Updated September 2019!
I want to preface this guide by saying that Oktoberfest is the only mega festival I’ve ever attended that didn’t overwhelm me or crush my soul. It’s one of those things that actually lives up to the hype.
You’d think that six million people invading a city for two weeks would exhaust and annoy Munich locals. Nope! They also love the festival. Something like 80% of Oktoberfest attendees are German, and most of them are Bavarian.
Another interesting thing: Oktoberfest grosses one billion dollars in 16 days. So yeah, prepare to spend money.
Oktoberfest (for those living under a rock) is a 16-day beer drinking fair held in Munich, Germany. It’s the largest fair in the world, and it’s been running for nearly 200 years.
The six breweries that serve the event are Spaten, Augustiner, Löwenbräu, Hofbräu, Paulaner, and Hacker-Pschorr. Thanks to Germany’s beer purity laws, they’re all delicious beyond words.
The Theresienwiese is where the fairgrounds and beer tents are hosted. Beer starts being poured at 10 AM on weekdays and 9 AM o the weekends. Get there early!
Note: You do NOT need to purchase a festival/event ticket. The only time you need to book anything ever is if you want a private table.
When to go
Oktoberfest runs for two solid weeks, so there’s lots of wiggle room.
Me and Cailin showed up from Tuesday to Friday. Finding accommodations and transportation during the weekday are significantly cheaper than during the weekends! Most Germans come out on the weekends, since they’re not the ones vacationing. Usually.
But it’s pretty cool to be there when the mayor kickstarts the festivities on Saturday by tapping the first keg. There’s even a parade.
I booked my room a few months in advance, I think in May. If I were attending this year I’d probably book even earlier.
The cheaper options are obviously not near the city centre. Munich has a pretty decent transit system, but I’d honestly rather pay a little extra for convenience and stay somewhere near the fairgrounds.
The rates were drastically different during the week than over the weekend as well. Me and Cailin booked three nights with an Airbnb host, Sebastian. He was handsome, as most men from Munich seem to be. Anyway. I don’t know why I added that side note. It cost us $500CAD altogether for a good location, which was the cheapest we could find. If you go the Airbnb route, use my code to get 18 EUR off your stay.
NOTE: Airbnb hosts have the right to cancel on you without much warning. This happened to me TWICE when trying to find a place. The Airbnb customer service helped me out though by giving me extra credit.
Fun note: Some residents rent out their apartment for two weeks and make enough money to cover rent for the entire year. I wish I were joking.
THE CHEAPEST OPTION: CAMPING!
Stoke Travel has an EXCELLENT camping package for about 65 EUR ($95 CAD) a night which includes breakfast, dinner, welcome drinks, accommodations, guides, and a few other perks. There are direct transportation links to the festival grounds. This is about as cheap as it gets, especially with all those extra perks. HIGHLY recommend!
Buying your dirndl and lederhosen
Might I say that dirndls are the most flattering, sexiest costumes you’ll ever find? Hells yeah. Show them boobies!
Never mind the lederhosen’s ability to perfectly sculpt a male bum.
Calm down Candice.
I bought my dirndl in advance, in Berlin near Alexanderplatz. It cost me about 40 EUR for a full-length dress…which is actually quite cheap. If you want something super nice, budget at least 70 EUR.
Don’t get a dirndl with a hem above the knee. That’s a Halloween costume and you will be judged for it.
If you can’t get an outfit beforehand (eBay is your friend!), there are plenty of reasonable shops in Munich. I can’t stress enough the importance of having one. You’ll feel like a first rate fool without a dirndl or lederhosen to wear, and they’re just so darned FUN.
Prices on the Theresienwiese
Things aren’t cheap. I recommend filling up on a hearty meal before you arrive, at least to get you through half the day.
Of course, then you’re missing out on lots of interesting foods. Like ox tail and half chickens. Yes.
Beers are about 11 EUR a litre, and it’s appropriate to tip 1 EUR or 2. (Have you seen those beer maids? They are BUSY.) My cousin insisted that there’s no need to tip, so perhaps it’s a tourist thing to do. But we did anyway. Can’t shake these Canadian habits.
(This lady deserves her tips.)
That being said, three litres of beer will have you feeling pretty good. Five litres, and you’re probably close to comatose. The beer isn’t the priciest part of Oktoberfest — it’s the food and water. A small bottle of water will cost you freaking 4 EUR, and you can’t sneak anything into the tents. Chug water beforehand. That’s what I do.
