Oktoberfest is perhaps one of the most famous festivals in the world. The annual event held in Munich, Germany is commonly mistaken as a beer festival. However, as you’ll learn in this Oktoberfest guide, the 2-week celebration is actually very family-friendly.
Whether you’re visiting Oktoberfest with kids, going with a group of friends, or really are going for the numerous beer tents, these Munich Oktoberfest tips will help you navigate this world-famous festival like a pro.
This Oktoberfest Guide includes everything you need to know when planning a trip to Oktoberfest in Munich. From where to stay, what to wear, how much money you’ll need, and which tents are the best, we answer all your questions about attending Oktoberfest in Munich in this ultimate guide.
What is Oktoberfest?
Oktoberfest is the largest Volksfest in the world, drawing approximately 6 million people every year. Combining beer, wine, and a family-fun fair, this annual tradition takes place each year in Munich, the capital of the Bavarian region of Germany.
While this event is an important part of Bavarian culture, cities all over the world have started hosting Oktoberfest celebrations – many of which are modeled after the Munich celebration.
Later in this Oktoberfest guide, we’ll cover what to expect at Oktoberfest in Munich, but in short – there is way more to Oktoberfest than beer. Although there is plenty of that, as well. Beer is consumed in large quantities at Oktoberfest – 7.7 million liters each year to be more precise – and is an important part of the event.
ALSO READ: What to do in Munich in a day
History of Oktoberfest
While Oktoberfest could easily be compared to a giant fair or carnival, the first Oktoberfest was actually a wedding celebration.
First held in 1810, Oktoberfest was a massive festival to which all the citizens of Munich were invited. The occasion was a celebration of the wedding of the Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig to Princess Therese of Sachsen-Hildburghausen.
The first year, Oktoberfest was primarily a horse race, but year after year the festival grew and evolved, with our attractions, carnival booths, rides, and dance floors.
Since 1810, the famous festival has taken place each year, save a handful of times, particularly during wars and disease outbreaks. The most recent cancellations were in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
When is Oktoberfest in Munich?
When you tell others that you are going to Oktoberfest in Munich, they may expect to see you leave for your vacation sometime in October.
There are many things in life that will make you scratch your head and give you weird looks. The timing of Oktoberfest will be one of them. That is because Oktoberfest does not actually start in October, as the name might suggest.
The majority of the festivities occur in September rather than in October.
Oktoberfest always begins in September, usually around the third week and ends on the first Sunday in October (unless the first Sunday of the month falls on October 1 – then it ends on Monday or Tuesday). It typically lasts approximately 16-18 days from beginning to end.
In 2023, Oktoberfest begins on Saturday, September 16 and runs through Tuesday, October 3, 2023.
Where to stay in Munich for Oktoberfest
Depending on the size of your group, where you stay in Munich for Oktoberfest is dependent on how much you want to spend. Hotel rooms in Europe are smaller than hotels in the United States and do not typically accommodate as many people.
If you are a party of 3 or less, then you can stay just about anywhere you want fairly easily. If you need a room for 4 or more and want to stay nearby, you need to book early – extremely early – as larger rooms are harder to come by.
Oktoberfest takes place in a part of town called Theresienwiese and is about a 15 minute walk from the Munchen/Munich Hauptbahnhof, the main train station in the city. It is also within a short train ride or a long walk from the city center where you’ll find many of the best things to do in Munich.
Fortunately, there are a ton of hotels nearby. And, you can’t get lost going to Oktoberfest because there are signs that point you exactly where to go.
Once outside the city gates, Theresienwiese is now the city’s fairgrounds. You may hear locals in Munich refer to Oktoberfest as d’Weisen – after the name of the festival grounds.
If you prefer to stay as close to Oktoberfest as possible and avoid a long walk or public transportation, we stayed at B&B Hotel Munchen-Hbf, which is a five minute walk to the Oktoberfest gates and a 12-15 minute walk from the train station.
What to Expect at Oktoberfest in Munich
As previously mentioned, Oktoberfest is like a giant, fancy fair.
