This may come as news to you but, besides being a full time blogger, I also moonlight (September-light?) as a tour guide at Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany. It’s a REALLY TOUGH JOB that involves spending two whole weeks at Oktoberfest, drinking loads of delicious beer, dancing on benches, singing along with German songs I know zero words to, wearing so many dirndls, and prosting all the live-long day. So. Exhausting. Oh, and when I say “tough job” I really mean “most badass thing ever.” Clearly.
As a tour guide for a company called Thirsty Swagman, and as someone who attends Oktoberfest on the regular, and who blogs about it, I get asked a lot of Oktoberfest questions. It’s when this happens that I remember not everyone knows all the ins and outs of Oktoberfest that I get paid to know. (It’s a weird world we live in, I know.)
So, to have it all in one place–like, for when you’re super drunk and just absolutely need to know things–I’ve compiled this list of Oktoberfest questions I’ve been asked in person, in blog post comments, on social media, through email, etc. So, without further a-brew, here are my most frequently asked Oktoberfest questions.
OKTOBERFEST QUESTIONS ABOUT THE WIESN
First and foremost, let’s start at the Wiesn. Well, okay, let’s back up a little. [beep – beep – beep]
Wiesn is short for Theresienwiese and is the large park/fairgrounds area where Oktoberfest takes place. On a map of Munich, it’s the big green kidney bean. The Wiesn—pronounced veezin—has been the home of Oktoberfest since its birth in 1810 and is just a short train ride or medium-length walk from Munich city center. Obviously, crawling there on your hands and knees is going to be even longer so… maybe know when to sit your maß down.*
WHAT ARE THE CUPIDS THROUGHOUT THE PARK?
Oh, you mean these creepy-ass, seemingly out of place creatures?
Well, the meaning as to why they chose to use giant, naked, arrow-wielding Cupids sitting on what can only be a crock of French onion soup, is beyond me. I’ve asked everyone I know who I thought might know the answer—the internet, Germans, Munich-dwellers alike—and bupkis. And maybe they aren’t so much Cupids as they are just naked baby archers?
HOWEVER, while I don’t know their origins, I do know their purpose and it’s probably the most important in the whole of Oktoberfest. They point the way to the bathrooms. These big naked babies stand out high above the crowds and you’ll find them all over the Wiesn. Follow the direction of their weird -00- arrows and you’ll find the public restrooms that are outside the tents for anyone to use. You’re very welcome.
ARE THERE STORAGE LOCKERS AT OKTOBERFEST?
Well… not technically. The list of lost and/or forgotten items at Oktoberfest already numbers in the thousands each year and that list is weird with a capital W-T-F. So could you imagine the number of things that would get left behind in lockers? I mean, if you can’t remember where you left your dentures, your wheelchair, or your pants, are you really going to remember which locker is yours? Methinks not.
However, just because the Oktoberfest powers that be have banned all bags larger than a small purse from entering the Wiesn (thanks, terrorism) doesn’t mean they don’t understand our need to want to check our coats, our eyeglasses, and/or our cat carriers at the door. (The Oktoberfest lost & found list would really astound you.)
As a solution, Oktoberfest now operates a sort of “luggage storage” at the main entrance and at seven other stations around the Wiesn. (The word you’re looking for is: Gepäckaufbewahrungs-Stationen.) Here, you can check your bag (and probably some other stuff—but please keep your pants) for 5 euros. As far as actual lockers go, your best bet would be the ones at the Hauptbahnhof or Theresienwiese train stations—each still a 10-minute walk from Oktoberfest, though a little bit longer if you’ve “misplaced” your crutches.
WHAT IS THAT MEMORIAL AT THE ENTRANCE?
On September 26th, 1980, thirteen people were killed and more than 200 were injured as the result of a terrorist bombing at the entrance to Oktoberfest. The right-wing extremist, whose name I refuse to mention, was also killed in the explosion that destroyed an area the size of a football field.
Just before the entrance into the Wiesn, over on the right-hand side, there is a large memorial to the victims of this bombing.
WHEN CAN I SEE THE HORSE CARRIAGES?
