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Oktoberfest in Munich is an experience everyone should have at least once in their lifetime. The event is so popular, many cities all over the world now have their own version of it.
No matter how to choose to celebrate your love of German-style beer, a little planning can make your time a lot more enjoyable.
Here’s what I wish I’d known before my first time at Oktoberfest.
7 Tips for Having the Best Time at Oktoberfest
If you’re in Munich for Oktoberfest, you’ll find a sea of blue-and-white checkered clothing (the Bavarian colors), traditional costumes, and… stumbling people.
This is the king of beer events, and the time to taste the first batch of the year’s harvest. The grounds in Munich are sprawling, but not impossible to navigate. It helps to know what you’re getting into.
Here are my top 7 tips!
1. Pace Yourself
German beers in the 14 main tents are only available in 1-liter steins. Yes, an entire liter of beer in a heavy glass mug. The first time I saw it, I thought, “What did I sign up for?”
After my first stein, I keyed down quickly to a radler, which is a half beer & half lemonade concoction that’s surprisingly tasty. Beer snobs won’t appreciate the dilution, but if you want to stay in your seat for a while, the key to longevity is in the pacing.
Had I gone a little slower, I could’ve tried more beers. Diving in too fast definitely limited my experience, if only a bit.
2. Choose Your Seats Carefully
You must be seated to be served. This is why you don’t see too many people standing up around the tents. And for this reason, seats are at a premium, and you may just have to take what you can get.
That said, if you have choices, carefully consider your company. Folks at Oktoberfest love to talk and get boisterous. If you can help it, you don’t want to sit next to the table that’s 5 steins deep when you’re just getting started. Or maybe you do!
Also consider proximity to the bathrooms, which can be a long haul. Or how close you are to the stage if there is one. It can get loud and crowded in the middle, so if you want a low-key vibe, there’s fun to be had at the perimeter, too.
3. Stay Near the Main Grounds
Or as close as you can, anyway. My friend and I stayed at a hotel near the end of a train line, and it was a hike getting to and from the event each day, ~30 minutes each way.
I didn’t mind it at the time. But in retrospect, I wish we’d been closer. Because riding the train back after drinking liters of beer was… a strange experience.
The nearest hotels will book up far in advance. But if you have the choice, it’s worth paying a little extra to be nearby.
4. Eat a Chicken!
It sounds crazy, but an Oktoberfest food staple is spit-roasted rotisserie chicken. And it’s so good!
Traditionally called brathendl, folks eat over half a million chickens every year at Oktoberfest – even more than the pork sausages Germany is known for.
The combination of chicken and beer go great together – and it’s a unique Oktoberfest experience to pair it all with a big Bavarian pretzel to soak it all up.
5. Don’t Worry About Restrooms (Too Much)
Embarrassing fact about me: my bladder is the size of a grape. Not really, but… let’s say I was concerned about bathroom access at Oktoberfest.
There’s no reason to worry – they do a fantastic job of having easy access to gigantic restrooms. They’re so big that I only had to wait in line once or twice, and only for a few minutes.
It’s a good thing because with thousands of people drinking beer in a tent…you can imagine.
The only thing to consider is the tents are so large that a bathroom break might be a 10+ minute adventure. So if you think you’ll need the facilities a few times, try to get seats nearby to reduce your walk time.
6. Research Tents in Advance
There are 14 main tents with 1,000 to 8,500 seats. Each one has a different vibe and style and attracts different crowds. The Augustiner tent tends to have more locals, while Hofbräu is mainly tourists, for example.
There are only 6 beers served at Oktoberfest – the ones that follow German purity laws. But not every tent serves them all. If you have your heart set on sipping Pauliner all day, make sure you go to a tent where it’s available.
Tables can be hard to find at peak periods, and if you leave, you might not be lucky enough to find another seat. You’ll likely be at each tent for a few hours, so you want to make sure you spend quality time in one you’ll enjoy.
That said, they all offer the same baseline experience. But the devil’s in the details (or the hops), as they say. 😉
7. Make Time to Explore
Munich is a beautiful old European city. And there’s more to it than Oktoberfest.
Set aside a least a day to see more of your surroundings. Because after a while, you won’t even want to look at another beer!
There are a zillion guides on what to expect from Oktoberfest. And I wanted to add my personal experience to the mix.
While these tips are focused on Munich, you could apply them to nearly any Oktoberfest celebration.
One more tip: The German word for “Cheers!” is “Prost!” And don’t put your leg or stand on a table unless you’re prepared to chug an entire liter of beer. But trust me, don’t do it!
If you’ve been to Oktoberfest, what would you add to the list?