This list of Oktoberfest tips is based on my Munich Oktoberfest experiences in 2006, 2011, 2012, and 2013.
Despite subjecting my liver to a gluttony of beer guzzling greatness, I am thankfully still alive to offer you this advice. These are things TO DO and NOT DO to make the absolute most of your Oktoberfest trip to Munich.
Oktoberfest does not start in October as some people expect. Oktoberfest is a 16-day festival that begins mid-late September and ends the first weekend in October:
Oktoberfest 2017 Dates: September 16 – October 3
Oktoberfest 2018 Dates: September 22 – October 7
Oktoberfest 2019 Dates: September 21 – October 6
Oktoberfest 2020 Dates: September 19 – October 4
My first visit to Oktoberfest was in 2006, before online hotel / hostel booking sites became ubiquitous. I was told that while backpacking Europe I could just show up to cities and find hostels on arrival. This was generally true, but IMPOSSIBLE during Oktoberfest.
After checking with a dozen hostels a helpful German girl told me I should just sleep in a park or train station. After a long day of traveling, and only a single beer at Oktoberfest, I carried my backpack to one of Munich’s parks and slept on a bench like a homeless dude. Not cool.
By 11 pm, I was so cold that I made my way to the train station where I tried to sleep on uncomfortable chairs with other ‘homeless’ Oktoberfest attendees. In the morning, I booked the cheapest ticket I could find out of Munich, to Salzburg, Austria, where I had to pay 100€ for a bed. Lesson: Make sure you have accommodation before you arrive!!!
You will find cheaper hotel and hostel rates in Munich, and nearby towns, 4-6+ months before Oktoberfest begins. Be sure to check the cancellation policies before booking as many hotels and hostels require 100% pre-payment and no refunds. Remember, more than 6 million people attend Oktoberfest each year so demand outstrips supply.
I have stayed at Jaeger’s Munich and the Euro Youth Hostel in Munich in previous years. Both were reasonably priced and great locations for getting to and from the train station and Oktoberfest grounds. If you have a large group, consider renting a multi-bedroom apartment or hotel room. though often they’ll charge based on the number of people, rather than number of beds, so ensure you know the true cost before booking.
I know a lot of people in Munich but have never met up with them during Oktoberfest. Unless you know someone really well, realize that their beds, sofas, and floors are in high demand from their close friends. Lots of Germans from nearby villages commute into Munich for Oktoberfest and crash with friends or family.
It’s worth trying to secure free accommodation but don’t surprised if people can’t commit. It’s also a good possibility people will say they can host you but change their mind close to the festival. I find CouchSurfing hosts are flaky at the best times so, if you’ve saved up the Oktoberfest beer money, plan to cough up for a bed as well.
Flights to Munich can be expensive during Oktoberfest. One of my best Oktoberfest trips was when I flew to Frankfurt with three friends and drove to Munich, via Stuttgart, on the Autobahns. Even with four big dudes in the car, and all of our luggage, we still got our Mercedes-Benz rental up to 230+ km/hr on the Autobahn; a tick off the bucket list in itself.
Munich has exceptional public transit and lots of accommodation within walking distance of the Oktoberfest grounds. If you’re going to Oktoberfest, you will likely be drinking and shouldn’t be driving. Plus, parking can be expensive and tough to find. Do yourself a favour and put the car rental costs towards another round of beer!
Oktoberfest is massive and there is a lot to see and do. I would recommend spending at least 1.5 days exploring the Oktoberfest grounds and trying as many beers and tents as you can. I have met people who try to save 40€ on accommodation by traveling to Munich in the morning and departing that same evening. My opinion is that commuters are unable to let loose and truly enjoy themselves. Spend the extra money for a bed and make the most of your day!
While partying for 2 or 3 days is fun and doable, any more than that and you will be physically and mentally drained. After a few days, your body will crave water, vegetables, and sleep. There is no point in paying the high price to stay in Munich if you aren’t able to go out and rip it up.
