It’s tough to figure out Oktoberfest until you get there. I just did it the hard way, but maybe by reading some of these tips, you can avoid some of my misery.
Booking a table at Oktoberfest is not easy. I was rejected at 6 places before I got my table – lunch on a Monday. Weekends and dinners were unavailable. If you’re in Munich, it is a little easier, as you can go in person to get things done, but I had to fill out online forms and send emails to make it happen. If you’re willing to pay for the phone calls to Germany, that’s a good idea. It’s very likely the person on the other end will speak English well.
Via email, the process goes like this after you make your booking. You’ll have a certain amount of time to pay up. Your reservation will be cancelled if you don’t pay, and the minimum cost will be over 300 euros, which covers 10 people for 2 beers and 1/2 chicken each. You can bring fewer people but you can’t pre-pay for less food and beverage. We had 8 people, and between us we ate seven half-chickens and 18 beers. The extra tickets were sold to neighbors by the lone German at our table (mad props to Marisa!) and we didn’t take much of a loss.
No matter where you sit, in any tent, you’ll have fun. Don’t stress about whether you get a box or a table on the floor. The boxes are slightly elevated and provide a nice view, but you’re still surrounded by thousands of other happy drinkers. At lunch if you arrive at the very beginning, you’ll be one of the earliest…but by noon, it will be pumping. This year for example, during our Monday at the Braurosl the band started playing at noon.
1a. Without Seats
If you don’t have a reservation you’ll be stuck on a first come first served basis. For lunch, the easy way to make sure you get seats is to show up at 10 in the morning. Do this and you’re quite certain to get a table. Make sure your whole party comes together or it makes it more complicated.
If you want to sleep in, see Munich during daylight, and go to the Wiesn for the evening, it is much more difficult. You can easily spend a few hours waiting in line at a tent entrance before getting in. You can increase your chances by doing the following:
A. Split up and try to have everyone get in separately. Once someone is inside, it is significantly easier to get the rest of the party in.
B. Check all the way around the tent for secret entrances. One of my favorites is the smoking area. Sometimes it is accessible from the outside, and the guards there are letting people in and out all the time and can’t keep track of who is who. At the Velodrome tent this is in full effect.
C. Stick to the outside beer gardens. Getting into the tent is difficult but you’re likely to get into the beer gardens outside with greater ease.
Choosing a tent is tough, and seeing them all is almost impossible. My advice? Don’t sweat it. They’re all fun. I went at 9am one morning and was able to walk into each one while it was empty and take a picture of each. Other than doing that, you’ll probably only see a few during your stay. So which one to choose? All of them are fun. All of them will have a band doing more or less the same thing – playing pop songs, German classics, and German drinking songs – which is a huge hit. But they all have different decor. The Hofbrau tent dangles actual dried hops en masse from each pillar and was my favorite. The Schottenhammel FestHalle tent has amazing taxidermy everywhere and rates really well for me also. If you want a different sort of entertainment with bicycle performances and a much higher percentage of Germans around, head to the Velodrome, which is in the Old Wiesn in the south center of the grounds. After that, I don’t have much advice to offer, other than the difference between each of the main tents is pretty subtle and you’re going to have fun no matter where you go, as long as you like beer.
3. Where to Stay
It is incredibly expensive to stay near the fairgrounds. As long as you get accommodation near any S or U Bahn station, you’ll be well within striking distance of the fair. You can get a 5 person group pass for the metro for all day at 11 euros.
Book as far in advance as you can. Make sure you check out AirBnB, but be aware that if you come back to your host’s place smashed, they won’t appreciate it. We were able to get a place for six people in a great location for $60 per person per night.
4. How strong is the beer, really?
It’s gotta be 5.5% or 6%, I would guess. Tough question. The beer is strong. It is 10 euros per liter. If you drink 4 liters, you’ll be very drunk, and you should feel bad for having a full gallon of beer. Don’t drink more than 3, have a nice time, and you’ll be able to remember what happened. Make sure you eat while you’re there!
5. What to do other than Oktoberfest
Munich is full of museums, architecture, parks, and delicious food. One excellent and budget friendly idea is to check out the English park and have lunch at the pagoda beer garden. Another more expensive one is to take the train into Salzburg for the day.
6. What to wear
You should invest in trachten. You came all the way to Munich for this party; it’s costing you a lot already. Spend the extra $100 to get the costume. Your photos will be infinitely better and you’ll blend in with the crowd. Almost everyone is wearing something festive.
For you ladies out there, I’d recommend getting a dirndl that is traditional, rather than something skanky you might see at halloween parties. Those aren’t the norm at this party.
7. What not to do
Lose your friends.
Drink more than you can handle (It sneaks up on you!)
Salvage other people’s beer when they leave.
Forget to tip your server (10%)
Forget to eat food.
Choose a “halloween” dirndl.