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All You Need To Know About The Oktoberfest – Munich, Germany

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It ´s early Saturday morning, 10 o´clock, and I am sitting in a huge tent in the middle of Munich, Germany. Well, it`s more like a big hall than a tent, with walls covered with lovely paintings of ducks and landscapes. The tent is packed with people, people in beautiful traditional Bavarian clothes sitting on benches everywhere.

We can hear the rain pounding down on the plastic roof above our heads, and the air is damp and warm. There is a sense of excitement and expectation in the air. Every now and then the crowd breaks out in a spontaneous cheer. Everyone is waiting for the opening – the opening of Oktoberfest 2016!

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Oktoberfest 2016

Around 12 o´clock, the Oktoberfest parade enters the tent and the Mayor of Munich finally kicks a hole in the big beer keg that marks the official opening of Oktoberfest 2016.

Once the barrel has been tapped, we can all buy Oktoberfest beer. Yay, the wait is over and as the ompa ompa band begins playing, the party is on!

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The opening of the first beer barrel in the Armrustschützenzelt tent. The party is on!

What Is Oktoberfest?

Oktoberfest is the world´s largest folk festival. It draws 6 million people from all over the world to Munich, Germany every year. It lasts 16-18 days from the middle of September to the first weekend of October. The festival leads up to the Germany Unity Day on the 3rd of October (public holiday), which celebrates the day that Germany was united in 1990 after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

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6 million people attend the Oktoberfest in Munich every year

The entry to the festival area and the beer tents are free.

The Oktoberfest is a beer festival, but also a gigantic amusement park where you can enjoy numerous attractions, such as amusement rides, games and stalls selling everything from candy, waffles, popcorn, Oktoberfest clothes, and souvenirs.

Unfortunately, the weather was terrible on this opening day of the festival. The rain was pouring down and it was windy, so riding the carousels were out of the question! Some of them looked like great fun, though. 

The Oktoberfest was arranged for the first time 206 years ago, so it´s super old and is a very important part of the Bavarian (Bavaria = the south-east state of Germany) culture.

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The History Of Oktoberfest

The Oktoberfest actually started as a wedding party. The locals call this festival “Wiesn”, named after “Theresienwiese” that is the grounds of which the festival is held at. The Theresienwiese area is huge, 420,000 square metres, and is named after Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen.

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The Oktoberfest area is huge!

This area is where princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen and crown prince Ludwig I had their big wedding October 12, 1810, inviting all the citizens to their wedding party.

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Since then, the Oktoberfest is celebrated here every year to commemorate their wedding. Pretty cool that a wedding led to this big festival 206 years later! It must have a been a very memorable wedding….

The Oktoberfest Parade

After we had found our seats in the Armbrustschützenzelt tent, I went out to go for a stroll and take a look at the area while waiting for the beer taps to open. I`m glad I did go outside, as around 11:30 a parade came through the Oktoberfest area. It was so much fun!

The people in the parade wore beautiful dirndl and lederhosen costumes and there was horses, music bands, flag wavers, and beautifully decorated carriages with beer kegs. Each brewery had their own horse and carriage.

The parade is very long too, with over 8000 participants marching the 7 km stretch from Munich centre to the festival grounds. It reminded me of the parade we have all over Norway on the independence day 17th of May. Very nice, and I would say a highlight of the festival!

The Oktoberfest Beer – Oktoberfest Weissbier

_dsc3923There is even a special Oktoberfest beer that has been served at the festival since 1818.

“Oktoberfestbier” is actually a registered trademark of the big six Munich breweries, who call themselves the Club of Munich Brewers: Spaten, Löwenbräu, Augustiner-Bräu, Hofbräu-München, Paulaner and Hacker-Pschorr.

_dsc3962The Oktoberfest beer is served in 1 litres glasses, and I witnessed the waitresses carry up to 12 glasses at the same time! Pretty impressive! I struggled with lifting my one glass, as it was surprisingly heavy.

1 l of Oktoberfest beer cost 10,55 Euro (12 us$).

During the festival, around 8 million litres of Oktoberfest beer are consumed! Yep, it´s a pretty big party!

