Oktoberfest over a 2-3 day period or more than at least one of your days needs to be used on the city itself. From the parks and beer halls to museums and Residenz Palace, there is a lot to do and see in Munich. To help you plan you can look further at our free Munich walking tour which covers most of the best sights you need to visit.