A Beginner’s Guide to Oktoberfest

by Emma Hackwood
5 people in Germany with beer mugs

With the worlds biggest beer festival quickly approaching, we can’t help but raise a glass in celebration. With the friendly tips from our travel community across Canada, we’ve put together a beginners guide to help you make the most of your Oktoberfest experience in Munich:

Some History

Munich’s Oktoberfest originated in 1810 as a horse race to celebrate the royal wedding of King Ludwig to a princess named Therese; but it seems everyone enjoyed the drinking part a lot more that they decided to do it all again the following year. While the horse race is now part of history, the celebration of beer certainly isn’t. Oktoberfest is officially the world’s biggest party, drawing about 7 million visitors a year to southern Germany. The fun takes place on Munich’s fairgrounds, called the Wiesn, south-west of the city’s main train station. There are now some 14 beer tents with all the major local breweries represented, as well as 21 smaller tents that also serve schnapps and wine. In 2011 they served over 7.5 million litres of beer to 6.9 million visitors over the 17 days of the festival!

“I expected white tents with drunken fools, fights and overall debauchery. However, it was none of the sort. Oktoberfest is about the appreciation of beer and German culture, not about getting drunk. Although, the end result is the same (at 1L steins per glass). Individuals wear their lederhosen with pride, not for the tourists. The opening grounds are actually a theme park and then 10+ magnificent and elaborate wooden structures that are overcrowded with live German bands, friendly people, young and old (even children) celebrating good health and unity”.  -Travel with Me Hillary


When to Go

Oktoberfest 2014 starts on September 20th and finishes on October 5th. There is often a mad rush to find a seat before the beer starts flowing at 10 AM so get there early! Be sure to check out the traditional costume parade on the second day which is a must-see, but if  massive crowds aren’t your thing, weekdays are a bit quieter than weekends (especially around lunchtime).  It should be noted though, that there will ALWAYS be crowds of people at this festival so kick back and enjoy the experience.


Which Tent?

Most of the drinking is done in the 14 big beer tents (big wooden halls). You can reserve tables through oktoberfest.de, but most sell out months in advance. If you don’t book a table, you’ll still be able to claim a first-come, first-serve table outside the tents (which have a total sitting capacity of over 98,000).

The festivities officially start in the Schottenhamel tent and often reach their rowdiest in the Hacker (Haven of Bavaria). The bright red Hippodrom tent near the main entrance can’t be missed: It’s the place to see and be seen among Munich’s hipper, younger, set.

“The Hofbräu beerhall is known as the Aussie tent, and has to be done!” –@jouljet

The Hofbru tent is famed for pulling far more tourists than locals; the Augustiner might be the best for Bavarian authenticity; and the Lowenbrau becomes a good option when everywhere else is full.


What to Wear

Practically anything goes, but for an extra layer of fun, consider kitting out like a local. For guys, a pair of Lederhosen leather shorts start from 120 euros. For gals, a traditional Dirndl dress costs about 100 euros.

Tip: When worn correctly, Dirndls also reveal the wearer’s availability. Look just above the apron: If there’s a bow on the right, she’s taken. A bow on the left means she’s still to be had.


What to Drink

Beer!? The amber fluid is served exclusively in one litre glass mugs, called Ma (mass) that cost about 8 euros. The beer is slowly brewed through the summer and packs a six-percent alcoholic punch. For a change, try the beery-lemonade mixture called Radler, or head out to the wine tent. Four of the six breweries have their own major tent at Oktoberfest, while the others are heavily represented everywhere else.

“Be nice to your beer frau. Tip her and love her and she will bring you more beer. On that note, always carry cash!” –@Lindsontheroad

What to Eat

Quite frankly, food is everywhere. Popular picks are roast chicken (Hendl), pork knuckes (Schweinshaxe), and giant pretzels. Only at Oktoberfest will you find a special tent for sausages. It’s called Zur Bratwurst meaning “To The Grilled Sausage,”  and they do pork, veal, and ox-meat sausages (for the daring).

Oktoberfest food


Best Tour Companies at Oktoberfest:

Since a big part of Oktoberfest involves drinking, it’s always important to make sure you’ve got a companion or group of friends who will look out for you. This is another great reason why going with a tour company is a wise decision since you can depend on a local guide to help you navigate your way around and keep an eye out for you when you may have had one too many jugs of beer:

Topdeck Travel

Topdeck specializes in trips for 18-30 somethings and offers a range of Oktoberfest tours from 4-7 days which have been running for over thirty years. You can even take part in a camping trip where you stay in two-person style dome tents close to the Oktoberfest grounds. Why do we love these guys? Every day their Topdeck cooks will provide a fully cooked hot and cold breakfast which is just the thing to prepare your body for a day in the beer halls.



Contiki offers two tours (5 or 7 days) both starting in London and includes a guided walking tour of Munich,  seeing Marienplatz, the Glockenspiel, the Rathaus, Munich Residenz, Frauenkirche & Viktualienmarkt. If you’re looking to see more of Europe while you’re there, check out their 14 day Europe and Oktoberfest tour.

G Adventures:

This tour is not only about beer—it’s also about sampling Munich’s cuisine and culture. Your CEO guide will take the hassle out of organizing so that you’re free to enjoy the party. Experience the lederhosen, the music and the friendliness of Bavaria—Ein Prosit! This tour includes 4 nights hotel, a Munich walking tour, a tour of a local brewery, entry to Oktoberfest and a Bavarian dinner.


Flight Recommendations

The best way to get to Munich is by flying directly into the city’s airport. One of our travel consultants can help you find the best flight deals to Munich. For those who would like to save on costs, there is the option to fly into Friedrichshafen or Salzburg airports and then get a direct train to Munich which will take about 2½ to 4 hours.  Alternatively, Memmingen airport has public transport links to get you to Munich to enjoy the festival. Just remember as the festival date gets closer, flight prices often increase so book sooner than later!


Have any other great Oktoberfest tips? Share them with us in the comments below!

Ready to take on Oktoberfest for yourself? Contact one of our travel consultants for more info on flights, accommodations, tours and more by visiting your closest store or calling 1-877-967-5302