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MUNICH’S OKTOBERFEST originated in 1810 as a horse race to celebrate the royal wedding. But everyone apparently enjoyed the drinking a lot more than the horse racing and had such a great time they decided to do it all again the following year.

The horse race is now part of history, but the beer certainly isn’t. Oktoberfest is officially the world’s biggest party, drawing about 7 million visitors a year to southern Germany. The action takes place on Munich’s fairgrounds, called the Wiesn, southwest of the city’s main train station.

When to go

Oktoberfest 2013 is currently underway and finishes on Sunday, October 6. There’s often a mad rush to find a seat before the beer starts flowing at 10am (9am on weekends). There’s a parade on the second day and a gay party on the first Sunday. Weekdays are much quieter than weekends, especially around lunchtime.

Which tent to pick

Most of the drinking is done in the 14 big beer tents — actually big wooden halls. You can reserve tables through oktoberfest.de, but most sell out months in advance.

The festivities officially start in the Schottenhamel tent and often reach their rowdiest in the Hacker (Haven of Bavaria). The bright red Hippodrom tent near the main entrance can’t be missed: It’s the place to see and be seen among Munich’s hipper, younger, set.

The Hofbru tent is famed for pulling far more tourists than locals; the Augustiner might be the best for Bavarian authenticity; and the Lowenbrau becomes a good option when everywhere else is full.

Where to stay

Munich’s Thalkirchen Camping Ground could be the cheapest place to stay, with tents available for just a few euros. There’s a small supermarket onsite, regular buses to the Wiesn, and a 24-hour party ambiance during Oktoberfest. It’s at Zentrall, 49, Munich.

A handful of good hostels sit just south of the main train station, about a 15-minute stagger back from the Wiesn. Check out Jaeger’s for its friendly bar, or the top-rated Wombat’s. Both are in Senefelder Strae.

What to wear

Practically anything goes, but for an extra layer of fun, consider kitting out like a local. For guys, a pair of Lederhosen leather shorts start from 120 euros.

For gals, a traditional Dirndl dress costs about 100 euros. Tip: When worn correctly, Dirndls also reveal the wearer’s availability. Look just above the apron: If there’s a bow on the right, she’s taken. A bow on the left means she’s still to be had, and a bow bang on the front marks a virgin.

What to eat and drink

Beer!? The amber fluid is served exclusively in one-litre glass mugs, called Ma (mass), that cost about 8 euros. The beer is slowly brewed through the summer and packs a 6% alcoholic punch. For a change, try the beery-lemonade mixture called Radler, or head out to the wine tent.

Food is everywhere. Popular picks are roast chicken (Hendl), pork knuckles (Schweinshaxe), and giant pretzels. The huge hearts hung around girls’ necks are made of gingerbread. For the daring there’s the ox (Osche).

What to say
  • Can I sit here? Darf ich mich zu dir sitzen? (Darf ik mik zoo dear sit-zen?)
  • One beer, please! Ein Ma, bitte! (Eyn mass, bit-tey!)
  • Cheers! Prost! (Prawst!)
  • Your eyes are as pretty as a meadow full of cows. Deine Augen sind so schn wie eine Weisen Tulpen. (Dine-ny ow-gen sind so schern vee eyen vee-sen tul-pen)
  • Let’s go back to my tent for a coffee! Gehen wir mal zu meinem Zelt f?r einen Kaffee! (Gay-en veer mal zoo mine-em zelt fair eyn-en kaf-ey!)
  • I need to chuck up. muss kotzen. (Ik moose kot-zen).
  • I have a killer hangover. Ich habe so einen Katter. (Ik hab-ey so eyn-en kat-er).

***Explore the world party scene with 101 PLACES TO GET F*CKED UP BEFORE YOU DIE. Part travel guide, part drunken social commentary, 101 Places to Get F*cked Up Before You Die may have some of the most hilarious scenes and straight-up observations of youth culture of any book you’ve ever read.***

* This post was originally published on September 16, 2008.

BeerCulture and Art Festivals


 

About The Author

Stuart Anderson

Stuart Anderson left his home country of Australia in 2005 for a life of travel. He's never looked back since.

  • Julie

    Stuart- Really liked this article, especially because you included a 'what to say' section– great for laughs (and parties) even for those of us who aren't going to Oktoberfest!

