Locals and tourists alike proudly wear traditional Oktoberfest garb. Men strap on their “Lederhosen”, a patterned leather shorts and overalls combination with high woollen socks and a chequered shirt. A cool looking hat doesn’t go amiss either. Women adorn themselves in Dirndl’s and are a delight to look at with bulging bosoms snugged into pretty dresses.
This post is massive at over 3500 words I wanted it to be the ultimate guide to everything Oktoberfest. Use the buttons below to navigate the article so you can get the information you want straight away!
Our Experience at Oktoberfest 2012
The Oktoberfest Tents – How Many Are There?
Oktoberfest FAQ Guide: Super Tips And Everything You Need To Know
5 Fun Oktoberfest Facts
The Oktoberfest Beers: The Complete List
A Map of Oktoberfest
We had an excellent experience at Oktoberfest, believe it or not, it actually lived up to my beery and high expectations! I wasn’t really sure what to expect, a tourist ridden mess? Overpriced tasteless beers? Lots of aggressive drunk people? Wrong on all counts!
Okay so maybe we cheated a little because we were staying with some lovely German friends who are locals that we met in Cologne on our last backpacking trip through Europe. They had a gorgeous apartment in Munich and were happy to show us around and come along to Oktoberfest with us.
What really makes Oktoberfest so great is that it is still a popular festival for locals and other Germans. It hasn’t been completely overrun – sure, there are a hell of a lot of tourists (it IS the biggest beer festival in the world after all), but many locals think it’s fun to go along as well – and I think that’s awesome.
We spent the day prior hanging out with our Munich friends, who treated us on arrival to a traditional Bavarian breakfast of white sausage with sweet mustard and a breakfast (wheat) beer. It was delicious.
After a relatively relaxing Saturday we decided to hit the tents on Sunday. Our friends warned us that we may not even get into a tent and we’ll have to go early if we want to give it a go.
What I really wanted was to get into the fabled local tent known as Augustiner, a company that produces beer of the same name that many Muncheners consider the best beer in the world.
My sister and two friends from Australia were also visiting so we had a group ready to hit the tents and join the fun.
We waltzed in at around 9am. It was deathly quiet. Our Munich friends, Lam & Laura were baffled.
“It’s never THIS quiet…” they said. I was silently cheering. Nightmares of lining up for hours as I die of thirst without an Augustiner to quench my throat were being silenced by sheer joy as we entered the gloriously decorated tent.
Okay, okay, so the word quiet is a bit of an understatement, it was still busy (and it was 9am in the morning!) – but there were probably about 15 empty tables in the whole tent which for the Augustiner tent is almost unheard of! We quickly snapped one up for our group and proceeded to enjoy the day.
We ate giant fresh pretzels that were crisp on the outside and soft and doughy inside, covered in chunks of salt that the delectable litre ‘steins’ of Augustiner washed down.
Lam recommended the ‘half chicken’. It was literally heaven. Seriously, get the half chicken if you go to Oktoberfest – I rank it as the best piece of chicken I’ve ever had in my life, and I eat a lot of chicken!
Many litres were consumed and many laughs were had. The band got going and the odd daredevil stood on the table and managed a whole litre beer in 10 or 20 seconds, encouraged by the roaring crowds.
The first day lived up to my expectations, and I had high ones, of the greatest beer festival in the world.
This was a slightly different (shall we say, more buoyant) experience than Day One – but they were both awesome for different reasons!
We entered the cavern of the huge Hofbrau tent in the early afternoon – tourists and locals alike were already chatting boisterously on the long wooden tables. We joined some Australian friends and eagerly ordered our first beers.
Personal Opinion Alert: Hofbrau beer is not as nice as Augustiner!
The atmosphere in this tent was truly buzzing however, a huge angel hangs from the ceiling of the tent and spins around, wreathed in flowers. Some people are throwing bras and the like up onto the angel, it likes it dirty, apparently. A German percussion band powers up on a high stand to the right hand side of the tent.
Every half hour or so the band encourages a classic Bavarian drinking song, and the crowd roars along:
“Ein prosit, Ein prosit, Gemütlichkeit!”
This was a real party tent, we met lots of other Australians, British and Americans. It wasn’t all non-Europeans though, there were lots of Swiss and Germans too. If you don’t like lots of noise, beer splashing and meeting strangers then this is not the tent for you (actually, you might like to re-think your Oktoberfest trip altogether).
I found a great time lapse video made inside the Hofbrau Tent, I think it may even be from the day we were there but it’s hard to be sure! Check it out…
There are enough tents that it’s pretty much impossible that you would see them all…
What would Oktoberfest be without the grand and cavernous beer tents! It’s amazing to think these are setup just for the 3 weeks that Oktoberfest runs. They are truly epic, the word tent is a massive understatement, that’s for sure.
A big name for a small tent, this cozy and comfortable tent is as famous for it’s delicious Käfer-roasted duck as it is for being a magnet for local celebrities. Trying to get in here after dark will only be possible with connections of if you are a well-known celebrity. Good luck!