The breweries’ horse-drawn beer carriages are one of the most popular sights at Oktoberfest and obviously because CUTE FURRY ANIMALS! They’re most often found outside the beer tents in the center of the Wiesn surrounded by people going, “Oh my god I can’t believe how big these horses are!” and that person is probably me. No amount of beer can distract me from that the fact that there are cute fuzzy animals nearby. If anything, it intensifies it.
However, these carriages aren’t at Oktoberfest all day every day, obviously, because living creatures. If you’ve been to Oktoberfest every day for a week and still haven’t seen these adorable beer ponies that could totally crush you if they wanted to, it might be time to adjust your schedule. Here’s when you’re most likely to see the horse-drawn beer carriages at Oktoberfest:
⇢ During the Oktoberfest opening day parade | This parade beings at 11:00 am on the opening Saturday of Oktoberfest and goes from the Marienplatz to the Theresienwiese (the Wiesn). This is the parade for breweries, beer tent owners, and other people who need to become good friends with. Check out the route map here (red line).
⇢ During the traditional costume parade on Oktoberfest Day 2 | On the following day, the “traditional costume parade” makes its way from Munich city center to the Theresienwiese, again, featuring the horse-drawn beer carriages. This parade begins at 10:00 am and you can find the route map here (blue line).
⇢ Every day at the Wiesn, typically from 11:00 am – 4:00 pm. | Each day the horse-drawn beer carriages make their way from the their home breweries to the Wiesn, through town, just like the awesome days of yore. They trot through Munich, enter the Wiesn, then hang out in front of their corresponding beer tents for pictures and to just generally be cute but also kinda terrifying.
Chances are you’re inside a beer tent during this time and that’s why you miss them. All the more Wiesn to take a break and step outside for a breath of fresh air. And by fresh air I mean the smell of horse shit and roasted almonds. Ahh, I’m getting excited just thinking about it!
⇢ Other places in Munich | I say typically (above) because I’ve also seen the horse carriages at their actual breweries during this span of time too. You can sometimes find the Hofbräu beer horses in front of the Hofbräuhaus (the massive beer hall near the Marienplatz, not the Oktoberfest beer tent) and the Spaten beer ponies at the Spaten brewery (on Marsstraße ⇠ that’s the street name) and probably some others but I can’t personally confirm that at this point. **Will update this post after I badger the pony drivers with even more questions.
WHAT IS THERE TO DO BESIDES DRINK?
Oktoberfest may come off as just a super huge beer festival, but there’s more to it than just beer tents and prosting. Oktoberfest is actually a full-on carnival and that means: rides (yes rides), games, parades, ceremonies, and, because Bavaria is not all that different from the American South, guns.
There’s a religious ceremony (you can even get baptized at Oktoberfest because GERMANY), musical performances, a crossbow shooting competition, and a whole calendar of interesting events.
However, on a typical day, outside the beer tents, there are streets and streets and streets of fun rides (roller coaster responsibly yo), carnival-type games many of which involve guns, fun houses which are really just great for drunk-people watching, tons of food and souvenir booths, and, if you’re lucky, ponies.
OKTOBERFEST QUESTIONS ABOUT BEER TENTS
At Oktoberfest, the vast majority of the drinking takes place inside beer tents which are about as “tent” as “sweetbread” is a delicious baked good. There are 14 large tents—holding up to 10,000 people at once—and a bunch of relatively smaller ones. Misnomers aside, inside the Oktoberfest beer tents is where the magic happens, and by “magic” I mean the gemütlichkeit—the Bavarian sense of coziness, friendliness, and good cheer. Here are my most frequently asked Oktoberfest questions about beer tents:
WHO IS THAT WEIRD GUY SPINNING FROM THE TOP OF THE HOFBRÄU TENT?
Is a drunk mailman angel not something you expected to see at Oktoberfest? Well, allow me to introduce you to Aloisius, the unofficial but, like, pretty much official mascot of the Hofbräuhaus. And while he may seem totally out of place inside an Oktoberfest beer tent, he was actually sent here by God. True Story.
Aloisius was a man who, once upon a time, lived in Munich and frequented the Hofbräuhaus, the way one does. After what I’m guessing was a tiny-feet-related accident, he dies and goes to Heaven which, in the most shocking turn of events since that kid saw dead people, does not have any beer. Seriously, I did not see that coming.
