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Oktoberfest FAQ

by Mark Zanzig
Updated May 1, 2014

Oktoberfest Insider PDF Guidebook As I write this, it is sunny spring morning. The Oktoberfest is less than six months away. The Fest in 2013 has been beautiful, as always, but the weather was just so-so: Low temperatures often prevented the use of the outside areas and beer gardens, despite the heating trying to make the stay at least somewhat comfortable.

In any event, the true fans will already prepare for Oktoberfest 2014 by visiting the numerous “Wies’n-Warmup” events around Munich during the summer.

But then the Fest will be re-opened at noon on September 20, 2014, by the newly elected Lord Mayor of Munich, Dieter Reiter (who replaces Christian Ude who worked in this position for ages). Following the good tradition, Mr. Reiter will yell “O’zapft is!” (“It is open!”) to the crowd in the Schottenhamel tent. And then the beer starts to flow for 16 days in a row.

Our Oktoberfest Guide Book has been an overwhelming success in 2013 (again!), and we've updated the information for 2014. The PDF is just 1.75 MB and covers everything from basics and beers to dresses and songs, how to get there, and so on. Please feel free to download the guidebook, and use it to plan your trip to Munich. After all, the Oktoberfest is a lot of fun, but it can be even more fun when you know how to deal with those 16 days of utter madness we all love so much.

As always, your feedback is highly appreciated. Do you like the website and our guidebook? Are these useful? Would you recommend them to friends? Are you missing something? Where can we do better? Just let me know.

 

1. Where does the Oktoberfest happen?

The Oktoberfest takes place in Munich, Germany, on the famous "Theresienwiese", which is also called "Festwiese" by the locals. The big tents are erected during the summer. The construction starts in June and takes about three months to be completed, just in time for the opening ceremony of the Fest.

You can see a satellite photo on Google Maps, probably shot end July: the beer tents are already present, while the fun rides and souvenir shops are still missing. If you want to see an overview of the big tents, please scroll down to the end of this page.

You will find that the Theresienwiese is not a closed-off area. Basically it can be accessed from anywhere. But it is not practical to access it from anywhere, because there are greens and gentle hills, especially at the western side of the fest! (See also question 9 on how to get there.)

 

Theresienwiese during Oktoberfest
The Theresienwiese during Oktoberfest: You see the street with the beer tents on the left-hand side, and the street with the fun rides on the right-hand side. / Photo: M. Zanzig

 

2. When does the Oktoberfest happen?

The Oktoberfest begins in September and ends in October (hence the name) on the first Sunday in October, or on October 3, whatever is later. It lasts for at least 16 days.

So, in "good" years the Fest will be extended to catch the 3rd October - the Day of German Unity, a bank holiday - on a Monday or Tuesday. This will happen in 2016 again (hoorah!).

The next dates are:

  • 2014: September 20 - October 5
  • 2015: September 19 - October 4
  • 2016: September 17 - October 3
From recent years we can predict the visitor traffic for 2014. This year, the day of German Unity takes place in the middle of the second week, so additional visitors are to be expected around this day. The chart below may help you to make your decision when to visit the fest.

Having said that, we know that the hotel booking situation is more relaxed during the second week of the Fest (see also question 6 below).

When to go to Oktoberfest 2014
Expected visitor traffic for the Oktoberfest 2014. Saturdays are known to be very crowded. Sundays and bank holidays also attract more visitors than usual.

The chart is valid just for fine weather (i.e. dry and warm). About one quarter of the seats are made available in the beer gardens, thus any bad weather (rain, low temperatures) will impact the availability of free seats, usually so much that most tents will be closed early for admission, even on days marked green above. Please note that on days marked red, the Fest will be so crowded that it will be difficult to get a seat even during the noon sessions.

 

3. Do they charge an entry fee to the festival?

No. You may enter the festival and the beer tents free of charge. Sitting down at a table in a tent is free as well. However, please be prepared to pay for everything you are going to consume - drinks, food, souvenirs, and so on.

An exception is the "Historical Wies'n", which shows how Oktoberfest was celebrated in the old times. To access this special area, you have to pay a small fee.

Please note that they usually do accept only cash in the tents, except when you have vouchers for food and drinks (see also question 24), or when you have a special arrangement with the tent.

 

4. Is it allowed to bring your own drinks or food to a tent?

No. When you are in a tent, please purchase your drinks and food from the tent. Then again, it is unlikely that anyone is going to say something about the half-empty bottle of water or the small smelly sandwich that you have been carrying around all day in the city. But if you intend to drink or eat your own stuff within the tent, keep an eye on the waitresses, waiters, and security guys: Officially it is not allowed!

