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10 Secrets to Doing Oktoberfest Like a Local

By Andrea Schulte-Peevers


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Every year at Oktoberfest in Munich, beer tents fill with costume-clad revelers.
Photo by JICE75/Flickr

Every year at Oktoberfest in Munich, beer tents fill with costume-clad revelers.

With these insider tips, navigating the world’s biggest beer festival is a whole lot simpler.

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Every year, with the arrival of another crisp fall, the dignified city of Munich, Germany, morphs into a madhouse as approximately 6 million people pour into its center for Oktoberfest. Also known as the Wiesn, the world’s biggest drink-a-thon runs for over two beery, bleary weeks starting in mid- or late September. It’s the embodiment of Bavarian tradition: pomp, parades, traditional costume, a huge fair, and, of course, giant beer tents. Plus, entry to the festival grounds is free.

Before you visit the traditional beer festival—which lasts from Saturday, September 21, through Sunday, October 6, this year—we’ve asked some Oktoberfest devotees to share their basic strategies for success at the annual event. Follow these, and you’ll be drinking like a Deutschen in no time.

1. Know your tents

At Oktoberfest in Munich, 14 big beer tents seat between 5,000 and 11,000 people, both inside and in the attached exterior beer gardens. Each has its own atmosphere, but many Munich locals are partial to the Augustiner tent for its excellent beer, down-to-earth ambience, and lack of tourists, who tend to flock to Hofbrauhaus. If you’d rather have a German and English-speaking expert show you around the festival grounds, book an Oktoberfest tour led by a certified guide. (More information here.)

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2. Time it right

Oktoberfest beer tents open at 10 a.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. on weekends. Despite their large size, they do fill up quickly—on Saturdays you need to haul out of bed at sunrise (think 7 a.m.) if you hope to snag a spot without a table reservation. Most locals prefer weekday afternoons when the festival grounds are a lot less frenzied. To reserve a table, contact the beer tent you want to visit directly using information on Oktoberfest’s official website. (As of last year, you can also book a spot at a selection of Oktoberfest tents through OpenTable.)

Thousands of attendees drink inside the Löwenbräu beer tent at Oktoberfest in Munich.

3. Find a seat by making friends

At Oktoberbest, all beer tent tables are communal, so keep your eyes peeled for friendly looking folks with empty seats and ask politely if you may join them. If you’re feeling courageous, try asking in German. “Ist dieser Platz frei?” translates generally to “Is this seat available?” Making warm Wiesnbekanntschaften (Oktoberfest acquaintances) is part of the festival’s fun, after all.

4. Hit the smaller tents

Often overlooked by tourists, the beer festival’s smaller tents are no less atmospheric—they are, however, usually less frantic. Take a stroll across the Oktoberfest grounds and explore your options. Menus at smaller tents tend to be centered entirely around various local treats like cheese, veal, and Mohrenkopf, a small, chocolate-glazed cream-cake. A popular small tent is the Münchner Knödelei, famous for serving up a mean Bavarian dumpling.

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5. Revel in nostalgia at the Oide Wiesn

For a glimpse of yesteryear’s Oktoberfest, head to the Herzkasperl at Oide Wiesn, located in the southernmost section of the festival grounds. This amusement park–esque area is tucked away from much of Oktoberfest’s hustle and bustle, which makes it a great spot for families with children to enjoy. At the Oide Wiesn, traditional Bavarian cuisine is served (with vegan options!), old-school rides and activities are on offer, and the beer garden has dance floors where folk music performances take place. Entry costs approximately 3 euros (US$4) for adults and is free for children up to 14 years old. If you’re attending the festival with young children this year, consider visiting on Family Day (Tuesday, September 24, 2019). From 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., special prices are offered to families.

6. Nosh on Bavarian favorites

For a quick snack, seek out a Wiesn Brezn, Bavaria’s famous, giant salt-encrusted pretzel. You can’t miss these at Oktoberfest (and you shouldn’t). For a hardier meal, munch on Bratwurst, a regional sausage usually served with a bread roll. If hot dog–like snacks aren’t your thing, order the menu classic: halbes Hendl (half a roast chicken).

7. Join the drinking rituals

Traditional German oompah bands play all sorts of cheerful folk music in the beer halls and tents. When you hear “Ein Prosit”—the most popular drinking song at Oktoberfest—stand up, hoist your mug, sing along, clink bottoms, then chug!

Salt-encrusted pretzels are a staple Bavarian snack.
8. Pace yourself
Don’t forget that Oktoberfest beer packs an extra punch; most ales clock in around 6 percent ABV, and beers are served by the liter. (One liter of beer equals approximately 34 ounces.) Remain vertical by drinking slowly, eating, and alternating your beer with a radler (shandy) or soft drink. The last thing you want is to end up as a Bierleiche (beer corpse) on the Kotzhügel (puke hill)! For the full list of official 2019 Oktoberfest beer prices, visit www.oktoberfest.de
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9. Check out Munich’s nightlife

All but two beer tents kick out the last tippler at 10:30 p.m. (Käfer and Weinzelt remain open until 12:30 a.m. and 1 a.m., respectively). For après-Wiesn partying, follow still-thirsty insiders to such nearby haunts as Substanz, Pappa Leone, and the Wirtshaus am Bavariapark beer garden.

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10. Reserve your room ASAP

If you hope to hang your hat within stumbling distance of the Wiesn, book your accommodation in Munich early. Try staying near a train station (S-Bahn or U-Bahn) in the city’s Schwanthalerhöhe borough, but don’t fret if you end up staying farther away. During Oktoberfest in Munich, public transportation runs more frequently than usual—subway lines, buses, and trams run every few minutes. Prost!

Information about Oktoberfest 2019 in Munich:
Oktoberfest kicks off at 12 p.m. on Saturday, September 21, 2019, when the mayor of Munich taps the first keg in the opening ceremony at the Schottenhamel tent. The beer festival comes to a close on Sunday, October 6. To learn more, visit the Oktoberfest 2019 website.

This article originally appeared online on August 30, 2017; it was updated on July 23, 2019, to include current information.

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