Twisted on my Third and Final Day
Consider chasing your Oktoberfest with a trip to the nearby Austrian Alps to recover in the fresh air and soul-nourishing scenery.
Every Oktoberfest tent is a little different. There are 14 different Oktoberfest tents in the grounds. They all serve different food and beer, play different music, have unique decorations, or attract different crowds.
You can find online guides that explain all of the tents but my favourites are:
Hofbrau Festzelt: Most have heard of the Hofbrau Haus beer hall in Munich; the Hofbrau Festzelt is its Oktoberfest sister. Hofbrau Festzelt is the wildest and most touristy of the tents, but also the most welcoming in my experience. I’ve found it to be the easiest tent to find a seat and meet English speaking tourists and locals. Encouraging the international crowd is a wide assortment of music, include John Denver’s “Country Roads” to sing along to. I love the big, natural lit, ceiling and 16 tons of hops suspended from the roof. If you can’t find a seat there is also standing area in the Hofbrau Haus that holds up to 1000 people. Only problem is you need to stand and drink your beer which is fine for one but tiring for a day. The Hofbrau Fetzelt serves Hofbrau Beer.
Hofbrau Fetzelt – The Most International Oktoberfest Tent
Hacker Festzelt: I love this tent because its ceiling is painted like a dreamy blue sky with puffy white clouds. Hacker Festzelt is popular with both tourists and locals. The band plays traditional and modern tunes so there’s some Bavarian tradition mixed in with the drunken madness. They keep 1200 seats as first-come-first-served but you’ll want to be there in the morning on weekdays, and before the doors open on the weekends, to get seats. The Hacker Festzelt serves Hacker-Pschorr Beer.
Schutzen Festzelt: If you love music, singing at the top of your lungs, and dancing on the benches (but NEVER the tables), this is your tent. The entire crowd gets into every song, whether in German or English, giving this tent an especially festive atmosphere. In addition to the great music, Schutzen Festzelt has a nice outdoor patio and serves booze, schnapps, wine, champagne, and even Red-Bull Vodka for those who *gasp* don’t love beer. The Shutzen Festzelt serves Lowenbrau Beer.
Visit Schutzen Festzelt Tent for Singing and Dancing
For my first visits to Oktoberfest, I spent hours researching the best tents trying to come up with an itinerary or plan. In reality, you’re going to end up in the first tent that has available seating or your friends are going to. Don’t stress about which tent you end up in but remember the three I listed above as ‘go-tos’ for a good time. Don’t be shy. Germans often speak English, especially after a few beers, so if you are having a hard time finding fun people hold up your Maß and Prost with a table mate.
When the weather is good in Munich Oktoberfest is especially enjoyable. There are thousands of outdoor patio seats which makes it far easier to find a place to sit, both inside and outside.
While I love drinking beers in the hot sunshine, be cautious. Wear sunscreen and drink lots of water as dehydration or heat stroke will quickly destroy your Oktoberfest festivities.
Although the Wies’n is where the main Oktoberfest tents are, if you would rather be in a less chaotic atmosphere, you can find beer gardens all over town. There’s even a beer garden at the Munich Airport!
If rain is forecast, I recommend looking for a table indoors right away. If you’re outside when it begins to rain expect thousands of people to rush to the tents and the doors to be closed as capacity is reached.
In the 16-17th century, traditional Bavarian outfits were every-day apparel and worn for everything from working in the fields to walking around town. Thankfully, this tradition has been preserved and the majority of people dress up for Oktoberfest.
Unfortunately, it is not cheap to buy a Bavarian outfit. You can expect to spend a couple hundred euros for a low-quality outfit and 800+ euros for a high-quality one. I believe buying a Bavarian outfit is worth the price as I met a lot more Germans and felt like I was truly part of the Oktoberfest tradition.
