Even though it ended a few weeks ago, it’s safe to say we are still recovering from Oktoberfest (Locally called Wiesn, after the name for the fairgrounds, Theresa’s meadows, Theresienwiese). If the name Oktoberfest is confusing, here’s a quick explanation: The original Oktoberfest did take place in October, but over the years the dates got moved up for better weather. However, the last weekend of Oktoberfest does always spill into October, so the name isn’t completely inaccurate.
We went probably too many times this year, but we wanted to take advantage of living in Munich while we are here! In 2018, Munich’s Oktoberfest ran from Saturday, September 22 to Sunday, October 7. So if you live here, that gives quite a lot of opportunities to go to Oktoberfest. Not to mention, we had visitors so of course we had to go when we had friends in town! We went the very first day (we got there at 8am) and then many other times throughout the season. We had reservations in the Hofbräu tent (thanks Christian!) twice this year and the rest of the time we just walked in and grabbed an empty table (more on this later).
There are two main components of Oktoberfest: the beer tents/drinking portion and the fun fair!
In the fun fair area you can go on rides, play carnival games, eat snacks, and buy souvenirs. If carnival rides are your thing, I recommend riding the rides before visiting the beer tents. To be honest, we never spent much time in this area but I did purchase one of those cute gingerbread cookie necklaces. FYI these are not for eating, just for wearing. I mean, you could eat this if you wanted to….but they don’t taste good. Men often buy their sweethearts these heart-shaped gingerbread cookie with some sort of sweet message written in white icing like princess, sweetie, etc. Mine says Schatzi (sweetheart), and we still haven’t eaten it! Also, I feel it’s important to note that I took these photos of the fun fair around 12pm on a Wednesday…this area normally is super crowded!
Inside the tents is SO much fun! Traditional music plays during the day, and in the evening the band plays more music that everyone knows the words to. Some examples are Sweet Caroline and Country Roads. As the night goes on, everyone is up on the benches dancing! The tents are always PACKED and unless you have a reservation, you’re most likely going to be at a table with at least some people you don’t know. It’s a great time to make new friends!
There are 14 different beer tents and we went inside all of them this year. Each tent is operated by a different Munich brewery and each has a different vibe or reputation. With your reservation ticket, you get two Maß (pronounced like mass) and one half of a roasted chicken. One Maß of beer is equal to slightly more than one liter of beer. each Maß is served in a stein. German beer is much stronger than regular beer, with 6% alcohol content.
The Wiesnhendl (Oktoberfest roasted chicken) is seriously amazing. It’s the perfect meal before a day full of drinking. You can order food at any table you are at from the same waitress bringing the beer. Each tent has a different food menu, but they all offer the typical Bavarian specialities. There’s also usually people walking around selling delicious Bavarian pretzels.
Dancing on tables: Everyone ends up dancing on the benches, but dancing on the tables is a big no no. And be careful, people are always falling off the benches.
Cost: It’s free to enter Oktoberfest, but bring cash! You will need cash for everything at the festival. Coins are good for tipping. You should always be tipping your server and also the bathroom attendants. Each liter of beer costs between 11- 13 euros.
NO big bags or backpacks: There’s no coat check and bags over 3L aren’t allowed. You can keep your stuff under the table, and most tables actually have a net attached to the underside of the table so you can put your stuff in there! I’ve seen a lot of people tie their coats around the legs of tables too. There’s a lot of different gross things spilling all over the place so this is a good option! I recommend wearing a cross body bag that you don’t care about.
Reservations: Most reservations are made months in advance and are arranged individually by each tent. The reservation system varies for each tent. We are super grateful that our friend Christian has made reservations each year! Every reservation is for 10 people, an entire table. Each person gets half a chicken and two beers. Basically there is no added cost to reserve a table, you are just paying for your chicken and beer. Every reservation is for a specific amount of time, typically a day or night reservation.
My favorite times at Oktoberfest have been when we’ve had a reservation, but it’s definitely not necessary. Every time we went on a weekend we had a reservation, which I have heard if you don’t have one on a weekend it is really difficult to find a table. You can usually walk in and find a few spots at a table, but if you’re with a big group you will most likely have to split up amongst a few tables. It’s nice to start with a reservation while you have your first few Maß and then head into the crowd once your reservation is finished.
What to wear: You don’t have to wear the traditional Bavarian lederhosen or dirndl but you will certainly feel out of place if you don’t. Patrick and I both got ours at Angermaier, which was recommended to us by a German friend. Please don’t wear a costume dirndl. Also, don’t wear shoes that you care about…there’s a lot of gross stuff on the ground. I wore the same shoes that I wore to Starkbierfest and now after an entire season of Oktoberfest I kind of want to burn them. Any closed toe shoes are fine. Braids are really popular with Bavarian girls and you’ll also see a lot of flower crowns, which you can purchase at a beer tent.
Safety: Pace yourself! German beer is much stronger than regular beer. Make sure you have some food in your stomach. Try drinking some radlers (50% beer and 50% lemonade) in between so you don’t get too drunk and turn into a beer corpse. Have your address written down somewhere and decide on a meeting place with your friends in case you get split up.
Die Bierleichen or Beer corpses: Some people just can’t handle Oktoberfest. You’ll see lots of people passed out….these people are removed from the beer tents via body bags on a stretcher. The first time I saw a body bag on a stretcher being wheeled past my table, I seriously thought someone had died! Then after about five of these within the next few hours I asked one of our German friends about it…He explained that the body bags didn’t contain dead people but drunk passed out people! The body bag is to cover their face and protect their identity while they are taken to the recovery tent.
Kotzhügel: Or in English, puke hill. This is right by the exit/entrance close to the Schwanthalerhöhe U Bahn stop. You will see lots of beer corpses on this hill. There’s no shame in taking a break on the hill before heading back in to your tent.
Wiesn Koks: White powder made with sugar and menthol. You’ll see people sniffing this, and don’t worry it’s NOT cocaine (even though it looks a lot like it!). You can get this in all beer tents and it costs around 5 euros.
I can’t wait for next year!