But even though people drink a lot of beer, people were not drunk; it just seemed that everyone was having a great time talking and singing. There are families with children joining the festival too, children under six years old must leave the tents before 20 o´clock (8 p.m.).

Traditional Bavarian Oktoberfest Food

At the festival you can buy a wide variety of traditional German foods, like:

  • Hendl (roasted chicken)
  • Schweinebraten (roasted pork)
  • Schweinshaxe (grilled ham hock)
  • Steckerlfisch (grilled fish on a stick)
  • Würstl (sausages)
  • Brezen (pretzels)
  • Knödel (potato or bread dumplings)
  • Käsespätzle (cheese noodles)
  • Reiberdatschi (potato pancakes)
  • Sauerkraut
  • Rotkohl/Blaukraut (red cabbage)
  • Obatzda (a spicy cheese-butter spread)
  • Weißwurst (a white sausage)
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The Oktoberfest menu

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I tried the snacks platter (containing different cheeses, sausages and radish), the roasted chicken and the Apfelstrudel (apple cake), and they tasted delicious! 

Inside the tents, there are Pretzel sellers walking around with big baskets packed with pretzels. So all you have to do is to put your hand in the air or wave at a pretzel seller, and voila you have a delicious freshly baked pretzel to go with your beer.

_dsc3536MMmmmmm…….I really like the bavarian pretzel! They are sold all over Munich, very convenient for a pretzel-lover like me. 🙂

How To Get Access To The Beer Tents

There are 14 beer tents in the Oktoberfest area, each with seating areas and an ompa ompa band in the middle playing traditional German songs but also modern German pop songs.

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There are 14 beer tents at Oktoberfest. We had reservation for the Armbrustschützenzelt tent.

There is no fee to enter the beer tents, and the seats in the middle of the tent are free. You can enter the tents without a reservation, but you should get there early, as the tents fill up pretty quickly and when a tent is full no more people are allowed inside.

In weekends the tents are usually full by 11 o´clock, while they don´t get full until late afternoon during weekdays.

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The Hofbräu Festzelt tent

We had, however, made a reservation in the Armbrustschützenzelt tent (Paulaner brewery), from 10:00 – 15:00. To make a reservation in a beer tent, you have to contact the respective beer tent. You can get an overview of the tents, and contact information here

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the Armbrustschützenzelt tent (Paulaner brewery)

The Traditional Oktoberfest Clothes – Dirndl and Lederhosen

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Women wearing Dirndl

At the Oktoberfest, and all over Munich, you will see women and girls wearing the traditional dress Dirndl and men and boys wearing the traditional leather pants Lederhosen.

The Dirndl comes in many different colours and styles, and the Dirndl trends vary from year to year. Some are really expensive and well-made, while you can find cheap tourist versions as well. The dress can be long or short.

If you are looking for a flirt, you should look for girls having the belt knot (bow tie) to their left side of the waist, which means they are single. The bow tie in the middle of the waist means she is a virgin while having the bow tie to her right side means that she is married or in a relationship. Good luck!

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Also for the lederhosen, there are long and short versions. I also saw some girls wearing lederhosen, and, actually, a guy wearing a Dirndl! 🙂

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Men wearing the traditional Lederhosen outfit

I really wanted to buy a Dirndl, but the nice ones were a bit too expensive. Plus, when can I wear it, other than at the Oktoberfest, hmm. I do have a traditional Norwegian dress, called a Bunad, which I love. So I think I`m good.

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A woman in Dirndl selling gingerbread hearts

A popular thing that also belongs to the Oktoberfest is the gingerbread heart! This is a beautifully decorated gingerbread in the shape of a heart (it can be big or small) with text written on it.

This is both for decoration and to give to people you love or are fond of. It reminds me a bit of Valentine actually. You will see these hearts everywhere. The perfect Oktoberfest souvenir!

The End

I really had a great time at the Oktoberfest in Munich! It was great fun to be a part of it at the original birthplace of this festival, although I have been to other Oktoberfests around the world.

The proper beer cheer at Oktoberfest is to shout: “Eins, Zwei, Drei g`Soffa!!!” (meaning “one, two, three, cheers!”). So you should start practising. 🙂

Have you been to Oktoberfest somewhere in the world? How was it? Do you have any tips to newbies heading to Oktoberfest for the first time? Please leave a comment in the comment area below. Thanks! 