 

5. How much money should I set aside for an evening at the festival?

A typical evening for one person in 2013 was roughly 40 Euro:

  • 2 beers, or similar drinks @ 10.00 Euro = 20.00 Euro
  • 1 chicken, or similar food @ 10.00 Euro = 10.00 Euro
  • 1 Brez'n, or similar food @ 4.50 Euro = 4.50 Euro
  • 2 trips on public transport @ 2.50 Euro = 5.00 Euro
  • Total cost, per person = 39.50 Euro
So I suggest to bring at least 45 Euro cash per person per night in 2014, plus the fees for the funrides and souvenirs.

Who said that the Oktoberfest is cheap? ;-)

 

6. What would be good recommendations for lodging? When should I book my hotel room?

Oktoberfest is the busiest time for Munich hotels, so it is a good idea to book your room long before the Fest and as soon as you know your trip dates. Be prepared for higher prices and to be asked to pay your room in advance.

The hotel situation really tightens up during August when hotels start reporting to be fully booked. Naturally, prices increase as the Fest gets closer.

The chart below shows the booking situation on 20th September 2013, the day before the opening of the Fest. Up to 77% of the hotels were fully booked in the first week while the second week was less busy. In general, the situation was more relaxed than in 2012.

We expect a similar booking behaviour in 2014 and strongly recommend to visit the Fest during the second week, after 29/09.

We suggest to go for a hotel close to central station. This allows you to walk to the festival and back (if you can still walk). The airport trains stop here, and the city and the region can be explored with ease. Most online hotel services offer a good selection of hotels in Munich, also close to central station.

Booking.com offers a good selection of hotels in Munich. They also offer a number of hotels close to the main station. Their online service lists available rooms in real-time. Many hotels offer good cancellation policies to encourage your early booking.

Here is a selection of popular hotels within walking distance to the fest:

And here are some of the finest hotels in Munich. They are likely to have rooms available for you, and they will read every wish from your lips, but it ain't gonna be cheap:

Then there are some appartments available as well. This might be a good alternative for you, especially when all the hotels are fully booked:

 

Percentage of hotels offering at least one room for a single night on the respective day during Oktoberfest 2013, regardless of rates. A value of 30% means that 70% of the hotels did not offer any rooms. In general, Sunday nights and the 2nd week were OK while Saturdays and the first week have been very tight. We expect a similar situation in 2014 and recommend to arrive on or after 28/09/2014 and leave before 03/10/2014. (Graph based on data by booking.com accessed 20/09/2013, 100%=344 hotels, calculations by oktoberfest-insider.com)

 

7. Should I fly to Frankfurt or Munich?

Munich has a big airport with plenty of direct connections to destinations across the world. It is well connected to the town center by public train or airport bus shuttle, so I'd book a flight to Munich (MUC). When you can find a direct flight, it's certainly more convenient than a connecting flight via Frankfurt (FRA), but that probably depends on your budget, and the available flights. (I think it does not really make sense to book a flight to FRA and then go by train to Munich.)

 

8. We will be arriving in a motor home and were wondering where to park/stay?

As you can imagine, you can just about forget to park/stay anywhere in the immediate surroundings of the Theresienwiese.

But for the Fest there will be two special areas where you can stay with motor homes and caravans. These would be your first choice.

  • Messe Riem
    Next to the Riem fairgrounds, you have a fully equipped camping lot for about 1,000 motor homes. You get there via motorway A99 until crossing Munich-East ("Kreuz München-Ost") and then on the A94 to exit "Feldkirchen West". When you approach Munich, just follow the signs for fairgrounds "Messe/ICM". Using the subway you get easily to the fest. The ride will take 20-30 minutes. To check for availability, please call (089) 94 92 89 44.

  • Siegenburger Strasse
    This area provides space for about 250 motor homes. It is close to the fest, so you can take a taxi or even walk from there. To check for availability, please call (089) 547 06 70.

In addition to these special areas for motor homes and caravans, Munich offers a couple of camping lots:

  • Campingplatz München-Thalkirchen
    Zentralländstr. 49
    D-81379 München
    Phone (089) 723 17 07
    Fax (089) 724 31 77
    Mail campingplatz.muenchen@web.de

    This one (Thalkirchen) is most popular camping lot during the Fest, because it is easy to get to the fest and back. So expect lots of Aussies, Kiwis, and Canadians here. Unfortunately, it is not too big, so you need a bit of luck to actually stay there.

  • Campingplatz München Obermenzing
    Lochhausener Strasse 59
    81247 München
    Phone (089) 811 22 35
    Fax (089) 814 48 07

  • Campingplatz Nord-West
    Schrederwiesen 3
    80995 München
    Phone (089) 1 50 69 36
    Fax (089) 15 82 04 63

  • Campingplatz Langwieder See
    Eschenrieder Strasse 119
    81249 München
    Phone (089) 864 15 66
    Fax (089) 863 23 42
Unfortunately, most quarters in Munich offer just paid parking lots these days. But if you don't mind a thundering street, you might try finding a parking lot somewhere along the western lane of Landshuter Allee (and north of Dom-Pedro-Straße), or right below the Donnersberger Brücke (at Arnulfstraße). Last time we checked, these parking lots were still free of charge.