Imagine a state fair or the largest carnival you’ve ever been to, then triple it – make it way more classy, and add in some fancy food and a lot of activities for adults, as well – and you’ve got what is the modern-day Oktoberfest.
The beer tents were one thing that surprised us the most. They are called “beer tents”, but they are not tents at all. They’re more like buildings with fancy beams, and elaborate décor inside. They are extremely classy and the interior is a large part of crafting the atmosphere and experience.
These tents help drive the theme of what Oktoberfest feels like. A classy fair. And they really are quite nice.
The only breweries that are allowed to be at Oktoberfest are breweries from Munich. Only one style of beer is served and that is Oktoberfest beer. Going to the tents is a must, and they are child friendly until 8 p.m.
As you get later into the evening, the vibe becomes more like a club scene. Children under the age of 6 are not allowed after 8 p.m., and anyone under 16 must be accompanied by a parent.
The music is louder than it is during the day, typical of German culture, and the crowds become rowdier the more beer that festival goers consume.
Rides at Oktoberfest
The tents are all surrounded by carnival style rides. Except, these are not your typical carnival rides.
While you’ll have your traditional fun houses and spinning carnival rides, you’ll also find smaller roller coasters that rival some of those at theme parks like Busch Gardens in the United States, Tivoli Gardens in Denmark, or the Prater in Vienna.
We were blown away by the type of rides. Because many of these rides are higher end, expect to pay quite a bit more to ride the rides.
Oktoberfest is an ala carte event. It is free to get in, but then you pay for the rides you want to ride. And, expect to pay quite a bit. Most rides will cost you 10 Euro each per person. And, you’ll need to have cash. There are only a few rides that accept credit cards.
Food at Oktoberfest
The food is another aspect that should be mentioned in any Oktoberfest guide.
Whereas most fairs serve things like corn dogs and funnel cake, Oktoberfest food is restaurant-style German cuisine! Roasted chicken, served with German potato salad or on the lighter side, pretzels and bratwurst. The food is amazing.
Best Time to Visit Oktoberfest in Munich
Oktoberfest is a very crowded event. But, there are times when you can avoid the crowds. First thing to keep in mind, as with any event the weekends will be the most crowded.
Regardless of what time you go to Oktoberfest on a weekend, you can expect lines to get in and a hard time finding a place to sit inside a beer tent.
You could attempt to go when the gates open at 10 a.m., but the grounds will fill quickly as people will come in from the suburbs of Munich, like Erding and even from nearby cities like Salzburg or Frankfurt.
If you decide to go on a weekday, Monday-Thursday are days where you can expect there to be fewer crowds during the day, with mid-week being the least crowded.
Most lines for rides will be rather short during a weekday making it the best time to visit Oktoberfest with kids. We noticed that lines were short until around 3 p.m. with the exception of the Ferris Wheel.
The Best Beer Tents at Oktoberfest Munich
As mentioned above, these are not really “tents”. These are huge sturdy buildings with colorful ceilings and festive décor.
There are 18 large tents and several smaller tents, as well. Each tent is unique, and it is best to explore as many of them as you can. To do this, you will need to plan for multiple days at Oktoberfest.
During the day, the tents are easy to access and seats are easy to find, except on weekends. After 6 p.m. lines will form outside and it can be rather difficult to find a seat inside.
Fortunately, there are tables outside that are like “mini biergartens” that are casual places to grab a drink and find a seat. However, you won’t get the same vibe outdoors that the tents have inside, nor will you hear the band and live music.
If you’re hungry, each tent has a “plate of the day” and the food is high end. You don’t have to eat, but it is an option and it is recommended if you are drinking.
While you won’t be able to visit all of the tents, we wanted to detail a few of the best tents at Oktoberfest, our personal favorites, and what to expect at the Oktoberfest tents.
Chances are if you have researched planning a trip to Oktoberfest, you have found the Hacker-Pschorr or Hacker Festzelt beer tent at Oktoberfest mentioned in more than one Oktoberfest guide.
