A first timers guide to Oktoberfest

It's wild, it's colourful, it's oh-so-German and it should be on any traveler's bucketlist! 

Oktoberfest is a national festival like no other; steeped in tradition yet gladly shared with everyone from around the world.

Millions of gallons of beer are consumed, hundreds of thousands of pork sausages get eaten, gingerbread hearts hang from the necks of the lucky, and almost everyone gets a hangover at least once.

Here's some of the things you'll need to know for planning your first Oktoberfest:

1. Book your accommodation early

Like, a year early if possible. This festival is literally attended by thousands of people from all over the globe including a lot of locals from Germany.

Despite Munich being a huge city, it still books up very quickly and early for Oktoberfest which falls on almost the same dates annually.

2. Start saving your pennies now

Unfortunately due to the high volume of revellers attending Oktoberfest, you do get cashed in on. 

Beers start from €10 per stien, food inside the tents doubles in price, traditional outfits are insanely expensive and accommodation prices skyrocket - the good news is, Oktoberfest itself is completely free! 

3. Buy your outfit before you arrive (if possible) 

Munich is thrust in mayhem in the lead up to Oktoberfest and the stores are packed with travellers trying to buy their last minute Lederhosen and Dirndls. 

Not only will it be a busy experience getting your outfit, it will also prove to be a costly one, as predominately in Munich you can only purchase very authentic and expensive traditional outfits (these are not costumes!). 

Buying a cheaper version online before you go will save you literally a stack of cash. It is advisable to get something at least traditional in length for women, remembering these aren't costumes and are very much still worn today.

5. You don't need to buy tickets to enter

Thats the great news - attending Oktoberfest, including entry to the beer halls, is completely free! 

If you do have a larger group and want to reserve a seat this is possible for a fee by contacting the individual beer tents. 

Due to the tents having no cost this means it's free for all in finding a table so you need to be there early... 

4. Get there early to secure a seat

This is not a drill. You're literally kidding yourself if you think showing up at lunch time and having a casual beer is possible - the halls will be totally packed by then and you won't be served by the waiters without a seat.

Although the tents can pack thousands of people into them, they fill up early and they fill up fast.  This is especially true on weekends as locals and those from nearer countries can catch direct trains to Munich for the festival.

Arriving around 9:30am to 10am would be optimal, once you secure your seat, it's certainly possible to take it in turns with your group to leave the tent and explore the Oktoberfest grounds.

It is possible to buy your breakfast or brunch in the tents as they serve food and have roving vendors with baskets of delicious fresh baked goods, hot chips and sandwiches etc.

Beware however, from lunchtime onwards it gets insanely busy and tents will cease allowing people entry once they're at capacity. 

5. You will have to share your table with others

And this is one of the most fun parts, meeting people from all over the world and sharing a beer!

All tents in Oktoberfest have long tables that seat ten people or more so you'll almost certainly be sharing your table with fellow festival goers.  

6. It's not just about drinking beer

Although the beer tents are obviously a big feature in the festival, there is so much more to Oktoberfest than just drinking beer.

The festival itself kicks off with a massive parade that takes in Munich city centre, complete with marching bands, horse drawn carriages covered in beautiful flowers, traditional outfit parades and the official opening ceremony where the Mayor of Munich taps the first keg.

The festival grounds themselves take up an enormous space in Central Munich complete with kilometers of carnival rides like rollercoasters, haunted houses and a giant ferris wheel. There are a number of delicious pop up restaurants and local food vendors making everything from chocolate covered fruit, to more traditional dishes like white Munich sausages with mustard, pork knuckle and fresh pretzels. 

The Oktoberfest grounds themselves are a perfect day out, you'll also see plenty of local German families enjoy it too, dressed in their traditional outfits of course!

7. There's only one size beer... BIG! 

Steins are the order of the day at Oktoberfest, like it or leave it - it's literally your only option! 

The tents do serve soft drinks, water and food also, but beer comes in large doses only.  

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8. The festival closes daily at midnight

Some of the smaller tents and food stalls may even begin closing earlier.  

If you get there early enough to get a seat and have had a few steins of beer throughout the day, it would be almost a miracle if you're still there at closing time!

9. Oktoberfest runs for two and a half weeks!

Oktoberfest is enormous by all proportions, everyday for two and a half weeks the grounds are heaving with crowds from all over the world - imagine how much beer is actually drunk during this time!  

The festival generally kicks off mid September and runs into the first week of October.

10. It has nothing to do with the month of October...

Despite the similarity in it's name, the origin of Oktoberfest is actually celebrating the marriage of the Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig to Saxon-Hildburghausen Princess Therese in 1810. All of the citizens in Munich were invited to the grounds to celebrate the royal wedding for five days, and thus the great tradition begun!

Alexis ZahnerComment