Embarking on Our Oktoberfest Journey: Trip Planning Insights and Tips

Embarking on Our Oktoberfest Journey: Trip Planning Insights and Tips

Oktoberfest, the world's largest beer festival, is a celebration of Bavarian culture that draws millions of visitors to Munich each year. This annual event is a delightful blend of traditional Bavarian customs, vibrant music, mouthwatering food, and of course, plenty of beer. Planning your Oktoberfest trip is a thrilling endeavor, and this blog post will guide you through the essentials for an unforgettable experience.

 

As we prepare for our thrilling Oktoberfest adventure later this week, we're eager to offer you a glimpse into our trip planning process and share some of the tips we have learned from our research. Furthermore, rest assured that once our trip is concluded, we'll revisit this post to furnish you with a treasure trove of insider tips and tricks for an unparalleled Oktoberfest experience. Stay tuned!

Oktoberfest: A Brief Overview

Oktoberfest is a 16–18-day festival that starts in late September and runs into the first weekend of October. The duration of the event depends on the year as it typically ends on the first Sunday in October, but if the 16th day of the festival is before October 3rd, also known as German Unity Day which is a nationwide public holiday, then Oktoberfest is extended until then.

Oktoberfest 2023: Saturday, September 16 – Tuesday, October 3

Oktoberfest 2024: Saturday, September 21 – Sunday, October 6

Oktoberfest 2025: Saturday, September 20 – Sunday, October 5

Oktoberfest originated in 1810 when Bavaria's Crown Prince Ludwig married Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. The people of Munich were invited to join in on the celebration, which took place in a large meadow just outside the city gates. The festivities included horse races, feasting, and, of course, beer. The people of Munich had so much fun at the first Oktoberfest, it took place again in 1811, before eventually evolving into the grand event we know today.

Fun fact: Theresienwiese, where Oktoberfest takes place, is named after Princess Therese! Wiese is the German word for “meadow”, so translating to Therese’s Meadow! However, don’t be caught off guard when you hear locals referring to Oktoberfest and its location as “Wiesn”.

Oktoberfest, despite its name, primarily takes place in September due to better weather! The weather in Munich can be unpredictable in October, with cooler temperatures and the potential for rain or even snow. To provide a more pleasant and comfortable experience for visitors, the organizers of Oktoberfest made the decision to start the festival in late September when the weather is generally milder and more conducive to outdoor festivities.

 

You can typically expect the weather during September to range between an average high of 66°F and an average low of 48°F, while the weather in October in Munich is far chillier with an average high of 56°F and an average low of 41°F. Be certain, however, to check the weather before you start packing for your own Oktoberfest adventure.

Beer Tent Opening Times:

There are 17 large tents and 21 small tents at Oktoberfest, including in the Oide Wiesn. The opening times for these tents are below.


  • First Saturday of Oktoberfest: Tents open at 9:00AM; non-alcoholic beverages are served beginning at 10:00AM, and beer is served after the first tapping at noon.


  • Monday through Friday: 10:00AM - 11:30PM


  • Saturday & Sunday, October 3rd Public Holiday (German Unity Day): 9:00AM - 11:30PM

Last call is typically 10:30PM, but there are some exceptions. Käfer Wiesn-Schänke and Kufflers Weinzelt (wine tent) are open until 1:00AM and last call is at 12:30AM.

 

Most stalls and fairground rides follow similar opening times, but close at midnight on Friday and Saturday nights.

Best Places to Stay:

Oktoberfest takes place at the Theresienwiese, which is centrally located within Munich.

 

Choosing the right accommodation is crucial for a memorable experience. Munich offers a variety of options, from luxury hotels to cozy hostels and traditional Bavarian guesthouses. Staying in the city center or near the festival grounds, Theresienwiese, is ideal for easy access to the festivities. Theresienwiese, while the most convenient, is also the most expensive neighborhood to stay in during Oktoberfest.

 

We’re staying in Old Town, which is about a 30-minute walk to the festivities. You can also easily take the U-Bahn (the U3 (orange) and U6 (blue)) from Marienplatz to either the Goetheplatz or Poccistraße stations which is just a short walk to the Oktoberfest entrance. Taking the U-Bahn from Marienplatz to Oktoberfest takes about 11 minutes. Be prepared for the U-Bahn to be incredibly busy during Oktoberfest, but trains will be running more frequently than usual.

