With Oktoberfest just around the corner, we’re sure you’re excitedly getting ready for the beer tents and carnival atmosphere of Munich’s “5th season”. Over 6 million people descend on the city every September to revel in the “Wiesn", which is what the locals know Oktoberfest as. But how can you avoid being called a “saupresse”, the Bavarian word reserved for their not so beloved neighborhoods in north Germany, and the not so beloved tourists who descend on the city? You can start with reading our guide to how to Oktoberfest like a local! Here’s everything you need to know about Oktoberfest, the strategies to make the most of it, and how to survive!
When to go?
Weisn spans over three weekends, but it’s worth choosing when you want to go wisely! Most locals avoid the weekends, preferring to go during the week when things are less manic. If you do want to dive head first in to the madness, it’s worth noting that the second weekend is known by the locals as the “Italian weekend”, which is when what feels like half of Italy makes the journey to Munich to party. This even includes police and medics from South Tyrol, a province in northern Italy, so Munich locals tend to avoid this weekend completely. And whilst rowdy beer tents might not be your first thought for a child friendly activity, Tuesdays are the official Family Day. There’s the family tent, “Familienplatzl”, where there’s shows and activities for kids as well as discounts on rides in the festival grounds between 12 and 6pm. Little ones can also eat and drink for less in the Augustiner tent on Tuesdays.
When do the beer tents close?
At weekends the beer tents are open until 11.30pm and on weekdays 10.30pm, but you need to remember that the last beer is served an hour before closing. But there are two tents where you won’t be booted out at 10.30 and can happily keep drinking until 12.30 and 1am respectively - Weinzelt and Käfer. But since no one wants to be the first to go home, everyone rushes to the Käfer tent particularly once the others close. So it’s worth pulling yourself away from whichever tent you’ve spent your afternoon in and getting there around 10, or you probably won’t be able to get in, never mind get served.
Set your alarm
Tents open at 10am during the week, and at 9am on the weekends. So whilst you might not feel like drinking your first mass for breakfast, it’s worth remembering that locals without a table reservation will queue up as early as 6am on Saturdays to get their hands (or bums) on benches. Competition is fierce so get there early over the weekends - don’t say we didn’t warn you! If possible, try to avoid looking for a table when the reservations change over too - everyone who’s just had to leave their reserved seats to make way for the next group will also be searching, making your job even harder than it was already.
Choose your tent wisely
With 34 beer tents to choose from, it’s worth doing some research before you go to figure out which suits your vibe. There are 14 main tents and 20 smaller ones each seating anywhere between 5000 and 11,000 people, and that’s a lot of tents to choose from particularly if you’re only going for one day. Each tent has a unique atmosphere, and you’ll find some are more full of tourists than others. Some have a reputation as the Australian or Italian tent, whilst others like the Augustiner tent are loved by the locals for its lack of tourists (compared to Hofbruahaus). The smaller tents tend to be centred around the food they serve, so if that’s your vibe then decide what you’d like to eat first! “Weinzelt” is the only one where you can drink wine, and it’s also the place that tends to be favoured by families as it’s generally less busy than other spots.
Dust off your dirndl and lederhosen
It’s not compulsory, but locals will all be wearing their lederhosen and dirndls for the occasion, and there’s nothing like getting involved and dressing up for the occasion! Unless you do happen to have some traditional Bavarian gear at the back of your wardrobe, you can buy your clothes in Munich but be aware that an outfit will cost upwards from 100 euros. You can find much cheaper versions, but you’ll easily be able to spot the difference in the vibe - remember it’s not a fancy dress party and locals tend to frown upon cheaper, tacky dirndls in particular. Ladies, make sure that your dirndl is never cut above the knee, and that you tie your apron bow on the right side! A tradition that’s still going today, tying your apron on the left hand side means you’re single, whilst on the right means you’re taken - and yes, locals do take note!
Learn some songs!
Each tent has its own live band accompanying you along the way to getting merry, although some are more traditional than others (the Bräurosl tent even has its own yodeller!). The most famous Oktoberfest tune which you’ll hear literally hundreds of times during your time at the festival is called “Ein Prosit”. Learn the words (there’s not many so it’s not difficult) before you go and join in, it will make you feel like a local! At the end of the song, everyone counts to three, shouts “G’suffa!” then takes a communal sip.
Make a Wiesenbekanntschaft
Many an Oktoberfest tale will have started, before things got a bit bleary, with “ist diesel platz frei?”, meaning “is this seat taken?” Making an acquaintance at Oktoberfest even has its own word, “wiesnbekanntschaften”, which should tell you how par for the course it is to leave with new friends. And since you probably don’t have a table reservation, you’ll be cozying up to people you’ve never met before. You’ll soon see how easy it is to make new friends when you’re sharing the same communal table and drinking liter-sized glasses of beer!
Drink like the locals
First things first, know how to order correctly! Beer is served one way only: from a “mass”. Please, don’t ask for a stein, this is something different and not actually the word the locals use anyway. Mass in hand, now to make sure it’s in hand correctly! Hold your glass by sliding your hand through the handle with your thumb on top, then toast with your crew and your new wiesnbekanntschaften by clinking glasses at the bottom, making eye contact with everyone, and saying “Prost!”
Feast on traditional dishes
Fewer things go better with huge glasses of beer than succulent rotisserie roast chicken and giant pretzels generously encrusted with salt! You can grab “wiesn brezn” (pretzels) from any of the stands outside, as well as traditional Bavarian “wurst”, but for “halbes Hendl” (a half roast chicken), you’ll need to have a place inside one of the tents. But some tents are even named for the food they serve, which gives you a heads up for what to expect inside. At the Ochsenbraterei tent you’ll find a huge ox roasting on a spit, at Shützen you can feast on roast suckling pig with malt beer sauce and warm potato salad, whilst anyone who’s not a huge fan of roasted meat should head to the Fischer Vroni tent, which means “fish on a stick” - unsurprisingly, you’ll find 16 delicious types of grilled fish on their menu.
You will find some bars which take cards, but to make everyone’s life easier, it’s best to take cash with you. The last thing you need is to waste time at the bar trying to get your card to work! And if you’ve managed to get seats at a table (which hopefully by now you have), you can only pay your waitress in cash when she brings your drinks over. There are ATMs inside Oktoberfest, but you’ll face long queues. So the moral of the story - stop by an ATM before you get to the festival grounds to get cash.
And prepare your self (and your wallet) to part with it
Oktoberfest is unfortunately not cheap. As well as steep prices for drinks, you’ll also have to pay a deposit called a “pfand” for your glass - not surprising when so many people try to smuggle them out! Most beers are 11 euros, and the deposit for glass is 2 euros. Add to this your food, which is generally around 12 - 15 euros for a meal inside a tent, and you’re looking at a big bill for the day. If you want to try and save a little bit of money, opt for eating outside. The festival grounds themselves are full of food trucks and bars where you can buy pretzels and wurst for 4 euros, and drinks for 8 euros (although not beer, which is only served inside the tents).
Don’t even think about trying to smuggle a mass out with you
You might be tempted after a day of drinking to try and smuggle out an empty mass with you, but it’s worth remembering that a) it’s considered pretty bad taste by the locals and b) the security guards at every exit haven’t also been drinking all day so will have a lot more of their wits about them than you! Where you probably like to imagine you’re channeling James Bond are being ultra sneaky, the reality is you are not, and they’ll spot a mass shaped bulge under your shirt in seconds. Save yourself the potential fine and buy one from the stands in the festival grounds instead.
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