How to nail your Oktoberfest experience!
Oktoberfest is an insane whirlwind of beer, cleavage, broken glass, giant pretzels, singing, dancing, laughter and the occasional power spew. Everyone is happy and grinning like idiots and nobody is discriminating which I think is a big part of what makes Oktoberfest such an enjoyable experience. The young and the old, German or otherwise, everyone is there to have a good time and nobody gives a s**t about anything else! it's a bucket list must of epic proportions - the ultimate festival! I'm going to fill you in on what to expect when you arrive at those big glorious gates and how to do it right so that you have the best Oktoberfest experience possible. I don't want you leaving wishing you'd done it differently! because for alot of us it's a once in a lifetime opportunity and I know that thousands of rookies turn up to Oktoberfest every year naive and without a plan only to end up leaving Germany frustrated and dissapointed having not got into a single tent and therefore not even got their hands on a single stein - I won't let that happen to you!
Which week is the best week to go?;
Oktoberfest spans over 3 weeks. Presumably you're not going on a 3 week binge drinking sesh! so that begs the question of which week to go? opening week, the first week will be a little less hectic than closing week, the 3rd week but the middle week is the quietest. In saying that, quiet at Oktoberfest is still mental! there will just be slightly less people there in the second week. So I'd say that the best week to go for the highest chance of getting a seat is the second week, on a weekday. Weekends are much busier than weekdays.
Where to stay;
The festival itself is located in central Munich, a 20 minute walk from Munich central station. I suggest staying somewhere in the surrouding area of central station reasons being that A) It's only a 20 minute walk to Oktoberfest and back B) It's close to the city's main hub meaning you're within walking distance of everything else that's worth checking out while you're in beautiful Munich. C) If you get lost on your way home from Oktoberfest when you're completely hammered it's easy to explain where you need to go, most people will know which direction central station is. We stayed at the 4you hostel, which was virtually right across the road from central station. Be sure to plan and book early as accomodation and flights will sell out months in advance. We booked in January! 8 months in advance, and even then flight and accomodation options were limited. It cost us £250 each to fly from London to Munich! and £50 per night to stay in a four bed dorm room. I know... crazy. But it's worth the investement provided that you do it right!
How much money to take;
I'm not going to beat around the bush here, Oktoberfest is costly. Like I mentioned above, flights and accomodation will make you want to cry. I paid £500 for five nights in Munich at the end of September (I went in the middle week) that's including flights. Prices for those three weeks will be inflated as it is but the later you leave it to book the more expensive it will get so get on it early! in regard to spending money it really boils down to how many days you're planning on spending at Oktoberfest. Steins cost €9 each, on average I had 5 steins a day so that's €50 already! plus food which will cost up to €25 depending what you're getting. For a proper meal that's what you'll pay, but for bratwurst, burgers etc it will be around €10. Plus the cost of any rides you want to go on, which are on average between €5- €10 each... I'd suggest budgeting for a minimum of €100 per day, but take more if you can!
What to wear and the best place to get it;
If you're not planning on dressing up why even go?! seriously EVERYONE dresses up! you have to, it's not the same if you don't. When shopping for your outfit, ladies you need whats called a 'dirndl' and fellas you want a 'lederhosen' both outfits are as adorably cute as each other! I definitely suggest buying them in Germany if you can rather than getting a cheap crappy one from costumes direct! they're obviously more expensive to buy there, but you get the added experience of being fitted in the traditional fashion by German sales assistants and choosing from a gigantic array of different colours and styles. I happened to be travelling through Munich a couple of months before I was due to be back for Oktoberfest so I bought my dirndl when I passed through the first time which was a great decision on my part as the stores were soooo busy when I got back for Oktoberfest a couple of months later. The prices are inflated once the festival starts too, I paid €50.00 for my outfit but the prices had gone up by €20-€30 once the festival had started so if you get the chance, buy your outfit early. My outfit comprised of the dress, the apron and the top. Lederhosens are a bit more expensive as they're made of genuine leather, you can get fake leather ones too if you don't want to fork out for the real deal.
