One of the most celebrated festivals in the world is Oktoberfest! It has become so popular that it is no longer celebrated in only Germany, but also all over the world. Almost every city has its own version of Oktoberfest in the United States, but nothing compares to the real deal in Munich! That is why thousands of people travel to Munich to celebrate Oktoberfest during the months of late September to October. Whether you are backpacking through Germany or have just one day in Munich, Oktoberfest definitely needs to be on your German itinerary! Moreover, if you have a list of countries to visit before 30, going to Germany during Oktoberfest should definitely be on it. With that said, there is so much information to know before your trip to Oktoberfest, such as where to rent lederhosen, which tents are the best, how to book tables and more. That is why I have created this guide of Oktoberfest for first-timers. My guide will cover everything you need to know to have an epic time at Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany!
Expect prices for all accommodation to be high in Munich during Oktoberfest! Plan well in advance. Once you book your flight, book your hotel. An average hotel price for a decent hotel is around $180 a night and at least $250 for luxury hotels. Hostels will be the cheapest option but will fill up even quicker than hotels. Airbnb also costs an average of $150 and increase as they get closer to Oktoberfest. The last option is Couchsurfing, which is what we did, but we got extremely lucky. Most couch surfers only opened their places to their friends or said not to contact them during Oktoberfest. If you choose to go this route, you will be emailing a lot of hosts, but if you are as lucky as we were, it will be worth it!
Lederhosen and Dirndl
No Oktoberfest is complete without your Bavarian lederhosen and/or dirndl.
Men wear lederhosen, which translates to “leather breeches” and that is exactly what they are – leather pants or shorts. Lederhosen was created around the 16th century in the Bavarian area of Germany to accommodate the farmers and laborers with their work. What was once used for labor is now used for pleasure. The other half of the costume is the shirt, traditionally it is a white button down shirt, but in today’s generation, you will find colorful plaid shirts too. Lastly, the high socks, brown shoes, and Tyrolean hat complete the Oktoberfest outfit.
For the ladies, you wear a boob busting dirndl dress. Yes, boob busting – there is two things the Germans love, beer and boobs! There are classic dirndl dresses, but today you will find more sexy ones that have a more eye catching appeal. The dirndl comes in three parts: the body of the dress which includes the full skirt and bodice, the blouse and the apron. The apron will always come with a bow and it is important to know where to tie your bow. A ladies bow projects her status: to the left means you are single and ready to mingle, to the right means you are married or promised to someone and in the back means you are widowed, or for waitresses.
If you find yourself wanting a souvenir of your time in Oktoberfest or see yourself wearing your costume again then buying your lederhosen/dirndl would be smart. Otherwise renting one in Munich is also an option because the costumes are not cheap if you buy the traditional and well made ones. If you plan on renting make sure you reserve your costume many months in advance!
Since we were close to the end of our trip our budget, we did not have enough money to buy our costumes and we really never saw ourselves wearing them again. So a great alternative is to just buy Tyrollean hats! Like the lederhosen, try and find a quality hat at the market place – trust us, just by feeling them you will be able to tell the difference between cheap and well made. We ended up buying ours from a street vendor at the festival and love them! Lastly, lederhosen and dirndl are not required, but at least 80% of the people wear them. Just wearing our hats alone made us feel a part of their culture and not out of place.
To really have an epic time – just go all out!!! Girls dress your best with make up, hair the whole cha bang and guys wear those lederhosen with pride!
Here are some sites to buy or rent your lederhosen/dirntl:
- https://www.c-and-a.com/at/de/shop/search?q=lederhosen (cheap)
- https://www.bavarian-outfitters.de/en/ (rental)
So, now you have your accommodation and costume, how do you have the most epic time at Oktoberfest?!?!? Two different ways – you can either make reservations at a beer tent or you can tent hop. They both offer two different and amazing experiences that you will never forget – unless you blackout, then you will most likely forget.
There are 14 big tents and 21 small tents in Oktoberfest, needless to say there is PLENTY of beer to go around! Now when we say tents we do not mean circus tents, because thats honestly what we had pictured in our minds, until we arrived. No, the tents are more like buildings! In fact, they say it takes weeks if not months to build these structures.
Visitors can find the more popular and well known German beers in the big tents along with just more seating and a bigger atmosphere in general. That is not to say the small tents are no fun, we went to a small tent for some food and (of course) beer and found it entertaining as well.
Since you are most likely going to be drunk the entire time you are at Oktoberfest let us try and help guide you with this map.
Table Reservations at Beer Tents
Why is a table reservation at a beer tent important? Because if you have a table you get served regularly, well and you do not have to stand the entire time. Some beer tents only serve beer to those in seats. More importantly, if the tents start to get overpacked they will not allow you inside the tents unless you have a reservation. Reservations for beer tents start in March if not sooner! Pick the tent you wish to drink the most beer in and contact the tent through their website. Every beer tent does reservations differently, so follow their instructions promptly. The good news is that the table reservations are FREE! You only pay about 20,00€ – 80,00€ per person, which turn into vouchers for beer and food. If you want an entire table to yourself you must have at least ten people.
