Plan ahead to visit Oktoberfest in Munich. I asked my German friends for their top tips on how to enjoy the world’s most famous beer and folk festival. And what NOT to do. Here you can find out:
- When is Oktoberfest?
- How to Get to Oktoberfest?
- Where to stay in Munich during Oktoberfest?
- What is the dress code for Oktoberfest?
- Do I need a ticket for Oktoberfest?
- Where to make a reservation in a beer tent at Oktoberfest?
- How much does it cost to have a fun day at Oktoberfest?
- How to stay safe at Oktoberfest?
- What NOT to do at Oktoberfest.
I visited Oktoberfest with a group of American and German journalists on a press tour with Paulaner Brewery Group. Enjoy the video. Then read on for more trip planning advice and links. And please subscribe to the Terry Anzur YouTube channel for more how-to travel videos.
When is Oktoberfest?
The answer may surprise you! Oktoberfest starts in late September. It continues for 18 days into the first week of October. The official website of Oktoberfest is your best source of exact dates for the upcoming year in both German and English.
The first Oktoberfest was in 1810, a horse race celebrating the wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria to Princess Therese of Sassonia-Hildburghausen. The fairground is called Theresienwiese in her honor. Locals call it the “Wies’n” (pronounced Vee-zen).
The royal marriage didn’t work out very well. But the event was so popular that local leaders expanded the festival, serving the first beer in 1818. They moved the opening day into September to take advantage of milder fall weather. It has been cancelled in some years due to war or other hardships like Covid.
How to Get to Oktoberfest?
If you can’t fly direct to Munich, land in Frankfurt or visit Berlin. From there you can take a high speed train or take your time traveling through Germany by rail or rental car. (Tip: save money by reserving your car through Auto Europe.)
Once in Munich, the Theresienwiese station is reachable by underground U-Bahn and other public transit. Less crowded stops are only a short distance away. The Wies’n is a 30-minute walk from the Marienplatz in central Munich.
Do NOT try to drive to Oktoberfest: The only parking lots are for tour buses. My friend called an Uber to pick us up near the Wies’n around closing time. Preferable to taking a taxi because you know the fare before you get in the vehicle. Plus, no worries about drinking and driving.
Where to Stay in Munich during Oktoberfest?
This is why you need to plan months ahead. Munich is a big city with choices from luxury hotels to guesthouses and budget-friendly hostels. But last-minute reservations during Oktoberfest are scarce and expensive. Our group enjoyed the Hotel Obermaier in the leafy Truderinger neighborhood with good public transit connections to the rest of the city.
What is the Dress Code for Oktoberfest?
There is no dress code for Oktoberfest. But you will have more fun if you join the locals in traditional Bavarian costumes. Dirndl for the women and lederhosen for the men. You can try them on in stores all over Munich in all price ranges. If you wait until the last minute like I did and only have time to visit one store, they might be sold out of your size!
What NOT to bring to Oktoberfest: Large backpacks and purses will not get past the security check. Bags must be no larger than 8 x 6 x 4 inches. Professional camera gear requires a permit. Oktoberfest is a no-fly zone for drones. Tight security is understandable, in light of the 1980 bomb attack that killed 13 people and injured hundreds.
How to Stay Safe at Oktoberfest: Fortunately, the Oktoberfest police have you covered with video surveillance of the Wies’n. Plainclothes and uniformed officers are on the lookout. There’s even a small jail.
Do I Need a Ticket for Oktoberfest?
Stranger Danger: Do not be scammed by anyone claiming to sell tickets to Oktoberfest. There is no charge to enter the Wies’n. No ticket is needed.
Do I need a reservation to get inside a beer tent?
Yes and no. The official website has a list of big and small tents. You can visit the online signup page for each tent when reservations open in the spring (April or May). Reserving a table for 8 or 10 people is free, but you need to buy vouchers for food and drinks. Reservations cannot be resold by third parties, except through the official websites.
Most of the tents leave seats open for people without reservations. If you show up early, you have a good chance of getting in. But the tents fill up in the evening and on weekends. Those without reservations might be turned away to prevent overcrowding. The tents also have outdoor beer gardens where reservations aren’t required. Or check out the package deal from the Simply Munich tourism authority. It includes a tent reservation, a souvenir beer mug, a tour and some rides.
How much does it cost to have a fun day at Oktoberfest?
Except for the prepaid vouchers, it’s pay as you go for food, drink, rides and souvenirs. Bring cash, not credit cards. Don’t forget to tip your hardworking server at least one or two euros per beer. Those one-liter “Maß” (mass) beer mugs weigh almost 5 pounds each! According to Deutsche Welle Travel you can get by for about 100 euros per person per day for food, drinks, rides and souvenirs.
What NOT to do at Oktoberfest
Do NOT try to steal a beer mug as a souvenir: Police are on the lookout for this. It’s a stupid way to break the law when there are mugs for sale at souvenir stands. Or just ask your server.
Do NOT underestimate the beer: The special brews for Oktoberfest have a six percent alcohol content, stronger than most beers. Pace yourself and stay hydrated by ordering water with your beer. Or try a Radler, which is a 50-50 mix of beer and a fruity soda such as Sprite. Soft drinks are available, and Paulaner makes a 0.0% alcohol beer that is a favorite of sober travelers and professional athletes.
Do NOT miss out on the carnival rides and shows: The ferris wheel offers an awesome view of the Wies’n. It can be entertaining just to watch other people trying to stay seated on the Teufelsrad or “Devil’s Wheel.” Or the motorcycle daredevils riding on the Wall of Death.
Terry’s Travel Tips
Visit Munich: If you can’t make it to Munich during Oktoberfest, you can visit beer gardens and beer halls in Munich all year long. Our group enjoyed the hospitality of the Paulaner Nockherberg brewery restaurant. We saw how today’s brewmasters carry on the 500 year tradition of Germany’s beer purity law, limiting the ingredients to malt, hops, yeast and water. While the beer originated in a monastery in 1634, today’s soccer fans know Paulaner as the sponsor of FC Bayern.
Food at Oktoberfest: Meat lovers will feast on the roast chicken called Wies’n Hendl. But, I can testify that vegetarians will also eat well. The chef at Paulaner Nockerberg served up a mushroom-based casserole that was unforgettable!
Totally honest takeaway: There’s so much to do at Oktoberfest that I didn’t drink very much beer! It’s a must-do cultural experience celebrating Bavarian heritage. In fact, more than 80% of the participants are Germans.
Immigrants brought Oktoberfest with them to the USA. But, trust me, your local beer-and-sausage fest is only a smaller-scale version of the real thing. It’s also a financial boost for the region of Bavaria. Munich officials estimate that it pumps more than 1.2 billion euros into the local economy.
I visited Germany as an alumni fellow of the RIAS Berlin Kommission, which promotes understanding between German and American journalists. Many thanks to RIAS and to our German friends who arranged for the warm welcome in Munich and Cologne. Thank you for clicking on hotel and car rental links in this post to support this blog at no cost to you.
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