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  • Writer's pictureVanessa Valenti

The Oktoberfest in Munich: 8 things you need to know before leaving


Oktoberfest, Monaco di Baviera

This year, for the first time in my life, I went to the Oktoberfest, planning everything last minute: I joined a friend of mine on an already organized bus trip and feeling like a sixteen year old again on a school trip. but what can I tell you? I keep asking myself why I waited until I was 29 to have such an experience.

It was one of the funnest days I've had this past year, and I can't wait to do it again next year. The nice thing is that when I left, I didn't have the slightest idea of ​​what to expect: I had just asked some friends who had already been there for a couple of tips on how to dress. So let's try to see everything you need to know about Oktoberfest, in order to fully enjoy this experience!


Oktoberfest

We can define Oktoberfest as a gigantic "beer festival", undoubtedly the most famous in the world which, thanks to its tradition, music, costumes, festive atmosphere, Bavarian cuisine, rides and characteristic stalls, welcomes more than 7 million visitors every year.

Oktoberfest, Monaco di Baviera

The Oktoberfest ("October Festival" in German) is a popular event that takes place every year in Munich between the end of September and the beginning of October: it lasts 2 weeks and, as a tradition, it's inaugurated every year by the mayor of the city in the Schottnhamel Spatenbrau tent. Wiesn is the word with which the Germans call the Oktoberfest: it is a colloquial way to say Theresienwiese, the name of the place of the festival where the Oktoberfest takes place. If you're not a beer lover, don't worry, Oktoberfest isn't actually just beer: there are so many other things to do and an infinite number of reasons why it's without a doubt an experience to live at least once in your life. Only for tourists it is a "beer festival", in reality for the locals it is a traditional festival born 200 years ago that can also be experienced with the family. Besides the beer tents, the other main component of the Oktoberfest is the funfair: the combination of these two parts is called Volkfest by the Germans. The Oktoberfest is therefore the largest Volkfest in the world, and in addition to beer you will find many stalls of typical food and characteristic souvenirs, the amusement park rides and much more, which I advise you not to miss, whether you are a beer lover or not beer. Plus, the festival is about a 25-minute walk from Marienplatz (Munich's main square), so you might as well consider taking a stroll downtown.


But what are the things you absolutely need to know about Oktoberfest before leaving?


1. How to get to Oktoberfest

If you are thinking of going to the Oktoberfest, the first thing to establish is the type of experience you want to have: we decided at the last minute and opted for a pre-arranged coach, departing on Friday evening and returning on Sunday morning. In this way we did not stay overnight in Munich, nor did we have to worry about having to drive to Munich. The prices of these organized trips are usually much cheaper than what you would spend going by car (considering the price of fuel and the motorway), and even if you decide to go to Oktoberfest for just one day, you have to stay overnight in Monaco both the night before and the night itself. Going by bus, on the other hand, means traveling at night, in total serenity, and being able to drink without anxiety.

The other alternatives are to reach Munich by plane or train, but I recommend these options if you intend to stay in Munich for a few more days, perhaps to visit the city at your leisure.

So to recap:

  • by car: it means total freedom, but also medium-high costs, having to find parking, and accommodation (a matter not to be underestimated in this period, both in terms of costs and the quantity of people who pour into the city);

  • by camper: another valid option, but bear in mind that it is forbidden to stop or stay overnight on the street. You will have to find a place in reserved parking lots or campsites, such as the Oktoberfest-Camping;

  • by train: recommended for those who live in central-northern Italy - the German Railways (DB - Deutsche Bahn) usually have good prices. Once you arrive at the station, take the U-Bahn lines U4 and U5 to the "Theresienwiese" stop;

  • by plane: recommended for those who want to stay in the city for at least two nights, to amortize costs and travel;

  • with organized tours by bus: for me it remains the ideal option - low cost, high yield, as they say in my part! It is the mode that allows you to enjoy the party without worries and without having to go crazy organizing everything. I will definitely go back next year and I will always choose this method.

If you are wondering how long to stay at the Oktoberfest, from my personal experience I tell you that a whole day is more than enough: both in terms of spending and physical effort and for your liver, two days are really excessive and in my opinion they would tire you too.


2. How to enter at the Oktoberfest

To enter the Oktoberfest there are no tickets to buy, you just have to arrive early.

That's right, you got it right: admission to the festival is free.

The only thing you can do, but it's not mandatory and I honestly don't recommend it, is to book a table. It is quite a complicated and expensive process and unless you are a large group, you will still be able to get away with it. Table reservations are only allowed for groups of at least 8 people and must be made 3-6 months in advance.