 

MVV suburban train in Munich
The MVV, Munich's public transport system, will bring you safely
to the fest, and also back home again. / Photo: Mark Zanzig

 

9. How do I get to the festival? Should I use a car, or public transport?

You can just forget about getting there with your own car (taxi is OK, but be prepared for severe traffic jams close to the Fest). You won't be able to find a parking lot, and it makes absolutely no sense to park in the restricted zones surrounding the Theresienwiese - your car will be towed away, mercilessly! That's why the Fest is a real fest for the towing companies! Also keep in mind that you might want a beer or two, so you should rather not drive home at night.

Thus I recommend to go to the Fest by public transport, operated by the MVV. There are basically two options to get there: either by suburban train ("S-Bahn"), or by underground ("U-Bahn"). Please see the map at the end of this page for a rough overview.

If you are not sure where to go once the train stops, just follow the stream of people (dressed in the traditional Bavarian Tracht). They know how to get to the Fest.

 

10. I plan on going with my teenagers. Is there an age limit for getting in?

Bring your kids. The locals bring even their small children (all dressed up in nice Tracht'n) to the fest to enjoy an exciting afternoon at the fest. For younger kids, the fun rides are the real attraction and certainly more entertaining than the beer drinking.

For obvious reasons, young kids or teenagers stay rarely in the evening. However, if they are 16 years or older, there is no problem at all. However, the German law prohibits to serve strong alcohol to them - beer is OK.

And here are the rules and regulations for all ages:

 

11. How often should I go to the festival? How long should I stay in Munich?

Obviously, you should go at least once. (If you come to Munich during Oktoberfest but don't visit the festival - well, that's a bit dumb, right?) But how many visits can one endure? Three, five, ten? Let's see...

It's a good Munich tradition to go at least three times to the fest - once with your family, once with your friends, and once with your colleagues. At least, this was true until companies decided that they won't pay for the visit to the festival any more. Consequently, many people don't go to the fest with their colleagues any longer. (Tells you something about your colleagues, right?)

For visitors, my recommendation is to aim for two, maybe three visits, ideally distributed over a full week. Take your time to recover! Remember that Munich and Bavaria offer plenty of beautiful places to visit (see question 37 below), so you won't get bored when not attending the fest one night.

As a side note - in 2008 I've been seven times to the festival! And this was clearly too often. At some point you just don't like the songs any longer, you don't like the hard benches any longer, and you may not even like the beer any longer. (In the following years, I went just three times each year, and it was much better!)

 

12. Where can we buy second hand Lederhosen?

eBay is probably the best place to look for second hand Lederhos'n (leather trousers) if you are still at home. When you are already in Munich, you will find several (outlet) stores selling Trachten (i.e. Lederhosen, Dirndl, and so on). These are new, but you probably will be happy with these, too, as a used Tracht is not so much cheaper than a new one. So why not go with a new one? (Read more about what to wear to Oktoberfest.)

 

Hacker-Pschorr Tent at Oktoberfest
This waitress at the Hacker-Pschorr Tent carries seven Mass beer.

Hacker-Pschorr Tent at Oktoberfest
The Hacker-Pschorr tent features a stunning cloud decoration.
Photos: Mark Zanzig

 

13. Which tent is a "must do"?

All the tents have their own mood, so they are all unique in a way. You should try to see them all. But the Oktoberfest is quite popular with locals and tourists, so the real question is - "Where do I get a seat?"

Especially on weekends, the Fest really is crowded, and you can consider yourself lucky to get a seat without reservation. On rainy or cold days it is even worse. So if you get a seat, we suggest to stay in that tent for as long as possible. Chances are high that you won't get into other tents, or if you do, you won't get any seats.

Typically the people spread across the tents evenly, so you can take your current tent as indicator for the other tents. If there is still a lot of spare room in your tent, the other tents will have room, too. And vice versa.

Now, if you have a choice, I recommend the Hacker-Pschorr tent (see photos above), the Schützenfesthalle, the Ochsenbraterei and the Schottenhamel. But these are just my personal favorites.

In the end, the best tent is the tent where you get in, get a table, and have a nice and peaceful day and evening.

 

14. How do I get reservations for the ... tent?

This is the Million-Dollar-question!

The good news: If you are just a small group, two or three people, you probably do not need a reservation at all. Just try to get into a tent, then wait patiently until people get up and leave. This is difficult, I know. Then snatch that space. Try to not hit the other people trying to do the same. :-)

The bad news: Even if you wanted to get an official reservation, it would be next to impossible to get one. Some tents start to give out reservations as early as February every year, and they are typically serving the German/Munich companies and groups first. You always can inquire with the tents directly (which we recommend), but do not have too high hopes. In case you want to try your luck, we have put together a page with the contact information for each of the big tents.