Hopping on a fair ride will also cost you money.
Budget at least 50 EUR a day, minimum. You can probably make do with 30 EUR but you’ll be restricted.
Each tent has a very different atmosphere, but they’re all super fun.
You’ll find a more detailed list here, but these are a few noteworthy ones:
- Hacker: Hacker’s the one with the stunning Bavarian ceiling (seen above). It has seating for over 9000 people, and is popular with young folks.
- Augustiner: This is a more traditional tent, and one of my faves. The beer comes from the oldest brewery in Munich, where the beer is still tapped from wooden kegs. It tends to be quieter in the afternoon until evening hits.
- Armbrustschützenzelt: I didn’t go into this one, but apparently the food is delicious. And crossbow championships are held here. Yes. Seven thousand people and a bunch of crossbows seems like a great combination.
- Marstall: The newest tent on the block, this one’s a bit quieter and more suited to an older crowd.
- Hofbräu: An enormous and rowdy tent, where a ton of tourists hang out. Especially Australians.
- Schottenhamel: This is one of the oldest tents at Oktoberfest, and arguably the most traditional. This is where the mayor taps the keg on the first day.
- Löwenbräu: Another tent hugely popular with foreigners. Party on!
Not to be missed
Me and Cailin actually didn’t realise that Oktoberfest had its own fairgrounds. We were kind of just expecting tents, and lots of beer. Nope.
If you want to participate in a little bit of German schadenfreude, you have to check out The Devil’s Wheel. You can watch people on one of those merry-go-rounds cling on for dear life until the last person is flung into oblivion, heels over dirndls and so on.
My absolute favourite was the Toboggan ride. It’s basically a conveyer belt that moves people up a ramp, where then they have to climb up a ladder and slide down a wooden slide on a mattress.
Sound easy? Show up at 11 PM when all the drunks are showcasing their bravado and stepping onto the belt with all the ease of a baby taking its first steps. Me and Cailin observed for an hour, laughing hysterically. Watching people take hard tumbles and then flail around with arms and legs in the air like giant cockroaches was one of the funniest things I have ever witnessed, ever.
Wait, maybe my favourite thing was the beer merry-go-round. It’s a rotating bar. Oh my god. I can’t even. They sold hefeweizen, which is my all-time favourite.
We also did a day tour with Viator on one of our days (we did a different one than the one listed here, but pretty much the same itinerary). We were introduced to a little part of Munich (basically all I saw for the entire time) and then treated to breakfast beers. Our guide gave us a solid run-down of the tents, as well as a little background history. Our ticket price included a reserved table (crazy expensive otherwise) and a big ‘ol plate of grilled chicken. Seriously the most delicious thing ever.
Pick one day to show up super early.
Before noon. Walk around, and soak up the atmosphere. That’s half of it. You’ll appreciate the fact that parents even come out with their families.
One of my favourite memories happened while walking through the grounds, still sober. A guy stopped suddenly in front of me and Cailin, tossed his head back, and screamed, “JOELLLLL!” at the top of his lungs in the most extraordinarily dramatic fashion.
A guy walked up behind him and slapped him on the back. “I’m right here buddy.”
Okay, moving on.
If you find a table, and you like the tent, stick to it.
You might not find a table for the rest of the day! On our first night, we totally lucked into a table. Some Israelis grabbed a free one and so we rushed to join them, and then an Italian joined us, and before we knew it, we were all BFFs.
If this doesn’t work, Hofbrauhaus has a large standing area.
Learn some of the songs before you.
I mean, it’s easy to learn as you go. But there’s nothing like standing up and clinking glasses with your fellow table-mates while belting out “EIN PROSIT!” at the top of your lungs.
You really don’t wanna be that person that passes out by 5 PM.
On our first night, a girl fell off a table and smacked her head on the floor. Then a really drunk German guy from Cologne came and sat next to me, smelling like he shit his pants.
After a brief five minute conversation he asked me to sleep with him. “NO!” I screamed, not sure whether to be horrified or amused.
“Will she sleep with me?” he asked, pointing to Cailin.
“What about her?” (Moving on to the next girl.)
Don’t be that guy.
Anything to add? Leave me a comment!
I’m by no means an expert, and I’d love to hear your tips for the next time. And oh yes, there will be a next time.