The Bavarian Way of Life
Since I was born and raised in Munich, the Oktoberfest has always been a part of my life. Millions of people from all over the world visit the Oktoberfest every year. If you are going the first time, I want to give you some tips and tricks on how to get the most out of your visit. I don’t want to bore anyone, but just to show you what the tradition is about, here are some historical facts about the Wiesn:
the Oktoberfest in Munich is the largest Volksfest in the world and one of the most popular ones. It is an annual beer festival held for 16 to 28 days at the end of September until the first Sunday of October. This year the Oktoberfest starts on September 22nd and will end on October 7th. The first Oktoberfest was implemented as a royal event with horse racing in 1810 and took place at the meadows outside the city gates. In honor of the crown princess (Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen) the meadows were named “Theresienwiese” and are still called like that today. Except for 1813, the event was held every year and is a Bavarian tradition ever since. In 1850 the statue of the “Bavaria”, the patron of the state was built on one end of the “Theresienwiese” overlooking the festival.
The traditional opening ceremony has been the same since 1950: on the first day (Saturday) of the Oktoberfest, the “Wiesnwirte” (hosts of the big beer tents) enter the Wiesn with an official parade. Twelve guns are shot, and the mayor of Munich taps the first beer and with the proclamation “O’zapf is” (it`s tapped) he opens the festival at 12 p.m. The first beer is always reserved for the minister-president of Bavaria.
Nowadays there are 14 big tents and several small ones. The big beer tents are built like actual houses, which takes up to two months prior to the opening. There are six original breweries in Munich, that are allowed to serve their beer on the Oktoberfest: Augustiner, Hacker-Pschorr, Paulaner, Spaten, Löwenbräu und Hofbräu. My personal favorite is Hacker-Pschorr which is served in the Hacker-Pschorr and the Bräu-Rosl tent. Each brewery brews a special Oktoberfest beer every year, which can also be bought outside of the Oktoberfest. If you have time and you get there early, take a look in several tents, since they are all unique. My personal favorite regarding the interior is the Hacker-Pschorr tent: the official claim “Himmel der Bayern” (heaven of Bavaria) reflects in the tent. The ceiling is painted like the sky including stars and the most iconic sites of Munich (e.g. Frauenkirche). Just to get an idea of how big the tents are, here are some facts about the Hacker-Pschorr tent: it is 4.925 m² big (including the beer garden) and has space for 9.350 people (6.830 inside and 2.520 outside).
The age limit for entering the tent without a guardian is 16, even though some tents have lifted the age limit to 18. If you don’t have a reservation, it will be difficult to get a table or even a seat on one. Some people will queue in front of the tents at 6 a.m. to get one of the free tables when the they open at 9 a.m. Very important note: the tents will close when they are overcrowded, and you will not be able to get in. This can be frustrating for people who traveled a long way to go to the Oktoberfest. The best time to get into the tents (especially on the weekend) is in the morning or during lunch time. The worst time trying to get in is between 3.30 and 5.30 p.m. since that’s the time, when all the evening reservations are getting inside. People without reservations will not be able to get in if the tents are already closed by that. In the end, there is no guarantee of getting into the tents, since sometimes, they do close at 9.30 a.m. right after opening (especially on Saturdays). The live music will start playing at around 6 p.m. You can dance on the benches but don’t climb on the tables – you will be escorted out by a security if you don’t come down. If the tents are closed in the evening, don’t exit the tent, unless you really want to leave. Because once you are out, you will not get in again, even though you were in before.
Beer and food
The main reason people are going to the Oktoberfest is not the rollercoasters and stalls but to enjoy the Oktoberfest Beer and the good Bavarian food. The Beer is served in 1l Maß-Krügen. Yes, you read it correctly: one liter of real Bavarian beer which converts to 33.8 oz. It is called a Maß, so if you want to impress, don’t call it a mug or a stein. Also very important to know: the alcohol content of the beer varies between 5.8 to 6.3 %, depending on the brand. Most people from out of the country underestimate the alcohol content and the amount. Just to give you a comparison: Budweiser has an alcohol content of 5%, Miller lite of 4.2 % and a can are usually 12 oz. My advice: know your limit, you don’t want to get thrown out of the tent or end up on the “Kotzhügel” (vomit hill) behind the tents totally wasted. It is so much more fun to drink responsible and enjoy your time with nice people, good beer and food and great music. It might seem like a good idea at the time, but getting into a rollercoaster after your second beer is not cool, you’ll see why.
The Oktoberfest is not cheap: a Maß costs between 11.10 and 11.50 €. Another important advice: take lots of cash with you, since its cash only. Some tents do have cash machines, but you will pay high fees and they tend to run out of money pretty fast during the weekend. Don’t be stingy with tips for the waiters and waitresses: they will remember that and you might have to wait longer for your next beer 😉 Please have respect for them as well, they are doing their very best, but working 16-18 days in a row the whole day inside the tents, trying to make their way through the crowds with 6-10 Krügen is not fun all the time. Very important as well: never touch a waitress! Even though she might be nice to you, Security will throw you out the tent faster than you can say sorry. By the way, you are not allowed to take the Maßkrug with you, you only paid for the beer. If you are trying to take it outside, it is considered stealing. If you really want one, you can either buy them at the tents (but it is very expensive) or in several shops in the city center.
Don’t forget to eat something while spending your day, drinking beer in the tents. The most famous dish is the “Wiesn Hendl” (Oktoberfest chicken) which is served in every tent. The tents offer a variety of food, my favorite one is “Kasspatzen” (cheese noodles).
Dirndl and Lederhosn
Most local people will attend the Wiesn (how it is called by the locals, translates to meadow) in traditional Bavarian cloth, which means Dirndl for the women and Lederhosn for the men. If you want to blend in, go ahead and buy one in the countless “Trachtn” shops in and around Munich. But there are some rules you should follow, otherwise you will make a fool of yourself. A dirndl is not a Halloween costume it is a traditional Bavarian dress, so please don’t go to the Oktoberfest wearing one of the plastic “Red Riding Hood” things! Length is important: a traditional Dirndl never ends above the knees. Another no go is the color: never wear a neon colored or glitter Dirndl. It is not cheap, I’m not going to lie, real ones start at around 70 € and will go up to several 100 €. A Dirndl consists of the dress itself, a blouse and an apron. Be aware, that the way you are tying your bow has a special meaning: if you tie it on the right site, it means you are in a relationship, if you tie it on the left, it means you are single.
The same goes for the men: a real Lederhosn is not made out of plastic or cotton but real leather. You don’t have to wear a Dirndl or a Lederhosn to go to the Oktoberfest, you will have plenty of fun without it, but if you do, please consider the things said above. The traditional Bavarian cloths are not a costume, but a way of life for locals, so please respect that.
The most important advice is of course having fun. You will meet people from all over the world and make friends that last for a life time. You will get a glimpse of Bavarian traditions; enjoy delicious food, good beer and make sure to check out the stalls and the rides and rollercoasters as well. And don’t forget, Munich and Bavaria has a lot more to offer, than the Oktoberfest 😉
If you have any questions or feedback please comment down below or contact me, I’m always looking forward to hearing other people’s experiences or answer questions. If you want to see more pictures, please check out my Instagram Account as well.