As the locals say, Munich’s "fifth season" begins when the Oktoberfest opens. The world's largest beer festival cum carnival turns the rhythm of life upside down for many residents of Munich – even more than when winter turns to spring. Finding your way through this mixture of myths, traditions, and unwritten laws is a challenge, even for the locals. So, here are the seven most important tips for Oktoberfest newcomers.
Around six million people visit the Oktoberfest every year and because of overcrowding, the beer marquees are regularly closed at weekends. But even when they’re open, it’s almost impossible to spontaneously find free tables if you’re with a larger group. So, it’s best to reserve a table – and do it early! Reservations are usually possible from March or April onwards. There’s no central reservation office and each of the marquees has its own portal.
Do’s: Be there on time or else your reservation will expire. And if you haven’t got a reservation, try one of the alternatives – a beer garden, a smaller tent like the Knödelei, or the so-called Oide Wiesn.
Don’ts: Buy table reservations on the black market, wait hours outside the closed main entrance to a marquee (better to try a side entrance) or try to bribe a waitress.
There are 14 large and 21 mid-sized or small marquees at the Oktoberfest, and they all have one thing in common: an exuberant atmosphere. In this respect, you can't go far wrong when choosing a marquee, but you should still find out about their respective characteristics in advance. While the Hofbräuzelt, for example, is mainly frequented by international tourists, you’ll see some celebrities in Käfer Wiesn-Schänke. The Schottenhamel has the youngest audience, while the Augustiner Festhalle is especially popular with long-established Munich residents.
And although the Wiesn is a two-week state of emergency, even permanent excess is subject to a certain rhythm. From the kick-off to the final fireworks, there are always highlights and events, such as the wonderful traditional Bavarian costume and shooting club procession on the first Sunday or Gay Sunday and RoslMontag at Bräurosl.
Do’s: Ask Munich residents for a tent recommendation and allow enough time for your visit.
Don’ts: Come on Friday or Saturday evening without reservation.
A single individual can often have an astonishingly large impact on whether your visit to the Oktoberfest is great or not: the waitress. She decides how quickly or slowly fresh beer is served, and has the last word with the marshal in the event of any conflict with drunks on a neighboring table.
That's why it's important to get on well with her. That’ll normally succeed if your beverage consumption is above-average and your tip generous. A reservation does include drink and food vouchers, but they don’t necessarily include the so-called service charge. The same applies to the tokens – don't forget to tip.
Do’s: When ordering a Maß, pronounce it with a short "a" and preferably accompany it with "a Radi and a Brezn".
Don'ts: Order each Maß separately or fall asleep at the table.
The good news is that there’s a simple answer to the question of what to wear to the Wiesn: traditional Bavarian costume. The bad news is that you can wear it wrongly. What’s more, a real Bavarian costume is quite an expensive purchase.
A good alternative is to rent the dirndl or lederhosen. And those places you’ll also be advised on how to wear the clothes correctly. With the dirndl for example, you’ll be communicating your current relationship status to your fellow men by the way you tie the apron. So advice is a never-to-be-underestimated advantage. Otherwise, the following rule applies: If you want to avoid wry looks, steer clear of Seppl hats, "leather pants" made of cloth, and garish mini plastic dirndls. With jeans and a checkered shirt, you’ll definitely be more suitably dressed.
Do’s: Dress in your hometown’s traditional costume.
Don'ts: Wear high heels, bring suitcases, backpacks, and other luggage or wear jokey T-shirts.
Option: Find out how to create that certain something and what to look out for when renting traditional costumes here.
Even if you quickly forget this in the beer-hazy hustle and bustle of the marquees, you’re here with your colleagues and the next working day is sure to come. That's why you shouldn't overdo the drinking. But that's easier said than done. After all, the festival beer is not only strong; it can only be ordered by the liter, too.
And once you've drunk two of those, you've already had as much alcohol as there is in about 18 schnapps. If you manage to drink an impressive five jugs, the amount of alcohol you’ve consumed is equivalent to a whole bottle of schnapps. But for companies based in Munich, the Wiesn is a must, so a number of strategies have been developed to ensure that drinking with colleagues in a work context will go off without a hitch. One of the best strategies is to discreetly tell the waitress that you only want alcohol-free beer from a certain point onwards. Visually, you can't tell the difference, and you’ll avoid looking like a party pooper.
Do’s: Order water between beers and share a Maß with particularly good colleagues.
Don’ts: Go for pre-drinks, drink a Maß down in one, or order schnapps.
You might think that the Oktoberfest is all about beer. But actually, the festival marquees only occupy part of the Wiesn grounds and the much larger part is taken up by countless rides and funfair attractions. In addition to wild roller coasters and child-friendly carousels, there’s also a whole range of traditional rides, many of which are over a hundred years old.
For a great time with your colleagues, we can highly recommend these classics, and in particular the Schichtl (a variety theater), the Teufelsrad (a game of skill against centrifugal force), the Toboggan (a slide where the "up" is more interesting than the "down"), the Krinoline (a historic carousel with its own brass band), and the Flea Circus. You can visit these attractions and rides after you’ve been in a marquee, which cannot necessarily be said about the more modern, overturning alternatives.
Do’s: Adopt the locals’ tricks.
Don’ts: Go for the high, revolving fun rides when you’re too drunk.
Even if there are always some folks who don’t want to believe the end has come, in most of the marquees the evening’s over at 10:30 p.m. That’s when the band packs up and the waitress won't bring any more beer. If you and your colleagues still haven’t finished partying, the question now is what to do next. There are two options on the Wiesn grounds: the Käfer Wiesn-Schänke or the Weinzelt, which both stay open till half past midnight. The challenge is always actually getting in, because every evening, an astonishing number of people still haven't had enough at half past ten.
Fortunately, the rest of the city is also gearing up for Oktoberfest, with numerous bars and clubs hosting after-Wiesn parties every night. But watch out: Some restaurateurs can't deal with the usually inebriated Wiesn crowd and refuse entry to anyone who looks or smells of the Oktoberfest. Popular addresses that are certain to be open include the 089 Bar, Substanz, Pacha, P1, and Filmcasino.
Do’s: Have a late-night snack to combat the hangover – at Sendlinger Tor, for example.
Don’ts: Fall asleep at the bar or on a traffic island.
Tip: You can find more exciting facts & stories here: Oktoberfest Munich