Reservations are definitely the smart way to go and you will have an epic time because you do not have to worry about anything except drinking! The only negative about reservations is you see one tent and drink one type of beer for the entire time. So, can you have an epic time without reservations? Yes!
When you do not have reservations, you tent hop! At least that is what we call it. Most big tents have beer gardens and these seating areas cannot be reserved and are seated by a first-come-first-serve basis. We recommend getting to tents before 2pm on the weekdays and right when they open at 9am on the weekends. A local told us that Tuesdays and Thursdays are the least crowded, so if you do not have table reservation this would be your best opportunity to tent hop and grab seats.
We really enjoyed tent hopping because it allowed us the flexibility to try a lot of different tents and beers. Each tent has their own atmosphere with different live bands, decorations, food and of course beer. Depending on which tent you visit, you may have a hard time grabbing a server to get you beer. Our best tip is to stand near the beer serving station, (which is incredible to watch them pour beer after beer) and try asking a server politely for a beer – showing a nice tip doesn’t hurt either. The other option is nudging off a table and getting them to buy you the beers. Some tables are more friendly than others, just use your best judgement.
Don’t forget to eat!!! Each tent has something different to offer, but they all have Bavarian and German traditional food. Did we mention giant pretzels? You will be drinking a lot and most likely spend hours, if not the entire day at Oktoberfest, so make sure you are eating to last throughout the day!
To have the most epic Oktoberfest we recommend doing one day with a table reservation and then spending the next day tent hopping or vice versa.
Our Favorite Big Tents
- Paulaner (Winzerer Fahnde)
- Big yellow ribbons are strung with strands of red and blue in this huge tent!
- We fell in love with Paulaner beer and now drink it at home
- Seats 8,450 inside and 2,450outside
- Spaten (Ochsenbrauerei)
- Offer an amazing variety of different oxen specialties.
- Bright blue and white ribbons strung across the tent.
- Seats 5,900 inside and 1,500 outside
- Löwenbräu (Löwenbräu-Festhalle)
- You will hear an authentic lion roar sound every couple of minutes.
- Vibrant yellow, blue and white interior
- Seats 5,700 inside and 2,800 outside
- Hacker-Pschorr (Hacker-Festhalle)
- Every evening starting at 5:30pm, a Rock ‘n’ Roll-Bandperforms to get the beat going.
- Decoration has clouds painted on the ceiling to make you feel like you are in Bavarian heaven.
- Seats 9,300 inside
The atmosphere of Oktoberfest is unreal!!!! We would walk into a tent and be totally blown away by their decorations and the amount of people crammed inside. Every tent is slightly decorated differently, but for the most part there are vibrant, colored ribbons strung across the tent with lights hanging down. There will also be a lifted stage for the live band placed somewhat in the center so everyone can see them.
Live music is always playing, and when the German toast song, “Ein Prosit” comes on, everyone in the tent sings as loud as they can while swinging their mug in their hand back and forth. Essentially the song is about cheering towards having a great time with friends in a big community – exactly what Oktoberfest is! You can listen to the 30 second song here.
Check out our mashup video of the music played in a variety of tents at Oktoberfest.
There are no rules in Oktoberfest (with the exception of no standing on the tables). We would be walking and one guy would stand up on his seat and get everyones attention and chug his beer and the crowd would go crazy. Then across from him another guy would stand up and chug two beers and the crowd would get even crazier! Everyone is standing, chugging beer, hugging, arm wrestling, you name it! At the end of the day it is all about having fun and creating memories you hopefully remember the next day.
Beer Tent Facts
Hours: on weekend the beer tents open at 9.00 a.m., on weekdays at 10.00 a.m. The beer tents close at 11.30 p.m. The last beer is sold at 10.30 p.m.
Music: Bavarian music is played inside most of the beer tents until 6 p.m. and then transitioned into playing famous hit songs like Journey’s, Don’t Stop Believing or Bon Jovi’s, Living On A Prayer. On Saturdays, many bands start the party music/famous songs earlier.
Forms of payment: beer tents only take cash for food and drinks.
Tent capacity: some tents have the capacity of around 5,700 – 9,300 seating inside and 2,450 – 2,800 seating outside.
Yes! Make friends especially if you do not have table reservations. Since we came with our couchsurfing host, (who we were not hitting it off with) we joined the couchsurfing Oktoberfest group chat and found one fellow couch surfer, Anthony. We also made two new friends, Leo and Maylee, because they heard us speaking English. If it were not for these three awesome people we would not have had as much fun! We all ended up tent hopping together and hitting it off really well. In fact, we hang out with Leo to this day because he lives three hours away.
After about 6pm we managed to join some locals at their table and we all started mingling together. At this point we were pretty drunk, which means we all had a lot of liquid courage. Thank goodness we did because we had a blast hanging out with the locals.
Meeting new people and bonding over beer – isn’t that what Oktoberfest is all about!?!?!?
When we look back at our Oktoberfest experience its the people we remember the most. Even if you come with friends, make new ones! Despite the awesome music and decorations, it’s the people you are with that make the experience.
For further information, here is Oktoberfest’s official website – it is well done and very helpful.