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  • Writer's pictureAmy Leggett

The Best Party in the World? Oktoberfest in Munich!

Updated: Dec 7, 2022

If you don't already have going to Oktoberfest in Munich on your bucket list, make sure to add it immediately! Even if you are not a big beer fan, there is nothing like this traditional festival and you will find plenty to enjoy. If you still aren't convinced, I think you will change your mind by the end of this blog!

How the Party Started:

The first Oktoberfest occurred on October 17, 1810, at a horse race held in further celebration of the wedding of Prince Ludwig of Bavaria (later King Ludwig I) to Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. The celebration was such a success it was decided to hold it every year. As the annual festival moved forward the length of the celebration was extended. It was extended forward into the month of September most likely to enjoy the more pleasant, warmer weather that Munich typically enjoys in September. The festival now runs for two weeks every year beginning on the first Saturday following September 15 and runs through the first Sunday in October.

Interesting Oktoberfest Party Facts:

  • Approximately 5.7 million festival goers attended the 2022 Oktoberfest!

  • Only beer from Munich breweries may be served at Oktoberfest. The six breweries that provide their newly brewed Wiesn beer to the festival are Augustiner, Hacker-Pschorr, Hofbräu, Löwenbräu, Paulaner and Spaten.

  • 5.6 million liters of beer were served at the 2022 Oktoberfest.

  • 112,551 traditional Oktoberfest beer mugs were confiscated from souvenir hunters who didn't want to pay for their own from the souvenir stands.

How to Enjoy the World's Best Party:

  • Access to the festival grounds (Theresienwiese fairgrounds) and the beer tents is free.

  • A smaller, more low-key Oktoberfest called Oide Weisen takes place on the northwestern corner of Theresienwiese. Entry to Oide Weisen is 4 euros for adults (children under 14 are free). There are beer tents with genuine Bavarian customs and a special dark beer brewed using historical recipes which is served in stone mugs. Oide Weisen is Oktoberfest with lots of nostalgia.

  • Oktoberfest kicks off with a Weisen tapping by the Oberbürgermeister (also known as the Lord Mayor) of Munich. The tapping occurs at noon on the first Saturday of the festival in the Schottenhamel Festhalle. A rousing "O'Zapft Is!" starts the beer flowing for the annual Oktoberfest.

  • There are 17 large tents and 21 small tents to enjoy beer, wine and food. Each tent is privately owned and has its own distinct vibe. Don't worry, the typical Oktoberfest atmosphere can be found in every tent! Check out a description of each tent here so you can decide which one sounds like the best fit for you before you go.

  • You don't have to have reservations to enter a beer tent and a proportion of tables in each tent are kept open for walk ins. However, if you plan to go to Oktoberfest on the weekend, in the evening or in a large group, it may be difficult to secure those open spots or even get into a tent. Tents will close due to overcrowding and you will only be able to enter if you have a reservation. You can only make a reservation for a full table which seats 8-10 people. You need to contact each tent directly to make a reservation. (WARNING: Reservations cannot be resold so do not attempt to buy a reservation any where other than directly from the respective proprietor of the relevant tent. A reservation that has been sold will be automatically cancelled so you could be left stranded.)

  • A table reservation itself is free, but in order to secure the reservation you will need to buy and pay for vouchers for 2 liters of beer and half a chicken per person. Price may vary by tent but is generally around 350 euros for the full table.

  • In addition to the beer tents, there are all kinds of things to be enjoyed at Oktoberfest. There are many booths with traditional Oktoberfest foods, souvenir stands where you can purchase your own Oktoberfest beer stein or flower head wreath, and a wide selection of carnival rides. Looking at many of the rides, it doesn't seem to me that they would be a good mix with drinking lots of beer, but who am I to judge? I did enjoy a ride on the symbolic Willenborg's Ferris Wheel and a Toboggan ride that I will discuss below, but I passed on any spinny rides (that honestly I couldn't handle even before drinking beer)! Lots of families were enjoying this part of Oktoberfest and there were apparently plenty of beer drinkers who have a stronger stomach than me.

