Oktoberfest in Munich: a guide to the world’s ultimate beer festival

Oktoberfest in Munich: a guide to the world’s ultimate beer festival

Say ‘prost!’ to Oktoberfest. Everything you need to know about the infamous and fantastic Munich Beerfest – the history, the language, the beer.

Oktoberfest in Munich is one of those ‘must do at least once in my life’ events that travellers from Australia and all over the world flock to every year. Here we offer you a complete guide to what Oktoberfest’s all about.

WHAT: Only the biggest festival in the WORLD! Some 6 million revellers celebrate Oktoberfest in Munich each year. Though the festival started as a one-off celebration of a royal wedding, it gradually grew into a horse race, then an agricultural festival and eventually blew up into the veritable orgy of food, fun and beer that it is now!

WHO: According to data from previous festivals, 72% of the attendees are local Bavarians and approx 15% are foreigners, yeah, that means you Aussies too! You’ll find plenty of Antipodean brethren, especially at the Hofbrau tent.


WHERE: Oktoberfest is held in Munich, Bavaria, the southernmost state of Germany. Specifically it is held in a large flat grass area in the centre of town called Thereisienwiese where about 14 large tents and 20 small tents are erected, some of them requiring 3 months to set up.

WHEN: Despite the name, Oktoberfest actually happens in September, with the mayor’s tapping of the first beer barrel at midday on a Saturday in the middle of the month: this year it happened on the 16th – that’s right, it’s on now! The festival closes with a traditional gun salute in early October – this year at 12:00 on Wednesday, October 4.

During the week the opening hours are typically 9am — 11.30pm, on weekends 10am — 11.30pm. Last orders are at 10.30pm unless you are at the wine tent, which opens till 1am. If you haven’t got a tent reservation (which you probably don’t), aim to be at the fest by 10am on the weekend and 3pm during the week to nab a spot.

HOW: Reservations for the beer tents, which are sold by whole tables and by buying food and drink coupons beforehand, usually sell out months in advance. Therefore the majority of festival goers just wing it — you can enter a tent without a reservation and you will just have to vie for the few spare seats. Outside in the beer garden is where you’ll find most of the seats.

Though the hotels and hostels of Munich book up way in advance (not to mention hike their prices up) there are official campsites within a few kms of the festival, with bus transport available. The most popular are Campground Obermenzing or Campground Thalkirchen, both of which take no reservations and are first come first serve, BYO tent.

If you have no tent a good option is the Weisn Camp, a dedicated Oktoberfest Campsite where you can rent a budget tent or caravan for up to 4 people.

For flights, check the usual suspects. Once in Munich, the U-Bahn (subway) line U6 runs to the stop ‘Poccistrasse’ every 24 minutes, which is about a 10-minute walk to the Oktoberfest venue.

WHY?: Are you kidding? Munich is not only a brilliant place for drinking beer, but it also offers expats a chance to catch up with like-minded mates! So when you are chugging down a pint of Hofbrau, remember where you read about this awesome festival!

Also see: Oktoberfest survival kit and the infamous 100 Club at Oktoberfest

Loads of companies offer Oktoberfest packages, many of which include return coach travel from London and camping just outside of Munich. Check out Top Deck, Contiki, Busabout, PP Travel and Stoke Travel.

There are only 6 official Oktoberfest breweries; the beer they produce especially for Oktoberfest is made extra strong and easy on the palate. Get to know them well:

  • Augustiner-Bräu
  • Lawenbrau
  • Hofbrau
  • Paulaner
  • Spaten
  • Hacker-Pschorr

If you’re not a huge beer drinker (besides ‘what the hell are you doing here?’) there IS a special wine tent as well as other tents offering cocktails and other beverages. Or if you fancy a chandy ask for a ‘radler’, but don’t tell your friends.

Some of the food you will be stuffing in your mouth will be:

  • Brezn: Pretzel
  • Steckerlfisch: Fish-on-a-stick
  • Hendl: chicken
  • Schweinebraten: roast pork
  • Warstl: sausages
  • Ochsenbraterei: roast ox
  • Sorry vegetarians. Did we mention there’s 6 kinds of beer?

The German language is fantastic, often summarising in one word what it takes a sentence to say in English. Here are a few Germanisms that may come in handy;

  • Bierleichen: people so drunk they’ve passed out; literally translates to ‘beer corpses’
  • Bierdimpfe: notorious beer drinker, “tavern potato”.
  • Eihebn: if you’re dizzy because of too much beer, you have to cling to something.
  • Fingahackln; Bavarian sport. Two men hook their middle fingers and try to pull the opponent over the table. Popular activity at the Oktoberfest.
  • Gaudinockerln: luxuriant breasts
  • Noagerlzuzla: person who drinks the last remainders from abandoned glasses, also used as a cuss.
  • Oabischwoam: to solve a fight through drinking, a much better alternative than letting the fist do the talking, at the Oktoberfest as well as elsewhere.
  • Pratzn: snide term for a (large) hand.

Beer and food guide sourced from www.oktoberfest.de/en

TOP IMAGE: Oktoberfest (By senator86 – CC BY 2.5, Link)

Jennifer Perkin

Jennifer Perkin

Travel Editor - Jennifer Perkin | Formerly Deputy Editor on In London Magazine, Jenny has travelled extensively around Europe, Asia, Africa and North America and recently worked as a tour guide in Central and South America. She still calls Australia home, although Wales does have its charms.