Since moving to Germany in August, I knew ticking Oktoberfest off my bucket list would be inevitable but I never realised it would be so much more than drinking beer in big tents!
The world’s biggest beer festival, with over 6 million visitors to Munich every year, can be a little tricky to wrap your head around, especially when you are dealing with a culture shock and strange language. There are a few things that you will need to know and understand before heading in to ensure you have a great time and don’t offend any Germans!
First thing you should know, it is in September! The festival, although originally over October, was moved forward to sunnier September to make the most of the warmer season! Secondly, it goes for 3 weeks, so plan wisely. The second weekend, known as Italian weekend can get a little violent and is the busiest!
Dirndls (the adorable dresses you see all the ladies wearing) are traditional outfits, they should not be seen as a costume. It can be VERY offensive to the older Bavarian’s when they see you rocking the short, tight and trashy one. Beware, girls have been spat on, pushed and battered because of offending this tradition, so buy an authentic one, they are only about 50 euros!
The way you tie your Dirndl’s bow also matters- tie it on your left for all the single ladies, right is married, behind is for the widowed or bar wenches. If you find you are being hit on a little aggressively, maybe choose to tie it as married!
Opt for beer and lemonade, also called a ‘Radler’ to save the liver. Drinking 3-4L of beer will leave you paralytic, so ensure you can last more than 2 hours of dancing on the tables and drink shandies/radlers instead! They are the same price as full strength beer, which is a little annoying, but they will ensure you last the long yard.
Tent times matter, decipher when is best to head in so you are not left waiting in line. Heading in for 6-8pm arrivals, you will have no chance of getting a seat. 12-3pm is best and you will usually get a decent spot for the whole day. Saturdays have pretty much a definite line up time of an hour without reservations, but it is worth it- the atmosphere is electric!
Get your bearings on one of the first day there, alcohol free. Don’t get me wrong, we all like a drink and you ARE at Oktoberfest, but you need to get your bearings down packed while you are still sober. Spend your first two hours exploring the festival and remembering where all the tents are. Why not even spend a day away from drinking, go on the rides and eat the traditional Bavarian food while the sun is out then come back later for a tent party!
Take tissues with you ladies, there are hundreds of thousands of girls, also drinking 3L of beer, who all need a toilet. Toilet paper is something you will need. Trust me.
Only six breweries are allowed to participate in Oktoberfest, all brewing within the Munich city limits: Hofbräuhaus München, Augustiner Bräu, Spaten-Franziskaner-Bräu, Paulaner Bräu, Löwenbräu and Hacker-Pschorr Bräu. Each brewery has a tent where only their beer is served, so get to know your favourite- the prices are all pretty much the same!
Finally, don’t forget that the festival is not actually about the beer. This is a German celebration of a historical anniversary. Eat lots of delicious food, go on the hundreds of amusement rides, take some great pictures and immerse yourself culturally. Celebrating the wedding between Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig and his wife, Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen, the festival is actually about the royals rejoicing their love in public! Now, however, through years of traditionally tapping the first beer, the 6 largest weizen (beer) companies in Munich flood the town in their honour. Last but not least, know your limits and have an amazing time!