 

To save money, be certain to book your accommodations as early as possible. More affordable and centrally-located options tend to fill up nearly a year ahead of time. Be prepared to spend at least €300/night for a hotel during Oktoberfest (our hotel was €450/night but thankfully we had a free hotel room night to redeem to help lower the overall cost). Less expensive camping options and hostels are available, but they fill up quickly.

Traditional Dress:

To immerse yourself fully in the Oktoberfest spirit, consider donning traditional Bavarian attire, also known as Tracht. For men, this typically includes Lederhosen (leather shorts), a checked shirt, suspenders, a waistcoat, and a hat. Women can opt for a Dirndl, a dress with a bodice, blouse, and apron. Dirndls and Lederhosen are traditional Bavarian garments that hold deep cultural significance and have a fascinating history.

 

Dirndls: Dirndls are traditional dresses worn by women in the Alpine regions of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. A Dirndl typically consists of a dress, blouse, and apron. The origins of the Dirndl can be traced back to rural Bavaria and Austria in the 18th century. It was originally a practical outfit worn by working-class women (basically a maid's dress for farm and house work). By the 1870s, however, Dirndls were all of the rage amongst the aristocracy. Instead of wearing Dirndls made from wool, the Dirndls of the aristocracy were made from expensive materials such as silk. Over time, it evolved into a symbol of traditional Bavarian and Alpine culture. 

 

Today, Dirndls are not only worn during festive occasions like Oktoberfest, but are also cherished as a symbol of regional pride. Dirndls can come in different lengths, a short length (which is typically knee length), a midi length (the most common), and a maxi length (which is typically worn by older women). Dirndls are also available in a variety of colors, but most blouses worn with the dirndl are white. Occasionally, you will see black blouses, but white is the most common color.

 

It's worth noting that women can also wear Lederhosen! So, if dresses aren’t your thing, but you still want to dress up for the festivities, Lederhosen are an option!

 

Lederhosen: Lederhosen, which translates to "leather trousers" in German, are iconic garments primarily worn by men. These leather shorts are often accompanied by suspenders, a checked shirt, and occasionally a waistcoat. Lederhosen have a more extensive history, dating back to the Alpine regions in the 18th century, where they were originally worn by laborers and hunters due to their durability. Like Dirndls, Lederhosen have evolved into a symbol of Bavarian and Austrian heritage and are frequently worn during traditional festivals, such as Oktoberfest. 

 

Traditional Lederhosen are made from genuine leather, typically sourced from animals like goats or deer. The use of leather for making Lederhosen is not only for its durability but also for its suitability to the rugged lifestyle of Alpine regions where these garments originated. The leather used for Lederhosen is robust and can withstand outdoor activities, making it ideal for laborers, hunters, and individuals living in mountainous areas. Plus, leather is naturally water-repellent, making them the perfect attire for spilled beer.

Many shops in Munich sell these outfits, so you can purchase them upon arrival or even rent them for the duration of your stay. A few Munich retailers that were recommended to us, but we didn’t use to find our Trachten, are below.

 

While authentic Trachten can often come with a hefty price tag, it's reassuring to know that you can still discover budget-friendly options that exude authenticity rather than appearing like they're straight out of a costume shop. For those mindful of their finances, consider exploring second-hand Trachten, which can yield substantial cost savings. As an example, I personally acquired my Dirndl on eBay. It had been purchased by a tourist in Munich for last year's festivities, worn just once, and I was able to snag it for a mere $65.00. This was a significant deal, especially considering that the retail price for that same Dirndl, brand new, exceeded €200.

 

However, when shopping for Trachten online in advance, it's essential to exercise caution regarding sizing. Keep in mind that the sizing of authentic Trachten often differs significantly from what we are accustomed to in the United States. Therefore, it's advisable to carefully check your measurements against the size charts provided before placing your order.

 

 

When ordering your Trachten online, steer clear of items labeled as "Beer Wench," "Halloween Costume," "Flirty Fraulein," "Bavarian Wench," "Beer Girl Costume," and the like. It's important to remember that Dirndls and Lederhosen are cherished symbols of traditional Bavarian culture. Choosing attire that resembles a costume or is deemed inappropriate can make you stand out from the crowd in a less-than-favorable manner. Opting for authentic Trachten ensures you blend in seamlessly and respect the rich heritage of these traditional garments.

