The Munich Oktoberfest is the world’s largest folk festival, where over six million participants dress up in traditional Bavarian dress, enjoy fairground attractions, dance to folk music, munch through thousands of grilled sausages, chickens, and giant pretzels, and yes, drink millions of litres of beer between them.

If you’re planning to attend the Oktoberfest, we’ve put together a quick guide to everything you need to know.

Where and when

The festival spans about 16 days and is held annually in a meadow just outside Munich’s city centre. Although the festival concludes on the first Sunday in October, most of it takes place in September.

Massive tents are erected on the famous Theresienwiese (fondly called the Wiese by locals), and each has its own atmosphere and caters to a different crowd. Some can hold up to 10,000 visitors, and tents may be more than one level.

Security has been tightened up for the event, and fencing surrounding the main site has been strengthened and security checks increased. The festival can only be accessed through one of the designated entrances, which are closed off when the grounds become too crowded.

What to expect

Among the many attractions, the “liquid gold” is probably the most important thing at the Oktoberfest – and over 6 million litres of beer is drunk every year. It’s not all about the beer, however.

The festival opens with a colourful parade of carriages, floats, and people dressed in costumes through the streets of Munich, but the main highlight and an important must-see is the Oktoberfest Costume and Riflemen’s Parade. The parade happens every year on the first Wiesn Sunday.

Other important events are the Parade of Oktoberfest Landlords and Breweries, the Official Tapping of the Keg, and the Oktoberfest Mass or the "Böllerschießen" (handheld canon salute) in front of the Bavaria statue. There is also an open-air big band concert that should not be missed.

What it costs

Entry into the festival and tents is free of charge, and seating in the tents is free as well. However, you will need to pay for everything you eat and drink, as well as for the fair rides and souvenirs – and this can be a bit pricey.

In several beer tents, a litre of beer now costs more than 11€, and water costs almost as much as the beer. The cheapest beer can be found at the Museum Tent at the Old Wiesn and at the Ammer tent.

Where to stay

Oktoberfest is the busiest time for Munich hotels, so it is best to book your room as far in advance as you can. Rooms are likely to be more expensive during this time, and many hotels will expect payment in advance. Prices increase as the festival draws near, which is another reason to book early.

Hotels close to the central station are the most convenient during this period because they are walking distance from the main grounds and allow travellers to explore the city and region with relative ease.

If you’ve left your booking too late to get a hotel, or are just hoping for cheaper accommodation, it may be a good idea to consider Airbnb for options to stay in private houses over the festival period.

Getting to the festival

If you’re not staying within walking distance, you’ll need to either take a taxi to the event or a train to the nearby station. There is no parking available for private cars near the Theresienwiese, and illegally parked cars are mercilessly towed away and drivers are heavily fined.

The best times to go are during the week, as it gets very busy on weekends. The general hours are from 10:00 during the week and 9:00 on weekends to 22:30. If the festival tends to be more crowded in the afternoons, and if it gets too busy, security will shut the gates and only admit visitors with reservations.

Reservations

Getting a reservation at a beer tent isn’t easy, as these start going out as early as January and are typically given to German groups and companies first. The best bet is to communicate with the tents directly if you are looking for a reservation. Reservations are normally given in exchange for guaranteed minimum consumption, usually a minimum of two beers and one grilled chicken per person, with a minimum of ten people sharing the table.

For small groups of just two or three people, however, a reservation isn’t necessary. To ensure you get seating, get to the festival early, get into one of the tents, and politely ask for a seat at an unreserved table.

During weekends, public holidays, and when the weather is cold or rainy, however, the tents will close when they get too full and only an official reservation ticket will get you in. Some reservation tickets are available for sale on eBay, but these are very expensive, and if the tents find out it’s been bought, they void the reservation.

If you have a formal reservation, make sure to arrive on time or you may find that your seats are occupied.

Which tents to go to

All the tents are popular with both locals and tourists, so the best one is generally the one in which you are able to find a seat. If you are lucky enough to get a seat, especially on weekends or days when the weather is poor, it’s best to keep your seat for as long as possible.

If you attend the festival more than once, though, it’s a good idea to try to visit different tents every time in order to get a more rounded feel of the event.

The largest tent is the Schottenhamel, where the mayor of Munich pours the first beer of the season. It seats about 10,000 people. The smallest is the Glöckle Wirt, which seats only 98 people and is less noisy than the other tents. Its walls and the ceiling are decorated with old instruments, cooking utensils, mugs, and paintings, giving it unique charm.

Café Kaiserschmarrn is also a great place to start up your Oktoberfest-day with a nice breakfast of pastries and croissants that are served with speciality coffees. Cakes, pretzels, and pies are also available.

Feisinger's Kas- und Weinstub'n tent focuses more on cheese and wine, offering the very popular party dish called Raclette – molten cheese over bread or potatoes with spicy additions like little gherkins or onions. Other traditional dishes like chicken and pork sausage are also on the menu.

The Augustiner-Festhalle tent is considered to be the friendliest of all at Oktoberfest. It is more moderately paced than some of the other tents, and thus popular with families. In fact, on Tuesdays, there is a “kids day” with lower prices.

What to drink

Beer is the main drink of the festival, all of which comes from Munich breweries such as the Augustiner, Paulaner, and Spaten – and all are served in one-litre glasses (ein Maß). While they’re expensive, you only need about two in an evening. Any more than that, and you’ll probably regret it the next day. If you want to pace yourself, ask for a Radler, which is beer mixed with lemonade.

If you don’t like beer, then there are plenty of other options as well, including wine, ciders, and even some cocktails. The Kuffler's Weinzelt tent is the official wine tent of the festival and only serves one type of wheat beer. You can also get non-alcoholic drinks, such as water, coffee, lemonade, and even alcohol-free beer.

Many of the tents also offer Schnaps, which are shots of hard liqour. These should be avoided at all costs as they don’t mix well with the beer and are likely to leave you feeling very ill the next day.

What to eat

The most popular meal at the Oktoberfest is the classic “Wiesn-Hendl” – a half a roasted chicken served with french fries. Other traditional foods include giant-sized pretzels, Bratwurst sausages, knuckles of pork, and freshly smoked fish.

There are also lots of colourful gingerbread creations to enjoy, and some of the tents serve pies, croissants, and other pastries. The Café Mohrenkopf tent offers cakes and pies that are freshly baked inside the tent, with the speciality being the “Mohrenkopf”, a small, chocolate-glazed cream-cake.

The really hungry may want to try the Ochsenbraterei, where ox roasted on a spit or “ox burger” is offered. If you are looking for traditional Bavarian cuisine, the Armbrustschützen tent is worth a visit, and the Fischer Vroni tent offers authentic grilled “fish on a stick”.

All the tents have English menus, so feel free to ask your waitress for it.

How to get there

Various airlines offer daily flights from London to Munich, with morning flights from Stansted Airport to Munich Franz Josef Strauss offering the best prices on the route. For a hassle-free trip to the Munich, remember to pre-book a hoppa airport transfer to get you to your accommodation.

Hoppa is the world’s top specialist in smooth, reliable rides, and every one of our partners stands by our promises – to be there when we say we will, to give you a safe driving experience, and to clearly confirm your pick up details.

 

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