Oktoberfest! This 16-day extravaganza (celebrating beer!) entices more than 7 million people around the world every year to the Bavarian city. 2014 marked the 3rd time I’ve been to this beer-fest (it’s just so much fun) so I thought I’d share some tips for a safe and fun Oktoberfest in Munich 🙂
When & Where
In spite of its name, Oktoberfest actually begins during the latter half of September each year and ends the 1st Sunday in October. It’s an annual tradition that began with a celebration commemorating the marriage of King Ludwig I and Princess Theresa, dating back to 1810!
The festival is held on the Theresienwiese grounds in Munich (named after Princess Theresa) and is also a huge carnival with rides, roller coasters and lots of great food. Entrance is free, however, to fully enjoy the Oktoberfest experience, getting into one of the main tents is key.
10 Tips on a Successful Oktoberfest in Munich
First, Some Essential German Words to Remember…
- Prost: Cheers
- g’suffa (pronounced zuffa): Drink up
- Schunkel: To sway (to the music)
- Bier: Beer
- Radler: Half beer and half lemonade (delicious!)
- Bratwurst: Pork sausage
- Schweinshaxe: Pork knuckle
- Schweinebraten: Pork roast
- Wiener Schnitzel: Breaded veal cutlet
- Brezen: Pretzels
2. Plan ahead
Reservations in the tents are not required, however if you go on a weekend, expect there to be massive crowds. Tents vary in size, and can accommodate up to 8,000 people! The rules for getting reservations in one of these tents have recently changed, leaving more space for walk-ins. Half the tables are reserved (you’ll have to pay to reserve the tables) while the other half is on a first-come-first-serve basis. If you’re planning on the latter, arrive very early morning (7am) for your best chance of snagging seats, especially on a weekend.
We got lucky and have awesome friends who were very persistent this year, getting reservations for the Schottenhamel tent. Thanks Mark & Tina!
3. Where to stay
Hotels during Oktoberfest can get very pricey. It’s best to weigh all your options. The Oktoberfest grounds is accessible by public transportation (the u-bahn) so by staying just a bit farther outside of the city center, you can save some money. Also consider Air BnB and booking early to lock in better prices.
4. Bring cash
Not all the tents will accept credit cards so it’s best to hit the ATM before venturing into your drink-fest.
5. Designate a meeting place with your group
Designate somewhere to meet with your group, prior to your drunken state (assuming you’ll remember after a few steins of Germany’s finest). The tents and Oktoberfest grounds are immense so it’s smart to plan a spot to meet should you or someone in your party get lost and doesn’t have access to a working cell phone.
6. Pace yourself, have a Radler
Beer is ordered one liter at a time. Have you seen the steins? They are HUGE! In fact, over the 2.5 week period, an average of 6 million gallons of beer are consumed…That’s alot of beer! One way to pace yourself is to order Radlers. A Radler is consisted of half beer and half lemonade and really quite tasty. But don’t worry, no one will ever know the difference. Now you can enjoy the atmosphere, continue drinking and not pass out somewhere, like this guy…
7. Get into the spirit and dress up!
The traditional German clothing, Dirndl for women and Lederhosen for men, will be on sale all over Munich in the spirit of this event. Get into the spirit and dress up! You can even opt for the eBay option like I did 🙂
Ladies, tie your bow on the right if you’re married, on the left if you’re single or in the middle if “it’s complicated”.
8. Sing and dance and schunkel to the music, even if you don’t know the words
The band and the music in the tents play a big part of the festivities. Get into the spirit and join the thousands around you. Even if you don’t know the words, it’s just too much fun!
Here are some of the most popular songs that are played in the Oktoberfest tents – now you can practice before you go!
- Ein Prosit (I Salute You)
- Fliegerlied (The Flying Song)
- Viva Colonia
- Take Me Home, Country Roads (John Denver) – no, not kidding!
- Sweet Caroline (Neil Diamond)
9. Don’t wait until the last minute to get in line for the bathrooms
Thousands of people in a tent all drinking beer by the liter = long lines! Don’t wait until the last minute if you don’t want any accidents 😉