The 181st Oktoberfest kicks off this weekened, so it’s time to iron your dirndl and/or dust off the ole lederhosen. Oktoberfest is Disney World for adults: a brilliantly happy place full of entertainment for days, but there are some things you should know before going to Oktoberfest to ensure your good time at the world’s largest beer festival. This year’s Oktoberfest, or Wiesn as it’s called locally, is extra exciting for me as it will be my first living in München! Sunday will mark my sixth trip to Oktoberfest, and after this season, I’ll probably lose count of my evenings “auf der Wies’n”.
When is Oktoberfest?
Oktoberfest 2014 runs from Saturday, September 20 to Sunday, October 5. The fest begins at noon on Saturday with the tapping of the first beer keg by new Munich mayor Dieter Reiter in the Schottenhammel tent.
Where is Oktoberfest?
The Wiesn takes place on a Wiesen, meaning meadow, but referring to the fairgrounds, Theresienwiese, meaning Therese’s meadow. Princess Therese was the bride of Prince (later King) Ludwig I of Bavaria, who married on October 12, 1810. Festivities for the citizens were held to celebrate the marriage and those festivities are still held yearly (hint: Oktoberfest). The nearest U-Bahn stop is, you guessed it, Theresienwiese on lines 4 and 5. Other close stops are Goetheplatz, lines 3 and 6, and Schwanthalerhöhe, lines 4 and 5.
When Should I Go?
Getting a seat at Oktoberfest is not easy. I’ve laid out my best tips here, but in summary 1) go on a weekday (exception: October 3rd is a German public holiday) 2) line up before the tents open in the morning 3) go in a group of 3 or less and ask people if you can sit with them.
The second weekend of Oktoberfest is always “Italian Weekend”. This weekend is IMHO, the worst one to go. The fest is extra over-crowded and there are less locals. If you’re going to the Wiesn, don’t you want to see some local men in Lederhosen? I sure do.
The tents are certainly most fun during the evenings, when the party bands get the Oktoberfest music rolling and the crowds up dancing. If you learn one song before you go, my I recommend memorizing “Fliegerlied” with motions? It’s too much fun. Fortunately, you will already know many others like “Sweet Caroline” and “Country Roads”.
What Should I Expect at Oktoberfest?
Oktoberfest is a lot of what you make it. Upon arriving, you will see carnival rides, loads of people dressed in traditional Bavaria tracht: lederhosen and dirndl, carnival games, food vendors, and large and small beer tents. If you want to experience the Oktoberfest party madness, head on over to one of the fourteen large beer tents. From personal experience, I highly recommend the Hacker-Festzelt and Schottenhammel tents, but really, you’ll have a blast in any tent you find a seat. You need a seat because a) beer is only served to the tables and b) you cannot stand in the walkways. If you are standing in the aisles, bouncers and waiters will constaly be pushing you along. You will be instantly awed upon entering the massive tents by the people, the decorations, the energy, and how much beer the waiters and waitresses can hold in a single go. Once you find a seat and order your first beer, the real magic begins as you start getting to know the people around you and you sing your first round cheersing to the song “Ein Prosit!” You will learn this one very quickly.
Ein Prosit, ein Prosit
Ein Prosit, ein Prosit
OANS ZWOA DREI! G’SUFFA!
In the evening, the party bands start playing classic sing-a-long songs, many of which you’ll know and love. An eclectic mix of tourists, but mostly locals, will entertain you for the entire event. The rest is history and simply what you make it. I suggest making Bavarian friends who can explain the songs, motions, and traditions, and direct you where to extend the celebration after the festival. Every time I go to the Wiesn, I worry it won’t be as f un as the year before, yet somehow, it always leaves lasting memories.
– Cash, each liter of beer will run you €10 – 11. Food will cost you €10 – 20. Do you want to ride carnival rides? Do the math, then bring even more cash. Entry to the tents if ree.
– Wear a Dirndl (women) or Lederhosen (men). Not doing so is akin to going to a Halloween party without a costume and who wants to do that?
– Pocket tissues, for toilet-paperless bathrooms, clean ups, etc.
– Small purse (leave the big bags at home)
– What Not To Bring: Passport, Coat, DSLR
Each year, there is an official Oktoberfest poster and collector’s mug. Chosen candidates from local art and design skills submit their projects and the winner is selected by a jury and received €1250 this year.
A mass like that above comes filled with beer. Ideally, it holds 1 Liter of the good stuff, but Oktoberfest is not known for its perfect pours so often you’ll see a lot of foam, resulting in less beer. It’s Oktoberfest though, so you accept it. The price of beer got a €0.40 cent bump this year. A beer in the tents will cost you from a “low” €9.70 at Heimer’s Roasted Duck and Chicken and Heinz’ Sausage & Chicken Grill to a high €10.10 at the Schottenhammel-Festhalle, the Löwenbräu-Festzelt, and Zur Bratwurst. Therefore, you will not only want to have your €10 notes ready, but some €1 Euro coins will also be beneficial.
The beer tents at Oktoberfest only serve beer from six breweries, who conform to the Reinheitsgebot, or German beer purity laws. Each brewery sells a special Oktoberfestbier, which is around 6 percent alcohol. The six breweries who can serve beer at the festival are: Augusteiner, Hacker-Pschorr, Hofbräu, Löwenbräu, Paulaner, and Spatenbräu.
The beer price bump is a standard yearly change, but this year’s biggest change was certainly not and regular patrons will notice the absence of the Hippodrom tent. The tent’s owner, Sepp Krätz, was found guilty of tax evasion and is serving a 22 year sentence. Most of the large tents at the Oktoberfest are owned by the breweries, but the Hippodrom tent, which was owned by Krätz personally, will not be appearing at this year’s festival. That breaks the tent’s 111 year streak at Oktoberfest and the tent will be replaced with The Marstall, which seats 3200 inside and 1000 outside. Mastall will be serving Spaten, like Hippodrom. The last time a new tent was introduced was in 1984, with the introduction of the wine tent.
Germans are trustworthy people; should you lose something, don’t give up on finding it. Try going to the Oktoberfest Lost and Found Office at the Service Center, open from 13:00 – 23:00. The service center is behind the Schottenhammel tent. Once the fest is over, things move to Munich’s lost and found office (Fundbüro der Landeshauptstadt München) at Oetztaler Str. 17/Rgb., 81373 München. If they are not claimed in six months, they’re sold at public auction.
Lastly, if you learn any German before you go, Ein Bier Bitte (one beer please) and Danke Schön (thank you) are essetials.
What are your Oktoberfest tips?