Munich is known around the world for its huge and unique beer fest: The Oktoberfest, or Wiesn (meadow) as the locals like to call it. Every year millions of visitors flock to the south of Germany to try the best beer in the world, wear traditional clothing and party until dawn.
As insiders (Globe Business College Munich is located at the Hackerbrücke, in walking distance to the festival) we would love to share our insights with you, reveal tips for first time visitors, and tell you why the Munich Oktoberfest should be on your bucket list:
The Wiesn is becoming more international every year: Only 72% of the visitors are locals from Bavaria. Did you know that about 20% of all Oktoberfest visitors come from abroad?
Americans in particular love the beer festival – 14% of the foreign visitors in 2014 came from the United States of America. Oktoberfest is also popular amongst Australians, Kiwis and of course amongst the Irish. There is even one weekend dedicated to the Aussies! The mates from down under love the party so much that they are prepared to sit in a plane and fly halfway across the world to join us! The second weekend is famous for Italian visitors, since Italy is a bit closer to home, at only a 3-hour drive away.
In 2016, there were 5.6 million festival visitors, who drank about 6 million litres of beer, ate 109 oxen and 58 calves at the Munich Oktoberfest.
The first Munich Oktoberfest took place more than 200 years ago. It was held in 1810 in honour of the wedding of Princess Therese of Sachsen and King Ludwig of Bavaria and was supposed to be a horse race. The meadow where it all took place was named Theresienwiese after the bride. This is why the grounds of the Oktoberfest is referred to as the Wiesn nowadays.
The people of Bavaria liked the festival so much, that the King and Queen decided to repeat the party in the following years. It extended to a funfair with more and more fair attractions every year. In 1819 the city of Munich took over the festival and decorated the venue with the landmark that still exists today – the 18m high statue of Bavaria.
In the beginning you could only get food and beverages outside of the festival area. As the local breweries and butchers saw an opportunity to sell their goods, they negotiated a deal with the city and the royal house. From 1820 onwards they were allowed to build booths to sell their beer and snacks. As the demand grew, the first beer halls were built and musicians were hired too.
Since the Munich folks loved their festival so much, at the end of the 19th century it was extended to be held for two entire weeks. The local economy was prospering from the good atmosphere and the willingness to spend money on beer, chicken and pork, and more and more people from nearby towns and villages began to join the festivities as well.
The original wedding horse race took place in October, but as the German weather tends to be nicer and sunnier at the end of September the city decided to bring the event forward.
The Munich Oktoberfest has only been cancelled 24 times since 1810, due to wars, epidemics and the great inflation in the 1920s. In 1950 the Munich Oktoberfest became as big as it is nowadays, with 14 tents and a huge funfair. Six main tents are owned by the local breweries of Munich (Augustiner, Hacker Pschorr, Spaten, Löwenbräu, Hofbräu and Paulaner). 8450 people fit in the biggest tent, the Winzerer Fähndl.
A tragic moment in the history of the Munich Oktoberfest was the right wing extremist terror attack on 26th of September 1989. 13 people were killed by an exploding bomb at the main entrance. Flowers and roses are still put down today to remember the sad day.
The Munich Oktoberfest is great fun, but of course there is a big business behind the scenes – the breweries, waiters and even the rose vendors make a fortune in only three weeks. The prices for beer, food and fair attractions rise every year and not surprisingly there are also a lot of tourist traps, too.
Globe College is a Munich business school, based in walking distance of the Oktoberfest venue, Theresienwiese. We organise a college trip to the Oktoberfest every year, where students, alumni and staff get to enjoy what the Wiesn has to offer. We have gained some valuable experiences over the years and would like to share this with you.
With these clever tricks and insider tips, you’ll get the most out of your Munich Oktoberfest experience – celebrating the local way:
The clothing might look funny to you, however is it the traditional dress that represent the Bavarian culture. The locals are very particular about their Dirndl and Lederhosn and wear them proudly to all sorts of occasions, such as weddings, beergarden outings or any kind of local beer fest. If you show up in regular clothes or in cheap dresses and leather pants bought from a costume shop next to the central station, people will recognize immediately that you are a tourist and unfortunately treat you like one.
