How many beers? All the beers. How many tents? All the tents.
This is a big one for me, Oktoberfest was one of my top bucket list items for my trip! Originally this was going to be a solo trip for me, but I was fortunate to have my friend Connor fly into Munich to join for this one. Here are a few step-by-step lessons to enjoy your first experience at Oktoberfest from a novice attendee like me. Before we launch into this, lets cover a few bases first so we are all up to speed.
Important Things to Know
Where is Oktoberfest Located?
The festivities take place at Theresienwiese (type that into google maps and it will come up) with the main gate off of Bavariaring street.
Can I pay by card?
Sorry, Oktoberfest is a cash-only affair. ATMs are available inside tents but best to bring some cash before you arrive. My recommendation, bring the money you are willing to spend and nothing else including a credit or debit card since they will be useless anyways.
How do I get a beer?
In order to get a beer, you have to have a spot at a table. This doesn't necessarily have to be your own seat, but a waiter or waitress will not give you a beer as you walk past them. Pro Tip: Walking around making you thirsty? Make quick friends with somebody at a table and ask if you can stand at the end long enough to get a beer.
Step 1: Picking your Party
Oktoberfest is huge, and I mean really huge! So large that it wasn't until my third day there I realized I had only explored one of two main areas for the festival. Here is a quick synopsis of the tents I went to for your reference. Pro-Tip: For opening day, tents open for grabbing tables at 9:00 but I would recommend being there by 7:00 as people line up to make sure they get the best spot in the house.
Hofbrau Haus - The International Tent
This tent, like the famous beer tavern in Munich, is home to Hofbrau biers. The tent is known for being the international tent because of its high level of attendance by Americans, Canadians and Australians. If you fancy yourself a drinker, come challenge yourself to chug a full Maß while standing on your table. If you fail to finish it in one go, you will feel shame, shame, shame as the crowd boos and people throw bits of pretzel at you.
Schutzen-Festzelt - Meet the locals
.One of my favorite tents at Oktoberfest! This is the place to come if you want to meet with the younger Munich crowd. This tent comes with a few warnings though. First, this tent is loud and everybody sings, so don't come here if you need your voice for anything important in the following days. Second, the young crowd here can be a bit defensive about having tourist invade their tents so for all those that follow, please don't be "that guy".
Hacker-Festhalle - Beautifully Decorated Tent
A fun tent in its own respect, I loved Hacker-Festhalle as a place to take a break and enjoy some food. A great place to get a pork knuckle and other traditional bavarian food, one of my favorite dishes here was actually off the vegetarian option, the Käsespätzle (Germans mac n cheese). Make sure to look up and enjoy the amazing ceiling designed after a sunny days with clouds floating by.
Löwenbräu-Festhalle - Can't miss tent with a giant Lion outside
One of the largest tents at Oktoberfest, this tent has great music and a fun atmosphere. Löwenbräu was also one of my favorite beers. I found that the band here played a great mix of classics and rock songs that got the crowd singing.
Step 2: Getting a Beer
To get a beer, you need a table, to get a table you need a mix of luck and patience. If you have a large group, I suggest getting a table reservation ahead of time. For smaller groups or individuals its extremely easy to show up to a tent and work your way into a table as people move around. Beer is paid for in cash only, to speed up the process gather the money while your beers are being brought to you and don't forget the tip! On opening day, beer doesn't start to slow until noon, but every other day it starts at 10 AM. Pro-Tip: One thing I learned from being in Hofbrau Haus for opening day was to pre-order beer in the lead-up to the barrels being tapped. This way you wont have to wait over an hour like we did. Ready for another tip, if you are sick of beer order a radler which is a mix of beer and lemonade. Its a refreshing change of pace.
Step 3: Find a sturdy table to stand on and sing along As the day goes on, the music becomes progressively louder and songs become more famous. You will always hear such classics as Ein Prosit and Fliegerlied so look up the lyrics ahead of time so you can partake in the fun! Be prepared though, as the sun sets bands will change to classical American rock songs so get ready for AC DC and other popular songs.
Step 4: Don't forget to eat
Oktoberfest has some of the best food around! Don't forget to step out of the beer halls and eat a meal. Some of my favorites included the pork knuckle and half chicken.
Step 5: Looking for the afterparty? Start at the wine tent
Beers are served till 11 on weekends and 10:30 on weekdays. After all the main tents stop serving beers the wine tent will still be going strong till 1:00 AM. The tents fill up quickly as everybody consolidates from the other major tents to just the few open ones left so don't be to slow about moving over.