Family owned; the name of this tent originates from the daughter of the brewer. This traditional tent boasts entertainment as one of it’s main draw cards including traditional Bavarian songs and their own yodeler!
Yet another celebrity tent, this one is also famous for it’s “Gemuetlichkeit” (relaxed fun feeling). The owners work hard to ensure that atmosphere prevails for the entire 3 weeks with sing-alongs and beautiful decorations.
One of the most important tents at Oktoberfest as this is where it all begins. On the opening day of the Wiesn, at 12 pm on the dot, the mayor of Munich, Christian Ude will tap the first keg and call out “O’zapft is!” confirming that the tapping was successful. It is only after this that all other tents may begin to serve beer. In 1867 this tent was just a small beer booth with 50 seats, it is now the largest tent with around 10,000 seats and a favourite for young locals who meet there to party hard.
A crossbow competition at Oktoberfest? Sounds like a great idea right?? Since 1895 this tent has been host to an entertaining crossbow competition which you can watch while downing a delicious Paulener. Sounds great!
Famous for being one of the friendliest Oktoberfest tents, the waitresses are renowned for being extra smiley and there is even a kids Tuesday with special prices. Combined with delicious Augustiner beer, you really can’t go wrong!
An oversized oxen on a turning on a spit over the entrance is just a small clue as to what this tent is all about. The menu will surprise visitors with just how many dishes can be made from oxen. Fantastic party atmosphere is also on offer!
Somewhat smaller than the other tents, Hippodrom is famous locally for its hip atmosphere and flirty crowd. Beautiful decorations and locals ready to party and you have yourself a fun night.
Keen for a bit of pig prepared in traditional Bavarian style in malt beer and served with potato salad? This is the tent for you! A mid sized tent, the music group will keep you dancing on benches all night long.
Famous for it’s giant lion at the entrance that lets out a roar every couple of minutes this is also a well known tent for amazing atmosphere and party times.
Wine? At Oktoberfest? Huh?? It can be a refreshing change to sample a light wine or sparkling champagne and have a break from the heavy beers. The hosts of this tent will ensure that drinking wine will not take away any of the joviality of your Oktoberfest experience.
Everyone is catered for at the Oktoberfest; not keen on pork knuckle or half a chicken? Then head over to this tent for fish on a stick along with many other fish delicacies. Along with music and beer of course!
Bavarian Heaven is an accurate nickname for this beautiful tent. Featuring a rock and roll band and Heaven inspired decorations; this is a great tent to down a few delicious beers.
American and Australians abound in one of the most famous party tents at Oktoberfest. From lunch time you will find people already standing on benches and swaying along to the music. I can also personally vouch for the delicious spare ribs!
I thought I would cover off all the most common and basic questions in one ultimate FAQ. Here you will find tips for going to Oktoberfest, what to expect and the answers to prepare you for the best beer festival in the world.
What is Oktoberfest?
I think you already have a good idea what Oktoberfest is all about (hint: beer), but this 16 day festival is held annually in Munich and is steeped in history. It is held on huge grounds close to central Munich, with massive tents and long wooden tables filled with row upon row of Germans and tourists alike drinking the tasty, golden brews.
What is the history of Oktoberfest?
We won’t turn this article into a dusty history book, so let’s keep this short. Oktoberfest began as a celebration of the marriage between King Ludwig I and his bride Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. The people of Munich were invited to attend the event and as you can imagine, much drinking ensued. They all had so much fun, they decided to do it again next year (and the next…) and thus the annual event began.
When is Oktoberfest?
The title is a little misleading, as the majority of Oktoberfest is actually held towards the end of September and finishes on the first Sunday of October.
Where is Oktoberfest in Munich?
The festival and the beer tents are located on a field known as Theresienwiese (aka Wiesn for short). This area hosts a space of 420,000 sq ft and is easy to get to from central Munich.
Do you need or have to buy tickets for Oktoberfest?
No – this is a common misconception and something that a lot of people are unsure or confused about.
Is it easy to get into a tent at Oktoberfest?
This is very dependent on the day itself, but I can say from my own personal experience it’s not as hard as everyone was saying it would be. We got into a tent easily on both days we were there – I spoke with another guy that said on the opening day of Oktoberfest and he lined up for about 3 hours. We didn’t line up at all and just walked in on both days (it was still BUSY, just not line up for hours and hours and you might not get in at all busy).
What is the traditional Oktoberfest clothing for men and women?
Men wear Lederhosen, women wear Dirndl’s. Well, that’s it in a nutshell. Don’t mispronounce it Leiderhosen though (as I have done once before), as that literally means “sadly-breeches”, and no-one wants to see you in your sad breeches 😉
Lederhosen are basically leather breeches with H shaped suspenders and were the traditional garb of the Bavarian region. Along with the breeches, it’s common to wear high woolen socks, leather boots and a checkered or white shirt. The leather is great as when you sit on a seat with beer on it or have it spilled on you (completely unavoidable), it rolls straight off!
Women at Oktoberfest wear dresses known as Dirndl’s. A traditional dirndl consists of a bodice, blouse, full skirt and an apron, and often come in vibrant colours of green or red or yellow. Girls love wearing them and they always look awesome!
