1. Dress to impress
Calling all Buam und Madln (that’s “boys and girls” for you non-Bavarians)! From leather breeches to mountain dresses, Oktoberfest is as much about beer as it is about the outfits. Trust us, dressing up is half the fun. For the ladies, Dirndls are a must. These traditional dresses consist of a bodice and skirt, a low-cut blouse with puffed sleeves, and an apron. For the gentlemen? Nothing says Oktoberfest like Lederhosen: short leather breeches once coveted for their durable fabric and utilized as workwear for physical laborers. Toss on a Tirolerhüte (Bavarian hat) and you’re ready to hit the tents!
2. Sip, snack, savor
While Oktoberfest is known for the booze, it’s also the spot to enjoy traditional German dishes. For starters, you can’t experience the thirst-quenching nature of a beer without a little salt to tickle the tongue. Brezn, or pretzels, are perfect for that. If you’ve got more of an appetite, we recommend digging into Schweinebraten, a Bavarian dish of roasted pork made with dark beer and onions. And if quick and easy classics are more your thing, then a savory Würstl mit Sauerkraut (white sausage with sauerkraut) is the way to go.
3. Make eye contact when prost-ing
Perhaps the most important word for anyone attending Oktoberfest, Prost is German for “cheers.” You’ll hear this shouted, spoken, and mumbled (depending on which bier you’re on) as friends and strangers clink entire liters of beer. However, there’s one crucial element to prost-ing that you truly can’t forget: eye contact. To blend in with the locals, make sure to make eye contact with all who meet your glass. If not? You can expect a sour look from the surrounding Germans and worst of all, seven years of coital misery. A long-standing tradition, failing to make eye contact means a long stretch of bad sex, so buck up and get ready for some prolonged eye-to-eye with friends and strangers—or suffer the consequences.
4. Order auf Deutsch (or don’t)
Before you can order your beer of choice, you have to get to the right tent. There are 14, so choose wisely! Once you’ve headed in the direction of your brew of choice, find a seat. Now all you need is some beer. While you can be polite and request “Ein Bier, bitte” from your waiter/waitress, the tents get busy. And loud. Oh, and Bavarians don’t order any old size beer — they order a liter, or “a Maß.” It’s easiest to smile, raise a finger (or three) and the biggest mugs of beer you’ve ever seen will be on their way before you know it. Bitte schön!
5. Know your types of Bavarian beer
While all Bavarian beer is delectable, the festival’s special Oktoberfest beer offers a unique experience you can’t get anywhere else. With a higher alcohol content than the average beer, these smooth and drinkable drafts are dubbed the “Big 6.” The breweries include Augustiner, Paulaner, Spaten-Franziskaner, Löwenbräu, Hacker-Pschorr, and Hofbräu. Like light beer? Order a Helles. Feeling moody? Try a Dunkel. Want some wheat? Sip a Hefeweizen. Trying to slow down your impending hangover? Nurse a Radler (half Helles and half lemon soda).
6. Know your history
What is now the world’s best beer festival began as a much more royal affair in 1810. The festival honored the Crown Prince Ludwig, later to become King Ludwig, and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. Originally a wedding feast, all the citizens of Munich celebrated in front of the city gates. By 1819, the festive horse races were replaced with carts of beer and a new decree: the party must continue each year. Since then, the festivities have only been canceled two dozen times for reasons such as world wars and cholera epidemics (all the more reason to drink beer, not water). Not to worry, the celebrations are set and ready for this fall!