20 Essential Tips for Your First Oktoberfest

Essential Oktoberfest tips: 20 things you need to know before your first Oktoberfest

I was surprised by how much I loved Oktoberfest. I don’t know if it was the liters of golden lager or all of the handsome German men in lederhosen, but Oktoberfest was an absolute blast.

Being my first Oktoberfest, I did a few things right (see: buying a dirndl) and a few things wrong (making my hostel reservations in June). So I wanted to put together a guide of Oktoberfest tips on everything you should know before your first Oktoberfest, so you can get it right on your first try.

For those who don’t know, Oktoberfest is a beer festival and carnival held in Munich, Oktoberfest. It lasts for three weeks; from mid-September until early October.

Tips for having the best possible first Oktoberfest:

1. If possible, go during the week.

Essential Oktoberfest tips: 20 things you need to know before your first Oktoberfest

Like many festivals, Oktoberfest is much more crowded on the weekends. So if you can, go during the week — It will be less crowded and therefore much easier to get a table without a reservation. You want this!

2. Pick the right weekend.

If you can only attend Oktoberfest on the weekend, pick the right one; the three weekends of Oktoberfest differ somewhat.

The first is the opening, when there’s a parade through Munich and the mayor taps the first Oktoberfest beer barrel. The second is known as the ‘Italian weekend’, which apparently locals avoid because there are so many out-of-towners. The third is the finisher, and is said to be the rowdiest.

For reference, I went to the second weekend. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and yes, I did meet tons of Italians.

3. Book your accommodation months in advance.

This may be the most important of my Oktoberfest tips – BOOK EARLY! Accommodation for Oktoberfest is expensive and books up months in advance. I recommend booking your accommodation as early as February or March. I booked mine in June and ended up paying $100 per night for a hostel bunk – ouch.

Whatever you do, make sure you are near your accommodation is Theresienwiese, the grounds where Oktoberfest is held.


AIRBNB: If you’re going with a group, consider booking an Airbnb. If I could do it again, that’s what I would do! P.S. Here’s a $40 Airbnb coupon code if you’re new to Airbnb.

HOSTEL: If you’d rather stay in a hostel, I recommend Wombats City Hostel or Euro Youth Hostel. They’re both clean, centrally located, and highly rated.

HOTEL: If you have more wiggle room in your budget, consider staying in a hotel. See current rates for hotels in Munich here.

4. Get there early and be prepared to stay awhile.

Essential Oktoberfest tips: 20 things you need to know before your first Oktoberfest

Oktoberfest opens at 10 a.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. on weekends. I recommend showing up about 30 minutes before the fair opens to snag any unreserved tables. See more information on the opening times here.

Once you get into the fair, you can enter any tent without a table reservation, as long as it’s not already at capacity. But once you’re in, you might not be able to sit down if there are no open tables. You can only be served beer or food if you’re seated.

5. Spend two full days (at least) at the festival.

Originally, we planned on spending only one day at Oktoberfest. In the end, we spent two full days at the festival, and I’m so glad we did. Two days at Oktoberfest was perfect; it gave us enough time to explore the fairgrounds and visit different tents.

6. Research the tents.

Essential Oktoberfest tips: 20 things you need to know before your first Oktoberfest
The Hacker-Festzelt tent with its famous sky-blue ceiling

Oktoberfest has 14 main tents, and they all have different vibes, beers, and capacities. Did you know there’s a wine tent (Weinzelt), and a tent where they roast a giant ox (Ochsenbraterei)?

We visited many of the 14 tents. These were my two favorite tents:

  1. Hacker-Festzelt – a tent with a younger crowd and a beautiful ceiling painted like a blue and white sky. Get in early – this tent is super popular.
  2. The Hofbräu-Festzelt – rowdy and full of fellow tourists, but fun. Because this is one of the largest tents, with 10,000 seats, you’re pretty likely to find a table.

Here’s a guide to Oktoberfest’s tents.

7. Consider buying a SIM card.

There is no wifi in or around the tents, so consider buying a German SIM card before the festival. Here’s a guide on how to buy an inexpensive, prepaid SIM card in Germany.

8. Dress the part in a dirndl or lederhosen.

I 100% recommend wearing traditional Bavarian clothing for Oktoberfest. Almost everyone at Oktoberfest is dressed up, and honestly, dressing the part is half the fun. (Plus, there is no item of clothing more flattering than a dirndl.)

RELATED POST: My complete guide on what to wear to Oktoberfest.

9. Make some friends!

Essential Oktoberfest tips: 20 things you need to know before your first Oktoberfest

The tables at Oktoberfest are long and communal, so you’re bound to make some friends! We spoke to everyone from two Austrian brothers who taught us how to yodel to a rowdy group of Italian bachelors who kept dancing on the table and taking off their shirts.

Meeting people at Oktoberfest was one of the best parts of the festival, so don’t be shy and strike up a conversation with your table-mates.

