Führer zum Münchner Oktoberfest
Attended by millions, enormous in scale, and tonally somewhere between an amusement park and an all-you-can-drink extravaganza, Oktoberfest promises an abundance of sensory overwhelm and joyful celebration. The annual festival—which, despite its name, actually begins in late September each year, and lasts for roughly 2.5 weeks—originated as a celebration of the wedding of the future King Louis I and Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen on October 12, 1810.
Since then, Oktoberfest has been held at Munich’s Theresienwiese park, and has grown into a larger-than-life spectacle that’s on the bucket list of beer drinkers everywhere. If you’re visiting for the first time, there are some Oktoberfest basics you need to know. Brush up with our guide, and you’ll be partying, singing, and swinging steins with the best of them.
Dress to impress
When in Rome, right?
Sure, you don’t have to wear a dirndl or lederhosen to attend Oktoberfest—but if you don’t, you’ll be in the minority. Both Germans and international visitors alike don tracht, or traditional garb, for the event, and if you want to really indulge in the spirit of gemütlichkeit, it’s worth investing in an outfit of your own. If you can’t order one in advance, Munich specialist shops and department stores carry a wide range of styles. And if you’re really pressed for time, you can even pick up an outfit from stalls in and around the Munich Central Station (München Hauptbahnhof).
Get acquainted with festbier
You’ll have to at least learn to like it.
Lager lovers, this one’s for you. There is famously just one beer style poured at Oktoberfest. and no—it’s no longer the rich, amber-hued lagers you’ve probably seen sold as Oktoberfest seasonals. Instead, the drink of choice at the Theresienwiese is festbier: a strong, golden lager that clocks in between 5.8–6.3 percent ABV, and which is a little bit like a suped-up Munich helles. The style supplanted malty märzen at the festival grounds several decades ago, and it was only added to the official Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) beer style guidelines in 2015.
Book your tent reservations in advance
You don’t want to miss out on the “Big Six.”
Every year, Munich’s “Big Six” breweries—Hofbräu, Paulaner, Hacker-Pschorr, Augustiner, Spaten, and Löwenbräu—occupy enormous “tents,” in Oktoberfest parlance, which are really closer to mammoth drinking stadiums. Table reservations are made at the respective breweries, and open in the spring; you may need to book a half or whole table at a time, or pay for vouchers in advance. Too late to grab a booking? Oktoberfest tours and advance-booking options take the hassle out of the experience, while 35 percent of tables are left free for walk-ins (50 percent on weekends and holidays).
Insider tip: If you don’t have any reservations, make sure you arrive from late morning onwards to bypass the crowds.
Explore the smaller tents, too
Bigger isn't always better.
Drinkers have varying preferences among the Big Six—Hacker Pschorr’s cloud-bedecked ceiling makes it pretty as a picture, while Augustiner is the only brewery to pour its festbier directly from wooden barrels. But once you’ve taken in the supersized spectacle, it’s worth seeking out Oktoberfest’s smaller tents. To experience Oktoberfest as it once was, head to the more relaxed Festzelt Tradition tent, where you can listen to oompah bands perform, watch folk dancers, and sip your beer directly from ceramic mugs.
Soak up the beer
Don’t skip the stomach-lining snacks.
If you’re swigging liter upon liter of festbier, it’s wise to line your stomach. Luckily, food is also a key component of the Oktoberfest experience. The tents will have varying menus, but you’re certain to find roast chicken (or Wiesnhendl), a staple of the festival, as well as hearty German fare such as bratwurst. If carbs are more your thing, cheese spaetzle and knödel dumplings are good stomach-liners, while schweinshaxe, or pork knuckle, is best for when you’ve really got an appetite.
Learn “Ein Prosit”
And get ready to hear it everywhere.
If you haven’t heard “Ein Prosit” at least 300 times during your Oktoberfest stint, you clearly haven’t stayed long enough. The good-natured drinking song amounts to the festival’s anthem, and no matter where you are, you’re sure to hear resident bands strike up the tune sooner rather than later. Luckily, its lyrics are very simple to learn; don’t be afraid to belt it out while holding your beer aloft:
Ein Prosit, ein Prosit
Ein Prosit, ein Prosit
Which is then followed by a toast: Oans, zwoa, drei, g’suffa!
Explore more of Munich
Go beyond Oktoberfest festivities.
Don’t make Oktoberfest your one and only Munich stop. It’s worth breaking up your time at the festival with some sightseeing—or at least a sobering walk around the city’s tranquil English Gardens. Exploring by bike is a good way to sweat out the beer and see the sights, while the city’s many museums (including the Beer and Oktoberfest Museum) reward culture lovers. And if your thirst still hasn’t been quenched, you can visit the Hofbräuhaus, taste beers from other popular Bavarian breweries the likes of Ayinger and Schneider, and plan supplementary visits to local bierkellers and biergartens.