So Aloisius spends his days sitting on his cloud, playing his harp, and complaining his ass off until God is all like, “Ugh, fine!” He works out a deal where Aloisius can be the official messenger between Heaven and the Bavarian government (I didn’t know such an alliance existed but, sure, I can see it), a job that will allow him to visit his beloved homeland.
Fast forward to his first official day on the job when, the minute he arrives back in Munich, he heads straight for the Hofbräuhaus where he sits to this day. Aloisius: terrible messenger angel, fantastic bar patron.
WHAT HAPPENS TO THE BEER TENTS DURING THE REST OF THE YEAR?
Despite what many think would make sense, the Oktoberfest beer tents actually get built and taken down each and every year in the world’s most high-stakes game of Minecraft. Beginning in July, it takes 3,000 workers 10 weeks to construct “Oktoberfest” and, immediately afterwards, about half that time to tear it down (which makes perfect sense if you’ve ever built a sandcastle, a house of cards, or, since we’re talking about Oktoberfest, a beer can pyramid).
The fact that these massive structures are put together and taken apart each year may be a little disconcerting to some, but I assure you the instruction manuals are slightly better than those for an Ikea bookcase. They’re constructed out of wood and steel on top of a concrete foundation that’s re-poured every year, and much of the construction is regulated by German building code—and I think the Germans know a thing or two about engineering (*coughBMW*).
DO YOU NEED A RESERVATION?
I’d say probably the most asked of all the Oktoberfest questions is “Do I need a beer tent reservation?” And the answer to that is no. But also yes. Having fun yet? Do you see why there’s so much beer drinking?
NO, you do not need beer tent reservations if:
- You show up early in the day
- You show up during the week (as opposed to the weekend)
- You’re just a couple of people or a small group
- You’re perfectly fine “just winging it”
YES, you need beer tent reservations if:
- You want to attend Oktoberfest at night (and there’s many of you)
- You want to attend Oktoberfest on a weekend or holiday
- There are 8-10 of you and you want to stick together
- You’re super fussy and utterly suck at “winging it”
- You’re hella patient and enjoy jumping through hoops
Oktoberfest is 100% doable by just walking in unannounced—but also by slow strutting and waving your arms in a flourish because YOU’RE AT OKTOBERFEST, BITCHES! Every Oktoberfest beer tent, by law, is required to keep a good portion of its seating open to walk-ins. In short, you do not need beer tent reservations to attend Oktoberfest. And, honestly, it’s an unnecessary headache I wouldn’t even bother with.
However, if you really want beer tent reservations, that too is possible. To acquire beer tent reservations requires you meet a few criteria:
⇢ You must reserve an entire table for ten people. If there are two of you, this is ludicrous. If there are ten of you, this could be super fun—who doesn’t like to feel like a VIP? And by that I mean a “very important pretzel-eater”.
⇢ The “reservation” is free but you’re required to purchase beer and food vouchers for each of your ten people. This amounts to purchasing the equivalent of two liters of beer and a ½ chicken per person (around €35 per person). This is why it’s dumb to reserve a table for two people, regardless of how high you placed at that hot dog eating competition that one time.
⇢ Reservations can only be made directly with the beer tent owners—a process that involves a lot of paperwork and time, possibly some phone calls to Germany, and—I shit you not—sometimes a fax machine.
⇢ And only for certain times of the day. There’s a morning shift and a night shift—you must pick one. And when your time is up, you out.
To acquire beer tent reservations you have to think way, way ahead. Some beer tents tables are already reserved from now until the end of time when we’re all just thin sheets of stretched skin with two eyes and a mouth. (Dr. Who, anyone?) But some are still available for reserving, beginning whenever the individual tent owners feel the damn need—sometimes in January, sometimes in March, etc. (Information on how to reserve tables can be found on each tent’s website.)
Now, doesn’t that all just seem like a lot of work? I say, go early, go during the week, squeeze in where you can fit. You literally won’t know where the days at Oktoberfest are gonna take you—just go with the beer flow.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE BEER TENT?
Honestly, they’re all different and I like a lot of them for different reasons, like cheeses and movies featuring Tom Hanks. Some of my favorites include:
⇢ Hofbräu | For its rowdy fun atmosphere and the fact that it’s the only tent with a 1,000-person designated standing-room only area in the center. I don’t know about you, but the more beer I drink, the harder it is for me to keep my butt on a bench. Must. Dance. Can’t. Sit still. Oppa Gangnam Style!
