Here’s a look at the ins and outs of the world’s most iconic beer festival from a local who knows the ropes.
If you haven’t been to Munich’s Oktoberfest, you’re missing out on the real deal. Here are ten tips for making the most of your visit to the world’s largest and longest running beer fest.
1. Learn the lingo
Oktoberfest has its own vocabulary. It’s not a “stein” of beer, it’s a “mass”. The “a” in mass is pronounced like the sound you make as you take that first sip of German brew — ah! You don’t say “Cheers” as you toast your drinking companions, it’s “Prost.” And finally, don’t call it Oktoberfest unless you want to be pegged as a tourist. The locals call it Wiesn — their nickname for the Theresienwiese, the grounds on which the festival is held each year.
2. Shoes are your friends
More than six million people visit Munich’s Oktoberfest every year. Your toes are going to get stepped on by at least one of them so your best bet for footwear is sturdy, closed-toe shoes or boots. Sorry, ladies — do yourself a favor and leave the cute heels that match your Dirndl at home.
3. Dress the part
No one is going to kick you out if you don’t wear Lederhosen or a Dirndl, but you might feel out of place in your jeans and t-shirt. Germans wear these traditional outfits to local beer gardens on the weekends. You’d better believe they’ll be decked out for this event. If you don’t want to spend a lot for something you’ll only wear for a few days, check out the local secondhand shops or discount stores like T. K. Maxx or even grocery stores like Aldi.
4. Make a reservation
Unless you plan on being one of the first people to enter the festival grounds in the morning, don’t count on getting a table in the beer tents without a reservation. There is no central reservation system; you have to contact the “landlord” of each tent you plan to visit. The official website has a helpful list of contacts to make this a bit easier.
5. Don’t leave your table unattended
If you have a reservation or are lucky enough to snag some empty seats, don’t leave your table unattended. Someone will swoop in and take your spot in a hot second.
6. Mind your manners
Unless you want to deal with a cranky Kellnerin, it’s important to remember to be polite to the waitstaff. Remember, they have to fend off drunk customers while carrying around heavy glasses of beer all day long. They are not in the mood to deal with your nonsense and neither is the security staff.
7. Swiping souvenirs
Thinking of taking one of the beer mugs home for a souvenir? Unless you want to end up charged with theft — don’t. Buy the official collector’s mug instead.
8. Cash is king
Some of the tents and vendor booths accept credit cards, but not all of them. Plan on bringing cash with you and plenty of it. A good estimate is €50 per person just for food and drinks. There are ATMs on-site, but when I was there last year, two of the three near the entrance were out of cash.
9. Avoid the crowds
Part of the fun of going to Oktoberfest is being surrounded by people with the same goal as you — to eat and drink your way through the beer tents, enjoy some rides, and partake in the festive atmosphere. But too many people just means fewer open seats and long lines. The police can (and do) close the entrances from time to time when they feel that overcrowding is becoming an issue. If that happens, only guests with reservations in one of the tents are allowed in until the crowds begin to thin.
The same thing is true for each of the beer tents. At any time, the doors can be closed if the tents become too crowded. As some guests leave, an equal number will be allowed to enter.
10. Closing time
All but one beer tent closes at 11:30 p.m. and last call is one hour before. If you want to party on, you’ll need to claim a seat at the Käfer Wiesn-Schänke or switch to wine at the Kufflers Weinzelt.