Oktoberfest is a massive festival that takes place in the Wiesn meadow, just outside Munich city center every year in September. It is the world’s largest folk festival and attracts about 7 million visitors annually, who join together in a celebration of all things Bavarian – especially its beer!
An inordinate amount of spectacularly good local beer gets quaffed during Oktoberfest. It’s the most famous celebration of beer in the world, and a Mecca for fans of ‘proper’ beer (spoiler alert: there’s no Budweiser tent).
The festival was first held in 1810 as a celebration of a royal wedding between Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. The original party lasted five days, with drinking, eating, parades, shooting, music, dance and a horse race; it was all such fun that they decided to hold the party every year!
The main draw is certainly the drinking, eating and dancing, but the festival also has lots of other attractions. There are parades, fairground rides, bands, cabaret shows and lots of brilliant traditional Bavarian outfits. So enjoy the beer, but don’t forget to check out the many other cool attractions too.
To make your trip to Oktoberfest as fun as possible, some forward planning is important. Have a look through our list of recommendations and take note of your favorites in your BUCKiTDREAM planner.
Join In At the Oktoberfest Opening Day Grand Parade The Grand Parade winds its way through the streets of Munich to Oktoberfest, with up to 1,000 participants, including horse-drawn drays representing the Munich breweries, colorful carriages, decorated floats, beer waitresses in traditional Bavarian dress and all the Oktoberfest marching bands. This is a spectacle not to be missed.
March in Line At the Oktoberfest Costume Und Riflemen’s Procession This famous procession happens on the first Sunday of Oktoberfest and it’s the best way to see the huge variety of colorful traditional German costumes. Groups in different regional costumes, troops in historical uniforms, marching bands, riflemen, horse-pulled drays, carriages, floats, dancers with flowers in their hair, street performers and trumpeters on horseback all pass through the city center on their way to Oktoberfest.
Dress To Impress Many locals go all-out, with the men wearing lederhosen and the frauleins wearing a traditional Bavarian skirt, apron and bodice called a dirndl. Lots of visitors join in, too and you can get some seriously dapper local gear from many shops in the city that specialize in traditional Bavarian clothes. If you are going to dress up, take it seriously and make a genuine effort – zany, comedy Oktoberfest hats are only funny for a very short time (if at all) and then they just make you stand out as a tourist!
Get a Well-Rounded Feel For the Festival By Trying Out a Few Of the Different Tents Each tent has its own original vibe. The 10,000-seater Schottenhamel, where the first beer of the season is poured to much fanfare, is the largest tent. The Winzerer Fähndl also has a very cool beer garden, while the Augustiner Festhalle is more moderately paced and family-friendly. Popular tents include he Hackerbräu and Hofbrau, and the smallest is the Glöckle Wirt, which only has room for 98 people. It is advisable to book your place in each tent, particularly the more popular ones, but failing that you can often find a place at a bench if you just show up and stake your claim.
Have a Sing and a Dance As the mood grows livelier, many people will begin to sing and dance on their benches. It is customary to join in and swing your beer and/or have a dance. There are popular drinking songs that everybody seems to know. Ein Prosit and Fliegerlied are popular, repetitive and easy to master. The Chicken Dance is also enormously popular at Oktoberfest, so prepare to flap your ‘wings’ every few minutes or be considered a party-pooper.
Experience the Weird and Wonderful Schichtl Variety Show This spectacular, one-of-a-kind cabaret show is located in the northeast corner of the Oktoberfest grounds on Schaustellerstraße. It’s oddball humor and bizarre silliness make it a huge crowd favorite at the festival. Showcasing mock guillotine executions, the butterfly dance and the world’s fattest woman, this performance is bright, flamboyant, yet kind of dark! The Schichtl family have been running this show at Oktoberfest since 1869, and their cabaret performances have become one of the most well-loved parts of the festival.
Check Out the Open Air Big Band Concert On the second Sunday of the festival, on the steps of the Bavaria Statue, there is an open air concert featuring all of the Oktoberfest big bands, with approximately 400 musicians taking part. As we all know, the best hangover cure is a good blast of very loud marching band music!
Explore Munich City Itself Munich city has many great attractions, including museums, galleries, shopping, beautiful architecture – both old and modern – a lovely park in the center of town called Englischer Garten, fabulous restaurants and nightlife and one of the greatest soccer clubs in the world: the mighty Bayern Munich.
Oktoberfest is a huge draw for Munich, meaning that accommodation should be booked well in advance.
High-end The award-winning Hotel Laimer Hof regularly tops ‘best hotel’ lists in Germany. Set in a charming old Bavarian mansion, this place has a level of class and sophistication that is second to none. Great food, wine, and, of course, beer.
Medium Bavaria Boutique Hotel is an elegant yet vibrant and modern hotel in central Munich with particularly interesting decor and an excellent restaurant. Their hearty breakfasts are perfect for prepping your stomach for a day of beer drinking.
Budget For a clean and comfortable hostel with free WiFi, laundry services, secure lockers and luggage storage, breakfast and kitchen facilities, Wombats City Hostel Munich is a great choice. It will always be full during Oktoberfest, so make sure that you book early.
Food is a very big part of Oktoberfest. The typical fare is roast chicken, bratwurst, pork knuckles, smoked fish and giant pretzels, while at Ochsenbraterei they roast ox on a spit – ‘succulent’ is an understatement!
Oide Wiesn is a German delicacies tent on the grounds of Oktoberfest – traditional German food, Bavarian music and colorful costumes abound!
You can also find delicious cakes and pastries, such as strudel and gingerbread. At Bodo’s Cafe there is a great selection of sweet baked goods to have with your coffee, when you need a short break from all the beer!
If you feel like cleansing your system head to the juice bar Der Saft, in preparation for the next round of festivities.
Drinks and Nightlife
All the beer served at Oktoberfest comes from Munich breweries. The main ones are Augustiner, Paulaner and Spaten. Beer is served by the liter, in huge steins carried, many at a time, by strong-armed waitresses.
A Radler is a beer with lemonade and a good option if you want to pace yourself.
Weinzelt serves a lot of great German wine, Sekt (sparkling wine) and Champagne, while Beim Biermann provides an array of liquors for when you want to keep drinking but are feeling a bit bloated from all the beer.
Tips and Culture
Oktoberfest takes place from late September into early October. It lasts about two weeks.
The festival and beer tents are free to enter. Beer, food, or souvenir empty beer steins are not free.
Opening hours are 10 am to 10.30 pm. It gets very busy at weekends and many locals prefer to pop in during the week.
Tipping your server 10-15% is standard and will ensure good service.
Security is tight and all backpacks and big bags are prohibited.
American Airlines, Delta, Air Canada, EasyJet, British Airways, Air Berlin and Lufthansa all fly into Munich airport.
Battle to Keep Your Beer Down At the Oktoberfest Carnival While Oktoberfest is very child and family-friendly, you do not need to be an infant to enjoy whizzing through the air on the Höllenblitz (Lightning from Hell), Skyfall, or Teufelsrad (Devil’s Wheel). Games, cotton candy and shooting galleries make this a fun place for all ages.
Oktoberfest is a great festival for beer lovers, but also for people who just like a good old fashioned knees-up. So while you quaff a delicious Paulaner, or try to keep that Paulaner down while speeding through the air on the Lightning from Hell, why not inspire your friends by sharing your dream Oktoberfest experiences on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram?