What to do at Oktoberfest – Munich
Beer. Beer. You are looking for beer I am presuming! And lots of it. Well Oktoberfest in Munich is the place to be so hopefully with my guide below of what to do at Oktoberfest with answers to some of the main questions should make your stay a little easier. I was amazed at how well the city and the people take to Oktoberfest. It is not a complete binge drinking session that only tourist partake in and get themselves into a drunken stupor, although this does happen. Downing litres of beer is hailed as a glorious achievement because everybody knows the hardship that follows later on. The city of Munich embraces it and locals and tourist alike dress up in the traditional dress of lederhosen (for men) and dirndl (for ladies). Families and older people come to the main centre of operations in the beer tents and have some drinks with their kids without any hassle or feeling out of place. If you want a better idea of the fun at Oktoberfest then read my other post.
Anyway let’s get down to why you are reading this, to learn more about Oktoberfest.
The centre of operations for Oktoberfest is in the centre of Munich in a big park called Thereseinweise. This is not far south of the main train station. This houses all of the famous beer tents, all 14 massive tents and 21 smaller tents as well as a fairground. The nearest U-bahn station (underground) is Thereseinweise. Although this is the where you want to be, all pubs in Munich have music and get into the spirit of it.
What to do at Oktoberfest- When is Oktoberfest on? Oktober right?
Wrong. Oktoberfest starts each year in the middle of September and lasts for 3 weeks to the first Sunday in October. The dates vary a little each year.
What to do at Oktoberfest- How big are the tents?
The tents are huge! They house anything from 3,000 people all the way up to 10,000 people inside (no smoking) with another 3,000-5,000 people outside in the beer tents in the beer gardens (smoking section).
Yes it gets busy, very busy. Munich has a population of 1million people and during Oktoberfest 5 million people visit! During the week is obviously not as busy as the weekends and if you can make the morning then you will have no hassle. But after 4pm on a weekday it gets busy and you may have to queue to get into the beer gardens. To get into the tents if you have no reservation then you need to be there as early as 8am on a Saturday! My advice would be never to queue as there are always places to get into beer gardens without queuing even though it might not seem that way. See below on queuing.
What to do at Oktoberfest- Do I need to reserve a table to drink?
The short answer is no. At any time you can go into a beer garden and order a beer if you can find space. You can also get into the tents for free but this is difficult. You either need to be there very early to get in or else queue for a long time (maybe 2hrs) and at the bouncers will they will let you in whenever they want. See queuing and reserving a tent table below.
The best way to get into a tent is to book it online. You need to be quick to do this though and have plenty of forward planning as they sell out real quick for the following year. You can normally book from around April on each year. Each tent has its own website and reservation system so this link will bring you to it. Most tents do not charge for the reservation but you must spend at least as much as a few beers and a dinner which is fair enough. There is usually a lunch time reservation approx. 11:00 – 13:30 and then an evening reservation after this at the weekends. The week day reservations start later. There are always some portion of seats that are unreserved so you can get into the tent even without a reservation.
What to do at Oktoberfest- How do you get a table if they are all full?
Outside the tents in the Beer Garden no seats are reserved. If you can’t find a seat initially within 20minutes somebody will leave and you can squeeze in. You can still order a beer though so your main priority is fulfilled. Tents always have tables that are unreserved so even if you haven’t reserved a table then there is still a chance you can get one. But be warned you need to be there early. And by early I mean 8am-9am on a Saturday. I arrived at 10am one Saturday on advice and all tents were full! It sounds crazy that tents of 8-10,000 people can be full at 10am but that is the way it is!
What to do at Oktoberfest- Do you have to leave to eat food?
Nope. They have thought of everything. You can get plenty of food there and it is nice but very basic. As they have you by the cajones it is also fairly expensive.
Opening day 12.00 noon – 10.30 pm
Weekdays 10.00 am – 10.30 pm
Saturday, Sunday & holiday 09.00 am – 10.30 pm
Daily closing hour 11.30 pm ‘Käfers Wiesnschänke’ and ‘Weinzelt’ open until 1.00 am
What to do at Oktoberfest- What are the best tents
The Schottenhamel tent is where it all starts off on the first day where the first keg of the festival is first tapped and is considered one of the best tents. But Hacker and Augustiner are also considered to be very good. In my opinion they are all pretty much the same as everybody gets on with everybody and dances to the very corny music. All tents have their own theme and have live bands.
Unless you have lots of time and are very patient I would not queue. If you see a queue don’t join it. When we first arrived we couldn’t see how to get into a tent or beer garden so queued up outside one entrance for 40minutes with nobody getting in except the bouncers friends. We then moved to a different tent and although 3 or 4 entrances were full of people queuing up against the ropes the same as before the main entrance was completely open and you could walk straight in! The bouncers knew this but just didn’t tell anybody. Even when we got our seats people were queuing up for hours at a small entrance when 30yards to their left was the main entrance where you could come and go as you please. People are like sheep, so my advice would be to walk around.
As mentioned above we wanted to get into a tent and were told to be there at 10am on a Saturday. Which after a day of Friday in Thereseinweise was a painful time of the morning. We made it though thinking we were heroes and should get a medal for this sort of hardship but were shocked to find everywhere was full! At 10am! We queued up for an hour outside a door to the tent with nobody getting in (it doesn’t work on a one in one out basis). After getting sick of this we sat down in the Beer Garden keeping an eye on the queue. People queued for almost 2.5hrs before they let everybody (20 or 30 people) in together. That is a long time standing up. If you want to get into a tent my advice would be to reserve a table, get there very early or else just wait until the end and you can get into the tent for the last hour.
Drinking is the main activity but not the only activity. There is a fairground in the Thereseinweise Park with lots of roller coasters, teacups etc. There are bands playing in all the tents but you are probably drinking if in the tents. In many pubs throughout the city they have live bands playing so it’s definitely possible to go to these and have something to eat while listening to some great music. And of course Munich is a great city with plenty of sightseeing to do.
What to do at Oktoberfest- How much does it cost?
Beers are sold only by the litre (1.75 pints) in nice indestructible glasses. Prices vary from tent to tent but they are approx €9.50 to €9.90 per litre. Food prices vary but the cheapest is half a chicken and is about €12. You can also get salads and pasta etc more, up to €20. Large pretzels are also there to keep the nibbles away.