⇢ Schottenhamel | Besides being the oldest and most important (it’s the opening ceremony that takes place inside this tent that allows beer to be served at Oktoberfest), it’s also one of the funnest! Also, it’s the only one that has nets under each table for you to put your purses and jackets in which is MONEY. Plus, they have the best ½ chickens on the Wiesn, imo.
⇢ Marstall | The Marstall tent is the newest at Oktoberfest having just opened in 2014 and I love it because it’s super weird. It’s a horse-themed tent (but, like, fancy horses with rainbow hair and sometimes unicorns) with an actual rotating merry-go-round inside from where the bands plays. Also, they have the best outdoor beer garden.
⇢ Hacker-Pschorr | This one is a perpetual favorite because, maybe this is weird to say, but I love all the natural light. Some other tents’ décor make them so dark during the day and I need ALL THE SUNSHINE! Plus, the Hacker tent has the best interior of all of them with its Bavarian Heaven motif (that was literally designed by an Oscar-winner set designer).
⇢ Löwenbräu | The Löwenbräu tent always plays host to a kickass party, plus they have a really cool lion who chugs beer and shouts “Leeewwwwvennbraaaaiiiii” every so often.
⇢ The Festzelt Tradition | Now, one of my favorite Oktoberfest beer tents ever is the Festzelt Tradition—the largest beer tent back in the Oide Wiesn.
Look, this is a secret okay? So mind who you tell this to: there’s an exclusive part at Oktoberfest that almost no one knows about. It’s called the Oide Wiesn and you have to pay an admission to get into it. The Oide Wiesn is a time warp. There are old timey rides and games and beer tents featuring clay mugs and traditional gemütlichkeit. There are stages for choreographed dancing you can totally join in, whip-crackers, traditional brass bands, and it’s just all so magical. But, shhh, don’t tell anyone, got it?
OKTOBERFEST QUESTIONS ABOUT APPAREL
Do you have to dress up to attend Oktoberfest? Well………………………………………………… ……………………………………………………………………………………………… …………………………………………………………………………………..…………. no. But should you? Abso-freaking-lutely. Dressing up in a dirndl/lederhosen is a great way to become part of the whole experience of Oktoberfest, rather than Oktoberfest just being a weird party you went to once. Dressing up adds a whole ‘nother layer to the fun you’ll have in Munich, plus, everyone’s doing it. Don’t be a square, pshh. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, here are my most asked Oktoberfest questions on apparel:
HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO TIE MY DIRNDL APRON?
This question can mean one of two things: “Why do people have their bows in different places?” But also, “How in the hell do you physically tie a bow!? For the love of God someone help me!”
For many of you, the fact that the first of those two Oktoberfest questions even has a legit answer is new information. Yes, it matters where you tie your dirndl bow. Now, while this isn’t sacrosanct, it is a fun little thing that makes life just a little more worth living. Not all of us have a van-ful of offspring or a career as a heart surgeon so just give this one to me, aiight?
Tying your dirndl bow on your left means you’re single.
Tying your dirndl bow in the front means you’re a virgin (but can also mean widow).
Tying your dirndl bow in the back means you work there and that you’re already behind on getting me a beer.
Need a visual? Watch my video on this very subject. ⇣⇣⇣
Now, how do you tie a perfect bow? The answer to this question plagued me for years. I’d been to Oktoberfest three separate times all the while looking like I must’ve been wearing Velcro shoes my entire life before divine intervention in the form of my friend Erika solved all my problems. (I told you, I don’t have a van-ful of children so, yes, tying a good-looking bow is about as serious as it gets right now.) To learn how to tie the perfect dirndl bow, check out this page by Erika at Rare Dirndl that contains step-by-step instructions (there’s only 5 of them) and a video.
WHERE CAN I BUY A DIRNDL/LEDERHOSEN?
The short answer: online if you want one ahead of time, or just about anywhere in Munich when you get there. I understand that, if you’re a planner, it’s hard to just decide to pick something up when you’re there. Plus, what are the prices going to be like? Will they have your size? So many other things.
