Experiencing Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany is something to behold. It’s one of the most famous festivals in the whole world and if you’re able to, I highly recommend adding this to your bucket list! It was one of the most cool and unique things I’ve ever done and it’s probably one of my favorite memories to date. I’ve put together an Oktoberfest travel guide that will help you plan out your once in a lifetime trip!
I personally had so many questions when I was trying to research this trip because there is so much information you need to know before going – from lederhosen and dirndls, hotels, transportation, and beer tents.
What is Oktoberfest?
Oktoberfest (Wiesen as the Germans call it) is a three week long festival held in Munich, Germany where people take off work and celebrate. It’s a family friendly event but people tend to party all day. There are several beer tents that each hold thousands of people along with carnival rides, lots of food and of course, beer.
When is Oktoberfest?
Oktoberfest starts on the second to last Saturday of September at noon when the mayor taps the first keg at the Schottenhamel tent. The festival goes until the first Sunday of October. You can find the dates to upcoming festivals here.
When is the Best Time to Go?
Usually it’s best to avoid weekends and the Day of German Unity (which is a public German holiday on October 3rd) because the festival is more crowded during those times. If you can, try to go on a week day to avoid the bigger crowds. We ended up going on a Monday (October 1, 2018) and the crowds weren’t that bad for most of the day. It probably helped that it was a little cold and rainy as well, but I could definitely tell that it got more crowded as the day went on. Near the end of the night it felt like every table in every tent was filled so we couldn’t get up and hop around the tents. I recommend jumping around tents in the morning/early afternoon and staying at one tent for the rest of the day.
If you are going during a busier time, I highly recommend trying to make a reservation at a tent so you’re guaranteed a seat. Otherwise you might be standing and holding a heavy stein of beer all day. I’m not too familiar with the whole reservation process since we weren’t going during a busy time, but you can find out more information on reserving a spot inside a tent here. Keep in mind that you don’t have to have a reservation to get inside any of the tents. So if you want to try and get a seat without a reservation during a busier time, it’s best to head to the festival first thing in the morning since the tents will stop letting people in once they fill up.
What to Do?
There are a total of 14 tents at Oktoberfest, so I highly recommend jumping around and trying out different tents if it’s not that crowded. Each tent is decorated differently and known for different things. The Hofbrau tent is considered more touristy (mostly filled with American and Australian tourists) while Augustiner is considered more local and family-friendly. Find out more information about each tent here.
Inside each tent you can order pints of beer, food and some tents even serve wine. There’s usually a live band inside of most tents as well so you get to enjoy music and beer chants. You’ll probably be spending most of your day inside of a tent, so once you find a tent you like, I recommend staying there if it’s a crowded day.
Outside of the tents are tons of carnival rides, games and food stands. These food stands seriously had some of the best food. We had a curry wurst that was sooooo dang good, we actually went back inside the festival again the next day just to get this before we left Munich. It’s cool to walk around and sight see, load up on carbs in between your pints of beer and go for a ride.
How Much Does it Cost?
Entrance into the festival is free, but anything you want to eat, drink or do inside of the festival isn’t. Pints of beer inside each tent vary but they were mostly around €11,10 – €11,50 in 2018. Although the steins are huge, it can get pricey, especially when you add food, souvenirs and carnival rides on top of that. Note that they tend to raise prices a little every year so be sure to check out the prices from previous years here. Also, be sure that you bring cash because they won’t take your card inside the festival. I recommend bringing about 100 Euro to cover food and beer and if you need to withdraw more money, there are ATM’s inside the festival grounds.
What Do You Wear?
Pretty much everyone dresses up to go to the festival, so it makes it a lot more fun if you dress up too! Traditionally men wear lederhosen, which are leather shorts with a checkered shirt underneath, and women wear dirndls. Dirndls include a white blouse, dress (skirt & corset) and apron. Most often the pieces are sold separately but you can also find them sold in sets. Also, try to avoid buying a dirndl dress that is super short. I recommend the midi length (not mini) because you never know if the weather will be cold or if you’ll want to hop on a beer bench and dance 😉
These can get a little pricey, especially if you want to look more authentic but I highly recommend going the more authentic route to avoid looking like you’re wearing a Halloween costume. When in Rome, right? You can find some nice options that aren’t too expensive on Amazon or you can wait to find some outfits when you get off the plane or train in Munich. Taylor and I both got our outfits on Amazon. Here is where you can find my dirndl dress and blouse as well as Taylor’s lederhosen and checkered shirt.
If you do want an authentic dirndl from European retailers and don’t mind paying a little more, check out some of these international retailers: dirndl.com, Alpenclassics, Stockerpoint. When ordering from these sites be mindful of the conversion rates (since most prices are in Euros), make sure your item will ship in time and double check that you have the right size before you place your order.
If you’re wearing a dirndl, make sure you tie your knot in the correct location: a knot on the left means that you’re single, on the right means that you’re married/unavailable, in the front center means that you’re a virgin (idk who would want to advertise this lol) and a knot in the center of your back means you’re a widow.
Where to Stay?
There are tons of hotels, hostels and airbnb’s nearby. Just make sure to book a place as soon as you can, because lots of places fill up fast! We stayed at this airbnb and I HIGHLY recommend it! Not only can you see the festival from your bedroom window, but one of the entrances to the festival is literally right across the street. Our host, Zoran, was also fantastic! He even baked our friend a cake because his birthday fell on our trip.
You can arrive in Munich by plane or train (if you’re closer). If you aren’t planning to stay the night in Munich, you can take a day trip into the city for Oktoberfest and rent a locker at the airport or train station to store your belongings for the day.
Once you’re in Munich, most people rely on the train system. Since we stayed steps away from the fairgrounds we didn’t have to rely on public transportation too much, but when we did have to travel around Munich, we used the train system and it was pretty easy. You can buy your public transportation pass at the train station and it’s about 4 euros a day. This website is where you can find more information on public transportation as well as the train stops for the festival.
How Many Days?
One!! Two at the most. We only went for one day and I feel like everyone in our group thought it was perfect! We didn’t get to go inside of every tent or ride every ride, but you get the gist of it all in one day.
- I HIGHLY recommend wearing comfortable shoes. It’s more traditional to wear heels, but your feet will probably hurt so I’d stick to flats or sneakers.
- It’s a marathon, not a sprint. You’ll be drinking all day so don’t rush it. Just remember you’re drinking a liter of beer every time your order a stein.
- Backpacks or large bags are not allowed inside of the festival, so bring a small purse or crossbody bag. I used this small canvas backpack and it was perfect!
- If you’re wearing a dirndl, make sure to tie your apron and knot it in the right place (left if you’re single, right if you’re married/unavailable, front center if you’re a virgin, and back center if you’re a widow)
- Bring cash since cards aren’t accepted. ATMs are inside of the grounds.
- Eat outside of the tents. While the food inside the tents look great, they’re expensive! Save some money by eating at a food stand.
- HAVE FUN
Munich was our fourth stop on our European trip, and it was the place where all of our friends (who were also traveling to other countries in Europe) decided to meet up and experience Oktoberfest together. We had planned this trip nearly a year in advance with them, so it was so exciting to finally be in Germany with everyone.
After we all met up we decided to go have some beers and eat dinner at the Hofbrau Haus. It is touristy, but we had a great time! We all enjoyed our meals and sang some beer chants to live music. Highly recommend eating/drinking here in Munich – no matter if it’s during Oktoberfest or not!
I hope my Oktoberfest travel guide was able to answer all of your questions and inspire you to plan a trip! There really is nothing like Oktoberfest. There’s a reason thousands of people from all around the world come here to experience this festival. PROST!