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January 22, 2020
I can’t believe I’m writing this blog post right now. I went to Oktoberfest in Munich last week!!! Ahhhh! Talk about a bucket list item. I am a big fan of beer, so to go to the biggest and most well-known beer festival in the world was incredible. But there’s so much more to Oktoberfest than beer, which I actually had no idea about until I had already booked tickets to go. Oktoberfest originally stemmed from an annual horse racing event that began in the 15th century. While the exact origin story remains a bit of a controversy, a portion to celebrate Bavarian agriculture was added and Oktoberfest was officially declared an annual festival event in 1811. Over the years, the festival grew exponentially into the enormous festival it is today. And it is HUGE. I’m talking like nearly 10 million people huge. It was also pushed up to September so it can take place in nicer weather. That’s right, Oktoberfest doesn’t even take place in October!
If you’ve heard of Oktoberfest, then you most likely know that people dress up for the festival, which is a long-standing practice of attendees. Traditionally, women wear dirndls and men wear lederhosen. Nowadays, some women wear lederhosen, including my sister! Of course, it’s important to get authentic dirndls and lederhosen for the festival and there are plenty of places to shop in Munich. My dirndl was by Krüger Dirndl, which I purchased at Leder Fischer, and my sister got her lederhosen from Ludwig & Therese. There is one place to rent dirndls & lederhosen in Munich called Bavarian Outfitters, but it’s honestly not that much cheaper than buying, especially if you are going for more than one day. And the selection kind of sucks last minute!
Oktoberfest is obviously meant to be a fun, carefree time, but there are some things you can do to be prepared to ensure your visit runs smoothly. The location of Oktoberfest is at the Theresienwiese fairgrounds in Munich, Germany. It is totally free to enter the festival as well as the beer tents. In addition to beer tents there are large carnival rides, tons of booths, foods like pretzels, funnel cakes, etc., and every four years, the traditional celebration of Bavarian agriculture. While the beer tents are enormous (they take months to build and can hold up to 15,000 people in a single tent), they do get to capacity pretty early on, especially on the weekends. It is advised to get there by 11am on weekends and 2pm on weekdays to make sure you can get into a tent. Otherwise, you will have to wait. We got there at 8pm the first night and had to wait about 30 minutes before we miraculously got in. It was a bit easier since we only had 3 people, so I think that’s what did the trick. The crowd waiting outside is pretty unorganized, so you really have to fight to try and get in! They do have a convenient app that tells you how full each tent is, so you can always check that before heading over.
Once you’re inside the tent, you can only order beers if you’re at a table. There are no bars – only servers. Oh, and everything at Oktoberfest is cash only, so be sure to bring plenty of cash. Each tent has just one Oktoberfest beer, so there’s no picking what you want to order unless you’re getting bottles of liquor or champagne. The beers we got were around €12 each. My sister and I could only drink one each and then shared a third. They’re huge and strong, so be careful! And while tipping in Europe isn’t expected, you should most definitely tip your servers at Oktoberfest. They are dealing with a lot of drunk people, tons heavy glasses, and long days. If anyone deserves a tip, it’s the Oktoberfest workers!
There is an option to reserve a table at Oktoberfest, but it is for large groups and you have to do it way in advance. This is done through each individual restaurant that runs each tent. It costs money to reserve a table, but I think it would be worth it if you have a good sized group. In addition to beer, you can also be served full meals at the tables. There are also people walking around with cheesy breads and pretzels that you can buy snacks from. One of the traditional foods at Oktoberfest is a big chicken leg. We saw lots of those! I went with a pretzel though for my food of choice.
Oktoberfest ends at round 11:30pm, but there are lots of afterparties at clubs and bars. I personally had enough, so we didn’t participate in that, but it is a huge part of Oktoberfest. Next time!