6 million people attend each year and around 7 million litres of beer are drunk. That’s massive. With a festival this big and with that much booze, it’s best to plan ahead.
2017 sees the 184th Munich Oktoberfest. The first 'fest', way back in 1810 was a celebration of the nuptials between Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghhausen. The people of Munich were invited to attend the festivities consisting of horse races, music, dancing and of course, drinking in the fields in front of the city gates. The fields, later christened Theresienwiese - as in Theresa's fields, are now known simply by the locals as Wies'n - to the rest of us it's Oktoberfest.
When: 16th September to 3rd October 2017
Where: Munich Germany
Price: Free! Yep - it's free to enter the site and it's free to enter the tents
Lowenbrau Festhalle credit: kamisoka
There's 16 tents in total; some are huge, some are small - all are worth a visit but the likelihood you'll get round them all is very slim so pick your favourite few - here's some of ours...
Schottenhamel– where it all kicks off - the Mayor of Munich taps the first keg and the beer starts to flow. The largest of the tents, Schottenhamel can accommodate around 10,000 people at one time – if you want a big party – this is your playground.
Hofbrau Festzelt – Many of the breweries brew a special Oktoberfestbier for the occasion and German giants Hofbrau are no different. Expect to find a 6.3% beer brewed to compliment local Bavarian specialties like bratwurst and Weiner Schnitzel.
Lowenbrau Festhalle – another German giant with an enormous tent, the Lowenbrau Festhalle can accommodate over 8,000 revellers.
For something a bit special try the Hacker-Festhalle, a 297m long tent with a roof painted to reflect the blue Bavrian sky also known as the ‘Heaven of the Bavarians’. With a revolving stage in the middle of the tent and over 2,000 patrons the Hacker-Festhalle is a must.
Marstall is one of the newer big tents – Horses are the theme (Marstall is old school German for the Royal Riding School) – there’s a giant carriage over the entrance, carved wooden horses inside and a stage based on a carousel.
Ochsenbraterei credit: Nikada
Oktoberfest isn’t all about beer – there’s plenty for the foodies too – each tent will serve local food of some kind but there’s some real specialties out there too…
Ochsenbraterei (Spatenbräu-Festhalle) - it's amazing what you can do with an ox including slowly turning one on a spit over the tent entrance - you can't miss it!
Café Mohrenkopf – the only tent with its own onsite bakery – breakfast here is the perfect way to start the day from pretzels to the speciality Mohenkopf – a chocolate-glazed cream cake perfect with a cup of coffee! Breakfast starts at 9am with a Happy Hour for huge cocktails between 5pm and 7pm.
Zur Bratwurst is less of a tent and more of a timber-framed bierhaus, but the smell of fried sausages over an open beech wood fire will draw you in drooling. A smaller, more intimate affair than some of the big tents, you’ll find it hard to resist.
Münchner Knödelei is all about local speciality the dumpling (or knödel) – spicy knödels with cheese or mushrooms, healthy knödels with spinach or beetroot or sweet knödels with banana – you can’t miss it – it’s like a giant stove complete with chimney.
If beer isn’t your thing don’t be put off. Swing by the Weinzelt and sample some wine instead, with more than 15 wines to sample plus champagne and Sekt (sparkling wine) there’s plenty of choice for the oenophiles (yes, it’s word) out there. Feisinger’s Kas-und Weinstub’n is also a wine specialist along with cheese but this is no ordinary ‘cheese & wine’ affair – this cheese is molten hot dripped over bread or potatoes and topped with onions, gherkins and the like.
For some celebrity spotting head to Käfer's Wies’n-Schänke, one of the smaller tents (capacity nearly 4,000), this place keeps going ‘til 12.30am but it’s hard to get in after 11pm so get in beforehand.
Traditional Costume Parade credit: filmfoto
Sat 16th 11am - Tent Owners and Breweries Parade through Munich – horse carts decorated with flowers, Kellner and Kellnerin (waiters & waitresses) with enormous beer mugs and brass bands, The parade starts at Josephspitalstrasse in the city centre, down Sonnen- and Schwanthalerstrasse and to the Oktoberfest site via Bavariaring. Tickets are available for selected spots along the route but just stand at the roadside with the locals and watch the spectacle pass for free.
Sat 16th 12pm – Tapping of the first keg and the official opening of Oktoberfest – once the Mayor of Munich says "O’zapft is" (It’s tapped) the festival can begin – this happens in the Schottenhamel tent and is a must-attend!
Sunday 17th 10am – Traditional Costume Parade through Munich – starting at Maximilianstrasse and marching on to the Odeonsplatz then continuing on to Briennerstrasse, Maximiliansplatz, Lenbachplatz and Stachus. Then the parade continues down Sonnen- and Schwanthalerstrasse and finally reaches the Oktoberfest site after crossing the Kaiser Ludwig Platz. With nearly 10,000 participants and nearly 7km long, the parade showcases traditional costume, culture and dance not just from Bavaria but throughout Germany and beyond. Again, you can get tickets for this but stand along the parade route and it’ll cost you nothing.