Don’t feel you have to buy some sort of expensive “official” Dirndl, Trudy found a Dirndl-like dress at the markets in Rotterdam for about €15, unfortunately she found it AFTER we went to Oktoberfest (doh). It may not have had the bodice and the apron but it’s colourful and fun and that’s what it’s all about – getting into the spirit of the festival!
Okay so maaaaaybeeeeee the hat and I had a few beers before this photo..
Do you have to wear traditional clothing during the festival and how much does it cost?
No, it is not required to wear traditional Oktoberfest clothing, we didn’t – but we wished we had! Doing so can be a lot of fun and I’m definitely going to find something for when I next go back…but getting a quality “authentic” outfit isn’t cheap unfortunately. Traditional clothing at the lower end will cost you about €150.
I have a German friend who went shopping for some Lederhosen, and some of the antique (high quality deer leather can last for hundreds of years) Lederhosen were priced at around €1,800!
Dirndl’s will cost anywhere from €150 – €300 for something more authentic, or of course you can grab a much more affordable yet still fun Dirndl looking dress.
What is the best way to get around Munich during Oktoberfest?
The best thing to do is buy yourself a 1 day, 2 day or 3 day transport pass for the “inner” ring of Munich. Then you can get trams, trains and buses all with the same pass.
From the centre of Munich there are three ways to get to the Oktoberfest grounds. You can walk (takes about 20 minutes), catch the S-Bahn train or get the underground.
The best way and what we used was the S-Bahn (which is the suburban train). Get on one that is heading to “Hackerbrücke” station, then just follow the crowds all strolling towards the entrance.
Otherwise get the U4 or U5 (underground) towards “Theresienwiese” station – but be prepared for some serious crowds and people everywhere, getting the S-Bahn is a lot nicer!
How much does a beer cost at Oktoberfest?
At Oktoberfest 2012, a beer cost me €10 – for Europe and Germany in particular – that’s expensive! The actual beer price was around €8.60 – 9.30 per beer but it’s common courtesy to tip the waiters so we always paid €10.
Still, you do get a whole litre of the good stuff – for an Australian it’s actually a perfectly reasonable price!
How strong (alcohol percent) is the beer?
All beer served at Oktoberfest is 13.5% Stammwürze, which equates to around 6% alcohol content.
How much does an average day at Oktoberfest cost?
Let’s be realistic here, Oktoberfest for budget backpackers means about 2 days at the festival. That should be more than enough at any rate, going there longer is bad for your liver! Let’s calculate an average day of drinking and food so we can determine how much you would spend during a day at the tents.
Since beers are about €10 and you will likely have about 5 of them, that’s €50. Throw in Lunch and Dinner for about €10 each we’re now sitting on €70. Maybe a big fresh pretzel or two for around €4 each.
There are essentially 6 breweries that conform to the Oktoberfest beer standards and are allowed to brew for the festival and they are listed in the tabbed table below. Each brewery makes a specialty beer known as “Märzen” to serve at the event itself.
What is Märzen (aka Oktoberfestbier)?
This beer has it’s origins deep in Bavarian history, and is a beer that is commonly brewed and served during Oktoberfest.
This type of beer is also known as Märzenbier, Wiener Märzen, Festbier, and Oktoberfestbier.
Augustiner Helles is a light lager beer, and this is the beer most people know when they think of the Augustiner brewery. Of course they also offer other beers such as Edelstoff (a sweeter and more sparkly beer) or their Oktoberfest speciality, Augustiner Weissbier Oktoberfestbier.
Found in tents: Augustiner-Festhalle, Fischer-Vroni
Found in tents: Hippodrom, Schottenhammel, Ochsenbraterei/Spatenbräu-Festhalle
Their specialty Oktoberfestbier is lighter than most of the other maltier and darker beers from the other breweries.
Found in tents: Armbrustschützenzelt, Winzerer Fähndl, Käfer’s Wies’n Schänke
Found in tents: Hofbräu Festzelt
Their stronger Wisenbier (meadow beer) served at Oktoberfest since it’s origins in 1810 is a popular choice.
Found in tents: Schützen-Festzelt, Löwenbräu-Festhalle
Their Märzen choice is hoppy and bittersweet beer which compliments the scrumptious Bavarian dishes on offer. Other popular choices include the Hacker Pscorr Weisse and the Hallertau, but these guys produce 15 other brews (on a seasonal basis) so they know their stuff!
Found in tents: Hacker-Festzelt, Bräurosl
So how big is Oktoberfest? What does it look like on a map? Well, here’s a general idea from the 2012 map – I’m pretty sure the layout tends to remain similar every year.
Click the map to make it bigger.
And there we have it, I’m drawing this post to a close. I certainly think it’s big enough although I’m sure there’s more we could talk about – but you should have a decent understanding of the who/how/whats when it comes to Oktoberfest! We loved it and will definitely be going back again one day.
If you have any tips to add, please leave a comment – let’s make this the best resource it can be.
If you’re heading to Oktoberfest, well obviously share this post because…
a) It will make people jealous
b) It’s awesome and your friends should know about it 😉