What time should you arrive at the festival? and how should you get there?;
Oktoberfest opens its gates at 9am, be there for then! Earlier if you can. If you get there later you run the risk of missing out on a spot in one of the tents, they reach capacity within the first hour of opening and once people are seated they won't move until the late afternoon! once the tents are full you can't get in and will have to wait outside until enough people leave for you to enter - and that's no fun at all! get there for 9am or earlier, if you only listen to one piece of advice from this post make it that. On weekends the tents will fill up much quicker than weekdays, but even on weekdays you still need to get there early. Both times that I've been to Oktoberfest I have stayed within walking distance of the grounds so I've always walked to and from. You can get the underground too but it's so busy and to be honest I wouldn't trust my drunken self to navigate the underground! It's better to walk so that you're frazzled brain doesn't get it wrong and you end up miles away in the German countryside. If you take my advice and stay near central station you won't even need to worry about navigating your way home, just follow the sea of dirndls and lederhosens! They'll all be heading towards central station.
Staying with your mates;
Oktoberfest is so busy! it's absolutely packed and if you take your eyes off your mates for even a second, you'll lose them and there's a one in a million chance of finding them again. Your phones won't work either as the towers get so over run that they shut down. It's no fun at all being seperated from your gang! so asign a stand out meeting point like the ferris wheel when you get there and agree that if anyone gets lost, that's where you'll meet. It's better to avoid that scenario entirely and just stay close to each other, hold hands if you have to!
The beer tents;
There are 14 beer tents at Oktoberfest, they vary in size and obviously each one houses a different beer. But each is as awesome as the next! German beer is German beer, they all taste amazing. Like I mentioned above you need to get there early to get a spot as the tents fill up super fast and once they're full you'll be hardwired to get a spot in any of them, leaving you wondering around in circles trying to get into a tent wasting precious stein drinking time! you can reserve a table in one of the tents, but it's really difficult to do. You have to try and reserve your table for the next year as soon as Oktoberfest for that year has closed, literally 12 months in advance and even then it's like trying to get tickets to Glastonbury. Each tent is required to leave one third of the tables free without reservations but as I said these fill up fast so you must get there early! the vibe in the tents themselves is pretty similar across the board but in the same breath they do differ slightly. I'll give you a little bit of a feel for the kind of vibes some of the tents have in case you're after either a completely insane experience or a little bit more of a tame one. The biggest tents are Lowenbrau, Hacker, Hofbrau and the Hippodrome, if you're with a crazy bunch of people then these are the tents where you will get away with the most! smaller tents will be a little more uptight with their rules and security. For the younger ones, the Hippodrome has the biggest 'party' 'school's out' kind of vibe and for the older generation who might be a little more chilled there's the Weinzelt tent which will be ever so slightly more subdued. Once you've picked your tent and got a table, that's you set for the day! if you get up your seats will go and by that time when it's later in the day you won't get a seat anywhere else, and without a seat, no beer!
Ordering steins and food;
Take note, if you're a tightarse at Oktoberfest and don't tip the beer wenches you won't get served by them a second time. Tip them at least €1.00 per stein, after all it is pretty impressive how many they can carry at once! so it's worth the tip if you ask me. Tip them and they'll keep coming back to you. As I mentioned earlier steins will cost €9.00 each so I suggest going with a wallet full of €10.00 notes, that way you can pay for each stein with a €1.00 tip included and you don't need to worry about getting change. Food inside the beer tents is expensive at an average of €20 for a meal, it's really good food though so you won't be disapointed. There's always people filtering around the tents selling giant pretzels too!