Because of this, many people choose to pre-purchase their trachten (the German word for traditional garb like dirndls and lederhosen) ahead of time from online stores that can custom-make a dirndl to fit your measurements and preferences like Rare Dirndl or even Amazon where it’s just all up in the air.
On the flip side, trust me when I say you will be able to find something in Munich. You can start in the Marienplatz at stores like Original Steindl or the department store Galeria Kaufhof, or make the 10-minute walk from the Hauptbahnhof to the Theresienwiese (the main train station to the Oktoberfest grounds) where you’ll encounter a trachten store every twenty feet (ish).
For the longer, more detailed answer on just about everything you need to know about how to dress for Oktoberfest, check out my other post: How to Dress for Oktoberfest.
WELL, WHERE DID YOU GET YOURS?
It’s perfectly acceptable to wear the same dirndl/lederhosen on multiple days. Dirndls and lederhosen can be pricey so it’s obvious you’ll want to get the most wear out of them—we are rational human beings after all, not Wall Street wolves. No one is going to notice. And, guys, honestly no one cares. All that matters is that you’re not wearing jeans and a T-shirt that says “FBI: Female Body Inspector”.
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WHAT KIND OF SWEATER WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
I’ve been to Oktoberfest in the rain; I’ve been to Oktoberfest in the scorching hot sun; I’ve been to Oktoberfest in below freezing temperatures and everything in between.
Regardless of the temperature outside, the temperature inside the beer tents is going to be tolerable. You’ve gotta remember—there are 10,000 amped up individuals in there all getting their Bavarian boogie on. The dance moves may be luke warm but the air in there is going to be toasty.
However, you don’t have to tell me twice that even though it’s warm in the tent, the walk to the Wiesn can still be one cold bitch. Because of this, and regardless of how short the walk is, I always recommend a light sweater and a brisk-ass walking speed. When choosing a sweater to wear to Oktoberfest, follow these suggestions:
- A light, simple cardigan is just fine and the closest, most affordable thing to the proper dirndl sweaters you’ll see advertised.
- You want to stay warm on your walk (at least, more so than bare skin) but not have a lot of crap to carry around all day.
- Choose something you won’t mind getting dirty, sat on, spilled on, chicken hands wiped on, dropped on the beer tent floor, etc.
- Don’t forget the Schottenhamel tent has a place under the table for such things! Just don’t forget your sweater in there. Unless you also plan to…
- Bring something you’re fine with losing.
Some examples of great sweater options for Oktoberfest would be:
Besides my arms freezing, the bigger problem for me is the fact that I’m bare leg-ing it from ankle to ass. But, alas! I have a solution for that too. When temperatures drop below freezing but I still need to get my ‘fest on, I take a page out of the Old West saloon girl playbook and add a petticoat to my ensemble. Regardless of the fact that those ladies may or may not have been prostitutes, petticoats:
- Are hella warm
- Make you feel super girly
- Are fun to spin around in
- Make it less likely you’ll accidentally flash your boo-tay while you’re dancing on a bench, and
- Pack up well despite looking so poofy
If the forecast for your trip shows low Oktoberfestemperatures, consider a petticoat.
DO YOU BRING A PURSE?
Yes, I always bring a purse everywhere. Even when I go fishing. Even on roller coasters. Even on mountainous hikes. You never know when you’re going to run into Channing Tatum and need to freshen yourself up, duh. I’m not going to make *that* mistake again. That being said, I even bring a purse to Oktoberfest. Channing Tatum probably likes beer, right?
As of a few years ago, Oktoberfest officials have banned any bags larger than three litres—which means diddly squat if you’re an American. Let’s just say my small crossbody gets in, my shoulder bag that’s big enough to hold a DSLR gets rejected. Basically, anything much bigger than a clutch is out.
Therefore, I always a bring a small crossbody bag to carry my essentials: Chapstick, my phone, my ID/cash/cards, an array of possibly necessary pills because I’m a grown-up now that also has food allergies, and a small hair brush (I’ve got a lot of hair, okay?).
This one is similar to the one I use plus it’s got the added benefit of being a theft proof bag! Personal safety FTW!
OKTOBERFEST QUESTIONS ABOUT BEER AND FOOD
Oktoberfest food is just the wurst. And, yeah, so are my dad jokes.
