31 Things to Know Before You Go to Germany's Oktoberfest

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Slide 1 of 25: Oktoberfest began as a celebration of Prince Ludwig I of Bavaria and his wife Therese's nuptials. They tied the knot in October, but since everyone had so much fun, they decided to make the celebration an annual thing. Eventually, the starting date was moved up to September to increase the percentages of pleasant weather during the festival.
Slide 2 of 25: Ludwig and Therese got hitched in 1810 and Bavarians have been commemorating their special day ever since. Sure, a cholera outbreak here or a war there has caused a couple dozen festivals to be canceled, but the tradition has been going strong for well over two centuries now.
Slide 3 of 25: How many kegs does your local mayor tap? Each year, the mayor of Munich taps the very first keg of Oktoberfest beer and declares “O'zapft is!" (it’s tapped!) and the party proceeds from there. This takes place at 10 a.m. at the Schottenhamel tent on the first Saturday of the festival. If you want to witness this, you’ll probably want to show up at 8 or 9 a.m.
Slide 4 of 25: If you want to fit in with the locals, don’t call it Oktoberfest, call it the “Wies'n”. This is the nickname for the giant field where the festival takes place, the Theresienwiese (Therese's meadow). How did it get its name? It's named after our favorite Bavarian blushing bride Therese.
Slide 5 of 25: There are over a dozen big Oktoberfest tents, and a large chunk of the festival's fun happens there. Each one of the big Oktoberfest tents has their own personality—with ones like Hofbrau and Lowenbrau attracting a large number of tourists, and "festhalles," like Armbrustschutzen, Schutzenl and the Weinzelt (Wine Tent), maintaining a slightly more local vibe.You will also find tiny tents that specialize in seafood or vintage fun, and no trip is complete without sampling the atmosphere at multiple tents.
Slide 6 of 25: Some people will tell you that you need a table reservation to fully enjoy the beer tents, but that's not true at all. Reserving a table as a group guarantees you a seat and certainly lowers the stress-level of finding somewhere to sit, but you don’t HAVE to have one to enter an Oktoberfest tent.
Slide 7 of 25: If you don’t make a table reservation and you're just traveling in a small group, arrive at Oktoberfest early (we’re talking 10 a.m. here), and you’ll be able to sit at one of the many unreserved seats inside the tents. Which tent should you choose? Which tent should you choose? Well, that's up to you.
Slide 8 of 25: If you happen to be at the festival on a sunny and warm day, you might just want to spend some time outside the tent. Nearly all of the big tents are surrounded by benches. This is a great place to people watch and meet people, as many people will be forced out here due to the tent being overcrowded inside. Basically, it’s like one big beer garden that just happens to be located at Oktoberfest.
Slide 9 of 25: Don’t expect to pay for steins of beer with your smartwatch, because cash is definitely still king at Oktoberfest. Be sure to keep some of your Euro coins handy in order to tip your server. That way, your face will stand out from the crowds when she/he circles back around to gather up orders for the next round.
Slide 10 of 25: You’ve seen the image of a waitress carrying dozens of beer at one time and at Oktoberfest, you will witness the feat in the flesh. Snap a picture from a distance if you must, but whatever you do, don’t interfere with their work—it’s serious business.
Slide 11 of 25: Keep in mind that no matter how much you’ve tipped your waitress/waiter, they aren’t allowed to serve you unless you are actually sat down at a table. This is yet another reason why arriving early to plant yourself on a bench is a great idea.
Slide 12 of 25: When you get handed your first frosty stein of Oktoberfest beer, make sure you don’t proceed to hold it by the handle. Veterans know this is a sure way to get a sore wrist. Wrap your hand through the stein and cradle the glass and you’ll look like you’ve been coming to Oktoberfest for years.