Owning Oktoberfest in C&A Lederhosen
I bought my lederhosen at C&A (a large department store) when I arrived in Munich. Recently, I’ve seen lots of stores that sell cheaper lederhosen and dirndl near the train station. If you would prefer to purchase everything online before you arrive, I have read that Stockerpoint (for Brits) and Ebay seller alpensehnsucht (for Americans) are good options.
Remember, lederhosen and dirndl are not costumes, they are traditional Bavarian outfits. Don’t offend your gracious German hosts by making light of the historical significance of the clothing.
You’ll invariably see loads of tourists wearing stupid shirts and big poofy hats. They look ridiculous so save your money for beer, food, or a proper Bavarian outfit.
Oktoberfest Babes Don’t Like Dumb Shirts and Poofy Hats
The beer served at Wies’n (Oktoberfest grounds) usually contains 5.0-6.0% alcohol by volume, has a mild hop profile, and is typically called Bavarian Märzenbier.
Back in the day, before refrigeration, it was tough to brew beer in the summer due to the risk of bacterial infections in hot weather. Because of this, most brewing ended in the early Spring, in March (Märzen), and kept in cold storage or brewed at high gravity (ABV) so it would stay drinkable through the summer months. After summer was over, all of the remaining beer could be served at Oktoberfest! Thank goodness for leftovers.
Most beer at Oktoberfest is served in huge 1-liter mugs called Maß (pronounced: mass). Maß means stone in German and refers to when beer mugs were stoneware instead of glass. Not only is it fun drinking out of a huge mug, but it helps the servers keep up with the thousands of people drinking beer non-stop.
Although you’ll find Märzenbier in most tents, definitely try to sample other styles of beer while in Bavaria. Check out my German Beer Review for suggestions.
Every year I am thoroughly disappointed by some of the beer chugging attempts I see. At some of the tents, especially the Hofbrau Festzelt, people will stand on the benches, hold up their full Maß to the crowd, and try to chug it down while everyone claps and cheers.
Sadly, most attempts to chug a Maß are incredibly slow, end before the beer is finished, or involve a lot of spilling. When this happens, the crowd’s cheers quickly turn to boos.
I recommend sitting and enjoying your beer with friends over conversation as it’s best to pace your consumption. Then again, sometimes challenges must be accepted. One year, I had enough of Italian chugging failures that I decided to show them how it’s done.
How to Chug Beer at Oktoberfest: Maß Goes Up & Beer Goes Down
How to Chug Beer at Oktoberfest: Only Raise Maß Once Empty
The best way to learn Oktoberfest traditions is to meet Bavarians. I have found many locals are understandably not interested in celebrating with foreigners but may open up after drinking.
At the Hofbrau, Hacker, and Schutzen tents most Germans are happy to chat and celebrate with tourists.
German Couple Who Have Drank at Hofbrau Festzelt Every Year for 30+ Years
You may be surprised at how Oktoberfest seating works. The tables are really and you just sit wherever you can, usually with total strangers. Many of my best Oktoberfest drinking companions have been randoms at the start of the day and great friends by the evening. Be friendly and social and you’ll have a great time.
If you can’t find a seat right away don’t give up. I have found servers are often helpful in securing seats so don’t hesitate to ask them for help. I’ve even seen them kick out people who have had too much to make space for new paying customers. If the tents are packed inside, consider drinking on outdoor patios or ordering a beer in the standing areas until you see a place open up.
Although it is always better to arrive early and secure a table, I have always managed to find somewhere to sit in the afternoons. If you see reserved tables, check with the servers what time they need become available. I’ve often sat at reserved tables after promising to leave prior to the reservation time, which is often 3-4 pm.
Germans love to prost (pa-roast) which is the German word for cheers! Expect a light workout from lifting your heavy Maß over and over again as your table-mates celebrate the festivities.
Ein Prosit (eyen pro-sit) Der Gemütlichkeit (Dar Gay-mute-lish-kite) is also commonly said by Germans at Oktoberfest as they raise glasses. Ein Prosit Der Gemütlichkeit roughly translates to mean “I salute our friendship and good times”.