Oktoberfest, Monaco

The important thing is to arrive early in the morning: especially on weekends there are always a lot of people, so first come first served and avoid a lot of queues at the various entrances. Remember that the festival opens at 8:30 in the morning but the stands will not open until 10:00 and then close at 23:00 Unless you have table reservations or reserved seats through a tour of some kind, it is crucial that you arrive at Theresienwiese early in the morning on weekends (around 9am), or before 2.30pm on weekdays. The sooner you go, the better your chances of getting a place inside the tents. Don't worry, each tent has a specific space for non-bookers, so you're likely to get in if you get there early enough.


3. Budget, payments and tips at Oktoberfest

Credit cards are practically a mirage at the Oktoberfest, they almost only accept cash: there are ATMs to withdraw cash, but the queues are very long and it is possible that they charge extra commissions. For this reason it's good to leave home prepared: the budget varies according to how much you intend to drink.. I brought €100 and have about €20 left over - keep in mind that I only bought two mugs of beer, I ate little, but I bought some souvenirs and tried two rides at Luna Park. The prices are quite high but on the other hand you don't pay a ticket for entry, so it is quite understandable. Prices for beer and food vary depending on the marquee, but you'll pay around €13 for a liter of beer, while food ranges from €6-8 for snacks to €15-20 for full plates with table service.. To spend less, I definitely recommend eating in the stalls outside the tents.

Oktoberfest, Monaco di Baviera

I therefore advise you at least €100: bring only what you are willing to spend, in order to limit yourself and not exaggerate. Remember that at the Oktoberfest it is customary to tip the waiters a few coins: 1 liter of beer costs around €13 and with tips you will get to €15. Do the math well and pay as accurately as possible because sometimes they "forget" the rest. Note that the standard for tipping is around 15%. The same goes for the use of the toilets: here too it is a good habit to leave some coins at the entrance. I must say that they deserve it: the services are excellent and well maintained, which I never expected in such a large event of this type.


4. What to wear at Oktoberfest

Oktoberfest, Monaco di Baviera

The Oktoberfest is now very popular with many foreign tourists from all over the world, but still maintains its folkloric and typical Bavarian character. I literally loved seeing the Bavarians wearing their traditional clothes: from the elderly, to women and even children. These are not mere costumes, lederhosen and dirndl are real traditional clothes called trachten. The majority of Bavarians wear very high quality ones: the many tourists who imitate these clothes with replicas for a few € can be recognized immediately and there are so many. But at the Oktoberfest it is not obligatory to wear traditional Bavarian clothes (also because I guarantee you that you will die of cold): if you don't want to spend a lot of money to buy trachten, opt for comfortable and warm clothing, and above all that it is waterproof, since it rains very often. The best thing is to dress in layers as it is always quite cold outside, while inside the tents it is very hot! Also remember that large backpacks, with volumes greater than 3l, are not allowed, so travel light and avoid carrying valuables. There are no cloakrooms inside the tents: there are some at the festival entrances but I honestly don't feel like recommending them to you.


5. Explore the Oktoberfest tents

Oktoberfest, Monaco di Baviera

You might think you could walk into any tent to get the full Oktoberfest experience, but the truth is, every Oktoberfest tent has its own atmosphere, decor and character.

Only the six traditional Munich breweries - Paulaner, Spaten, Hofbräu, Hacker-Pschorr, Augustiner and Löwenbräu - are allowed to serve beer in the Oktoberfest tents. Each marquee has its own atmosphere, style and character: try to visit them all, even without stopping for a drink in each one, you won't regret it, they are wonderful! I still find it hard to believe that every year they disassemble and reassemble such impressive and detailed structures.

Oktoberfest. Monaco di Baviera

Either way, choosing the right tent is important! It can really make a difference. If you intend to taste all six of Munich's Oktoberfest beers, you will have to visit as many tents: each one serves only its own! If you enter an Augustiner tent and will only be served Augustiner beer; in a Paulaner tent you will only drink Paulaner… Inside the marquees you will find a part of reserved tables, and a part reserved for those who do not have a reservation; outside instead there are other tables in the so-called Biergarten. If you have not booked a table, you will have to try to grab one early in the morning, or join together with some strangers and share the space! Don't worry: everyone at the Oktoberfest is extremely social and party-loving, so most people will be happy to leave you some space! Remember that at the Oktoberfest you only drink inside the tents or in the Biergarten, but only sitting at the tables!