Slide 13 of 25: In 2018, you will pay just north of eleven Euros (around $13) for a beer at all the big tents. We are talking a liter of beer here, but those costs can definitely add up over the course of a day. How much cash do you need to take with you to Oktoberfest? To have a great time without worrying about money and being able to afford food, a few carnival rides, and treat some new friends to a round of beers, around $200 per day should suffice.
Slide 14 of 25: Since you will likely be arriving early and leaving late from Oktoberfest, you definitely want to wear comfortable shoes. Shoes with a good grip will especially come in handy when you find yourself dancing on the tables with a group of new friends.
Slide 15 of 25: Don'y worry, it’s not what it looks like. The powder is actually a "snuff" made of sugar and menthol that gives Oktoberfest revelers a mini-rush of energy. If you are sitting with locals and having a good time, don’t be surprised at all if they shake some onto your hand in order for you to sample the goods.
Slide 16 of 25: It’s a fact of life that when people are consuming beer by the bucketful, they are going to need to use the facilities. Luckily, it’s not Munich’s first rodeo and they have the entire grounds stacked with plenty of toilet facilities, so don't sweat it.
Slide 17 of 25: This might just be the most important tip for attending Oktoberfest: avoid the weekends at all costs in order to sidestep the largest of the crowds. More people means longer lines for the aforementioned bathrooms, more contentious fights for seating and less space. There are no “slow days” during the festival, so there will be plenty of fun to be had on Monday.
Slide 18 of 25: Not obsessed with beer but still want to have fun at Oktoberfest? It’s definitely still possible! Pay a visit to the Weinzelt—which specializes in wine— or just sip a tall stein of lemonade or cola. And if you want to straddle the fence, sip a radler, which is a mixture of beer and lemonade.
Slide 19 of 25: Hanging out in the beer tents is only half the fun of Oktoberfest; riding the carnival rides is the other. You’ll find everything from rollicking roller coasters to log flumes, and swings and haunted houses that will get your heart racing and offer up respite from all the reveling.
Slide 20 of 25: How many days should you spend at Oktoberfest? That’s between you and your budget, but experience has taught this author that you probably want to take a day off after a couple days at the festival. Therefore, a “two days on, one day off” philosophy is recommended. What to do on your off day? Spend some time in the English Garden or head for the fairytale castles of King Ludwig II.
Slide 21 of 25: Deciding what to wear at Oktoberfest can be a conundrum. For guys: do you go all out in lederhosen or just wear jeans? For girls: do you dress up in a dirndl or just bust out your best party-casual clothes from home? In both cases, definitely choose the former. Dressing the part will make everything more fun and as long as you treat your traditional garb with respect, locals won't take offense at all.
Slide 22 of 25: The food is definitely NOT an afterthought at Oktoberfest. Drool-worthy roast chickens, pork knuckles and pretzels are just the tip of the culinary iceberg being served up in the beer tents. And, on the grounds of the festival, each walkway is lined with snack bars serving freshly grilled meats, tasty fish and German sweets.
Slide 23 of 25: Want to see how the OGs (Old Germans) used to kick it back in the day? Then make sure to swing through the Oide Wiesn section of Oktoberfest. Here, you will find vintage rides and a throwback beer tent alongside a museum dedicated to the history of the fest.
Slide 24 of 25: Hidden away at the back of the fairgrounds—near the Oide Wiesn—is Cafe Kaiserschmarrn. It is a fairy wonderland of pastries and baked goods and one of the best off-the-beaten-path places at Oktoberfest. It looks like a ‘Candyland Castle’ from the outside, and inside diners are surrounded by a myriad of colorful decorations and wonderful Bavarian breakfast treats.
Slide 25 of 25: While you will hear traditional German “oompah” music at the tents, there will be a mix of all sorts of classic rock and pop being played, too. Expect to hear “Country Roads” by John Denver, “Summer of ‘69” by Bryan Adams and “Angels” by Robbie Williams multiple times. If there’s one song you should memorize though, it’s the catchy German song “Fliegerlied”, which comes with a collection of zany hand motions and dance moves and will stay with you long after you leave.