Travel Information

Opening Hours

Beer Serving:

  • The opening day (Saturday): 12:00 – 22:30 (the tents open 10:00) 
  • Weekdays: 10:00 – 22:30
  • Saturdays and Sundays: 09:00 – 22:30

Stalls and attractions:

  • The opening day (Saturday): 10:00 – midnight
  • Monday – Thursday: 10:00 – 23.30
  • Friday: 10:00 – midnight
  • Saturday: 09:00 – midnight
  • Sunday: 09:00 – 23:30

Safety

This year (2016) they stepped up the security at Oktoberfest with security checks at all the 11 access points into the festival area. A new security regulation is that you are not allowed to bring any backpacks, day packs or bags with a volume exceeding 3 litres or 20x15x10 cm in size. Also, no bottles, knives, spray cans or any kind of sharp or blunt weapons are allowed.

Tips & Tricks

  • Take good care of your valuables like mobile phone, wallet and money.
  • Smoking is not allowed inside the tents.
  • You can only pay with cash at the Oktoberfest. There are ATMS inside the tents and on the area.
  • You can dance on the benches, but dancing on the tables are not allowed. I saw several people being escorted out of the tent due to table dancing. 🙂
  • Once a tent has reached its capacity, it is closed and no more people are allowed inside. So if you go outside you might not get back in.

How To Get To The Oktoberfest

The best way to get to the Oktoberfest area is to walk, grab a taxi or take the public transport. Do not even think about taking a car! There are no parking places.

  • Metro/ Underground U-Bahn: Take the line U4 (green) or U5 (brown) to Theresienwiese or Schwanthalerhöhe. Take the line U3 (orange) or U6 (blue) to Goetheplatz or Poccistrasse. Take the U1 (green ) or the U2 (pink) to Hauptbahnhof (central station).
  • Train S: S1 – S8 to Hackerbrücke or Hauptbahnhof (central station).
  • Tram: 16/17 to Hackerbrücke or 18/19 to Holzapfelstrasse or Hermann-Lingg-Strasse.
  • Bus: 53/134 to Schwanthalerhöhe or 58 to Georg-Hirth-Platz or 62 to Hans-Fischer-Strasse or Poccistrasse.
  • Grab a rickshaw taxi, or a normal taxi.

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Written by Maria Wulff Hauglann

Maria is a Norwegian travel nerd who has explored more than thirty countries on four continents. She holds a master's degree in Computer Science, as well as an MBA. In 2014 while on a year-long trip across South East- Asia, Maria co-founded the travel blog Nerd Nomads to help others get out and explore the world. In 2018 she left her day job permanently for a life of full-time travel. See our about page for more about Maria.

26 Comments

  1. ‘Love the post Maria!

    I live in Berlin but Oktoberfest isn’t a thing over here!
    I’ve only been to Oktoberfest once and it rained all day lol! I went with a group of young German people but because we hadn’t made a reservation early enough we weren’t able to sit together in the tent, so had to sit in benches. Outside the tent!
    We still had a lot of fun with the Bavarians and Italians!

    p.s We later went in a tent, 2 or 3 at a time, but it wasn’t the same as I really wanted to get the “large group” party experience. ‘Love the pgotographs.

    Reply
    • Thank you so much, Victoria! This was my first Oktoberfest, and I loved it! It rained a lot on this opening day too, so like you, we mostly stayed inside the tent. Did not try any of the carrousels.

      Ah, the next time you should make a reservation in one of the tents. We booked a reservation really early (in February) to get two tables so that we all could sit together. It was totally worth it!

      Happy travels!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  2. I used to live in Munich and it was always a lot of fun to visit the Oktoberfest. Your pictorial guide to the aprons is useful and your pictures convey how it is to be at the event.

    Reply
    • Thank you so much, Stuart! Glad you liked it!

      It was my first Oktoberfest ever, and it was great fun! Can totally get that this is one of the highlights of living in Munich.