6. What to do at Oktoberfest

Inside the beer tents:

  • Enjoy a nice mug of beer;

  • Make friends with your table neighbors, toast and participate in the choirs;

  • Sing: traditional Bavarian music is often played during the day, while in the evening there are bands playing better known and international music; serious pieces that everyone knows the words;

  • Dancing on the benches: limit yourself to the benches, because it is forbidden on the tables! Despite this, you will certainly see someone often on the tables;

  • Enjoy delicious Bavarian food – it's definitely not cheap, but it's essential for doing some cross-country skiing and it's delicious!

Oktoberfest, Monaco di Baviera

Outside the beer tents:

  • Try some rides at the funfair: the games are big and beautiful, it's not the classic traveling funfair you find at city fairs. It goes without saying that they are also quite expensive: the largest ones cost €8-10. We tried the calcinculo, which cost €8, and also the tower, also at €8: I particularly recommend these two as they allow a breathtaking view of both the festival and all of Monaco;

  • Try the classic fairground games: you can shoot to win stuffed animals, hit the pungiball, shoot cans or take a ride on the bumper cars;

  • Taste some typical street food dishes in the stalls: the prices are much more affordable than the dishes served in the tents, and you can try more things, from sweet to savoury;

  • Buy souvenirs: I warn you, the prices are quite high here too, but they sell beautifully crafted mugs of beer which I could not resist.

As you can see, even if you don't like beer, you will have a thousand ways to have fun and enjoy the Oktoberfest: don't preclude yourself from this experience just because you don't like beer or you are a teetotaler.

In any case, I guarantee you that it's really hard not to get caught up in the party spirit and resist beer: my friend never drinks it yet she ended up drinking two Maß too!


7. What to eat at Oktoberfest

Pretzel all'Oktoberfest, Monaco di Baviera

At the Oktoberfest as well as enjoying excellent German beer you can also taste delicious Bavarian specialties even if in reality you can try the same food in the city (although perhaps of higher quality) and cheaper. Each tent has its own food menu; I was remarkably surprised to find many specific dishes for vegetarians and vegans (for example cheese spätzle, vegetable strudel, mushrooms in cream, legume minestrone or seitan goulash) which I didn't expect at all in such a place.

Also, if you take a look at the menus, you can find special offers for lunch, sort of set menus.

Auszogne all'Oktoberfest, Monaco di Baviera

Prices in general are quite high, as with everything at the Oktoberfest: expect to pay €20-25 for large plates and around €8-10 for snacks like fries, currywurst, etc. Be sure to try the roast chicken, pork knuckle, giant pretzels (both sweet and savoury), Weißwurst, Käsespätzle and avoid those giant gingerbread cookies – they're cute but they're awful! As already mentioned, I advise you to eat outside the tents, trying various specialties in the external kiosks: you will save money, you can nibble throughout the day and try more different things!



8. German mini-guide - the basic vocabulary to know

The huge beer mugs that you will find at the Oktoberfest (strictly 1 liter), in Bavaria they are called Maß; don't even try to ask for "a mug", "a pint", "half a pint"... What you have to say is simply: “Eine Maß, bitte”. To say "cheers" or "cheers" you have to shout :"Prost!". It's crazy how, while drinking your beer, you will suddenly hear choirs of people yelling "Prost" and toasting with the table neighbors and then starting to sing! The atmosphere is absurd: festive, convivial and very funny! "Bitte" means "please" and is used not only to thank you but also to say "here" or when they can't hear you correctly and ask you to repeat.


Oktoberfest, Monaco di Baviera

These are the 8 essential things you need to know before leaving for your first Oktoberfest experience.

Recapitulating the key points:

  • Arrive early in the morning;

  • You only drink beer in 1-litre mugs (called Maß) and only inside the tents, seated at the tables;

  • You pay only in cash and it is mandatory to leave tips;

  • It is forbidden to carry backpacks of more than 3 liters and they will always check your bags - avoid bringing bottles of water because they will end up straight in the bin. I recommend something like the Fjällräven Kånken Hip Pack, very comfortable and the perfect size;

  • Take a stroll into central Munich - Marienplatz is hardly a 30-minute walk away;

  • Dress comfortably in layers and bring a raincoat or a mini umbrella.


If this post has made you crave beer and pretzels, I'm already anticipating the dates for the next few years, so you can get organized in time and gather a nice group of friends to go and have fun with!

Oktoberfest 2023 : Saturday 16 September - Tuesday 3 October

Oktoberfest 2024 : Saturday 21 September - Sunday 6 October

Oktoberfest 2025 : Saturday 20 September - Sunday 5 October


Hope to see you there next year, I'll be there for sure!



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