Traditional Dress - Footware:

For footwear, remember that comfort is king. Choosing the right footwear to complement your Trachten is an essential part of completing your traditional Bavarian look while ensuring comfort for a day of festivities. (We’re both opting to wear sneakers with our Trachten for Oktoberfest this year!) Here are some popular options for both men and women:

 

For Women (with Dirndls):

  1. Ballet Flats: Simple and comfortable, ballet flats in neutral colors can pair well with Dirndls, especially if you want a more relaxed look.

  2. Mary Janes: Mary Jane-style shoes, with their strap across the instep and low heels, are the traditional footwear choice for women wearing a Dirndl.

  3. Booties: A more modern footwear option, especially if the weather is cold, can be a great option for Oktoberfest.

  4. Sneakers: While not traditional by any means, there is nothing wrong with dawning a pair of sneakers to Oktoberfest. In fact, they’re a really popular option amongst young locals.

For Men (with Lederhosen):

  1. Haferlschuhe: Traditional Bavarian leather shoes known as "Haferlschuhe" are the classic choice for men wearing Lederhosen. These shoes feature lacing and a rugged sole.

  2. Trachten Boots (Trachtenstiefel): For a more robust look, some men opt for Trachten boots, which are higher-cut leather boots with a sturdy sole. These provide additional ankle support and a traditional appearance.

  3. Loafers: If you prefer a more relaxed and modern look with your Lederhosen, you can choose loafers in a complementary color.

  4. Sneakers: It’s pretty much a guarantee that beer will be spilled at Oktoberfest, so if you want to leave your fancy leather shoes at home and opt for a pair of sneakers that is fine too. Adidas even designed sneakers for Oktoberfest back in 2019, proving that they are really an acceptable form of footwear for the occasion. (https://hypebeast.com/2019/9/adidas-originals-munchen-made-in-germany-fw-19-pack-release)

 

Also, ensure your footwear is weather-appropriate, as Munich's weather can be unpredictable in late September and early October. Finally, comfortable and sturdy shoes are a must, as you'll likely be on your feet, walking, and dancing throughout the day and night.

What to Eat and Drink:

Oktoberfest is renowned for its hearty Bavarian cuisine and, of course, its beer. Here are some must-try dishes and beverages:

 

  1. Roast Chicken (Wiesn Hendl): The most popular dish at Oktoberfest, whole chickens are roasted over an open flame until the skin is crisp and the meat is cooked through. Served in halves and often (but not always) accompanied with a salad or potatoes.

  2. Schweinebraten: Slow-roasted pork, seasoned with spices, and served with a flavorful gravy, making it a delicious and hearty Bavarian dish.

  3. Schweinshaxe: A crispy, roasted pork knuckle that's a Bavarian specialty.

  4. Wurstl: A variety of sausages, such as bratwurst and weisswurst, which are grilled to perfection and served as a quintessential Bavarian snack, often accompanied by mustard and sauerkraut.

  5. Brezen (Pretzel): These soft, doughy delights are perfect for snacking while you enjoy your beer.

  6. Käsespätzle: A delectable Bavarian dish consisting of soft egg noodles (spätzle) smothered in a creamy cheese sauce, often with crispy fried onions on top. It's a rich and comforting comfort food, similar to macaroni and cheese, but with a distinct Bavarian twist.

  7. Reiberdatschi: Also known as Kartoffelpuffer or potato pancakes, Reiberdatschi is often served with applesauce or sour cream.

  8. Sauerkraut: Fermented cabbage that pairs perfectly with meat dishes.

  9. Beer: The star of the show, Oktoberfest beer is specially brewed for the occasion. It's a rich, amber lager with a slightly higher alcohol content. Be sure to try a Mass, a one-liter beer mug, served inside the beer tents.

  10. Radler: A refreshing mix of beer and lemon soda, perfect for a lighter option.

Where to Shop:

Oktoberfest offers a plethora of unique souvenirs that allow you to take home a piece of Bavarian culture and memories of the festival. Here are some popular souvenirs to consider:

 

  1. Beer Steins: Traditional beer mugs, often adorned with Oktoberfest designs or the logo of a specific beer tent, make for a classic souvenir. You can choose from various sizes and styles, and some even come with lids. Whatever you do, do not try to steal a beer stein from a beer tent at Oktoberfest! The beer steins are large and I promise you, you will get caught. If you want one, buy one!

  2. Beer Glasses: If you prefer a lighter and more practical option, consider beer glasses featuring Oktoberfest branding or designs.