The traditional Dirndl comes with a lot of extras. The ladies do not only have to get the dress, but also a blouse and a bra that goes with it, an apron and the appropriate shoes. Since the weather tends to be colder at the end of September, we recommend a Jankerl, a traditional cotton jacket, too.
The Bavarian gentleman needs only the leather pants and a shirt, but since the deer leather is very pricy, the male outfit is even more expensive. On top of that, he should wear wool socks, Haferl shoes and if he wants to be fancy, a velvet waistcoat too. Count on 300-400 EUR for the standard Tracht.
That’s quite a lot for a first time or one time visitor, and you haven’t even tasted the beer or eaten anything yet! This is why the clever Munich Oktoberfest community came up with a great service: The Bavarian outfit rental. You can rent a full outfit including shirt and pants for men or shirt, apron and dress for women for less than 50 EUR a day. Check out websites like www.bavarian-outfitters.de or https://www.lederhosenverleih.de
You won’t believe it, but locals from Munich reserve their table for the Munich Oktoberfest two years in advance. Of course, there are tables you don’t need to reserve, but you have to be an early bird to get one of these, especially in a large group and at the weekend.
Earlybirds will be rewarded at the Oktoberfest. If you get up about 6:00am and wait in line in front of the beer tents, you will get lucky. Especially on the weekend, we recommend to be there around 8:00 am. If you come later, you can still get in but may have to wait in line for hours.
The early breakfast shift starts at 9:00/10:00 am until 12:30pm. You have your table until 12:00pm, then the midday shifts starts until 5:00pm. The most popular shift, the late shift, starts at 5:00pm until 10:30pm. Don’t even think about staying longer, the very strict and efficient waiters and waitresses will make sure that you leave punctually.
Parking slots are rare around the Theresienwiese, where the Oktoberfest takes place. Locals and tourists prefer public transportation. You’ll save time and money too: just take the green metro line (U4) or brown metro line (U5) and exit at Theresienwiese.
Trains run frequently and plenty of safety guards make sure that everything runs efficiently.
If you want to take a cab, we recommend taking advantage of the Rickshaw taxi (bikes) instead. They are much more likely to be available and cheaper if you agree on the price in advance.
Make new friends and join tables: If there is space left, it’s no problem to ask if you and your group can join.
Cheers before you drink: Don’t be rude and drink on your own.
Watch the ladies’ apron bow: If it’s tied on the right side, the woman is married or in a relationship. The bow on the left side symbolises she is a single and looking for a flirt. The bow in the middle means she is supposed to be a virgin or indecisive. The bow at the back is a widow or a waitress.
Wear the Lederhosen and Dirndl: Everyone is guaranteed to look awesome with the flattering, traditional dress. Just try it!
Hotel room prices are incredibly expensive in the two weeks of the Oktoberfest, especially if you book at the last minute. Take advantage of alternative cheaper and more convenient offers such as Air B’n’B. Some locals also rent out their rooms, flats or whole houses. They’ll not only accommodate you, but also give you useful insider advice. There are even camping areas and many hostels where you can spend the night.
The 184th Oktoberfest starts on 16th September 2017 at 12.00pm when the mayor officially opens the festival and the first beer barrel. Visitors can taste Munich’s finest and specially brewed Oktoberfest beers for two weeks and three weekends. The last day of the fest is on 3rd October 2017, the German Unity Day, a public holiday.
The first day of the festivities starts at 12:00pm, other than that the beer tents open their doors at 10:00am from Monday to Friday and at 9:00am at the weekend.
If you don’t have a table reserved we recommend showing up around 9:30am during the week and around 8:00am at the weekend.
The doors close at 11:30pm sharp – the last beers are served at 10:30 pm, but there are plenty of after-party opportunities across the city.
We recommend not staying until the last minute if you need a cab, a rickshaw or any other ride.
Only the fancy Käfer delicatessen tent and the wine tent open until 1:00 am, the last beverages are served at 12:30 am.
Food, coffee and snacks can be purchased until 11:00 pm.
The fair opens between 12:00pm – 12:00am on the first day of the Wiesn. Between Sunday and Thursday the roller coasters open from 10:00am until 11:30pm, and on Friday and Saturday until 12:00am.
Please don’t bring prams and small children on crowded days, especially to the tents.
The official family days are on Tuesdays until 7:00pm, you’ll get discounts for almost every fun ride.