By the way, if you are staying in one of the premium hotels (five stars), it is a good idea to inquire for a table with their reservation department or guest relations. Usually these hotels do have tables reserved for their guests. While you will be charged for food and drinks, you at least do have a reservation!

Now, if you are really desperate, you will find people and companies who re-sell tables and reservations through eBay. Be warned: often these are dramatically overpriced and "inofficial". So you might be denied access to the tent if you received your reservation through a shady company.

Shady or not, you should never pay (much) more than two beers and one chicken per person. Using current prices, this would be around 30 Euro per person, including the food and drink vouchers. Always remember: there is NO entry fee for the fest, and there is NO reservation fee! If someone tries to charge you more than two beer and a chicken, I'd definitely recommend to stay away from the "offer", unless they can tell you exactly why they are so expensive. For example, one reason may be that there is more or better food included, or more beer vouchers. But you should not pay, say, 100 Euros per person with just one beer and one chicken included. (I know, I know. It is tempting to go for this when you are from overseas and this is your only visit to the Fest in your life, but still: rather spend the money at the Hofbräuhaus in the town center than give it to scammers.)

 

15. I have tried reserving the ... tent but they say they only start giving out reservations in May. Are they trying to fob me off?

No, this is not unusual. Each tent has its own reservation policy (see previous question). Some tents begin as early as January, others begin only in May. You have to get on their "waiting list", and then keep fingers crossed.

You see, the tents serve their existing customers first, i.e. those who attended in the previous year. And then, if tables are "left over", these will be filled from the "waiting list". This procedure is basically the same for all the tents.

It is a good idea to inquire with ALL tents and just see what happens. At the end, you have to fork over the money beforehand, or you won't get the reservation, the access cards (if necessary) and the beer and food vouchers. So no harm is done to anyone if you get preliminary reservation confirmations from more than one tent (but don‘t pay them). Always remember: Only your timely payment will finalize the respective reservations.

 

Closed tent at Oktoberfest
Tents will be closed whenever too many guests are inside the tent. Then the doors will be shut, signs will be put up, and a security person controls the door. After a while, once guests have left the tent, the tent will be re-opened. This is your chance to get in.
Photo: Mark Zanzig

 

16. How can I get into a tent when it is already closed? Do I really need a tent pass?

Sometimes you will find a tent closed during the day ("Wegen Überfüllung vorübergehend geschlossen!") because it's already too full. This happens frequently during weekends and public holidays, and on cold or rainy days. In this case you will either need a reservation, or a good portion of luck. If you have a reservation (or you know someone who has), then go to the entrance for reservations of the respective tent. This is usually somewhere in the back of the tent. In former times it was sufficient to just say the name of the person with the reservation, but these days you usually need an official entrance ticket (tent pass) to get into the tent. If your contact is already in, you can try to call him to check whether he can get you in. But without an official booking it remains tough.

By the way, you can avoid closed tents by coming early to the festival. If you come in the morning (on weekends), or in the early afternoon (on weekdays), you should be able to get in without problems. It's a good idea to look for tables that do not have a reservation, so you can stay all day long to the very end.

 

17. Is it a lot easier to get into the morning session rather than the afternoon? Could we stay for both sittings?

On weekdays (Monday to Friday) it is no problem at all getting into the morning/noon sessions, except on bank holidays. But typically, the activity begins in the afternoon, starting around 3 pm. So you may get in in the morning, you may get a table in the morning, you may get drunk in the morning, but will it be fun?

Even if you may easily get a table during the day, the table is likely to be reserved for the evening session which begins between 4 pm and 6 pm. It is very unlikely that you can stay at that table for the rest of the day. One option is to ask the waitresses upon entering specifially for the tables that are not reserved. At these tables, you can stay as long as you wish. Each tent is required to have them, but there are very few, and these are the first ones to fill up.

On weekends it is very difficult to get in at all, let alone to find space that is free or not reserved. Typically they let in only folks with reservations, so you can imagine that there will be problems, especially if you arrive in larger groups, say five people or more. Having said that, it's not impossible to get in, but it is unlikely. It depends on many factors to get in (weather, staff mood, luck). And once in the tent, it depends on YOU to find a place that is not reserved. But honestly - more than four people on a Saturday without reservation is next to impossible.

 

18. I have table reservations for 10 people. Can I bring more people?

It depends. Officially you are not allowed to bring more people than you have reservations for. For the evening sessions and the weekend sessions, the tents hand out wrist bands or access cards that indicate the day and the session of your reservation. For 10 people they hand out 10 wrist bands or access cards. Typically, they only let in people with the wrist bands or access cards, no matter what. So anyone unable to present a wrist band or access card will have a hard time waiting at the entrance while you already enjoy your first few beers.