That’s because this beer tent offers the best experience at Oktoberfest, in our opinion. It is the most authentic of the large tents, and a must-visit. If you only have time to visit one tent at Oktoberfest, make it the Hacker Festzelt tent!
The music, the atmosphere, and the beer are everything you might expect when planning a trip to Oktoberfest.
If you want a real, traditional Bavarian experience at Oktoberfest, go straight to the Hacker-Pschorr beer tent!
You’ve probably also heard or read about the Hofbrau tent on other websites. Hofbrau is one of the most popular breweries in Munich. In fact, visiting the Hofbrauhaus is a must – even if you only have one day in Munich.
Because of its popularity and name recognition, this tent is popular with foreign visitors to Oktoberfest.
Indeed, you will hear quite a bit of American English spoken inside this tent.
At night, if we are being honest, you’ll also find a lot of drunk people who aren’t used to the alcohol content or the size of the Oktoberfest beers. It’s still worth stopping in though because it is one of the largest tents at the festival with a capacity of nearly 10,000!
However, if visiting Oktoberfest with kids, make this a daytime tent, rather than a night-time experience.
Another one of the most popular tents at Oktoberfest, Paulaner Festzelt is also among the best partially due to brand recognition of the Paulaner brewery.
It’s also one of the easiest tents to find, identifiable by its signature tower with a rotating beer mug on top.
This tent feels every bit as large as the Hofbrau tent, although it has a cozy feel despite its massive size.
Although it also seats around 10,000, seating can be hard to come by. Only about a quarter of the seats in the large tents are unreserved on weekend evenings.
Festzelt Tradition is the largest and most popular tent in the area of Oktoberfest known as Oide Wiesn. This tent is worth visiting!
With traditional dancers, whip crackers, and stone mugs, this is one of the most unique experiences at Oktoberfest.
While you will have to pay a couple euro to get into Oide Wiesn, you will get a really authentic experience in Festzelt Tradition. In fact, you’ll find mainly locals and those who come to Oktoberfest each year inside this tent.
Spatenbrau is a great tent if you are looking for a different and cool night vibe.
The crowd seems to skew a bit younger and at night it has more of a club feel then the other tents, with dark lighting that sets the mood and atmosphere.
If visiting Spatenbrau for a meal, the roast ox is a favorite at this tent.
This tent has an entirely different atmosphere from day to night. During the day expect a traditional brass band. While at night the lights dim and the music evolves to more chart-toppers and current hits.
Often considered the most family-friendly beer tent at Oktoberfest, Augustiner even hosts a kids day on Tuesday, where you will find plenty of families enjoying the festivities with their children.
If visiting Oktoberfest with kids, this is definitely one of the tents you’ll want to visit.
The tent, which seats about 6,000 is also praised for its great and attentive service and beer served from traditional wooden barrels.
With its recognizable green ceiling and laid back atmosphere, visiting Augustiner is much more about enjoying the company of others over food and drinks than it is about consuming large amounts of beer.
If you are a pescetarian, the Fischer tent is the one for you! You’ll notice the smoked fish outside immediately. Although this tent will undoubtedly smell, well, a little fishy, if you can tolerate the smell of the cuisine, you’ll have a great time in this tent.
This tent is also popular among LGBTQ travelers. So if you are a part of the LGBTQ community or traveling with LGBTQ family members or friends, be sure to check out the Fischer Festzelt.
Want to reserve seating in advance in any of the tents? Find details on how to make a table reservation HERE.
How Much Does It Cost to Go to Oktoberfest?
Oktoberfest can cost as much or as little as you want. The festival is free to visit, but prepare to spend around 300€ on the low end, especially if visiting Oktoberfest with kids and planning to spend a good amount of the day riding the fair rides.
Rides will cost you, on average, 10€ per person to ride. If you need more money, there are plenty of ATMs around.
How to Plan a Trip to Oktoberfest in Munich | Oktoberfest Tips for First Timers
Now that we’ve covered what to expect when attending Oktoberfest in Munich, let’s cover some of the most helpful Oktoberfest tips.
Bring Cash or Debit Card
Very few vendors, tents or rides accept credit cards. While it seems strange for places not to accept credit cards nowadays, Oktoberfest is still basically cash only. So, come with plenty of euros.