Zum Wohl (sum voil) added to the end of acheers at the end means “to your health” and G’suffa (zuffa) means to take a big gulp of your drink.
Drinking is a Friendly Activity in Germany
Even more importantly than using the correct words is to remember to look people in the eyes when you cheers . It is said that those who do not make eye contact will have 7 years of bad sex – nicht gut! Some Germans, especially inebriated ones, take this very seriously. At my first Oktoberfest, I failed to make eye contact with a drunk German and he stared at me with hatred for over an hour.
Europeans are a lot smarter than other countries when it comes to clinking glasses. Many of us tap the top of our glasses, where they’re weakest and most likely to break, but Germans tap the bottom of their mugs where they’re strongest. Nothing sadder than a broken mug and lost beer.
On the Verge of Tears from a Failed Cheers
There are a lot of different songs played at Oktoberfest and the locals will know the words to all of them. In my opinion, the most important song to learn is Ein Prosit (I Salute You).
This song is seemingly played every 15 minutes in tents to get people to cheers, drink, and order more beer.
The song starts with Ein Prosit (Eyn Pro-zit) Der Gemütlichkeit (Dare Gay-mute-lich-kite) (I salute our friendship and good times). This is followed by a countdown to G’suffa (zuffa) when you cheers and take a gulp of beer. The band then asks the crowd if they’re having having fun with either Zicke Zacke Zicke Zacke or Ticke Tacke Ticke Tacke and you roar a response of Hoi Hoi Hoi!
For some reason, large groups of foreigners, especially Italians with ‘popped collars’, feel the need to scream out their local football club songs. It’s annoying and has nothing to do with Bavaria, Oktoberfest, or beer drinking. Leave the football chants for when grown men dive all over the field looking for a flag (or Oscar nomination).
Plan on spending 10€ for a Maß and 10-20€ per meal. While you should be able to have a great day on 50€, I’d bring 100€+ for unexpected expenses. Who knows, you may get lost and need a taxi home or be invited to an epic afterparty. Make sure you carry enough to have a great time but don’t get carried away; there’s no need to throw around excessive money to have fun.
Twice the Money = Twice the Beers
After a few beers, your judgement is going to be impaired and you may do stupid things. By setting your financial ‘stupid limit’ early on you can save yourself a lot of money.
I had the same server for two Oktoberfests in a row at the Hofbrau Festzelt. Both years she was fantastic to me. She found my group tables both years and kept the beer flowing smoothly all day. For some insane reason, at the end of my last Oktoberfest, I thanked her by tipping a crisp 100€ note. Not smart and not necessary since we’d been tipping her all day. I guess the beer and festive atmosphere increased my stupid limit that day.
If I hadn’t brought out a 100€ bill with me that night, I’d have had 10 more Maß on our table the next day. My liver is probably happy I tipped away the cash but I feel like an idiot.
100€ Oktoberfest Server / Legend
Everything in Munich looks different at night, especially after a few beers. Plus, with tens of thousands of drunk people in the streets, it can be tough to navigate through the crowds. Get to know where you’re staying, and how to find your bed, before getting sloshed and lost.
Even with a smartphone map, be sure to carry the address and a paper map just in case your phone dies or ends up soaked in beer.
I’ve only taken taxis twice during Oktoberfest, and both times I was ripped off. I think German taxi drivers are typically honest and friendly, but drunk tourists are just too ripe a target to pass up.
My first misadventure began after we searched for our accommodation for an hour and couldn’t find it. We told the taxi driver our address and he told us it would cost 20€ to drive to the hotel. Thinking I was a shrewd negotiator, I told him we were not willing to pay more than 10€. He agreed and I thought we’d done well. That was until he drove us one block, turned the corner, and stopped at our hotel. A 3-minute walk. ARGGH! Well-played taxi man, well-played.