On weekdays, however, it is usually not that difficult, especially when the tents are still "open" (i.e. when the weather is good). Then the additional folks can just enter the tent through the main entrance, find your table and join the fun. Unless it is totally packed, they will find some space to order their beer and food. As seats around you become available, try to occupy them. (But do not try to "defend" them if people with a valid reservation show up. This might get you into trouble.)

 

19. Is the 3rd October a bank holiday, and how will this affect finding space in the tents?

Yes, the 3rd October is a bank holiday every year (it's the day of German unity), and all the "weekend rules" do apply. Even more so when the 3rd October is a Friday, attracting additional tourists to the town for the long weekend.

Sometimes the 3rd October is the last day of Oktoberfest. The Fest is then extended to Monday or Tuesday, effectively adding one or two days to the Fest. In those years, the Fest sees more visitors during the day of the 3rd October. But it is the last day, and the people will leave rather early. Thus, it's typically not a problem to get seats in the late afternoon and evening. Then again, it's not that much fun, because all the waitresses and waiters are really exhausted and just want the Fest to be over.

 

Reserved Table at Oktoberfest
Reserved tables are marked with big signs indicating the name of the reservation, the size of the group, and the date and time when the reservation begins. Usually, reservations are void 30 minutes after the reservation time. / Photo: Mark Zanzig

 

20. Is there an easy way to distinguish reserved tables from the other ones?

Yes. They put up signs saying "Reservierung" or "Reserviert" at the end of each table, along with the time, name, and number of people for that reservation. Usually the reservation is void if the announced number of people have not shown up 30 minutes after the reservation time, but this depends on tent policies and the mood of the staff. If really noone shows up, you can occupy the space and start the fun. Should the group appear later, they officially have no rights to claim that space. The waitresses will usually be on your side (as you were generating revenue and the other guys did not), but we think that a peaceful co-existence should be possible, so if there is room, let them sneak in, have a beer and a nice chat.

 

21. When asking if a seat is available, should I do it in English or German?

A polite question in German is always welcome and can be a good ice-breaker (especially with the Germans), but a polite question in English is also OK. The keyword is polite here. If you are rude or appear to be too drunk, you will almost always get a "no" as reply. Also, please do accept a "no" as there is really no point in arguing whether there is space left at a table or not.

And here is what you might say in German: "Entschuldigung, ist hier wohl noch ein Platz frei fur mich und meine Freunde?" ("Excuse me, but is there room for me and my friends here?")

 

22. Are there any tents that are more friendly than others?

No. Each tent has its own character and caters to a different crowd, but they are all more or less friendly. You might find that the smaller tents are more friendly though, as there is less traffic, less noise, less stress - and less drunkyards.

 

23. How much tip is common?

Tricky. If you've got reservations and vouchers, the tip is sometimes included. In this case you do not need to give extra tip, or just if you think the service was extraordinary. If tip is not included, the waitress will tell you what the tip is. In fact, it's not really a tip - it's more like a "service fee". It should be not more than 10 to 15% of the beer or food price. And yes, giving a bit of extra tip will ensure that the waitress will always serve you in time and in quality. :-)

 

24. I've heard about beer and food vouchers. What do I need to know?

The tent owners typically give out reservations for tables and seats only in exchange for guaranteed minimum consumption. The typical minimum per person is two beers and one grilled chicken, with a minimum of ten people sharing the table. In other words: in order to get a reservation, you will need to buy at least 20 beers and 10 chicken, a value of about 300 Euro.

Now, the tent owners sell the beers and food in advance, i.e. when the table is being reserved. This ensures that the reservation party will show up. (And should the group not show up, heck, the tent owner has sold the beer already. :-)

In exchange for your money you will receive (nice looking) vouchers for food and beer. Each tent has its own vouchers, and the design varies slightly every year.

In the tent, you order your beer or food, and you hand over the vouchers to the waitress. For food orders you sometimes have to hand over the voucher first (this depends on the waitress). For beer orders you always hand over the vouchers upon delivery. In some tents the tip is already included in the voucher. Then you have an extra coupon for the tip, just like the photo above. In this case, you do not need to pay additional tip (but it's nice if you do it anyway). If the tip is not included in the voucher, you will have to tip the waitress with cash, even if you have a voucher for the beer or food.

The vouchers are valid throughout the Oktoberfest in the respective tent. Please note that they do not qualify as entry pass, though. If you happen to stay a few more days in Munich, you can pay in the tent owners' restaurant using some of the vouchers for a limited time - typically until the end of October. You'll need to inquire with the tent to get the full details.

 


Oktoberfest voucher for grilled chicken with tip included. / Photo: M. Zanzig

Funny Oktoberfest Hats
Do not wear (supposedly) funny Oktoberfest hats! They will really make you stand out in the crowd as a real "tourist" who knows nothing about the Oktoberfest. / Photo: M. Zanzig

 

25. Are there any general etiquette tips?

Let's see.