Tuesday 19th all day ‘til 7pm – Family Day – rides and shows are all discounted (not the beer though…)
Thursday 21st 10am – Traditional religious Oktoberfest mass
Sunday 24th 11am – Traditional Oktoberfest brass-band concert
Tuesday 26th all day ‘til 7pm - Family Day – rides and shows are all discounted
Tuesday 3rd 12pm – Traditional gun-salute marking the end of Oktoberfest 2017 that evening.
Opening day 12.00 noon - 10.30 pm
Weekdays 10.00 am - 10.30 pm
Saturday, Sunday 09.00 am - 10.30 pm
Fairground attractions & sideshows:
Opening day 12.00 noon - midnight
Monday - Thursday 10 am - 11.30 pm
Friday, Saturday 10.00 am – midnight
Sunday 10 am - 11.30 pm
1lt beer (Maß) will cost just under €11 - Fischer-Vroni, Schottenhamel-Festhalle and the Winzerer Fähndl are the priciest tents, the cheaper ones are the Museum Tent at the Old Wiesn and at the Familienplatzl (Family Square). Most tents are cash only.
Lederhosen and Dirndles credit: kamisoka
To dress-up or not to dress-up:
If you want – yes, plenty of others will too - Lederhosen for the boys and Dirndl for the girls – avoid stupid hats – you’ll just look like a (twat) tourist. If you’ve not sorted a cheap outfit by now don’t bother – most people will be there in ‘normal’ clothes and if you really want a nod to tradition, wear something light blue.
Most important - Tip your kellner/kellnerin on each round, it's practically the law and you’ll get faster service – 10-20% will do it.
Get an early start – you don’t have to try and drink Bavaria dry on the first night – the tents open at 10am in the week and 9am on weekends and they get really bloody busy, so get your arse out of bed/sleeping bag and get onsite nice and early - 7am my friend – there’ll be loads of lovely food to settle your stomach and you know what they say about the hairy dog…kill or cure. The beer tents get very full very quickly and once they’re full there’s no getting in, you’ll see a sign saying Vorübergehend geschlossen meaning the tent is closed – this could be temporary so queue if you really want in or wander off to the next nearest tent.
You need to be seated to order ein bier. You may want to commit the phrase "Entschulding, könnten wir uns hier setzen?" (Excuse me is anyone sitting here?) to memory too. Look out for signs saying Reserviert/Reservierung (Reserved) – look to see what time the table is reserved for – it’s fine to sit there until then but you must move once they arrive. You’re unlikely to get a reservation now as these ususally start at the beginning of the year but you can always give it a go by contacting the tent you wish to be in – for large groups this is recommended.
Don’t dance on the tables – benches yes, tables no – you will be thrown out!
Steins are predominantly 1lt and around 6% ABV, soft drinks are available but are often equally as expensive as the beer if not more.
Don’t leave it ‘til the last minute to find a toilet – Oktoberfest is huge and so are the queues for the loo and as always the ladies queue far outstretches the mens – you have been warned…
Careful when leaving a tent in search or toilets/smoking areas – you may not get back in!
Have a go on the Ferris Wheel – the rides are cheap and cheerful and we highly recommend a ride on the Ferris Wheel for a truly majestic view of Oktoberfest.
Foodwise – you can order food inside the beer halls but the mark-up is likely to be high – try one of the outside vendors and you can save big – for instance a giant pretzel (brez’n) can be over €5 inside and around €1 outside.
Look out for Mittagswiesn – on weekdays between 10am-3pm you can get discounts of up to 30% on food.
Don’t try and nick a stein – security will take them back off you, one year security took back 226,000 glasses revellers were trying to nick – if you want one that badly you can buy one for €10 – just keep the receipt.
And don’t forget – Munich itself is a pretty cool city – you don’t need to spend the entire time at Oktoberfest – check out what Munich has to offer here.
credit: Leonid Andronov
Munich has excellent Public Transport so getting to the Wies’n is easy:
S1 - S8 to Hackerbrücke
S7 and S20 to Heimeranplatz, and then U4 or U5 to station Theresienwiese or Schwanthalerhöhe
U3 or U6 to Goetheplatz or Poccistraße
U4 or U5 to Theresienwiese or Schwanthalerhöhe
MetroBus-Line 53 to Schwanthalerhöhe
MetroBus-Line 58 to Georg-Hirth-Platz, Beethovenplatz or Goetheplatz
MetroBus-Line 62 to Hans-Fischer-Straße, Poccistraße or Herzog-Ernst-Platz
StadtBus-Line 134 to Theresienhöhe or Schwanthalerhöhe
Streetcar / Straßenbahn:
Line 18 or 19 to Holzapfelstraße or Hermann-Lingg-Straße