Now that Oktoberfest has officially come to an end and we are nearing the end of the real October, I see an opportunity to provide a quick beginners guide to anyone planning to go to the festival in 2017. While I am in no position to call myself an expert on the subject (after my one day and one hour of Oktoberfesting) I did recently find myself in exactly the same position as many of you reading this post – completely new and oblivious to the entire situation. What do I wear? What time should I go? I didn’t know there were rides? Where can I get food? Do I really have to drink all that beer? Where’s the wine?
To find out the answers to these questions and more, continue reading below. This review has been divided in to the sections of ‘attire’, ‘drinking’, ‘food’, ‘beer tents’, ‘fair grounds’, and ‘the aftermath’ to help you navigate.
One of the biggest questions any Oktoberfest beginner usually has is, what do I wear and where am I supposed to get it? The main thing to take away from this post is to dress up – it’s half the fun. Not to mention you will feel out of place in regular clothing inside a beer tent.
My second piece of advice is to avoid dressing cheap and tacky. You will stand out in a bad way as it can appear you are mocking the traditional Bavarian dress. While there, I met two German girls who said their 9-5 job required them to wear Dirndls to work every day… so yes, they are still a thing!
If you are only going for one day I would suggest buying a ‘pretend’ outfit which averages about €100. ‘Pretend’ refers to not as detailed or as expensive materials. To purchase the real thing you are looking at spending at least €300. Both guys and girls can get cheaper versions from C&A in Munich. By the time Oktoberfest starts they are usually discounted otherwise there are plenty of stores on Neuhauser and Kaufinger Strasse, the main shopping street in Munich central (also where you will find C&A).
Girls – The traditional way to wear a Dirndl is skirt to the knee or floor, focusing on your, ahem… boob area. You may be tempted to wear heels but will soon realise these are far from practical. You will be standing all day and dancing on beer soaked benches – my advice is to wear comfortable shoes or ballet flats. Feel free to take a small bag and a cardi for the journeys there and home however you wont need it in the tents as it gets super hot.
Guys – Can generally get away with wearing a check shirt and braces however most opt for the traditional Lederhosen. Wear with brown leather or suede shoes and high woolen socks.
Remember, that no matter what you wear it will most likely come home covered in beer and a token mustard stain from your midnight bratwurst snack, so don’t get too attached!
You will be drinking from 9am right through to midnight (if you make it this far). My advice here is take it slow. Beers is served in a stein (1L jug) so its easy to forget one serving is equal to 3x standard drinks. You will only end up embarrassing yourself or not remembering the day. I drank three steins throughout the day. The guys I was with drank five or six.
And girls, despite what you may read online, beer is the only beverage available in the tents. Cocktails, mixers and cider are available in the fair grounds or you can enter the wine tent, though it looked a bit lame from the outside if you ask me. Two months a go I NEVER drank beer. Like ever. Oktoberfest converted me simply because I had no other choice. If I can do it, you can do it too. I believe in you!
One more thing. If you are going to be an idiot and proclaim in front of the whole tent you will chug back your stein while the rest of the drunken idiots cheer you on, at least learn how to skull instead if proceeding to pour a perfectly good beer down your front.
There is no shortage of food at Oktoberfest. To order food in the tents you need to be seated at a table and ask one of the beer maidens for a menu. The most important meal of the day is lunch. Do not forget lunch as you will most likely forget dinner. Plus the beer tents are usually much too rowdy by late afternoon to even think about food. For dinner you will most likely settle for a bratwurst on your way home (reference to the mustard stain earlier).
There is a huge variety of fast foods outside the tent but once you leave it’s usually impossible to get back in so you risk losing your spot. This is one of the most important decisions you will make at Oktoberfest… beer… or food?
Arrival – If all of this advice is far too much for you and you can only do one thing right, get there early!!! Especially on the weekend. We arrived at 9.45am and were yelled at and physically shooed away if we tried to sit at an already occupied table. We eventually made a deal with a very unimpressed American girl that if her friends weren’t back in five minutes we were taking their seats. This is not the time to be a pushover. Plus, you can only order beer when seated so it’s kind of a necessity.
Departure – If you are going to leave the tent be prepared to not get back inside or wait in line for several hours. Between 10am and midday is when the lines will start backing up to get inside. We left after lunch to walk around the fair grounds and waited nearly two hours in line for the same tent. We eventually bribed a beer maiden with cash to take us inside as her ‘guests’.
Beer maidens – These girls put up with a lot of drunken shit and work extremely hard to keep you hydrated so be kind and smile. In saying that we also had some interesting experiences with them. If they know you are a tourist some may guilt trip you in to tipping large by saying they only earn tips, no wage. Others refused to give us our drinks unless we tipped and another kicked a group seated next to us off their table to make way for customers who were buying more beers. If they ask you to move from your table, don’t.
Making friends – Be prepared to meet a lot of new people. You will be squished together on one table and will probably yell “Prost!” (German for cheers) more times than necessary throughout the day.
Toilets – This is mainly an issue for girls. The lines in our tent got so big they called in security guards with whistles to try and control the mayhem. Also, if you are stumbling around the fair grounds in desperate search of a toilet and can’t find one, do not just pee on the ground. Believe it or not, there are sober people and THEY CAN SEE YOU.
There is a giant world outside the beer tents so even though you risk losing your hard earned spot inside I suggest you go and explore it. There are a million rides to choose from but I suggest doing two or three only as the lines can be lengthy. The fair grounds are huge and you may get lost so remember where your favourite beer tent is.
Also known as, going to a bar or club afterwards. To be honest, I can provide no advice from experience on this section. After more than 12 hours of beer guzzling, folk song singing, booty shaking and blah blahing with my newly found friends I found myself crash landing in to a sausage stand and proceeding to order four sausages with all the toppings and more for the road. Note: three additional sausages for my three friends. I did not devour four sausages alone.
If you do make it into a club or a bar, might I add in a reasonable state, you are a serious legend and I give you praise.
Have fun!! Oktoberfest is one surreal, festive, crazy, joyous and spirited memory that will last an entire lifetime.
If you have any questions about Oktoberfesting for beginners that I haven’t answered please get in touch. I’d be happy to help!