  • Most importantly, don't be rude, especially not to the girls. This can get you faster out of a tent than you can say "hey!". So, you should know your limits and (try to) not drink too much.
  • Be early at the fest, ideally before 4 pm, to catch a nice place.
  • If you have a formal reservation, be sharply on time. If you come too late, your seats are likely to be occupied.
  • Do not dance on the tables. Never ever. This is a hard rule. You may dance on the benches for as long as you wish, but do not step on the tables. This might get you removed from the tent really fast. For tables located in the first floor, there may be restrictions to prevent people from falling over the balcony.
  • Do not take a beerstein or glass with you (or anything else that does not belong to you). They are checking bags when you leave. If they find a glass, it is - legally speaking - theft. Should this happen to you, do not make a fuss about it. Usually, they just take the beerstein and let you go, but nothing can stop them from calling the police. To avoid any of this, just do not take a beerstein!
  • Do not smoke inside the tents. Smoking inside the tents is not permitted. Each tent has outside smoking areas.
  • Do not bring glass bottles to the Theresienwiese. For security reasons, these are not allowed.
  • Do not wear silly Oktoberfest hats. You will really look like a tourist.

 

26. How can I meet my friends in a tent?

Meeting your friends in a tent with 7,000 people can be surprisingly difficult: It is really loud! You hardly can understand a word on the mobile phone, so calling is out of question. You better text message each other.

Good orientation points are the band and the main entrance. By describing your actual position in relation to these points, your friends should be able to find you. You can always ask your waitress for the official name of the table and share this information. At the main entrance, there is a tent plan where anyone can lookup a specific table.

And then there is the problem of getting a table. A group of people without reservation has problems getting in and finding a table. It's not impossible though, especially when your friends show up over time and the size of your group incrementally grows. In this case you occupy the table as more guests leave the fest. :-)

 

27. Where can I see Oktoberfest on German TV?

Local broadcaster München TV has the most complete coverage: a live show in German every night from 6 pm to 9 pm. You might as well try Bavarian state broadcaster Bayerischer Rundfunk. They run a summary every night. If you want to watch from abroad, you will want to check whether you can watch the live feeds of their programs on the Web.

 

28. What is the best beer?

All the beers are fine, depending on your taste. However, there's that old Augustiner joke...

After work, all the brew masters from the Munich breweries sit together in a pub. Needless to say, each brewer orders beer from his own brand, i.e. the Löwenbräu guy orders Löwenbräu, the Hacker-Pschorr guy orders Hacker-Pschorr, and so on. Last one to go is the Augustiner guy. He orders a Coke. Everybody is stunned, asking - "Why?" - "Well", he finally says with a wide grin, "if you are not ordering any beers, then I won't, too."

 

29. I am looking to try great local food. What is the best food?

You have a good choice of dishes. A must-try is the classic "Wiesn-Hendl" (grilled chicken), best enjoyed with French Fries. As they are really fresh, they definitely are delicious. The tent owners also have restaurants in or around Munich, and they serve traditional Bavarian food there. So they do have the experience, and there really is no difference in quality between the various tents. All tents, even the small ones, have a high volume, so you won't have any bad surprises.

You might want to try the ox at the Ochsenbraterei (also offered as "Ox Burger"). If you are looking for traditional Bavarian cuisine, the Armbrustschützen tent and the Fischer-Vroni are the best places to go. Having said that, we really think that all the tents are serving good and fresh food.

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

 


Fresh grilled chicken being served at the Hofbräu tent.

Steckerl Fish at Fischer Vroni
Traditional "Steckerl Fisch" at Fischer Vroni.

Young and drunk at the Oktoberfest
Relaxing after the first few beers. / Photos: Mark Zanzig

 

30. How much beer do you drink at Oktoberfest?

Certainly you should try to not drink too much. But how much is "too much"? Well, I'd say that up to two Mass beers (two liters) are OK. This can typically be handled by normal folks without any serious problems. With three Mass (three liters) you will quickly approach the borderline. You will probably not feel well the next morning, and if you are not used to these quantities, your day may be a mess. Four or more Mass beers, and getting home (or in fact, getting anywhere) may become difficult. And the next day will definitely be a mess.

There is one hard rule to avoid major complications: Do not drink "Schnaps" (shots). Whatever they tell you. However they try to convince you. Just don't do it! Schnaps may send you to the floor within short time, and there is really nothing you can do about it. If you just stick to beer, you probably will be fine (sort of). Yep, I'd say this is really the most important rule of all: No Schnaps!

By the way, there are always folks boasting that they "drank ten Mass" on a single night at the Fest. All of these stories turn out to be pure fantasy. In some rare cases, the folks telling you such a ferrytale may indeed have drunk such unbelievable amounts, but most of it was non-alcoholic beer. You see, if the mood is right and the beer is flowing, some waitresses silently switch to non-alcoholic beers. Just believe us: Nobody can drink ten liters of beer and walk home. Nobody!

