Oktoberfest — I’m sure you’ve heard of it. The German beer-drinking spectacle held every autumn in Munich. The largest folk festival in the world. The weeks-long party that attracts beer-lovers and revelers from all over the globe. But how do you navigate such a maze of celebration? This guide will tell you everything you’ll need to know before heading into Germany’s fun-loving beer bash!

BASICS

  • Where: Munich, Germany
  • When: September 22 – October 7
  • Admission: Free
  • Price per beer (served by the stein): $13 USD
  • Annual Attendees: 4-6 million
  • Drinking age in Germany: 16
  • Nickname: Die Wiesn

 

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HISTORY

The Oktoberfest the world knows today began as a simple wedding party to celebrate Prince Ludwig’s (of the Bavarian Crown) marriage to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen in 1810. Though the pair were at the top of the hierarchical food chain, so-to-speak, they welcomed the general public to enjoy their special day with them. The next year, an anniversary party ensued, as did the year after that and the year after that… until, eventually, it had become an annual affair. Though the original wedding took place over 200 years ago, today’s Oktoberfest is held on the same grounds — the Theresienwiese. Today, millions attend the event from across the globe, all shuffling through tents dressed in traditional lederhosens and dirndls, gripping full steins of traditional Bavarian beer in their hands. And though Oktoberfest is best known for the beer (just like its home state of Bavaria), it’s grown into a something much larger: a celebration of food, music, and community.

 

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PLANNING YOUR TRIP

Because a substantial amount of attendees come from out-of-town, booking your plane tickets far in advance is strongly advised. And as Oktoberfest garners more international attention, these tickets won’t get any cheaper. Flying in a few days early, or leaving a few days after the festival ends, if possible, will certainly help cut down on costs as well.

Munich is home to a wonderful airport, though, and hosts a number of international airlines like American, Emirates, and United, as well as the notoriously cheap Ryanair, which serves best for those already in Europe. If you can find cheaper flights to nearby destinations, such as Frankfurt or Zürich, by all means, do it, as these cities are just a few hours away by train.

 

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Aside from your transportation ticket, a place to rest your head is a top priority, if not the priority. With so many people piling into one city, accommodation is going to be a hot commodity, so the sooner you can figure out where you’ll be staying, the better. There are plenty of hostels, hostels, and Airbnbs in town, and Couchsurfing is always an option, too, which might help those planning more of a last-minute trip. But whatever type of accommodation you land, know that most of your time will be best spent at the festival grounds, so don’t stress too much.

GETTING AROUND

The festival is set in a beautiful meadow known as Theresienwiese, which can be accessed by an underground station under the same name for U-Bahn services. Another option is the nearby Schwanthalerhohe station. The U4 and U5 lines serve both of these stops, which should accommodate most. If you’re staying a little farther outside the city center, the S-Bahn makes stops near the festival grounds at the Hackerbrucke station via lines S1 and S8. For additional information, you can find an entire map of Munich’s public transport system here.

 

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Inside the walkable grounds are 14 large tents and 20 small tents. Some of these watering holes have been passed down for generations, owned and operated by families and constructed specifically for the festival. They fill up quickly, though, so be sure to arrive earlier in the day if you want to secure a good seat. When trying to decide which tents to spend your time in, it’s important to note that each varies not only in size but also in level of culinary experience and style of entertainment. Some are known for serving their beer straight from wooden barrels, while others are known for wine, live music, and delicious roasted duck dishes.

But no matter what’s inside, the tents are the crucial ingredient to Oktoberfest, as everything starts within Schottenhamel, one of the larger tents, with 9,000 seats. It’s here that the mayor of Munich taps the first keg of the festival, yelling out O’zapft is! (It’s tapped!) to an eruption of applause.

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO

Germany is known for its food as much as its beer. Spread throughout the tents you’ll find giant pretzels, bratwursts, schnitzel, smoked fish, and even roasted ox. For families (which the festival tries its best to accommodate), there are carnival rides, live shows, a crossbow tournament, and a traditional costume parade that takes place on the first Sunday — which is extremely fun, even if you don’t have children!

 

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You should also note that smoking is not allowed in any of the tents, reservations can be made for larger groups, and, if you really want to get into the spirit of things, traditional garb is encouraged and can be bought on site!

Hours for tents, food stalls, and sideshows can be found here, while the full Oktoberfest calendar is also available here.

If you’ve experienced the fun of Oktoberfest and think we’ve missed some valuable tips, let us know in the comments below. Prost! Want to continue your German vacation? Check out our guides to the country’s many regions.

Header image by Patrick Fore

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Brad Donaldson is a writer and editor proudly based out of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Although his roots are in Canada, his desire to see more of the world frequently takes him away from home. His work, both as an editor and writer, has appeared in local newspapers and publications.