  3. Gingerbread Hearts: Gingerbread hearts, known as "Lebkuchenherzen" in German, are sweet and elaborately decorated heart-shaped cookies that are a beloved tradition at Oktoberfest and other festivals in Germany. Gingerbread hearts come in a wide variety of designs and colors. They are often adorned with colorful icing and feature romantic or humorous phrases, making them popular gifts and tokens of affection. The phrases on Lebkuchenherzen can range from sweet sentiments like "I love you" (Ich liebe Dich) to humorous and cheeky sayings. They are often used to convey affection or as playful gifts among festival-goers. The gingerbread hearts are not meant to be eaten, so you’ll often times see people wearing them around their necks using a ribbon or cord. It's common to see festival-goers sporting these heart-shaped cookies as necklaces.

  4. Clothespins: Also called “Glupperl”, these clothespins have your name etched into them and are worn on your person. Basically, a fancier version of a “hello my name is…” sticker.

  5. Trachten Accessories: Accessories like Bavarian hats, feathered pins (Gamsbart), and traditional jewelry are great ways to bring a touch of Bavaria back home.

  6. Christmas Ornaments & Nutcrackers: Bavarian-themed Christmas ornaments are a popular purchase, as they can serve as festive reminders of your Oktoberfest experience during the holiday season. Authentic nutcrackers also make a great souvenir and you can often find Oktoberfest-themed ones for sale in shops in Munich.

  7. Postcards: Collect postcards featuring Oktoberfest scenes to decorate your home or send to friends and family. You can even mail your postcards directly from the post office on the festival grounds! 

  8. Souvenir T-Shirts and Apparel: If you prefer wearable souvenirs, Oktoberfest-themed T-shirts, hoodies, and hats are readily available.

While in Munich, we highly recommend taking the opportunity to shop for souvenirs and authentic Bavarian products outside of the Oktoberfest gates. We certainly will be, so keep your eyes peeled for some new additions on the Casa Horatio website once our trip concludes! Some great places to shop in Munich include:

 

  • Viktualienmarkt: A bustling food and crafts market where you can find local specialties, including cheese, sausages, and spices.

  • Marienplatz: Munich's central square offers a mix of high-end boutiques, souvenir shops, and department stores.

Looking for additional shopping recommendations in Munich? Check out this comprehensive list from Hotels.com: https://www.hotels.com/go/germany/best-shopping-munich.

 

Remember to shop around and compare prices, as prices for similar items can vary from one vendor to another. Additionally, always check the authenticity and quality of the souvenirs before making a purchase. These souvenirs will serve as lasting mementos of your Oktoberfest adventure.

Other Notes:

Cost:

Oktoberfest itself is generally free to attend. There is no admission fee to enter the festival grounds, which are located at Theresienwiese in Munich. Visitors can walk around, enjoy the lively atmosphere, listen to music, and take in the Bavarian culture without paying an entrance fee. The notable exception here is entrance into the Oide Wiesn (https://www.oktoberfest.de/en/beer-tents/the-oide-wiesn) which does charge a small admission fee of €4, per person.

 

While entry to Oktoberfest is free, you should be prepared for expenses once you're inside. You'll need to purchase food, beverages, and any souvenirs or rides you wish to enjoy. The cost of these items can add up, especially if you plan to indulge in traditional Bavarian dishes and beer. We’ve been told to budget between €65-100/per person per day we attend Oktoberfest.

 

It's also worth noting that if you want to secure a seat in one of the festival's many beer tents, it's advisable to make a reservation in advance, which require a deposit.

Cash:

Most vendors and beer tents at Oktoberfest are cash-only, so arrive prepared with plenty of cash on hand. If you need more, ATMs are available throughout the Theresienwiese. To help you plan in advance, you can check out beer prices here: https://www.oktoberfest.de/en/information/service-for-visitors/the-beer-price-at-oktoberfest

Tipping:

Although tipping customs in Europe often differ from those in the United States, it's important to note that at Oktoberfest, tipping your servers is customary and appreciated. Many recommend leaving a tip of one euro per beer or meal, as it demonstrates your gratitude for the service provided. Keep in mind that tipping plays a significant role in ensuring prompt and attentive service during your visit.

 

At food stalls or stands outside of the beer tents, tipping is less common, but if you’ve received good service or enjoyed your meal, you can round up the amount or leave small change.

 

When using a restroom within the beer tents, it is customary to consider leaving a €1 tip for the bathroom attendant as a polite gesture.

Bags:

Luggage and large bags are not permitted in the Theresienwiese during Oktoberfest. Do not plan to bring a bag larger than 8 in x 6 in x 4 in, otherwise it will not be permitted inside. Bag storage is available, for a fee, so if you do need to bring larger bags with you, you can safely store them on the premise. Follow signs or ask security for bag storage locations. 

