One of the biggest festivals in Germany is Oktoberfest in Munich! People come from all over the world to drink beer, eat pretzels, sing, and enjoy the rides for three weeks. And if you’re an American living in Bavaria, Germany, it’s an easy day trip…relatively speaking.
If you don’t do your research, you may find yourself packed on the train at 9pm in the evening with a bunch of other drunk fest attendees trying to get home. But if you follow these steps, you’ll have an Oktoberfest worth remembering!
Oktoberfest in Munich: Traditions
Oktoberfest is also known as “Theresienwiese” or just “Wiesn” for short. Local Bavarians have used this colloquial term since the first fest began in 1810 as a wedding celebration for Prince Ludwig of Bavaria and Princess Therese of Sachsen-Hildburghausen.
The celebration was so popular they decided to continue the volksfest, known today as “Oktoberfest.”
Today, you will find that many of the same traditions exist for the festival.
– Oktoberfest always takes place in late September to early October for about 16 days straight.
– On the first day (usually a Saturday), there’s always a parade welcoming the people, band, and of course, the beer.
– At exactly noon, the Mayor will officially tap the beer at the Schottenhammel tent. 12 gunshots are then fired to signal the start for the other tents.
– You can only be served beer & food if sitting at a table. On the weekends, you MUST arrive early (especially if in a large group) if you want to get non-reserved seats.
– The first Sunday is “Gay Okotberfest” or “Rosa Wiesn” in the Bräurosl (Hacker-Pschorr) tent in support of the LGBT community.
– Beers are served by the liter in a traditional beer stein or “Maß.” Each year, there’s an official collector’s mug designed by a German artist.
– BRING CASH. Like many parts of Germany, this is definitely a cash only event, but there’s ATMs everywhere for those who continue to forget.
These are just a few of many traditions you will see when visiting Oktoberfest in Munich. Below we will get into the traditional attire, as well as customs and courtesies, but first, let’s talk about how to actually get there.
How to Get to Oktoberfest
Ultimately, you don’t need to map directions from your starting point to the fest grounds. You need directions to the train station!
If you have a designated driver, we highly recommend taking a car. It means you’ll spend less time crowded onto the trains with (potentially) very drunk people, and you have a bit more control over your schedule.
Park at Allianz Arena (Bahnhof Fröttmaning) for just €1 per day. If your DD happens to get too drunk, you can leave your car overnight and pay €3 for every additional day your car is parked.
Then, take the U6 from Fröttmaning train station going towards Klinikum Großhadern, and get off on Goetheplatz. Once you arrive, just follow the crowd to the festplatz!
The city is prepared for Oktoberfest in Munich: they have more trains than usual, and the staff is ready to help visitors make their way to the festplatz (Theresienwiese, 80336 München).
Depending on which trains and station are most convenient for you, there are multiple ways to get to Oktoberfest. Theresienwiese is the most recommended destination station, but you can also walk from Goetheplatz, Poccistraße or Schwanthalerhöhe.
What to Wear to Oktoberfest
You may feel out of place wearing leather pants or a dress with an apron, but at Oktoberfest in Munich, you’ll fit right in!
Trachten, like lederhosen and dirndl, are traditionally worn at Bavarian fests. While men almost always wear lederhosen with checkered shirts, women may wear dirndl or lederhosen. But sometimes you’ll find a dude wearing a dirndl!
And the garment isn’t complete without some accessories. Buttons, hats, necklaces, and bow ties are just the beginning of the flair!
In fact, you’ll see many of these accessories sold at the event, such as heart shaped pins or necklaces with Bavarian messages, and name engraved pegs aka “Wiesn Glupperl.”
Bottom line: if you think you’re too cool to wear trachten, you might be in the wrong place.
What to Do at Oktoberfest
At any given time, there will be a band playing somewhere. They may march through your tent, or they may just parade through the fest grounds!
There are also tons of carnival rides and games. Enjoy the view of the festplatz from the ferris wheel, ride a roller coaster or two, and test the strength of your stomach on whatever this ride is:
Which Tent to Choose at Oktoberfest
This may seem like the most stressful decision to make about Oktoberfest in Munich: which tent do I choose?
No doubt you’ve heard how difficult it is to get a reservation for a table in a tent. And while this may be true, you don’t actually need a reservation to sit at a table.
A reservation just guarantees that you can sit at a table for a certain period of time.
Pro tip: Whenever you think about going to the bathroom, go to the bathroom! The lines will be insanely long (for women, at least), and you’ll want to be pro-active about your bladder situation. But one at a time! If everyone leaves the table, you might not find your seat when you return!
If you don’t make a reservation, we highly recommend you arrive early (ESPECIALLY on the weekends).
And by early, we mean before 9 a.m. You may not think you’re ready to drink beer at 9 a.m., but after getting ready, seeing everyone else in their trachten, and smelling all the delicious food…you’ll be ready for a beer.
Plus, when you arrive that early, the tents aren’t packed yet, so the morning is a bit more relaxed. It’ll be easier to order beer and food, and you can prepare yourself for the shenanigans that will ensue.
Because shenanigans will ensue.
Oktoberfest in Munich or Go Local
While Oktoberfest is no doubt one of the best festivals to visit during September/October, there are other opportunities to “get your fest on” in Germany.
Before going to Oktoberfest, try visiting a smaller, local event to get you prepared for the big one in Munich.
The video below will show you what to expect for your first German beer festival.
I personally love these smaller events because they’re not as intimidating as Oktoberfest, they don’t have a bunch of crazy tourist who have no idea about customs/traditions, and they’re cheaper!
Other festivals to consider are the Starkbier fest (strong beer fest) and the Flosser Kirwa – Frühschoppen aka “Bavarian Breakfast Party.”
At the exact same location of the Munich Oktoberfest, you can also check out Frühlingsfest (Springfest) in April, or the Tollwood festival in the winter time.
With these simple tips, you’ll be prepared for all the German festivals and seasons of the year!