The Whole Shindig Is One Big Extended Wedding Reception

Oktoberfest began as a celebration of Prince Ludwig I of Bavaria and his wife Therese’s nuptials. They tied the knot in October, but since everyone had so much fun, they decided to make the celebration an annual thing. Eventually, the starting date was moved up to September to increase the percentages of pleasant weather during the festival.

That’s Been Happening Over 200 Years, With a Few Exceptions

Ludwig and Therese got hitched in 1810 and Bavarians have been commemorating their special day ever since. Sure, a cholera outbreak here or a war there has caused a couple dozen festivals to be canceled, but the tradition has been going strong for well over two centuries now.

The Mayor of Munich Kicks Things Off

How many kegs does your local mayor tap? Each year, the mayor of Munich taps the very first keg of Oktoberfest beer and declares “O’zapft is!” (it’s tapped!) and the party proceeds from there. This takes place at 10 a.m. at the Schottenhamel tent on the first Saturday of the festival. If you want to witness this, you’ll probably want to show up at 8 or 9 a.m.

The Locals Don�??t Call It Oktoberfest

If you want to fit in with the locals, don’t call it Oktoberfest, call it the “Wies’n”. This is the nickname for the giant field where the festival takes place, the Theresienwiese (Therese’s meadow). How did it get its name? It’s named after our favorite Bavarian blushing bride Therese.

All Oktoberfest Tents Have Their Own Flavor

There are over a dozen big Oktoberfest tents, and a large chunk of the festival’s fun happens there. Each one of the big Oktoberfest tents has their own personality—with ones like Hofbrau and Lowenbrau attracting a large number of tourists, and “festhalles,” like Armbrustschutzen, Schutzenl and the Weinzelt (Wine Tent), maintaining a slightly more local vibe.

You will also find tiny tents that specialize in seafood or vintage fun, and no trip is complete without sampling the atmosphere at multiple tents.

You Don’t Need Reservations for the Beer Tents, but It Wouldn’t Hurt

Some people will tell you that you need a table reservation to fully enjoy the beer tents, but that’s not true at all. Reserving a table as a group guarantees you a seat and certainly lowers the stress-level of finding somewhere to sit, but you don’t HAVE to have one to enter an Oktoberfest tent.

If You Don’t Have a Table Reservation, Just Get There Early

If you don’t make a table reservation and you’re just traveling in a small group, arrive at Oktoberfest early (we’re talking 10 a.m. here), and you’ll be able to sit at one of the many unreserved seats inside the tents. Which tent should you choose? Which tent should you choose? Well, that’s up to you.

But, You Might Want to Sit Outside

If you happen to be at the festival on a sunny and warm day, you might just want to spend some time outside the tent. Nearly all of the big tents are surrounded by benches. This is a great place to people watch and meet people, as many people will be forced out here due to the tent being overcrowded inside. Basically, it’s like one big beer garden that just happens to be located at Oktoberfest.

Cash is King

Don’t expect to pay for steins of beer with your smartwatch, because cash is definitely still king at Oktoberfest. Be sure to keep some of your Euro coins handy in order to tip your server. That way, your face will stand out from the crowds when she/he circles back around to gather up orders for the next round.

Yes, the Waitresses Really Carry All Those Beers at Once

You’ve seen the image of a waitress carrying dozens of beer at one time and at Oktoberfest, you will witness the feat in the flesh. Snap a picture from a distance if you must, but whatever you do, don’t interfere with their work—it’s serious business.

You Must Be Seated to Be Served

Keep in mind that no matter how much you’ve tipped your waitress/waiter, they aren’t allowed to serve you unless you are actually sat down at a table. This is yet another reason why arriving early to plant yourself on a bench is a great idea.

Don�??t Hold Your Beer by the Handle

When you get handed your first frosty stein of Oktoberfest beer, make sure you don’t proceed to hold it by the handle. Veterans know this is a sure way to get a sore wrist. Wrap your hand through the stein and cradle the glass and you’ll look like you’ve been coming to Oktoberfest for years.

But It Won’t Be Cheap

In 2018, you will pay just north of eleven Euros (around $13) for a beer at all the big tents. We are talking a liter of beer here, but those costs can definitely add up over the course of a day. How much cash do you need to take with you to Oktoberfest? To have a great time without worrying about money and being able to afford food, a few carnival rides, and treat some new friends to a round of beers, around $200 per day should suffice.