Crowds:

Oktoberfest is crowded. We aren’t going to sugarcoat it – expect large crowds. If you do not have table reservations or are looking to visit when Oktoberfest is the least crowded, then try to visit on weekdays (Monday to Thursday) and in the mornings/early afternoons.

 

  • Monday through Thursday is typically the least crowded time to visit Oktoberfest since many locals and tourists flock to the festival on weekends. (The notable exception to this is the October 3rd public holiday.)

     

  • Mornings and early afternoons are also a way to more readily get a seat at a beer tent, as the festival tends to become busier as the day progresses, especially in the evenings.

Looking to find the best time to go and avoid the crowds? Check out this “Oktoberfest Barometer” on the official Oktoberfest Munich  website. https://www.oktoberfest.de/en/information/service-for-visitors/the-best-time-to-visit-oktoberfest-the-oktoberfest-barometer 

Reservations:

If you are traveling to Oktoberfest with a large group, you should make reservations for the beer tents in advance. As mentioned previously, reservations do require a deposit which typically comes with beer and food tokens or vouchers. Reservations fill up quickly and you must make your reservations directly with each beer tent. To enquire about making a reservation, check out this link (https://www.oktoberfest.de/en/beer-tents/reservations-at-oktoberfest) on the official Oktoberfest Munich website for additional information.

 

Keep in mind that a reservation is for an entire table, which seats between 8-10 people. If you are not traveling with a group that size, you can still get a table without a reservation, especially if you are attending Oktoberfest on a weekday or in the morning/early afternoon. All beer tents hold tables for walk-ins, just be prepared to get cozy with strangers. There are outdoor areas at each of the beer tents too, so that is another feasible option if you can’t find a seat inside of the beer tents. You do have to have a seat in order to be served.

 

If you are looking to attend on the weekend or in the evening, and would feel more comfortable securing a reservation in advance, check out some of the Oktoberfest packages sold via Simply Munich as these come with a reservation but are available for individuals (https://www.munich.travel/en/offers/booking/oktoberfest-package#/). 

Family Days:

Tuesdays are family days at Oktoberfest, but don’t be surprised to see children during any day of the week! On Tuesdays, rides are half off for families and a number of the beer tents have meal specials for children.

Other Things to Do in Munich:

Munich is a vibrant and culturally rich city with a wide range of attractions and activities to enjoy outside of Oktoberfest. Here are some of the top things to do in Munich:


  1. Visit Marienplatz: This central square is the heart of Munich and home to the iconic Glockenspiel, a clock tower with mechanical figurines that perform daily displays.
  2. Explore Nymphenburg Palace: This stunning Baroque palace complex features beautiful gardens, opulent interiors, and a glimpse into Bavaria's royal history.
  3. Take a Stroll in the English Garden (Englischer Garten): Munich's expansive city park is one of the world's largest urban parks. Enjoy the serene landscapes, a picturesque lake, and even a traditional beer garden.
  4. Visit the BMW Museum: Car enthusiasts will appreciate the fascinating history and exhibits at the BMW Museum.
  5. Explore the Art Museums: Munich is home to several world-class art museums, including the Alte Pinakothek, Neue Pinakothek, and Pinakothek der Moderne.
  6. Go to the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site: Pay your respects and learn about the history of the Holocaust at this important memorial.
  7. Enjoy a Beer in a Beer Garden: Munich is known for its beer gardens. Visit one like the Hofbräuhaus or Augustiner-Keller to savor traditional Bavarian brews.
  8. Take a Day Trip to Neuschwanstein Castle: This fairytale castle, located about two hours from Munich, is one of Germany's most iconic landmarks.
  9. Visit the Olympic Park: Explore the grounds of the 1972 Summer Olympics, which include a stadium, tower, and a scenic lake.
  10. St. Peter's Church (Peterskirche): Climb the tower for panoramic views of Munich, and explore the historic church.

Oktoberfest in Munich is a celebration of Bavarian culture that offers a unique and unforgettable experience for travelers. From traditional attire to mouthwatering cuisine and, of course, world-class beer, Oktoberfest has something for everyone. By planning ahead and immersing yourself in the local customs, you can make the most of your trip to this iconic festival. Prost!

Can't swing a trip to Munich for Oktoberfest this year? No worries! Explore Casa Horatio's fantastic range of German-made housewares instead.