Really though, there’s nothing on this planet quite like Bavarian cuisine. It’s heavy and hearty, unbelievably flavorful, addictive, and not at all suitable for vegans. Some of the best meals I’ve ever had in my life were the ones Oktoberfest was built on—hendl (½ chickens), schweinshaxe (pork knuckle), brez’n (pretzels), and spätzle (God’s gift to vegetarians—the Bavarian answer to mac & cheese).
Plus, I’m pretty sure it’s magic—when I got back to the U.S., even my hair stylist was shocked at how long and healthy my hair had gotten after just three weeks in Germany. Her first response, “What have you been eating!?” See? Magic.
Oktoberfest beer is in a league of its own. It’s unique, stronger than your average beer, brewed especially for the festival and according to a strict Bavarian beer purity law, the Reinheitsgebot. THERE’S A BEER-BREWING GOVERNING BODY, Y’ALL.
WHAT IF I DON’T LIKE BEER?
Yeah…. This is probably the most asked of all the Oktoberfest questions that exist. Is this because I hang out with a lot of fancy females who prefer not to drink alcohol by the liter? Mmmmaybe.
There are a few different ways to look at this.
First, I’ve been to Oktoberfest on more than one occasion with friends who don’t like beer and don’t drink beer. So, did they drink beer at Oktoberfest? Yes. And did they like it? Yes. Because here’s what happens: once inside a beer tent, you get so caught up in the atmosphere that your dislike of beer is all but forgotten, along with where you put your hotel key and where the rest of your friends said they were going.
Prosting at Oktoberfest isn’t the same without a giant mug of beer. Raising your glass and singing along with traditional German songs isn’t as fun without a glass you can barely lift above your head with just one hand. It’s part of the Oktoberfest-ness of it all and you’ll quickly find that you don’t actually mind drinking the beer.
That being said, what else happens is that you may just like the beer after all. The beer served at Oktoberfest is nothing like you’ve had anywhere else and it’s very likeable. (I’m not just an Oktoberfest tour guide; I’m also a client. You’re gonna like the beer you drink; I guarantee it. [insert other appropriately re-worded television slogan here])
Oktoberfest beer is sweet and smooth, and even though it’s around 6% alcohol (a little higher than you may be used to), it’s hella drinkable. I mean, they don’t serve Corona by the liter now do they? Remember, there’s a 500-year-old law that decrees it can only be brewed with four simple ingredients—water, hops, yeast, and malt—so the beer here is nothing fancy and weird.
For these reasons, regardless of how you think you feel about beer, I would definitely recommend giving it a try before writing it off. You’re at Oktoberfest, for crying out loud—as least get one for the photo op. *shrug*
On the other hand, let’s say you want to try a beer for the sport of it, but really don’t think you’ll like it. In that case, try a radler. A radler is also served by the liter, costs the same as a beer, but is half beer, half lemon soda. So it’s sweet and lemonade-y and, you know what? It looks just like a beer and no one will ever know the difference. Honestly, it’s what I start my early morning Oktoberfest days with. Breakfast of champions, ya might say.
Now, if you’ve attempted to drink a beer but a) couldn’t get into it or b) simply lack the upper body strength, there are other options.
Some of the beer tents do serve wine, prosecco, and some other beverages besides beer. I know for a fact the following:
- The Armbrustschützenzelt tent serves wine, or as Google translate puts it, “liquid from grapes”.
- The Marstall tent serves wine and champagne.
- The Schützen-Festzelt tent has a whole menu of wine, champagne, prosecco, rosé, schnapps, and even vodka.
- The Kufflers Weinzelt—weinzelt meaning ‘wine tent’—has an entire menu of wine, prosecco, and other sparkly things. They even offer a $5,000 15-liter bottle of champagne in case you brought too much money and needed to unload some. (I told you it might rain during Oktoberfest.)
- I’m working on the others and I’ll update this page when I get the information but… a two-week-long beer festival does not a productive work environment make. Bear with me here.
So yes, one of the Oktoberfest beer tents is actually a wine tent. It’s on the smaller side of the Oktoberfest beer tent scale (with a capacity for just 2,500 people) but it’s one hell of a party. They do serve beer for your beer loving friends (Paulaner Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse only though) and even comfortable flats for your tired Oktoberfeet.