Wear Comfy Shoes

Since you will likely be arriving early and leaving late from Oktoberfest, you definitely want to wear comfortable shoes. Shoes with a good grip will especially come in handy when you find yourself dancing on the tables with a group of new friends.

Don’t Be Stunned If You See People Snorting White Powder

Don’y worry, it’s not what it looks like. The powder is actually a “snuff” made of sugar and menthol that gives Oktoberfest revelers a mini-rush of energy. If you are sitting with locals and having a good time, don’t be surprised at all if they shake some onto your hand in order for you to sample the goods.

Don’t Worry, There Are Plenty of Bathrooms

It’s a fact of life that when people are consuming beer by the bucketful, they are going to need to use the facilities. Luckily, it’s not Munich’s first rodeo and they have the entire grounds stacked with plenty of toilet facilities, so don’t sweat it.

Go Ahead and Avoid the Weekends

This might just be the most important tip for attending Oktoberfest: avoid the weekends at all costs in order to sidestep the largest of the crowds. More people means longer lines for the aforementioned bathrooms, more contentious fights for seating and less space. There are no “slow days” during the festival, so there will be plenty of fun to be had on Monday.

It’s Not Just About Beer

Not obsessed with beer but still want to have fun at Oktoberfest? It’s definitely still possible! Pay a visit to the Weinzelt—which specializes in wine— or just sip a tall stein of lemonade or cola. And if you want to straddle the fence, sip a radler, which is a mixture of beer and lemonade.

Don�??t Forget to Take a Spin on the Rides

Hanging out in the beer tents is only half the fun of Oktoberfest; riding the carnival rides is the other. You’ll find everything from rollicking roller coasters to log flumes, and swings and haunted houses that will get your heart racing and offer up respite from all the reveling.

You Should Consider Taking a Day Off

How many days should you spend at Oktoberfest? That’s between you and your budget, but experience has taught this author that you probably want to take a day off after a couple days at the festival. Therefore, a “two days on, one day off” philosophy is recommended. What to do on your off day? Spend some time in the English Garden or head for the fairytale castles of King Ludwig II.

Feel Free to Dress Like the Locals

Deciding what to wear at Oktoberfest can be a conundrum. For guys: do you go all out in lederhosen or just wear jeans? For girls: do you dress up in a dirndl or just bust out your best party-casual clothes from home? In both cases, definitely choose the former. Dressing the part will make everything more fun and as long as you treat your traditional garb with respect, locals won’t take offense at all.

The Food Is as Good as the Beer

The food is definitely NOT an afterthought at Oktoberfest. Drool-worthy roast chickens, pork knuckles and pretzels are just the tip of the culinary iceberg being served up in the beer tents. And, on the grounds of the festival, each walkway is lined with snack bars serving freshly grilled meats, tasty fish and German sweets.

Go Old School at the Oide Wiesn

Want to see how the OGs (Old Germans) used to kick it back in the day? Then make sure to swing through the Oide Wiesn section of Oktoberfest. Here, you will find vintage rides and a throwback beer tent alongside a museum dedicated to the history of the fest.

This Is the Best Way to Start Your Day

Hidden away at the back of the fairgrounds—near the Oide Wiesn—is Cafe Kaiserschmarrn. It is a fairy wonderland of pastries and baked goods and one of the best off-the-beaten-path places at Oktoberfest. It looks like a ‘Candyland Castle’ from the outside, and inside diners are surrounded by a myriad of colorful decorations and wonderful Bavarian breakfast treats.

And the Lyrics to the Following Songs

While you will hear traditional German “oompah” music at the tents, there will be a mix of all sorts of classic rock and pop being played, too. Expect to hear “Country Roads” by John Denver, “Summer of ‘69” by Bryan Adams and “Angels” by Robbie Williams multiple times. If there’s one song you should memorize though, it’s the catchy German song “Fliegerlied”, which comes with a collection of zany hand motions and dance moves and will stay with you long after you leave.

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