  • Meaghan Fitzgerald

    Great post and I'm quite bummed I won't be able to make it for Oktoberfest. Agree with Julie – the 'what to say' section is a really nice addition. I also think this should be a good starting point for people looking for great festivals in their own country. If you're in the UK and can't make it to Germany, at least check out Beer Exposed in London (Sept 25-27) or RumFest (end of October). You can even win tickets to these events here: ” target=”_blank”>http://www.spoonfed.co.uk/spooners/competition-39… Do you have any suggestions for other international events that are similar to Oktoberfest?

  • Tim Patterson

    yeah, love the translation section – nice job!

  • Braf Elder

    don' t drank n drive, y'all filthyrichmond.blogspot

  • Scott Vanderlee

    My wife and I are leaving on a round-the-world trip next year, and are making Oktoberfest 2009 a must see event with friends from Canada. Thanks for the information, please post any other international beer drinking events! cheers

  • Owen

    Just remember you need to be seated at table to be served any beer. Most tables are full, but if you see an open spot, go to it and gesture to sit there, most people will welcome you and a beer server will be promptly over. If you go there on Friday or Saturday, go real early if you want to get inside the tent, otherwise be prepared for a long line, even to sit at one of the tables outside of the tent. Also not to be missed are the beer gardens in the Center of the English Garden, this is more of day thing.

  • schnek

    your pronunciation guide in the translation section is incredibly terrible! :S

  • not paying a lot for

    Wow. How to get ripped off in Germany. 8 Euros for 32 ounces? Uhh..USD trading at $1.41 to the Euro thats roughly $5.60 for a pint! Oh and 6% is not a high ABV by any means (German or otherwise). Screw that. I do like the boobies though.

  • Munich Local

    Would have been nice if the German was correct at the bottom … , but good for a laugh nonetheless. A word of advice, if you go to the Oktoberfest on the weekend, there is no such thing as "leaving a tent". It's so packed with people that they close the tents at around noon and once you leave, you won't be able to get back in, not even if you have your party inside.

  • charley

    man I want to go!

  • Alex Berger

    Well done on the post but you left out a few important elements: 1. The beer gardens attached to/outside of the tents can be a wonderful alternative to the tents themselves. While slightly less rowdy the party is every bit as sweet, welcoming, and entertaining. Since the tents often fill up by 11 or 12 and have the doors shut – these can make life simpler, especially when dealing with a hangover. 2. The tents close at 11PM the rides shut down about an hour/hour and a half later…not that anyone can actually stand at that point. 3. The food is a must and a huge part of the experience. Find a nice group, cozy in next to them, and then share drinks, food, stories, and laughter. If you want to do it right, expect to buy one food item for every 2 giant steins you buy in the tents/beer gardens. 4. Take a day to travel south and see the fairytale castle – but make sure to avoid a pre-paid tour. They're all a scam. book round trip commuter tickets yourself and save a bundle. 5. Drink from the area right above the handle on the stein. It may make it a bit more difficult, but the steins are not known for being super clean! It truly is one of the most amazing parties I've ever experienced. Make sure to make conversation with the locals and to be friendly with everyone at the table! Sing loud, drink heavily, eat wonderfully.

  • Esther

    Oh, the nostalgia. I can't believe it's already been a year. P.S. – If you don't have reservations (usually you need at least 6 in a party to get one), a good idea is to go earlier (afternoon) to get a seat. But there are a lot of tables that are reserved for companies at night; just look for the 8.5" x 11" sheet on the table indicating so and don't sit there. P.P.S. – When you finish your stein, slam it down and put your thumb to your forehead, making a fist with only the pinky and thumb sticking out. It's a tradition, and I forget exactly what the punishment is if you don't do so. ;)

  • Malex

    Nice article. As per above, I liked the What to say section. Though it could be more accurate on the German. Also, seems like the website is not a fan of umlauts (dots over vowels) or the B-like symbol (means ss). Beer is served in a Mass "Mahss" not "mass" (as in weight). Also, don't complain about the 8 euro price. A Mass will cost you 7-8 euros outside of oktoberfest any time of year. Don't complain about it being $5-$6 a pint either because a) the dollar sucks, b) the beer is awesome, and c) you would pay that much or more for a pint of German draft in most American bars. Esther, if i remember right, if you don't do the thumb thing you have to drink more. Or something like that.

  • Jazzy

    I think this is a great write up, and something I may definitely use on my trip. Thank you!