  • You don't have to dress in traditional garb to attend Oktoberfest, but it definitely makes it more fun! Women generally wear a dress that is called a dirndl with a matching apron. How you tie the apron bow will tell any interested admirer whether you are single, married or widowed, so be careful how you tie it! Men wear lederhosen which are leather shorts with suspenders. They can accessories with Loferls which are "calf warmers" only worn on the lower leg. You can order these outfits before you go, but you can also purchase them in Munich at almost any store. I didn't wear a dirndl, but I purchased a traditional skirt and a flower wreath to join in the fun! Find out more information on putting together your perfect Oktoberfest outfit here.

My Oktoberfest Experience:

I had a fantastic time at Oktoberfest and I can't wait to go back again. We had reservations in the Schottenhamel Festhalle, the beer tent that kicks off the Oktoberfest celebration with the tapping of the beer and the "O'Zapft Is!". Oktoberfest was in full swing by the time we arrived so we missed that tradition. Reading the descriptions of each beer tent, apparently the Schottenhamel Festhalle is the oldest Wiesn tent, but also has the reputation of being the best tent to flirt so many of the youngest guests head here. I'm sure any beer tent has great potential for flirting given the crowd and the amount of beer being served, but this is the Schottenhamel story and they are sticking to it!

As noted above, you don't have to have a reservation, but if you have a large enough group or plan to go during a peak time, I would highly recommend it. Reservations will guarantee you a spot in your favorite tent. Reservations are generally made in three hour increments throughout the day. We were there from11:00-2:00, but don't think that being there that early in the day means a more subdued Oktoberfest experience. The early time didn't seem to have an impact on the amount of celebrating that was going on! It was so fun to experience Oktoberfest with the travel group I had been with for the past two weeks, but it was also fun to meet new friends from all over the world who were also there to experience Oktoberfest!

Our reservation time ended and three BIG beers later I wandered out into the festival grounds to check out the rest of the Oktoberfest scene. As I mentioned above, I did grab a ride on the Willenborg's Ferris wheel. The Ferris Wheel has been in operation since 1979 and goes 50 meters high over the Oktoberfest grounds.

I then wandered over to the infamous Toboggan ride. I was watching people slide down a really tall slide and decided that would be something fun to was safe because there was no spinning involved! However I failed to notice the really fast magic carpet ride that you needed to hop on (with the assistance of a very handsome young man dressed in lederhosen) that whipped you up part way to the top of the slide where you then have to climb several more sets of stairs to reach the entry to the slide. Apparently it is common knowledge that you can stand and watch drunk people try to maneuver the speedy conveyor belt for hours of festival entertainment. I don't think I provided any laughable moments, but the whole thing is a little hazy thanks to those three BIG beers so who knows. I won't see any of those people again. I made it safely to the top and rode the tall, winding slide down to the bottom. I don't have any video or pictures of me enjoying the Toboggan ride. I think that is probably a good thing.

I wandered around a little more taking in all of the sights and enjoying some warm toasted almonds. I loved seeing the horse drawn keg carriages that each brewery had decorated in true Oktoberfest style!

Planning Your 2023 Oktoberfest Visit:

The 2023 Oktoberfest is scheduled for September 16, 2023 through the first Sunday in October (although it may be extended through the public holiday on Tuesday, October 3, 2023). The 188th festival will kick off with the traditional tapping happening at noon on September 16, 2023 in the Schottenhamel Festhalle. Once the tapping has occurred, the beer can start flowing in all the other beer tents and Oktoberfest 2023 will begin.

Reservations for tables will not open until sometime next spring, usually around April or May. Note that each beer tent handles its own reservations. You can click here for information on the reservation process and to keep updated on when each beer tent will begin accepting reservations. If you have a specific tent you really want to visit, I would jump on the reservations as soon as they open as the most popular tents fill up quickly.

I hope this blog has encouraged you to plan your own Oktoberfest trip. I promise you will not regret it! After experiencing the festival you can explore Munich and the surrounding Alps. Check out my other blogs for inspiration regarding exploring nearby places.


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