The beer will now cost you around 15€ each, an increase in recent years.
Try the Food
The food at Oktoberfest is not typical fair food. It’s served on actual plates, with actual silverware. Aside from the presentation, the food is wonderful.
Eat it! Not only because it is delicious, but because you will need a hearty meal to survive Oktoberfest, especially if you plan to drink even one of the beers at Oktoberfest.
The tables inside and outside the beer tents are all communal seating, which means, you will almost certainly find yourself seated with strangers. This is part of the experience; one of the best parts of the experiences, in my opinion.
Step out of your comfort zone and make new friends! Converse, cheers, and enjoy the company of those around you.
We sat with people from Germany, England, Sweden, and Switzerland. It was a good time sharing stories and bonding over our mutual experience at Oktoberfest in Munich.
Embrace the Traditions
Oktoberfest is most fun when you embrace the traditions and join in with the crowd.
Whether that means singing songs in German, dancing on the benches, buying a dirndl or lederhosen, or simply striking up conversation with your seatmates, to attend Oktoberfest means to embrace all the unique aspects of this festival.
This is one of those Oktoberfest tips you do not want to learn the hard way. Partaking in the festivities (and the beer) is part of the Oktoberfest experience. However, think of this festival as a marathon – not a sprint.
Eat a big breakfast, enjoy the rides, then drink a beer (which is the equivalent to 3 beers in the United States) around lunch with yet another hearty meal, walk around and enjoy the sites – or go sightseeing in Munich and come back at night. Have another meal and then another beer.
The beers are big, and the festival can be an all day outing. You do not want to end up regretting your decisions the next day while laying in your hotel room bed with a splitting headache.
Leave Belongings at the Hotel
You’ll want to bring cash, a debit card, your phone, and an ID if you look young. But you’ll want to leave most of your belongings and anything larger than a small cross-body bag back at your hotel.
Whether you are planning to ride any of the rides or simply hang out in the beer tents, you will not want to keep track of a purse or bag the entire time.
Small bags will also be checked when entering Oktoberfest, and large bags will have to be checked at the gate, so do yourself a favor and bring only what will fit in your lederhosen pocket.
Dress the Part
Part of the fun of Oktoberfest is its uniqueness. Most festival goers wear traditional Bavarian costumes.
While you could wear jeans and t-shirt, one of our top Oktoberfest travel tips is to dress the part! That means, men, invest in a pair of lederhosen. Women, find a dirndl that fits your style.
Visit Oide Wiesn
While Oktoberfest is free to enter, there is a small area within the festival that charges a small fee to enter. When we visited, it was 2 euro per person to enter the section of Oktoberfest known as Oide Wiesn.
Oide Wiesn is like stepping back in time. You’ll find old-fashioned carnival rides, and smaller more traditional tents.
You will also find more locals in this section of Oktoberfest. So, if you want the true local experience, one of the best Oktoberfest tips is to visit Oide Wiesn.
Tip your waitress
Although tipping is a common practice in the United States, it is not as common in Europe, at least not to the same standard of expectation or amount.
In most European countries, including Germany, tipping is not required, and if you do tip, you just leave an extra one or two euro.
At Oktoberfest, however, the waitresses are there for the tips. Some of them make most of their yearly income during this 2-3 week event.
So although tipping isn’t required, you will get much better service if you tip.
What to wear to Oktoberfest in Munich
This is a traditional Bavarian event, so it’s important to respect the culture. It’s common for men to wear lederhosen and women to wear dirndls.
So, what exactly are the traditional Bavarian costumes? For men, if you want to dress the part at Oktoberfest, you’ll want to invest in a pair of lederhosen. Be prepared, authentic lederhosen aren’t cheap.
These leather shorts with suspenders are typically worn with a checkered button down shirt and knee high socks.
Women traditionally wear an apron dress called a dirndl. A dirndl is worn with a short top that cinches at the bust. It is typically either a blouse material or lace.