  • orangeek

    >>> Can I sit here? Darf ich mich zu dir sitzen? nope. the correct form is Can I sit here? Darf ich mich zu dir sEtzen? btw, nice article. I'd only add that the best time to attend the Wiesn (how the locals name the oktoberfest, as far as I remember) is in its first days or in the first weekend. I'd avoid the last weekend (usually between the end of September and October) because there are thousands of italians … and you feel it. :) In these days even the local newspapers have articles in the frontapage titled "Die Italiaener kommen!" (The italians are coming!) PS btw: I'm Italian :)

  • Tim Patterson

    appreciate the good advice!

  • Duma Cat

    Where is George's live / blackout reporting from Oktoberfest?? I can't wait!

  • Duma Cat

    Oh and call anytime, I'm around

  • Stu700

    OK, there are a few mistakes with the translation but they're not mine, I'll wrangle! Here's what I submitted. Any mistakes here, then please set me straight. What to say Can I sit here? Darf ich mich zu dir sitzen? (Darf ik mik zoo dear sit-zen?) One beer, please! Ein Maß, bitte! (Eyn mass, bit-tey!) Cheers! Prost! (Prawst!) Your eyes are as pretty as a meadow full of cows. Deine Augen sind so schön wie eine Weisen Tulpen. (Dine-ny ow-gen sind so schern vee eyen vee-sen tul-pen) Let’s go back to my tent for a coffee! Gehen wir mal zu meinem Zelt für einen Kaffee! (Gay-en veer mal zoo mine-em zelt fair eyn-en kaf-ey!) I need to chuck up. Ich muss kotzen. (Ik moose kot-zen). I have a killer hangover. Ich habe so einen Katter. (Ik hab-ey so eyn-en kat-er).

  • Stu700

    Please see the reply above to schnek.

  • Stu700

    Thanks for the additions. All good advice. Getting an outside table is great on a sunny day. Taking public transport to see Neuschwanstein, the "fairytale castle", is a good idea. If you're doing so with a group, you can get the "Bayern Ticket" for 29 euros. With it, you and up to four friends can take the regional (not the express) trains anywhere in Bavaria. On weekdays it's only valid from 9am but on the weekends, as far as I know, you can leave whenever you like. If you're not doing a pre-paid tour to Neuschwanstein you really should book tickets to the castle ASAP, which you can do at ” target=”_blank”>” target=”_blank”>http://www.hohenschwangau.de/ticketcenter0.0.html…

  • Stu700

    Thanks Malex, see the reply above to schnek about the German. Looks like a few things didn't make it through intact.

  • Stu700

    Ok, I stand corrected orangeek, that "wo oder wohin" question still throws me sometimes. I've been there a few times on the "Italian Weekend" and still found it a lot of fun.

  • jj1910

    Nice article. Still there is one sentence that you got wrong in the language section: "Your eyes are as pretty as a meadow full of cows. Deine Augen sind so schn wie eine Weisen Tulpen" The german sentence means "Your eyes are as pretty as a meadow full of TULIPS". Not cows…. If you rather would try the meadow full of cows, the sentence would be: "Deine Augen sind so schoen wie eine Wiese Kuehe". "Kuehe" is pronounced something like "koo-hay".

  • Stu700

    I'm not sure what the punishment for that is either, Esther, but I do know that if you don't make eye contact with someone you're toasting you're in for seven years of bad sex! I put that in an A to Z guide to Oktoberfest I wrote, also on Matador, at ” target=”_blank”>” target=”_blank”>http://matadortravel.com/travel-guides/germany/th…

  • Stu700

    Thanks, but I meant to say tulips. I put it in becasue I tried this line on an Oktoberfest barmaid two years ago. Got me nowhere though, so maybe I should have said cows! Then again, what about a meadow full of cows eating tulips? Or better yet, a giant tulip eating a meadow full of cows? No, I think I liked the udder one better. Really hit the bullseye with that. It's cheesier but I think I can milk it more. Alright, let's steer away from this issue now and mooooove on.

  • John

    No stupid, it's $11.5672 for a pint.

  • えるえるる

    おっぱいおっぱい!!

  • serge

    funny. few mistakes have been mentioned. i suppose ill go there for a maß in a bit. lucky enough, its just 700 mtrs. from my flat :D

  • theman

    anything is better than american beer you goose

  • MattjDrake

    That is awesome! I am officially jealous now…

  • Michael

    I have never been to a "Traditional" Octoberfest, but maybe next year. I will save this post. Thanks for the info. One question, however. Will the line about the eyes being as lovely as a meadow full of cows (now that I have committed it to memory) earn me a knock to the head?