Oh, and by the way – every tent offers various non-alcoholic drinks like softdrinks, water, and alcohol free beers.

 

31. I do not speak any German. Will this be a serious problem?

This will not be a problem.

The language sections of the travel guidebook usually contains the German translations for the most important phrases anyway. And let's face it - you don't want to discuss the history of German literature with the waitress. You want her to bring some tasty food, and some beer. :-) Most tents also have English menus, so ask for them if you are not comfortable ordering in German.

By the way, when compiling the list of the most popular Oktoberfest songs we found out that about two thirds of the songs are German, and one third is English. So you will be able to sing and dance and have fun, even without knowing a single word of German! Anyway, here are the most important phrases:

Excuse me, how do I get to the Oktoberfest (to the Festwiese)?
Entschuldigung, wie komme ich zum Oktoberfest (zur Festwiese)?

Excuse me, is there space for the (two, three, four, five) of us at your table?
Entschuldigung, hätten sie wohl Platz für uns (zwei, drei, vier, fünf)?

(One, two, three, four, five) beers, please!
(Ein, zwei, drei, vier, fünf) Bier, bitte!

(One, two, three, four, five) chicken, please!
(Ein, zwei, drei, vier, fünf) Wiesn-Hendl, bitte!

We don't speak any German, could you please give us an English menu?
Wir sprechen kein Deutsch. Könnten Sie uns bitte englische Menükarten geben?

Where are the washrooms?
Wo befinden sich die Toiletten?

How much does this cost?
Wieviel kostet das?

Cheers!
Prost!

[In the taxi] Could you bring us to the Hotel XYZ, please?
Könnten Sie uns bitte zum Hotel XYZ bringen?

 

32. How is the bathroom situation in the beer tents? Are there long lines? Is it safe?

There are enough facilities in the tents. But in a tent with thousands of people drinking thousands of liters of beer there also is a clear need for these! When the action has been going on for a while, say at six p.m. during the week (two p.m. on weekends), people start to use the washrooms. Depending on your location in the tent, it can take 3 to 5 minutes to get to the washrooms. And there you will find a queue.

For men, this usually means a wait between 5 and 10 minutes in the line.

For women, this usually means a wait between 10 and 20 minutes (!) in the line. If that's the case, you sometimes see women who really can not hold it any longer rushing to the men's washrooms, or bypassing the entire line of waiting women. Rarely in full agreement with the other women, I should add. ;-) The bathrooms are very safe, so you do not need anyone to join you to protect you. Please remember that your group should never completely leave your table! Any empty table will be taken by new guests in no time!

 

33. I am going to the festival with my customers, but I do not want to get drunk in front of them. What can I do?

Yes, there are situations where you do not want to get drunk, e.g. with your customers. It's indeed a genuine dilemma: If you do drink the beer like your customers do, you will get seriously drunk and may do or say things you may bitterly regret later. After all, your guests are still your customers. Not good. On the other hand, you go there specifically for the beer. So if you do not drink beer (or not much) you will be labeled as "spoil-sport", "sissy", or "Mr. Boring". Not good either.

Here's the solution: As you are going to pay for all the beers and the food, you grab your waitress at the very beginning, when you occupy the table. You take her to one of the main aisles and explain your rules for the evening:

"Look, these are my customers. I can't get drunk in front of them. So, whatever I say or do, you will get me a beer without alcohol. Even when I order a round of five beers for all of us, you will bring four normal beers and one non-alcoholic beer for me. I am going to pay for all of us, and don't worry - you will get plenty of tip."
It's a win-win situation for all of you. The waitress knows that she has just one contact person. She knows that she will get additional tip from you, and knows that you will keep an eye on your group - which means less trouble for her. Your customers get drunk and believe you're getting drunk as well. And you can drink as much as you want while keeping all your senses (and have no headache the next day).

The only drawback: It is quite depressing to see the folks around you getting comfortably drunk while you have to stay sober. So try to keep smiling and try to have fun! Always think about the benefits for your business. :-)

 

34. Do you have tips for a single woman visiting the fest?

First, you do not need a reservation, because as a single person you are much more flexible than groups are. Should you encounter a "closed tent", you just wait a couple of minutes and sneak in once the tent is open again. Even in front of a closed tent, a single woman (who is not drunk yet!) can always tell the security guy that her colleagues are inside, and ask politely whether he could make an exception for you, just once, just this time. Be sober and friendly, you know the drill. He might actually let you in. :-)

Meeting new people is not a problem. As a woman you will have to actually fend off the guys. Pick one of the tables where the guys are not too drunk, with plenty of normal people around (families, business guys, younger folks). It is not a good idea to inquire at a large table with just (drunk) males. They certainly will find a place for you, no doubt about that, but will you have a fun time after a few beers? Anyway, visitors to the fest come from everywhere in the world, with lots of English speakers around. So you have a good chance to meet someone. And the locals like a nice chat, too.