10. Accessorize.

Essential Oktoberfest tips: 20 things you need to know before your first Oktoberfest

There’s nothing like a few Oktoberfest-themed accessories to complete your lewk. May I suggest a pretzel necklace or a flower crown?

It’s also fun to sport a new hairstyle at Oktoberfest. I wore a waterfall braid, which I loved the look of – see a YouTube tutorial here.

11. Wear comfortable shoes.

You may be walking a lot at Oktoberfest, so it’s crucial to wear comfortable footwear. I packed my Stan Smith Adidas shoes, which were both cute and easy to wear all day. Avoid open-toed shoes as there may be glass on the floor.

12. Bring a crossbody bag, as large bags aren’t allowed.

Bags and backpacks over three liters are not allowed inside the festival, so plan accordingly. Ladies — I recommend bringing a crossbody bag in order to quickly access essentials like cash and your phone.

13. Bring cash.

Another super important Oktoberfest tip – it’s 100% easier to pay in cash. So make sure to bring some euros – I’d suggest bringing around 80 euros in cash per day, just to be safe. Beers cost around 11 euros each, which will add up quickly.

14. Tip your server.

Don’t forget to tip your server – a good tip goes a long way in terms of service at Oktoberfest.

15. Try a Radler.

Need a break from beer? Order a Radler, which is half beer and half lemonade.

16. Sample some hearty German cuisine.

Tips for your first Munich Oktoberfest
A delicious Bavarian meal of roast chicken, potato dumplings, red cabbage, and sauerkraut

I personally love German food – it’s hearty and soul-warming. So make sure to order some traditional German food while at Oktoberfest – most of the tents offer food. At the very least, try a pretzel. (Southern Germany is famous for them.)

17. Pace yourself

Oktoberfest is a marathon, not a sprint – on both days, we arrived at 10 a.m. and didn’t leave until after nightfall. You’ll be there a while, so pace yourself accordingly.

18. Ride the rides

Oktoberfest is more than just drinking beer – it’s also a full-blown carnival.

Monday to Thursday, the rides start at 10 a.m. and go on until 11:30 pm. On weekends, the rides start at 9 a.m. and close at midnight.

19. Spend a day exploring Munich.

Essential Oktoberfest tips: 20 things you need to know before your first Oktoberfest

If you’ve never visited Munich, set aside some time to explore the beautiful city. Make time to see the Marienplatz (above), the city’s main square, and the New Town Hall, with its famous glockenspiel. If you’re not sick of beer, stop by the sprawling Chinesischer Turm Biergarten.

RELATED POST: 30+ Amazing Places to Visit in Munich: A Local’s Guide

20. Pack a hangover cure

Trust me – you’re going to need one.

Have you ever been to Oktoberfest in Munich? If not, is it something you’d like to do? If you have any of your own Oktoberfest tips, feel free to share below!

P.S. What to Wear to Oktoberfest: A Complete Packing Guide

Essential Oktoberfest tips: 20 things you need to know before your first Oktoberfest

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About Ashley Fleckenstein

Ashley is a travel and lifestyle blogger who lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Since college she has au paired in Paris, backpacked the world solo, and lived in Uganda. Her work has been featured by Buzzfeed, Forbes, TripAdvisor, and Glamour Magazine.

8 thoughts on “20 Essential Tips for Your First Oktoberfest”

  1. I’m Munich born and raised and I can confirm that your recommendations are 100% accurate.
    As for the “Italian weekend” that’s when half of Italy comes across the Alps to enjoy Oktoberfest. They even do the traffic announcements in Italian that weekend! All in all it’s a crowded weekend but as Italians know how to party and know how to be not obnoxious despite all the beer it is fun to party along with them.
    One thing I would like to add to your blog post: the beer tent crowd turns at 4 pm. That’s when the tables go those who reseved them in advance, usually companies treating their customers to a night out. For a quiet time get there in the morning, for party anytime before 4. But take it easy on the beer. German beer is a lot stronger than anything you get served in the States. In case of doubt go for alcohol free beer. Or switch after a (couple of) “Mass”. And as you said: Radler is great too!
    Also, but that’s more for the guys, peeing in public comes with heavy fines!

    • Hi Anja, thanks so much for your comment! It made my day to hear a local approves of my recommendations :). I didn’t know the beer tent crowd turns at 4 pm – thanks for the tip!

  2. Oktoberfest is so much fun! During my military career I got to live in Spain for 3 years and enjoyed traveling all over Europe during my off-time. I absolutely LOVED visiting Germany! I took my son on his 13th birthday and it just so happened that it was during Oktoberfest! Such an awesome experience for anyone who has the chance to go!

  3. I loved reading all of your advice, it sounds like we had very similar experiences although I didn’t meet any shirtless Italians on tables haha. Wearing a dirndl is definitley part of the fun! I used to live in Austria so naturally went to quite a few beer festivals and ended up with three of them!

    Jenny | Local Leo

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