Last October, we spent one magical night celebrating the finale of Oktoberfest. We knew very little going into it, but managed to meet wonderful people who guided us through this amazing event. For anyone who’s interested in checking out this world famous celebration, here are some facts that we learned and tips we found helpful!
A quick note for all of our Minster, Ohio family and friends - A) Munich lives up to everything you hope it will, B) Minster's Oktoberfest is undoubtedly authentic by any measure!
How Oktoberfest Came To Be
Oktoberfest began in 1810 when the Crown Prince Ludwig married Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. Their wedding was held in the fields outside the Munich city gates, naming them Theresienwiese (Theresa's Meadow) after the bride.
For 5 days, the royal family hosted an impressive affair for the nuptials. They provided free beer and food as all the best weddings do, except they did one better. Rather than just inviting the typical royalty - dukes, counts and the like - they opened their doors to include ALL the citizens of Munich!
The Theresienwiese grounds were large enough to include horse races, which became a leading motivation to continue the party the following year. Word spread year after year as the festival continued. It's grown more elaborate through the years, leading to the worldwide phenomenon we have today.
What Oktoberfest Is Today
Although it's name is internationally synonymous with beer festival, Oktoberfest is much more than a drinking event. Modern Oktoberfests stay true to their roots as a folk festival with tents full of arts and crafts, fair rides, and yes, tons of beer and authentic Bavarian food.
Walking through the entrance gate, you’ll find "tents" lining the both sides of the main road, Wirtsbudenstrasse. They aren’t so much of tents as absolutely massive temporary buildings! It’s amazing to think they are constructed and torn down for the festival each year.
Each tent is known for its own signature beer, character and crowd. With 14 tents, it can be difficult to know where to start! We had it on good authority from multiple sources that Augustiner Festhalle brews the best beer, while the Hacker Festzelt hosts the best party.
Every tent is ran by a different brewery that brews a special Oktoberfest-style beer specifically for the festival. They are well-known to have a higher alcohol content, so be sure to pace yourself! For those who aren’t beer drinkers, wine is also served.
There are tons of different options for food, although the style of food will be pretty much the same thing - rotisserie chicken and sauerkraut, with a few extras depending on the vendor. You’ll also see gigantic cookie and pretzel necklaces, a special Oktoberfest treat, on sale throughout the park.
Tips to Keep in Mind before Booking your Trip
Book well in advance when possible! Prices absolutely skyrocket during the festival. Even basic hotels will go for a minimum of €300/night and will be booked at least a year in advance! We took advantage of managing our costs by booking a nearby Hampton Inn with Hilton Honors points. On top of that, we managed to get extremely lucky because of another reservation's cancellation. The price in points was a quarter of what it should have been.
The train systems are very efficient in Munich, so don’t be afraid to get a place a little outside of the city. Some trains don’t run as often during the night; be sure to look at the schedule closest to your accommodations.
Dress accordingly! That doesn’t mean you NEED to wear lederhosen and dirndls (although that does add to the experience!). Keep in mind what the weather will be like, and bring a sweatshirt or coat if it’s going to be cold. You won’t need it in the tent, but you may want it while walking the park or on the way home.
Dirndls & Lederhosen are a fun way to get festive, but don’t think they’re a requirement, or that people will judge you for not wearing one. I wore a favorite dress and was pleasantly surprised by how many compliments I got for wearing something different. More people were judgmental of the Halloween style Oktoberfest costumes, which can be viewed as mocking their traditional style of dress.
Although I don’t condone changing what you wear to appease someone else, I’ll let you know some basic facts for you to make an educated decision about what you want to wear.
- “True” Lederhosen are said to be passed down from generation to generation, never being washed. This is horrifying to me, but arguably a good way to break them in. So if you’re wearing lederhosen, the authentic lederhosen will run you about €200, probably won’t be too breathable and will take some breaking in. Pick your poison.
- Dirndls have had a couple different changes to their style over the years. They all more or less consist of a dress that pushes up the boobies, and a blouse that further accentuates. The only time I ever heard someone be judgmental about dirndls was when describing dirndls where the hem was above the knee. So I’ll come out to bat saying this: wear what you’ll feel comfortable in when drinking for hours and hours, while either sitting, standing, or being flipped around on fair rides. This is a marathon you want to be comfortable for.
- You can find dirndls on Amazon for extremely cheap. Most people will be wearing dirndls that are made to last, although they start out pretty expensive. I found at most places the skirt portion started at €120 (some being upwards of €300), with the blouse costing anywhere from €60-150. Figure out your budget, choose your dress and don’t be scared to wear that thing more than one day in a row. Most people I talked to were single-handedly keeping Febreeze in business.
- It's also important to know that how you wear your dirndl will indicate your "availability." Wearing your dirndle bow on the left hip says "single/available", center for "young girls", and right hip for "married/engaged/taken". Be prepared to hear some pick up lines if you are showing you're available.
Bags and big purses are not allowed into the grounds. We brought a drawstring bag to stash our jackets when we weren’t wearing them and any other trinkets we bought there, but even that wasn’t allowed. Check online [https://www.oktoberfest.de/en/] to view all rules.
Things to Know While Festing
The most common food we saw were rotisserie chickens. You would think food made en masse like this wouldn’t be that great. On the contrary, it was the best roasted chicken either of us have had!
Most places do have wine if you’re not a beer drinker, but little else aside from that. Regardless of whether you’re willing to pay, you will not be served if you are not seated at a table. Keep this in mind, and get to your tent early! At a certain point it will get too busy and packed to be able to order any more beer or food.
We had thought about going to another tent around 12, but were informed by our trusty Oktoberfest vets that we wouldn’t be able to get another seat if we left. We stayed glued to our seats the rest of the night, realizing quickly that getting seats ends up being fairly cutthroat! People will passively try to push you out of your seat. Thankfully our new friends weren’t afraid to tell those people to kindly bugger off if they got too pushy.
Because of this, be sure to give yourself extra time to check out crafts and fair rides! Doors open early, and it’s worth it to get there as soon as you can in the morning to give yourself some extra perusing time.
Chugging your beer is allowed, standing on tables is not. We saw people getting escorted out and were surprised to learn it was because they stood on a table, not because they chugged a liter of beer to the cheers of the crowd. Germans love to have a great time getting hammered, but they keep it clean and safe - lesson learned.
Also note, if you do dare to chug your beer, you better finish it! If you fall short, people will throw whatever’s in their reach at you for wasting their time. Like we said before, Oktoberfest can be cutthroat!
For the love of all that is holy, eat a massive breakfast! I don’t know how often you drink liters of beer at a time, but I for one don’t necessarily make a habit out of it. This beer has a higher alcohol content, but it is so good you won’t really notice it until it’s too late. Load up with a proper base and run it like the marathon it is.
If you are able to make it for the final night of Oktoberfest, do so. It was the most magical, albeit drunken, experience we’ve ever had. We felt awe-inspired by how every person was so happy and loving. From what we could see there were no brawls or passed out drunks. There were plenty of clean bathrooms for all the ladies (can I get a hallelujah)!
At the end of the night, even after the band had stopped, everyone stood for a good half hour singing, clapping and cheering. The only light in the place came from the hundreds of sparklers passed out to the crowd. It’s honestly hard to describe, something you need to see for yourself.
We hope this little guide is helpful! We had such a great time, we know you will, too!