WHAT KIND OF BEER IS SERVED AT OKTOBERFEST?
By law (Germany is as strict about their beer as the TSA is with your shampoo, if you haven’t noticed), only beer brewed within the city limits of Munich is allowed to be served at Oktoberfest. And there are only six of those. Some brands, like Spaten and Paulaner, you’ve probably already heard of if you’re a beer-drinker while others may be totally new to you. They are:
Each brewery brews a special festbier just for Oktoberfest—a marzen/lager whose alcohol contents range from 5.8% (Hacker-Pschorr) to 6.3% (Austiner and Hofbräu).
WHAT’S THE BEST BEER AT OKTOBERFEST?
Oh, Augustiner, hands down. I’ll fight you over it.
Augustiner is actually Munich’s oldest brewery and it was established in 1328. Thirteen twenty-eight, this is not a drill! Also, Augustiner is the only beer at Oktoberfest that’s still served out of traditional wooden kegs. Time to Game of Thrones this party up!
MISC OKTOBERFEST QUESTIONS
WHERE DO YOU STAY DURING OKTOBERFEST?
When choosing a hotel for Oktoberfest there are a few criteria to look for and an order in which to prioritize them. By that I mean:
#1 – Is it available? Availability is the #1 feature to look for in an Oktoberfest hotel because it’s the rarest. Rooms for Oktoberfest can book up around a year in advance, though I usually book mine in January.
#2 – The closer to the Theresienwiese, the better because beer ≠ travel. The shorter the distance from Oktoberfest to your hotel room, the easier it will be to actually make it there. Oh, the things I have seen!
#3 – The closer to a train station, the better. If you have to travel a good distance from the Wiesn because you didn’t book early enough (Mmm-hmm, see?), be sure to book a hotel that’s within a short walking distance to a train stop. Being able to make it back without having to spend your life savings on an Uber ride is the goal here.
Go ahead and know that booking accommodations is going to be the most expensive part of attending Oktoberfest. Plane rides, food and drink, entertainment, transportation… it’s all going to be about average in terms of pricing—but it’s the supply and demand of lodging that’ll hurt ya. Damn economics!
To answer your question more personally, I’ve stayed at (and loved):
- NH München Messe | Read reviews on Tripadvisor or just book your room now!
- H2 Hotel München Messe | Read reviews on Tripadvisor or just book your room now!
- Citadines Arnulfpark Munich | Read reviews on Tripadvisor or just book your room now!
- And in 2018 I stayed at both the Four Points Sheraton | Read reviews on Tripadvisor or just book your room now!
- And the Hotel Senator | Read reviews on Tripadvisor or just book your room now!
My favorite, by far, has been the Hotel Senator. If you can snatch up a room there, grab it. Your child’s school supplies can wait. This place is mere steps away from Oktoberfest, the bar in the lobby is so much fun, the included breakfast is life-giving, and watching people leave Oktoberfest at night from your window or balcony is blockbuster entertainment. It’s comedy, drama, mystery, action-adventure, and horror all rolled into one!
If the Hotel Senator is already booked, might I suggest just booking your Oktoberfest trip through Thirsty Swagman who already has dibs on rooms there? Just saying.
IS THERE AN ADMISSION FEE?
100% absolutely not. And anyone who tries to sell you tickets to Oktoberfest is a scam artist and you should probably stop sitting next to them in the cafeteria at work.
Oktoberfest is a totally free event—until you get hungry, thirsty, or the need for speed that is. There is no admission fee to get into the Wiesn—just walk right on in after a standard purse check because this is our reality now. There are also no fees to get inside the beer tents—just walk right on in after another standard purse check because you can never be too sure where beer and giant gingerbread cookies are involved. (Hey, I once got my baguette/potential weapon confiscated at a tourist attraction in France so I understand the threat larger than average food presents.)
At Oktoberfest, all you pay for is what you eat, drink, and ride—be that in dollars or dignity.
WHAT IS THAT WHITE STUFF EVERYONE IS SNORTING?
IT’S NOT WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE, I SWEAR! I CAN EXPLAIN!