  • WelcomeToSpain

    You might be surprised now, but the Oktoberfest in not only celebrated in Munich (Germany), but has also been exported to many other places around the world. One of them is on Spain's east coast called Costa Blanca. Many people from all over Spain are coming to the small town Calpe to celebrate this German beer festival about 10 days long! I got to know about it while renting car hire in Alicante and was reading the news from the car rental company. You can read it up at VictoriaCars. However, they advice you to not to drink & drive! Cheers!

  • Sig

    well, basically it would rather be sth like: Deine Augen sind so schön wie eine WEIDE (sound and meaning better than "Wiese") VOLLER Kühe". But this is definitely one of the weirdest compliments I´ve ever heard. Might work nevertheless after some Maß ;)

  • catsford

    it's not a pint people…it's a liter…almost twice a pint Oktoberfest in Bad Canstaat (Stuttgart) is just as fun, maybe better

    • Jack Napier

      “Cannstatter Wasen”, the Stuttgart Oktoberfest is much more “cosy” I would say. Well it’s the 2nd largest beer festival in the world after Munich Oktoberfest but not as crowded. It’s more the locals. The main advantage is, you don’t have to be there to get into the tents at 9am, as tents won’t be full at 11am and they close the doors.
      At Cannstatter Wasen to me it seems much more relaxed.

      BTW: Don’t miss the “Teufelsrad” at the munich Oktoberfest.

  • Uli Eckardt

    Great article.

    But for not getting lost on the Oktoberfest, you also could use the Oktoberfest-Guide for the iPhone provided by DASAT, a company based in Munich.
    Link:
    http://dasat.com/apps/OktoberfestGuide

    Regards

    Uli

  • Joseph Stigl

    Who doesn’t love the Oktoberfest?
    But who has ever been there knows the hazzle of getting into one of the big tents, not mentioning finding a seat or even an entire table…
    So last year, my friends and I decided to follow the advice of a local friend and tried an alternative: “Das Wiesnzelt am Stiglmaierplatz”. Though it is not directly located at the Oktoberfest, it’s just a few minutes away. The tent is located in the historic Löwenbräukeller and offers genuine Wiesn-atmosphere without the usual closing time, all other tents are bound to. There was an awesome band playing, literally around the clock (not like in the tents, where they take more breaks than actually play music). And when we were all kind of fed up with the bavarian ratatata music and up to party, we didn’t even have to leave the place. In a seperate room upstairs is an After Party with hip DJ music and cool drinks. the best thing was that we could book our table online in advance, conveniently on their website at http://www.daswiesnzelt.de. I already made my reservation for this year, as I am definetly coming back! Munich be aware:-)

  • The_fest

    Don’t book “tickets” for Das Wiesnzelt am Stiglmaierplatz. It’s got nothing to do with the official Oktoberfest. It’s only worth going there for the after party when the real tents shut. Trust me. Once again, it is not the real Oktoberfest experience and

    • The_fest

      oops….

      Once again, it is not the real Oktoberfest experience and is just for tourists and people who can’t be bothered going where the real fun is. If anyone wants to come to Munich and really experience the fest, they need to talk to a guy like me. 10 years of fest experience over here…

  • Travelwithme5004

    Oktoberfest:  I have found some interesting information . You can find more details on blog http://www.dontworryjusttravel.com/index.php/en/europeinfo/35-5-things-to-do-at-the-oktoberfest-in-munich.html

    Thanks

  • Tradingplaces2012

    Hey. I’m coming over from the UK fot the Muich Octoberfest and looking for somewhere to stay. Can anyone help out. I’m happy to contribute
    Phil

  • Samantha Ortac

    This is a great article. I plan to go to the Oktoberfest in 2013. I heard that you have to book hotel accommodation well in advance? If you book early can you get a refund if you have to cancel I wonder? I also checked our Don’t Worry Just Travel- Thank you for the tip. I found some useful info there too.
    http://www.dontworryjusttravel.com/index.php/en/europeinfo/germany/35-5-things-to-do-at-the-oktoberfest-in-munich.html

  • bavarian

    A Mass is a about 9,80€ this year, it was 8€ when the article was published in 2008 :D. A tip of 1 or 2 € in addition should be calculated :)

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