If getting a seat is a problem in a packed tent, just ask the waitress politely for a place. She will almost always be able to assign a seat for you. You will want to avoid the darker corners of a tent. While you should not feel unsecure there (security staff is omnipresent), you will just experience half of the action (band, people, etc.). A good place is somewhere in the middle of the tent, not too close to the band, but not too far away either.

When asking for a seat at a table as a single woman, it is always a good idea to stay close to the aisle until you are more comfortable with the situation. That will make it easier to get away should the need arise (i.e. when the guys can't behave). Alternatively, try to sit next to another woman in the group. The mood on a table can change quickly! It's just a matter of another round of beer. In such situations just grab your purse and beer and leave the table. It is not unsafe at the festival, but sitting at a table among a bunch of drunk guys is not genuine fun either.

For a single woman, I do not think that all the tents are equally suitable. I'd avoid the Weinzelt (wine tent) which - as the name suggests - is not a beer tent. A lot of older folks can be found here, so it's not that much fun anyway. The Käfer tent is the place where the German celebreties hang around, but it's quite hard to get in, and it is not your typical beer tent either. Gay people tend to like the Bräurosl.

Also, please do consider buying a conservative (long) Dirndl, the traditional female dress of Bavaria. It looks good and will let you mingle more easily with the locals. (See tips on what to wear to Oktoberfest.)

 

35. What time do tents close the doors?

Beer Serving Hours are 10 am to 10:30 pm on weekdays, and 9 am to 10:30 pm on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. Just on the opening Saturday they will start beer serving at noon.

At 10:30 pm the band will stop playing, the lights will go on, and the waitresses will start to clean the tables around you. Typically you will have left by 10:50 pm. The only exception to this is the Käfer tent which closes at 1 am (last orders at 12:15 am).

 


36. Where are the best places to go after the fest closes in the evening?

Once the big tents close, everybody heads to the Käfer tent first. They are allowed to open longer in the night. As you can imagine, the whole fest rushes there, so chances are close to nil to get in. You might be better off trying an hour before closing time, but do you really want to give up the table you have for the chance of getting into the Käfer?

But don't worry - there are many alternatives in the city:

  • P1 - Certainly one of the best After-Wiesn parties in the city, but extremely difficult to get in. Their doormen are known to be very selective. (No sneakers, Tracht is OK.)

  • Rilano No. 6 - This is the successor of the Lenbach and my wifes favorite place to go with customers after the Fest. You can reserve a table in advance, but do not expect a lot of comfort: It is really packed. However, if you do not have a reservation, it is not as difficult to get in as the P1.

  • 8 Seasons - One of the coolest clubs in town, located within walking distance to the fest. Difficult to get in, but awesome once you are. :-)

  • Das Wiesnzelt - Why not continue the night in the Oktoberfest mood in the traditional Löwenbräu Keller. The venue resembles a real Oktoberfest beer tent, complete with waitresses in Dirndls and lots of Maßbier. Reservation recommended.

  • Kultfabrik - It is said to be the biggest party area of Europe. As there are so many clubs, you certainly will find a place that suits your taste. Lots of special offers for Oktoberfest visitors.

Not all of the clubs are open every night, so we recommend to check directly with them before you head there.

 

Oktoberfest at Night
Once the waitresses have served the last beers, everyone walks
home - or continues the party in one of the many clubs in town.
Photos: Mark Zanzig

 

37. I will stay for a couple of days in Munich - what are the must-see's?

Munich has plenty of attractions for the visitor. With its surroundings, you can easily spend four or five days here without getting bored. Here is -in no specific order- a list of attractions you should not miss when you are in Munich:

You may also consider these sidetrips to places close to Munich:

 

38. My question is not listed. How can I get an answer?

Well, well, you can always send me a mail with your question. I try to answer each serious question, but please do not hold your breath waiting for a reply. After all, I've got some photos to shoot... :-)

* * *

Map of Oktoberfest Munich 2014 (preliminary)

Map of Oktoberfest Munich

 

Surroundings of Oktoberfest Munich 2014

Surrounding map of Oktoberfest Munich

There are basically three ways to get to the Theresienwiese by public transport. We recommend to use the suburban train ("S-Bahn") and exit at the "Hackerbrücke" station. You can easily follow the masses walking to the main entry of the Fest. It takes about 10 minutes.

Alternatively, you can use the underground system and take the U4 or U5. Both lines stop at the "Theresienwiese" station. However, please be prepared to find yourself in a big crowd of people who all want to exit the station here - it can easily take 10 minutes to get from the station to the surface!

Or, you can use the U3 or U6 and exit either at "Goetheplatz" or "Poccistraße".

* * *

And here is a short video clip that will show you the Original Oktoberfest in Munich - in just under three minutes. Enjoy!


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