Tips and Tricks for Surviving Oktoberfest in Munich
History of Oktoberfest
You can thank Prince Ludwig for the annual party that hosts more than 6 million visitors a year. It all started when Crown Prince Ludwig, later to become King Ludwig I, was married to Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen on 12th October 1810. The citizens of Munich were invited to attend the festivities held on the fields in front of the city gates to celebrate the happy royal event. The fields have been named Theresienwiese (“Theresa’s fields”) in honor of the Crown Princess ever since, although the locals have since abbreviated the name simply to the “Wies’n”. (http://www.muenchen.de/int/en/events/oktoberfest/history.html)
Afternoon vs. Evening Session
If you have “Ein Prosit” or “Sweet Caroline” running through your head for a few days, that means you attended the afternoon session (Ein Prosit) or the evening session (Sweet Caroline) at Oktoberfest. If you have both running through your head, you probably had too much to drink at Oktoberfest. BTW, the bands don’t play “Ein Prosit” because they like it; they are required to play it every 15-20 minutes to increase the drinking of beer and, hence, the sale of beer. It works!
What is the difference between afternoon session and evening session ?
You could say night and day. ? The afternoon session is what you would expect – calmer, quieter, and plenty of German music. The afternoon session starts at 11:30 a.m. and last until 4:45 p.m. During the afternoon session, it is easier to find a table, especially if you have a large group and no reservation (I will talk about table reservations later). You will see people of all ages in the tent from school children to senior citizens. If you worried that the afternoon session will be like watching paint dry, don’t worry. By 2 PM or so, most people are feeling no pain and singing to the songs regardless whether they know the words or not. We saw one guy toss his lunch at 2 p.m. inside the Lowenbrau tent … sweet!
The evening session is a complete flip from the afternoon. The session starts at 5:00 and last until 10:30 p.m. The tents close at 10:30 p.m. You will hear very few traditional German songs sang during the evening session. You will hear “Ein Prosit” once in a while, but no need to play it, everyone is drinking!!!
Evening sessions can be very difficult to even get into the tent and these tents seat 6,000 – 10,000 people in EACH tent. There are 14 tents in total. They will “close” a tent when it hits capacity. As people leave, others can enter. Trying to find seating for a large group (i.e. >5) is tough. Did I tell that you need a seat to drink a beer? Yep, no seat, no beer. No self-service either.
Tip: Get to the evening session early (e.g. 5) or late (9:00). If the main floor is packed, go upstairs and look for a table. If the weather is good, head outside to the tent’s beer garden. They seat another 3,000 – 5,000 people outside at each tent. Note: the evening sessions are VERY loud!
Do I need to pay to go to Oktoberfest or to get into a tent?
No, admission is free for both.
Are there just beer tents on the Oktoberfest grounds?
No, Oktoberfest grounds look like a State Fair. There are food vendors, games of chances, haunted houses and several rides that we termed “vomit inducing rides”. Think spinning around and upside down at high rates of speed.
Can I only get beer at Oktoberfest?
It depends. In a beer tent, only beer is served. There are 2 wine tents located at Oktoberfest where you can get wine and beer. Besides beer or wine, you can get food. Food varies by the tent.
Is there only one size of beer? What kind of beer can I get?
The beer is only served in a one liter mug. There’s only one kind of beer per tent, a fest beer. Each tent has their own beer.
Can I eat at the tents?
Yes, there are full menus at each tent. You better bone up on your German or have someone in your group who knows German. We never saw an English menu.
What’s about reservations?
Reservations are very hard to get, afternoon or evening session, especially if you are in a large group like us (30 people). Reservations are handled differently by each tent. Requests are submitted via letter, e-mail, etc. The tent(s) will let you know if you got a reservation sometime around May; again, this varies. Check individual tents for specific information. A reservation gets you an assigned table for a specific time and day. When you walk into the tent, you find the row number on your reservation, walk up the row and look for the name of your group at the end of the table.
Tip: Reservations are made by the table size, most common is a table of 8 or 10. You MUST book an entire table.
Does a reservation cost anything?
No. But, you are required to buy a voucher for each person that includes 2 – 1-liters of beer and a chicken.
Tip: If you speak enough German, we understand you can change out the chicken. We don’t, so chicken it was!