Last year, millions of visitors trekked to Munich to partake in Oktoberfest. During the 17-day festival period, these partygoers ate 109 oxen and drank more than 6 million litres of beer. As the largest folk festival in the world, Oktoberfest offers something for everyone. To help you navigate the extensive options, we’ve mapped out the activities you can’t miss, as well as the tourist traps to avoid.
- Drink out of a Maß: The Maß is a quintessential part of the festival and is the only vehicle through which you should consume beer during Oktoberfest. When downing the 1-litre mug of beer, though, be sure to order a crispy, roasted chicken or, as the Bavarians say, a “hendl,” to line your stomach before you drink your beer. Don’t be alarmed when you aren’t provided any silverware — it’s conventional to eat the meal with your hands and then use the wipes that come with it to clean your fingers after.
- Display your affection: “I mog di” (I like you), “Prinzessin” (Princess) or “Du bist mein Schatz” (You are my sweetheart) are common messages that you will see written in icing on gingerbread hearts sold throughout the festival. Rather than eating the cookies, festivalgoers wear the decorated hearts around their necks. Bestowing one on your significant other will most definitely make them happy.
- Show your status: Women: The way you tie your dirndl apron says more about you than you think. A bow tied to the right signals that you’re taken. A bow tied to the left means you’re single. Tying the bow behind your back signifies that you’re a widow.
- Revel in the old: “Oide Wiesn,” or “Old Oktoberfest,” can be experienced for €3 ($4.50) in the southern end of the festival grounds. Time has stood ostensibly still in this area — you’ll find old-style beer, old-fashioned carousels, a flea circus, a marionette theatre and more remnants of the past.
- Take public transportation: Ride the U-Bahn Schwanthalerhöhe (U4/U5) or get off at Goetheplatz (U3/U6) and walk the last few metres to the festival. The Theresienwiese may get you directly to the festival grounds, but it is often so packed that you’ll be much happier walking a bit after taking one of the recommended, less-crowded rides.
- Attend the festival at peak times: Each weekend brings a deluge of people flooding into the festival to partake in the party, leaving the tents completely full and places to stay the night unreasonably expensive. It’s better to visit the festival Monday-Friday or to check the Oktoberfest barometer to find out which days and times are best to attend.
- Dance on the tables: By all means, dance on the benches of the tables, but whatever you do, do not put both feet on the table. While this step up can be tempting, this small change in altitude can lead to you getting kicked out of the tent and ruin the rest of your Oktoberfest experience.
- Don inauthentic dirndls: Sure you can find costume-y dirndls from the tourist shops in and around the main train station, but if you’re going to make Oktoberfest an annual affair, invest in a traditional dirndl. Real dirndls are at least calf-length, are sometimes even high-necked and are usually in muted colors. Men should avoid the pointy gray felt hats — in Bavaria, men wear a flat, traditional hat with a “Gamsbart” made of chamois hair.
- Be fooled by the green paradise: While aesthetically appealing, the green fields colloquially called “Kotzhügel” play host to a slew of overserved festivalgoers during Oktoberfest. In this area behind the main Oktoberfest areas, there will be at least a few visitors who have relieved themselves, slept off their intoxication or both. As such, beware the greenery both day and night.
- Drink on an empty stomach: Though we recommend drinking the beer, there are a few things you should know. For starters, the beer brewed for Oktoberfest is stronger than most beer, with an average of 6% alcohol. Additionally it is not very carbonated, so it is easier to drink more quickly and in larger quantities. In order to ward off the consequences that usually accompany overdrinking, have at least one pretzel per beer.