      Cheers,
      Maria

      Reply
  3. Taking part in Oktoberfest is always my dream, I’d love to drink draught beer here and to eat hot-dog. Thanks to My favorite football club Bayern Munich, I’ve known this traditional beer in the Bavarian and seen their traditional dirndl dress since a child, just on tv 🙂

    Reply
    • Hi Duy,

      You should definitely visit Munich and Oktoberfest, it is great fun! Ah, I love the pretzels and bratwursts! For a Bayern Munich fan like you, combining a Bayern Munich match with Oktoberfest sounds like the perfect match. 🙂

      -Maria-

      Reply
  4. Hi Maria,

    Nice write up and great photography! Although Wiesn is definitely alot of fun, I think a bit of the authenticity of the whole thing can be lost a bit due to the sheer amount of tourists that come to visit München during that time. If you happen to be in Germany during fall or spring I recommend the Wasen in Stuttgart (Cannstatter Wasen in fall, Frühlingsfest in spring). It’s the same idea as Wiesn, a little bit smaller and definitely less touristy 🙂

    Reply
    • Hi Josh,

      Thank you so much! 🙂

      Thanks for the tip about Wasen in Stuttgart! Yeah, it was a lot of tourists at the Oktoberfest in Munich, especially young Americans, but we visited during the opening day, and in our tent, it was mainly germans.

      Thanks for commenting!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  5. Thanks for letting us know there is an amazing Oktoberfest festival. I heard about it the 1st time and it seems really great. People must be had a fun there. I am most surprised by the way girls wear ribbons will signify their relationship status. 😀

    Reply
  6. Wonderful post, thank you for all of the details! I have been planning to make it to Germany for Oktoberfest one of these days so it is great to have all of this information. Also-love the graphic on dirndls! I had no idea.

    Siggi
    The Voyaging Viking

    Reply
    • Thank you so much, Siggi! You should definitely buy a dirndl and head to the Oktoberfest! It is great fun! 🙂 Read on your blog that your dad is from Germany so he has probably been to a lot of Oktoberfests.

      Happy travels! Thanks for commenting!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  7. Hey Maria, I think I have a specific month to visit Germany. Their Oktoberfest is just fascinating, and that 1 liter glass is just insane, I love to try it, who wouldn’t?

    Reply
    • Hi Agness,

      The Oktoberfest is great fun, really recommend it! I agree, I was really impressed by the waitresses carrying up to 10 one-liter-glasses! Those women are so strong! I had difficulties with lifting my one glass, hehe.

      Happy travels, and thanks for commenting!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  8. Great post! Oktoberfest is a great, great time… Munich is awesome anytime of the year, in fact 🙂 Well documented with a lot of great info many others don’t cover!

    Reply
    • Thank you so much, Justin! This year was my first Oktoberfest ever. I had no expectations, but it turned out to be great fun! I visited the Oktoberfest on its opening day, so it was many locals attending and not only tourists.

      -Maria-

      Reply
  9. Wow, what an exceptional article about Oktoberfest, with just about everything you could ever want to know included (nice photos too 🙂 ).

    I just moved to Vienna last year and Oktoberfest in Germany is on my list of things to do this fall, so this article is perfect.

    And I have no idea how those women carry so much beer. I know I couldn’t :).

    Nice blog, too!!

    Reply
    • Thank you so much, Michelle! Lucky you who have just moved to Vienna! I have only been there once on an Interrail trip through Europe but fell heads over heel in love with beautifully Vienna. Hope to come back one day.

      You should absolutely head over to Germany for the Oktoberfest! Munich is one of the best places to participate to the Oktoberfest (which is actually in September and not Oktober, a bit strange if you ask me….) 🙂

      Thanks again for your nice comment! Happy travels!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  10. Hehe, this is a fun post. Mine on the Oktoberfest is so much shorter. But isn’t the event amusing? Especially the dirndl ribbon – the local guys have it way too easy!
    I visited Oktoberfest with my Chinese friends and the best part was watching their amazed faces 🙂 Germans know how to drink and party!

    Reply
    • Hi Veronika,

      Thank you so much! The Oktoberfest is great fun! We were a bit unlucky with the weather, however, as the rain was pouring down the whole time. So we did not go out to see the parade. Hehe, I can imagine that your Chinese friends were enthusiastic. 🙂

      Happy travels!

      -Maria-

      Reply

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