1. Get there on time and store your stuff
Lucky for us, Oktoberfest spans a little over a week, so there’s less of a scramble to get there for one special day. Plan on arriving before or during the festival, which takes place between September 21 and October 6 at the Theresienwiese. If you’re traveling with little ones, make sure you arrive before or on a Tuesday (and scroll down to our section on family-friendly activities). If you have to be there for the Costume and Hunters Parade, make sure to arrive before or on Sunday, September 22. Learn more about where to store your belongings and what you can bring in the festival here.
2. Look the part (and tie those aprons strings)
Oktoberfest means it’s time to dust off your lederhosen and iron your dirndl. Dressing up in tracht, Bavarian traditional clothing, is an absolute must. If you’re not the proud owner of an Oktoberfest outfit, don’t worry. There are plenty of shops in the city that’ll be more than willing to set you up with a suitable look. And remember: while dressing up in leather pants and old-fashioned skirts might feel like wearing a costume, these outfits are very much a part of modern Bavarian life. Think of it as your Sunday best. Oh, and for the ladies out there — pay attention to how you tie your apron strings. A bow on the left side means you’re single, while one on the right side means you’re taken.
3. Pre-book your spot in one of the tents
Unlike the capital’s famous nightclubs where covers are a given, Oktoberfest remains free. But, that doesn’t mean there aren’t any expenses to account for. It’s safe to say you’ll be dropping euros in the beer tents, for any all-inclusive packages, and accommodation. As lots of the biggest tents fill up as early as noon on busy days, the only people with hopes of getting inside are ones with reservations. Our tip: pre-book your beer tent reservation for free to save you time (and hassle) during the festival. If you’d like a guided experience, a tour of the highlights is a great way to get a bite-sized version of the giant event. Or, splurge on just the good stuff, like a tour of Munich’s best breweries and most famous beer halls.
4. Enjoy family-friendly activities
There isn’t just one way to enjoy Oktoberfest. So much more than beer, the festival also has a “Family Day” on Tuesdays from 10 AM to 7 PM. Families with children can take a ride on the Ferris wheel, try their aim at the shooting range, and enjoy snacks at a discount. If you won’t be visiting the festival on a Tuesday, don’t worry. The Familienplatzl at Wiesn-Straße 3 is open throughout Oktoberfest and entirely family-friendly. From kid-sized portions to age-appropriate rides and games, this is a great alternative for visitors in search of a more relaxing Oktoberfest. For parents who want to take their little ones into beer tents, bear in mind that children under 6 years aren’t allowed in the tents after 8 PM. You heard it here first.
5. Don’t miss the parades
Again, it’s not all about the beer. If you plan on being at Oktoberfest for the first Sunday of the festival, make sure you arrive in time for the historic Costume and Hunters Parade at 10 AM. A tradition that started in 1950, the parade starts in the city center and ends at the Theresienwiese. The parade features proud hunting clubs, historic costume groups, and bands. Go for the outfits, stay for the schlager.
6. Know your beers (and find your tent)
There are strict rules about what’s considered an official Oktoberfest beer. It needs to be made in Munich, for example, and have a minimum of about 6% alcohol. That’s double the strength of an average American beer, and why it’s probably best to take it easy on the rounds if you’re not already familiar. They’re usually sold by the liter (€8-10) from the six breweries that are official participants of Oktoberfest. What’s more: each brewery has its own tent. If you’re feeling iffy about getting a seat at one of the long tables, make a reservation, or grab dinner from a friendly vendor on the festival grounds — there are plenty of nice locals selling traditional German dishes outside the tents.
7. Spreche some Deutsch
Who says Germans are humorless? Try some of these survival words on them (in your best accent), and they’ll be sure to crack a smile. If not that, someone might at least appreciate the effort. Start by learning how to say where you are — not Munich, but München. With enough time here, you’ll learn to appreciate the subtlety of (maybe even pronounce) the umlaut, those two dots over their vowels. You’ll probably hear people say die Wiesn, which just means “the field,” to refer to the festival grounds.
8. What happens at Oktoberfest…
Stays at Oktoberfest — that’s a given. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find out who and what came before you. Learn the culture and history of how this German tradition became popular in the country. What’s now an international festival started out as a royal wedding and giant town-wide party, named after Princess Therese. And if you’re looking for perspective, you can get some — quite literally — at the Hall of Fame. Climb the Bavaria statue to get a birds-eye view of the festival from the top floor, plus a much-needed break from the crowds.
9. Don’t overdo it
You might be proud to drink your new German friends under the table, but try not to get too dizzy with your talent. Once you’ve spent a few days at Oktoberfest, consider leaving the Theresienwiese behind in favor of exploring the city by bike or taking a trip to Bavaria’s famous Neuschwanstein castle.
Thirsty for more Oktoberfest info? Read our article on how to celebrate like a Bavarian here.
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