Taxis Are Mercedes-Benzes for a Reason…
The other time, after partying in the tents, we asked the taxi driver to take us to a fun bar or nightclub. I swear he drove us to Fucking, Austria, where he dropped us off at a bar in the middle of the forest. We went in, ordered a drink, realized it was brothel, not a bar, and left. We then had to pay the exact same taxi driver to drive us back to civilization. He was Greek, so perhaps a brothel is his idea of a fun bar, but it wasn’t what we were after at all. Our evening taxi tour of Germany cost us over 100€ and a wasted evening.
If you plan to drink a lot of beer, make sure you eat lots to soak up the booze. I usually stick to the roast chicken (hendl) and giant pretzels (brezn) but there are loads of other food options at Oktoberfest. Unique foods at the tents include the spit-roasted Ox at the Spatenbrau and fish on a stick at Fischer Vroni.
I love amusement parks and have done several of the crazy rides at Oktoberfest without a problem. That was before I heard all the stories of drunk riders puking all over their fellow passengers. I have no interest in being on the receiving end of that nonsense. Nope. Nope. Nope. Never again.
You probably know that Australians love to travel the world and drink heaps of beer. These factors combine to make Australians a common sight all over Munich during Oktoberfest. What you may not know is that Australian Football League (AKA Footy) usually has its Grand Final in late September / early October, often coinciding with Oktoberfest.
If you love sports, or just drinking massive beers for breakfast, consider visiting Ned Kelly’s Bar on Grand Final day. The time zone difference means kick-off will be around 06:30 am Munich time.
When I watched the AFL Grand Final with Aussie hostel mates, there was a huge line-up outside Ned Kelly’s at 6am! The bar was packed and I couldn’t believe how much of a party there was before sunrise. Beer for breakfast and good times!
I’ll admit I was practically sleeping on the table by half-time, but it was still a memorable Oktoberfest experience!
Aussie Oktoberfest Madness
Munich is an amazing city filled with great architecture, parks, history, museums, restaurants, bars, and other excellent tourist sites. Unless you will never return to Munich, enjoy Oktoberfest and save the sightseeing for another visit. There’s no point in paying exorbitant hotel prices and sightseeing with 6 million tourists when you could be drinking beer!
If you want to sightsee Munich, consider staying extra nights before or after Oktoberfest when Munich is less crowded.
Have a great time and go with the flow. If you have your own Oktoberfest tips, please tell me in the comment section below. Cheers!
A worthy list and I have to agree with everything on the list, although the chances are that you will become so consumed with the atmosphere and drink so much that you will lose our list and find yourself searching for your digs at 4 in the morning whilst freezing your gonads off.
As someone who lived in Germany for 5 years in the 90’s, September through to January can be a blur if you’re not careful. So many festivals about cheese, wine, meat………they all have one thing in common, Beer.
A few more things to consider.
The strength of the beer that you are drinking. None of it is watered down for starters. The Germans don’t do watered down beer so take you time, pace yourself and be sure to take advantage of the food that is always on offer in your ‘tent’.
The place is heaving with people and getting to the toilet can be difficult. You don’t want to lose your seat but you also don’t want to pee on the floor (which many do).
Much like the warning of ‘never eat yellow snow’, you would be advised not to drink any drink that appears to be ‘left unattended’. If it is yellow, warm and unattended then it isn’t beer!!
Take care when you stand up. You are waited on by those buxom barmaids so can drink a bath of beer without the need to move an inch. Be warned.
Be prepared to get wet. I’m not talking about the rain either. Although friendly, it can get very rowdy with lots of table walking and sloshing.
It gets deceptively cold very quickly in Germany at that time of year, particularly at night. The locals may look great in their costumes during the early evening but beer and cold don’t mix, particularly when you find yourself lost down a quaint little street with scantily clad ladies in the windows.
Have a goodun and enjoy.
Great, accurate advice. I thought no tourists could be more obnoxious than Americans until I encountered the endless groups of Italians at Oktoberfest. A map back to your flat is critical, nothing like spending 100 euros on a bed you can’t find.