Oktoberfest entrance

We finally made it to the official Munich Oktoberfest! With a motley crew of old and new friends all dressed up to get down, we were wished well by an older Bavarian gentleman gardening in a felt hat on our way to the train station the morning of our visit.

Here are a few things that might surprise you about Oktoberfest:

Rides and stands

  1. It’s family-friendlier than you would expect

While the highlight of the fest takes place in the more than a dozen big brewery tents, the festival is actually laid out as a carnival with rides, games, food stands and souvenir booths. We visited the Schottenhamel tent on a Thursday afternoon, and the lunch crowd was pretty tame – pleasant chatting, pretzel eating and beer drinking to the sounds of a traditional Bavarian brass “oompah” band.

Löwenbräu tent

  1. You don’t need to make reservations

To enter the Wiesen area, as the fest grounds are called, you just need to pass through a bag check under the main archway. From there, as mentioned, there’s a lot to see and do outside of the tents. There are even areas of tables in the tents that are for anyone without a reservation. If you get there early, particularly on a weekday, it shouldn’t be difficult to snag one of these tables. With a little patience, even our group of nine was able to find a non-reserved table outside and eventually inside the Lӧwenbrӓu tent in the late afternoon/early evening. And once we were in, the waiters were serious about helping us make sure no one else tried to take over our table.


Schottenhammel tent

  1. But if you want to reserve a table, do it months in advance

When I reserved our lunch table in April, all of the evening slots were already booked! The advantage to having a reservation is that you’re guaranteed a place to sit and get service, plus enjoy live music. Again, not necessary to do in advance but nice and also very easy. I booked the table online and we prepaid less than 24€ a person for the minimum amount of food and drink (tickets for a roasted half-chicken and a big Maβ of beer). This way you guarantee the brewery tent some business (you can even prepay for more food and drink tickets if you want to bring less cash), plus you can stay at the table for several hours and order anything else you want.


  1. It’s normal to dress up, but be careful about tying those apron strings

As our train got closer to the fest, more and more Bavarians and tourists alike boarded wearing Lederhosen and Dirndls. By the time we reached our stop, we were able to follow the multi-generational sea of Tracht (traditional clothes) straight to the Wiesen. Important for ladies to note is where to tie the apron strings that go with the Dirndl. A bow on the right indicates that you’re married, left means single, and back is for widows. The Tracht (particularly the Lederhosen) is expensive, so some of our friends just got the checkered shirt and a hat to blend in with the crowd.

Schottenhammel tent


  1. You’ll have at least one song memorized early on

Yes, even if you don’t know any German, you’ll be very familiar with this song in a short time because its chorus is played after every few songs. Of course, this goes along with everyone in the tent raising their glasses and toasting each other:

Ein Prosit, ein Prosit der Gemütlichkeit!
Ein Prosit, ein Prosit der Gemütlichkeit!
Eins, zwo, drei, g’suffa!

(My very rough translation: “Cheers, cheers to feeling good! / One, two, three, drink up!”)

Next stop for us in Tracht: Cannstatter Volksfest, the Oktoberfest of Stuttgart, in about a week. Prost!


2 thoughts on “5 Surprising Facts about Oktoberfest

  1. What fun! And nice to be with a group of new and old friends! And still more to go?!
    Was there dancing too?

    Carry on! I enjoy reading your travelogs!

    1. Danke! Yes, there was a lot of dancing too!

      And yes, a lot of cities and towns have their own version of Oktoberfest, even outside of Bavaria. (We have to get our money’s worth out of those outfits!) We told a guy in Munich we had been to the Stuttgart fest before and he said “Oh, that’s not very important.” Munich takes pride in having the original Oktoberfest.

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