Oktoberfest (or Wiesn) began on 12 October 1810 when Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria married Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. They celebrated their union with a horse race in a field outside of Munich (as you do).
The citizens of the city were able to attend and this celebration gradually evolved into Oktoberfest over the years.
The festival takes place on the Theresienwiese, which translates to ‘Theresa’s meadow’ after the Princess who inspired it all. How’s that for romance?
The first beer tents didn’t arrive until 1896, with tent owners parading from Munich to the meadow where the celebrations took place. This tradition has remained, with the parade festival arriving into the Wiesn and finishing with a twelve-gun salute.
The mayor of Munich taps the first keg with the well-known cry of ‘O’zapft is!’ (‘It’s tapped!’), and Oktoberfest begins.
What to expect
1. Arrive early
With tents closing their doors by 11.30am some years, you don’t want to be #thatguy. Arrive by 9am on a weekend or 10am on a weekday and grab a seat – you’re there for the long haul. Hint: bring cards for the opening weekend – beers don’t start flowing until midday.
2. Have a beer budget
The prices of a stein will range from €11 to €12 depending on the tent you find yourself in. Cash is usually the only way to pay, so make sure you have enough cash on you.
3. Tip your waitress
Your waitress will be looking after over 100 people. You don’t really want to be the group that always avoids catching her eye.
4. Don’t be a Bierleichen (Google it)
With no less than 5% alcohol in a stein, a radler (beer topped with lemonade) might help you avoid becoming what the locals call a Bierleichen. In case of an emergency, medics are on site. Please drink responsibly. Remember, if you are out of line, security will kick you out – and they won’t be gentle about it either. Play by the rules. The security guards are easy to spot (they looked dressed for combat). You don’t wanna mess with them.
5. Explore the tents
Inside the many tents at Oktoberfest you’ll find a carnival of celebration of up to 10,000 beer drinkers. There are 14 large tents to choose from, and each one has its own atmosphere that deserves to be explored. There are also smaller tents, with the smallest holding under a hundred people. However, don’t spend your entire time in the tents – explore the grounds and you’ll find rides, food stalls and souvenir shops.
6. Get stuck into the food
Some say that Bavarian cuisine is the best you’ll find throughout the German states. It’s easy to see why: pretzels, pork knuckle and chicken are served in the beer halls and food stalls across the site. Get your hunger on.
7. Choose your seat wisely
You know that feeling when you’re the last one standing? #nightmare. When you choose your seat, choose carefully. Think: reasonable proximity to the toilets! You also need to be seated in order to get a beer in most of the tents. So, the faster you grab a spot, the faster a beer is served. Winning.
8. Buy a stein, don’t take one
The ultimate souvenir. Don’t leave without one. Glass and ceramic beer steins are available to purchase all over the Oktoberfest grounds, with receipts provided for proof of purchase. Don’t try and go stealing a stein – a hefty fine and a criminal record in Bavaria might ruin your whole week.
9. Phone service isn’t great
You’re inside a tent, the band has started, you’ve got a stein in your hand – but your best mate is missing. It’s practically impossible to hear anyone on a phone call and there’s limited Wi-Fi available. So, set a meeting point and use SMS – just like the old days. Sorted.
Breweries at Oktoberfest
Augustiner is the oldest Munich brewery and was founded in 1328. Keeping with 800-year-old traditions, they still use wooden barrels for storing beer. Augustiner can be sampled or drunk until close at the Augustiner-Festzelt and Fischer Vroni tents.
2. Hacker Pschorr
Founded in 1417, this was the leading Munich brewery by the 18th century under the watchful eyes of Joseph Pschorr and Maria Theresia Hacker. After their death, the brewery was divided into the Hacker brewery and Pschorr brewery and not reunified until the 1970s. The beer is offered in the Hacker-Zelt and the Bräu-Rosl tents.
King Wilhelm V founded the brewery in 1589. Originally, the brewery was at the Hofbräuhaus Platzl, a bar in the city centre which is now one of the most popular tourist attractions in Munich. Later, the brewery relocated to Wiener Platz, where there is one of the most beautiful beer gardens: the Hofbräukeller.
This middle-sized company emerged to be one of the biggest breweries by the 19th century under the Brey family. With the logo incorporating its famous lion, you’re best to look out for the giant mechanical lion on top of the tent to make sure you’re in the right place. The lion actually roars and moves its tail too. Löwenbräu beer is sold in the Löwenbräu-Zelt and Schützenzelt tents.
This beer was brewed in 1634 at the Paulaner monastery (monks like beer too) and is the youngest of the Munich breweries. Try the stout, a favourite among the locals. Paulaner is sold in the Winzerer Fähndl, the Armbrustschützen-Selt, the Käferzelt tents and the wine tents.
The Spaten brewery was founded in 1397. The brewery has been managed for 200 years by the Sedlmayr family, a fact highlighted by their logo which includes a spade with the initials of master brewer Gabriel Sedlmayr. The family also own the Franziskaner brewery. These beers are both offered in the Schottenhammel, the Ochsenbraterei and the Spaten-Zelt tents.
1. Thank you / Please
Danke / Bitte
7. Can I have one beer please?
Kann ich ein Bier bitte?
8. Open / Closed
Offen / Geschlossen
9. Where are the toilets?
Wo sind die toiletten?
11. Men / Women
Herren / Damen
12. Entrance / Exit
Eingang / Ausgang
15. How much?
16. Do you speak English?
Sprechen Sie Englisch?
Saturday 22nd September
11am: Arrival of tent patrons with parade through Munich.
12pm: Tapping of the first Oktoberfest beer barrel by the Munich mayor in the Schottenhamel tent.
Sunday 23rd September
10am: Traditional costume parade through Munich.
Thursday 27th September
10am: Traditional religious Oktoberfest mass.
Sunday 30th September
11am: Traditional concert of the Oktoberfest brass bands at the feet of the Bavaria.
Sunday 7th October
12pm: Traditional gun-salute on the steps of the Bavarian monument.
What to pack
Lost and found
Every year, over 4,000 items are handed in to Oktoberfest’s lost and found office. During Oktoberfest, you’ll find a Lost & Found Office at the Service Center of the Theresienwiese (entrance ‘Festleitung’, basement) which is behind the Schottenhamel tent.
Opening hours: 01.00pm to 10.00pm
Phone: +49 (0)89 233 96 045
Red Cross, emergency call, first aid
+49 (0)89 726 55 55 0
Police station Oktoberfest
+49 (0)89 500 32 20
Tourist office Munich
+49 (0)89 233 96 500
Flight information (Munich Airport)
+49 (0)89 978 52 13 13
+49 (0)89 21 610
Press office Oktoberfest
+49 (0)89 233 828 32