Getting home and safety;
Ah... the most difficult part of the day. To be honest I've always been with a group of friends who have led the way home while I followed! in total I've spent 7 days at Oktoberfest and I'm not going to lie, I have no recollection of any of those walks home. My only advice here is to stay with your friends, don't go trying to find your way home drunk as a skunk and all alone, you'll just end up with absolutely no clue of where you are. If you do end up losing your friends and don't know where you are or how to get home, get a cab! it'll cost you but it beats ending up in danger and/or passing out in defeat in a German gutter somewhere on the outskirts of Munich. In terms of the safety of your belongings, I suppose I can't give you any advice other than to watch your things closely which we all forget to do once alcohol gets hold of our brains! but try to remember to watch your things as there will be the occasional thief around. Watch your drinks too, I know a couple of girls who've had their drinks spiked at Oktoberfest. Although this is another one that's tricky to manage when you're drinking from a giant stein glass! and becomes even less manageable when you're legless. Do try to be as aware and alert as you're capable.
7 things you absolutely must get involved with!
1. Pork knuckle
I don't believe in god, but pork knuckle makes me question my faith... it's so good that it can only be the work of a higher being. You can order pork knuckle in any of the beer tents or if you're not feeling like a big meal at the festival then head to one of Munich's many amazing beer halls and/or beer gardens for a pork knuckle feast when you're hungover and hungry the next day! you'll get better value for your money at a beer hall/garden rather than at Oktoberfest too, with the added bonus of a stunning, culturally rich and relaxed vibe. Here's a few that I reccomend;
- http://www.augustiner-braeustuben.de/ - Located a little off the beaten track, more of the locals eat here so the food is a little cheaper and the atmosphere is awesome.
- http://www.waldwirtschaft.de/ - A little on the outskirts of Munich so more difficult to get to, but it's so beautiful.
- http://www.hirschgarten.de/ - Hirschgarten is the largest beer garden in the world! definately worth visiting.
2. Giant pretzels
Guilt free as far as I'm concerned when you're drinking litre after litre of beer. It's helping your body by giving it something to soak all the alcohol up...right? You have to try one, and don't forget to take a photo of you and your enormous pretzel! people will be milling about the beer tents at Oktoberfest selling them for about €4 or €5 each, sounds like alot but they are massive, it's basically an entire loaf of bread.
3. The funhouse
You know what I'm talking about right? the fun house that you find at most fun fairs and amusement parks, designed for children but five litres of German beer later you revert back to the cognitive ability of a child anyway so it's totally acceptable. At the end of the day when you're on your way out, you and your mates all have to try to get through the funhouse. It's hilarious. Good luck making it through the formidable spinning tunnel at the end!
Like pork knuckle I'm sure that bratwurst has been sent down from heaven. If you don't know what it is, firstly you haven't lived. And secondly it's bascially Germany's answer to a hotdog. You can get white or red sausages (I personally prefer white) you then help yourself to ketchup and mustard and tuck in! they're enormous. A bratwurst will cost around €5.00 at Oktoberfest.
5. Gingerbread necklace cookie
There's stalls everywhere at Oktoberfest selling gingerbread in all different shapes and sizes! with different things and pictures written in icing on them. you can string them around your neck and take a nibble whenever you feel like it... or just eat it all in one go! gingerbread is amaze.
6. Singing the prost song
In all of the beer tents there will be a band and every 10 minutes or so they'll fire up with the 'prost' song. Prost means cheers in German and everyone gets up, steins in hand and swaying from side to side with beer sloshing everywhere the crowd sings at the top of their lungs. At the climax everyone screams 'PROST' and clashes their steins together resulting in more spilt beer and the occasional broken glass. If you don't get involved I'm sure there's no point being there!
7. The ferris wheel
Another ride that you should go on as you're on your way out, during the day I imagine it wouldn't be worth it, but at night when Oktoberfest is all lit up the views are spectacular.
And with that I have imparted my entire bank of Oktoberfest knowledge and expertise onto you! I hope that you take my advice and don't turn up with the attitude that you'll just wing it, don't risk ruining what is easily one of the best experiences you'll ever have in your life. I should also add - don't try to steal a stein glass! they take that very seriously and the last thing you need is for your night to end in a German prison. Also take a pen with you so you can mark the number of steins you've had on your arm, it's a good photo to have 🙂
Have an epic time!!!
Over and out x
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