Now that I’ve gotten my high school excuse for everything out of the way, the white powder you’re seeing being passed around and snorted at Oktoberfest is not cocaine. It’s wiesnkoks, soooo, Wiesn Coke. Okay, not my best save there.
Wiesnkoks is actually just a mixture of menthol and grape sugar that people snort as a means to awaken and revive themselves after hours and hours of drinking and virtually inhaling spätzle. It’s actually sold in smalls jars by the official beer tent employees, not a sketchy dude you encountered on the walk over.
The effect is cool and refreshing with a nice little jolt of alertness and nasal passages as clear as a Kmart parking lot. Because of this, sometimes when I’m sick with a cold on any given day during the year, my husband shouts, “Break out the wiesnkoks!” It’s multi-purpose.
OKTOBERFEST QUESTIONS NOT ABOUT OKTOBERFEST
WE NEED A BREAK FROM OKTOBERFEST, WHAT SHOULD WE DO?
Girrrrrrrrrrl I hear that. While Oktoberfest is sure to be the time of your life, it’s totally acceptable to need a break from it. In that case, put down your beer and step away from the Wiesn.
I currently have a few Munich itineraries in the works, but until then I’ll go ahead and let you in on a few of the things you can spend your time on in Munich:
- Englischer Garten | The largest urban park in Europe (bigger than NYC’s Central Park even), there’s a river that people surf on, there’s a giant Chinese pagoda surrounded by a great beer garden, nude sunbathers, tons of dachshunds running about, ya know, the usual.
- Deutsches Museum | The largest science and technology museum in the world
- Munich Marienplatz and glockenspiel | The commercial center of Munich with tons of shopping, the Hofbräuhaus, the famous glockenspiel (the enormous clock that puts on a show at the top of some hours), great views from church towers, etc.
- Nymphenburg Palace | Mad King Ludwig’s summer shanty
- Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site | WWII’s first concentration camp—it’s a heavy experience but one that shouldn’t be missed.
- Olympiapark | Massive park and site of the 1972 Summer Olympics
- Visit a brewery | Only… not the way I did.
- And so, so much more.
Another popular way to spend a break from Oktoberfest is by taking a day trip or two. Munich’s location makes it a great home base for many awesome day trips. Personally, I’ve visited:
- Neuschwanstein Castle | Arguably the most popular day trip from Munich and for good reason (2 hours away)
- Salzburg, Austria | Visit another country, why don’t ya? This day trip is perfect for Sound of Music lovers, excuse me, I mean—people who are die hard obsessed with the Sound of Music, because that seems to be more common. (1.5 hours away)
- Rothenburg ob der Tauber | The magically surreal fairy tale village (2.5 hours away)
Additionally, there’s more I haven’t been to (yet), like the towns of:
- Berchtesgaden | Home of Hitler’s Alpine retreat, the Eagle’s Nest (2 hours away)
- Regensberg | A UNESCO World Heritage Site (1.5 hours away)
- Nuremburg | Home to some pretty serious trials and adorable medieval-ness (2 hours away)
BESIDES MUNICH, WHAT ARE SOME OTHER OKTOBERFESTS IN GERMANY WORTH ATTENDING?
While there are a few other Oktoberfest-like celebrations in Germany (like Erlangen Bergkirchweih in June for some reason, and Freimarkt Bremen in late October), the only one I’ve personally attended and loved was the Stuttgart Beer Festival, locally known as Cannstatter Volksfest.
This “oktoberfest” takes place in Stuttgart, Germany, mostly known for being the birthplace of Mercedes-Benz. It’s on a slightly smaller scale than Munich Oktoberfest but just celebrated its 200th year so you know it’s legit. About 4 million people attend this festival each year and, unlike in Munich, the vast majority of attendees are German. As in, my friends and I were the only Americans I encountered over two days at the festival.
The Stuttgart Beer Festival differs from Munich’s Oktoberfest in so many ways. First of all, there’s way more than beer. The tents here have fully stocked bars and they aren’t afraid to use them. Also, the atmosphere here is less traditionally German and more party like it’s 1999! The amount of unbridled fun I had at Cannstatter Volksfest was totally unexpected and even the fact that I was on the express train to flu town couldn’t stop me. Blog post on the Stuttgart Beer Festival to come!
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