5 must do’s for visiting Oktoberfest in Munich
For over 200 years, the Munich Oktoberfest attracts around six million visitors from all over the world.
STEP 1: DRESS THE PART
If you are going to Oktoberfest, you need to dress the part. There are many stores in downtown Munich where you can purchase or rent authentic lederhosen for guys or a dirndl for the ladies. If you are not in traditional clothing, you will be out of place! Even the Bavarian locals get dressed up!
Ladies, let me tell you the outfits are the best part! There are so many options and accessories to choose from, like different colored ribbons and styled chains to lace up the dirndl, flower hair accessories and headbands, and so many different kinds of fabric patterns for the dirndl. The best thing to do is find someone who works at the store and have her help you. They know what to do and can get you fitted properly.
STEP 2: GET TO THE FESTIVAL
The S-Bahn subway system has a stop right at Oktoberfest, so it is effortless and inexpensive to get there. When you walk into the festival grounds, it looks like Epcot or an amusement park. There are lots of carnival rides, food vendors, and little shops. There is no entrance fee to get in, but you have to pay for food and drinks. Things aren’t as expensive as I thought they’d be. A beer stein (which is called a mast) is about 10€ ($13), which considering the mas holds a liter of beer, is a pretty good deal. I’m not a big beer drinker myself, so I got a radler or rußn (ru-ssen) – a shandy, beer with lemonade or sprite.
STEP 3: PICK A TENT
I had a few friends who had been before, and they kept talking about the beer tents. I’m not sure about you, but when I thought of tents, I thoughts of the large event tents. These beer tents are not tents at all. They are massively large buildings that hold a few thousand people each. Each tent is a different brewery, so to get the whole experience be sure to go to different tents on different days. There are no options for the kind of beer you’ll be drinking – they all serve their Oktoberfest brew.
Tip: I’m not trying to be your mother, but pace yourself! You will be drinking all day, so make sure to eat and drink water in the mix. And yes, you can get kicked out of Oktoberfest for falling off of tables – we saw it happen!
STEP 4: GET THERE EARLY
The tents open around 9-10 AM, so the best thing is to get there right when they open to get a table and seats. You can get there later, but it will be harder to find a space, and you’ll have to schmooze your way to get a seat. You can only be served food and drinks if you are seated, so you can’t just go in and hang out like a typical bar scene. The one nice thing is that as the crowds filter in and out, you’ll be sharing the table with different people, so it’s so fun to talk to people from around the world. (Shout out to Simon, Gloria, Sven, Ulrich, Fernando, and all my new friends!)
STEP 5: SING ALONG
One thing that was crazy was if someone stood up onto the table, it meant they were going to chug their entire liter of beer. It’s all fun and games at the beginning since the whole tent will be cheering you on, but be careful because if you do not finish the entire beer, the crowd will boo and throw pieces of pretzel at you! (No, I did not try to chug the beer. Way too intimidating!) A tip from a Bavarian: practice with milk. Why? He says that you can chug a liter of anything if you can chug a liter of milk.
There are also so many fun songs to sing! And you’d be surprised by the American ones that make the list. “Take Me Home Country Roads” is a hit at Oktoberfest, and everyone knows the words— except me. I don’t think I have sung that song since Flag Day in elementary school! “Ein Prosit” is the number one song at Oktoberfest, where conversations will stop to sing along. The lyrics in English are “I Salute Our Friendship & Good Times.” During the song, you sway and swing your beer left and right with the entire tent. When the song is over, there is a countdown for everyone to cheer and have a sip of beer!
OPTIONAL: GET OUT OF MUNICH
My friend Nicole, who I went with, also really wanted to go and see Neuschwanstein Castle, so we headed out of Munich for the day. There are options to take a tour group to the Castle if you prefer, but we took a scenic 2-hour train ride. From there, it was a 5-10 minute bus or cab ride to the base of the Castle. I usually don’t like to repeat places, but this is one place I did not mind visiting multiple times.
And speaking of repeating place, I’m pretty sure Oktoberfest is something that I will visit again. If you like to sing, drink, and be social – this is your place!