Your dirndl should be knee length or slightly longer. Shorter dirndls are an instant identifier that you are a foreigner and got your dress from a Halloween costume store.
How to Tie Your Dirndl Bow
How you tie your dirndl is also used as an identifier. Tied on the right means you are married or otherwise attached. On the left means you are single. On the back means you are widowed or wait staff. It is also a suitable option for a child.
Additionally, tying your dirndl bow in the front center of the waist mean you are a virgin or a child.
What shoes to wear to Oktoberfest
While women may be in a dress at Oktoberfest, you don’t necessarily have to wear heels. In fact, heels are impractical considering how much walking you will likely do. Combat boots are one of the trendier options for footwear.
Although a Mary Jane shoe style, ballet flats, or white sneakers, are also classic and popular options.
What should you not wear to Oktoberfest?
It’s important that if you decide to wear traditional Bavarian clothing that you wear the actual clothing.
Do not buy the T-shirt that makes it look like you’re wearing a dirndl/lederhosen. This is considered an insult and will give you many dirty looks. If you choose to not wear Bavarian clothing, which is OK, then casual clothes are fine.
Just whatever you do, do not disrespect the Bavarian clothing.
Frequently Asked Questions About Attending Oktoberfest in Munich
While we’ve covered what to expect at Oktoberfest in our Oktoberfest guide, you may still have some questions when planning a trip to the Munich festival.
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions we have gotten about attending Oktoberfest.
Where is Oktoberfest in Germany?
Oktoberfest takes place at the festival grounds in Munich. The train or metro stop is called Theresienwiese, and it is about a 15 minute walk from the Munchen/Munich Hauptbahnhof, the main train station in the city.
It is also within a short train ride or about a 30-minute walk from the city center and Marienplatz.
What is the Best Time To Visit Oktoberfest in Munich?
The best time to visit Oktoberfest really depends on what you want to do there.
If you are attending Oktoberfest with kids, weekdays during the day and early evening are the tamest and least crowded times to visit.
Is Oktoberfest family-friendly?
Munich Oktoberfest is very kid-friendly. We would even go as far to say it is extremely kid-friendly.
It’s not a beer festival. It’s a giant fair with beer and lots of fine food.
If you are thinking about visiting Oktoberfest with kids, go for it. It is not only fun for the whole family, it’s a cultural experience.
Is Oktoberfest Cash Only?
Oktoberfest is basically cash only. Although you will find a few vendors and ride operators that will accept credit cards, most of them only accept cash. The same goes for when you order drinks in the beer tents. You’ll be expected to pay in cash.
There are ATMs located throughout the festival, although we found a couple that did not accept Visa cards.
What souvenirs should you buy at Oktoberfest?
Perhaps the most popular souvenir to buy at Oktoberfest is a simple heart-shaped cookie. But you don’t actually eat the cookie, you wear it.
The cookies all have sweet sayings on them, and were originally something a man would buy for his sweetheart. Overtime, these wearable gingerbread cookies have become something you can buy for your child, your family back home, or yourself.
While they are edible, they aren’t what I would consider tasty. They are intentionally hard and made for durability, not consumption.
However, don’t worry if you’ve had one too many drinks and tear into that adorable heart-shaped cookie on the walk back to your hotel, your stomach will be totally fine. Whatever it takes to absorb that alcohol… but just an Oktoberfest tip – go for a pretzel instead.
What does Oktoberfest beer taste like?
There’s a belief that German beer is dark and heavy. And while there are some German beers that taste like that, Oktoberfest beer is actually light and tasty. It’s about 5% abv and is light brown in color.
All Oktoberfest beers come in one size, and that size is big! One beer at Oktoberfest is equivalent to about 3 US 12 ounce beers.
Our personal experience at Oktoberfest
For us, it was on our bucket list to attend Oktoberfest in Munich. But, once we were there, we immediately knew Oktoberfest would not be a one-time experience for us. While it won’t be an annual tradition for us, we will likely make it a point to attend the festival every few years.
In the off-years we plan an Oktoberfest party at home. It’s just one we try to incorporate the feeling of traveling into our lives at home.
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