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Oktoberfest for the First Time Visitor

Oktoberfest for the First Time Visitor: An Introductory Guide

Over 6 million visitors yearly...

The biggest beer tent holds almost 10,000 thirsty visitors...

The Oktoberfest in Munich is the world's largest beer festival.

It starts during late September and ends two weeks later in early October. So why do we write about this in April? It will take coordination and planning to get into one of the festival beer tents or even secure a hotel nearby, so we recommend you start early. Accommodations in Munich fill up months in advance for this event.


Muenchen.de Official 2015 Oktoberfest Map

Let's start you off with a map of the Oktoberfest. They haven't posted 2016's yet, so we'll use 2015 for now. The Oktoberfest is located at Theresienwiese, but locals just call it Wiesn which means meadow, a huge fairground about a mile from the center of Munich.

Click to view the larger PDF from muenchen.de

What was once a wedding party
The first Oktoberfest was held for 5 days in October of 1810 to celebrate the wedding of Prince Ludwig of Bavaria and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen (leading to the name of the venue, Theresienwiese). The event was a success, which led to a yearly festival and an extension of the celebration into the month of September. It also starts in September for practical reasons, since the weather in Germany is better in September with more mild temperatures during the day. You can read a nice synopsis of Oktoberfest history here, also from muenchen.de.
Not Just Beer Tents
Besides beer tents, you will find plenty of attractions outside on the fairgrounds. From food vendors selling brats and candy to carousel rides, bumper cars, roller coasters and ferris wheels, there is something for everyone. For most visitors though, especially ones without children, the beer tents with its party atmosphere are the biggest draw.

Munich Oktoberfest Amusement Rides

Munich Oktoberfest Food Vendors Outside the Tents

Munich Oktoberfest Food Vendors Outside Beer Tents

Munich Oktoberfest Food Vendors Outside Beer Tents

Getting into a Beer Tent

While reservations are required in all tents after a certain time, getting a seat during off-times (like weekdays before noon) usually isn't a problem. Beer will be sold in the tents from 12 noon til 22:30 on Opening day; 10:00 to 22:30 on weekdays; 9:00 to 22:30 on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, so plan accordingly. If you can avoid being there on a weekend or around dinner time, you will have almost no wait time to get into a tent. Read about the different Oktoberfest tents here, also from muenchen.de.
If you do not want to take your chances and/or plan to be at the Oktoberfest during one of the busier weekend days, you have the option to make a reservation. These can be made through the individual tent websites. Some beer tents accept reservation requests as early as November or December. One caveat is that many beer tents require a minimum of 10 people for one table and while the reservation itself is free, you have to purchase food and drink vouchers in advance.

Munich Oktoberfest Beer Tents: Reservations & Food Vouchers Guide

Beer Tent Reservations

When you make a reservation at a beer tent, you have to purchase food and drink vouchers for that tent in advance. These are usually vouchers for beer and chicken, but can vary depending on the tent owner. The vouchers cost between 20-80 Euros per Person, based on the tent and time of the day. Please note, that reservations are NOT guaranteed until they are confirmed by the tent owners, they are treated as reservation requests until you get a confirmation. This can take a few days or even weeks, which means you have to be patient. If they accept your reservation request, they will either mail you the food and beer vouchers or name a place where you can pick them up locally in Munich.

Oktoberfest Tent Reservation Denied or Waitlisted?

What happens if your reservation request is denied or you are on a waitlist? You have the option to simply go and wait in line in front of a tent. But be aware, on a weekend you could stand there waiting for over two hours while the party is rocking on the inside. Another option to secure Oktoberfest tent reservations is to check this forum thread. Every year there is a post matching reservation holders and seekers for Oktoberfest tent tables. You might not be able to get the exact tent you wanted to be in, but you might be able to find a table with less than 10 people that you can meet up with and have a great Oktoberfest experience.

Beer Tent Drinking Etiquette

Now that you have made it into one of the tents, it is time to celebrate! Get yourself a beer and drink responsibly. All Oktoberfest brews contain roughly 5-6% alcohol by volume, compared to regular beer at about 3-4%. Oktoberfest beer will get you drunk faster based on alcohol content and volume. The traditional beer glass, called Maßkrug, is made of double-walled glass, weighs in at around 2 lbs empty and holds one liter of beer. That's 33.8 oz or just under 3 American beer bottles.

Here's a clip from the finale night. I have it starting at about a minute in, where you can really see the crowd singing along, and also how full the hall was. This is not our video, and there's no reason to watch the whole thing. It's just a sample of what the tent experience is like. The video is from the user Oifi74.

Proper drinking etiquette at Oktoberfest requires that during particular songs, all glasses are raised at the conclusion of the song. You will hear everyone say "Prost!" and carefully bang your glass into theirs. Make sure to look them into the eyes while doing so. Failure to look the person you're toasting in the eyes brings 7 years bad sex according to German folklore.

If you plan to stay at the tent longer, make sure to use your food coupons and get yourself some authentic German food. This also helps building a base for all the alcohol you are drinking. Get yourself an order of Schweinshaxe, which is roasted pork knuckle, or a Hendl, which is roasted chicken with butter and parsley. Your choice of either a half, quarter or whole chicken. Be sure to tip your waitress on the first round if you want her to come back. Cash is king - credit cards are usually NOT accepted in the tents and each beer or food item must be paid for immediately.

And if, after all the drinking, you need a little nap before going back inside or to your hotel, join the countless Bierleichen, meaning beer corpses, taking a break on the Theresienwiese hill, lovingly known as Kotzhügel or barf hill. Its a beautiful and entertaining view!

Munich Oktoberfest Kotzhügel, or barf hill

What to Wear

Check out Denise's post A Practical Guide to Oktoberfest Costume from Head to Toe.

Official Site

Visit the official Oktoberfest website for more information on the festival, tents, accomadations, and pictures from past years.

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Thank you For Reading! Denise & Sebastian | Photo by Irene Fiedler