How to Oktoberfest Like You Know What You’re Doing:
A First Timer’s Guide to Oktoberfest & Opening Ceremony
THIS OKTOBERFEST TRAVEL GUIDE COVERS:
History of Oktoberfest
Where to Stay
Opening Day Ceremonies
Best Oktoberfest Tents
Oktoberfest Attire for Men and Women
Etiquette & Tips
History of Oktoberfest
So how did the largest beer festival in the world, bringing over 6 million people to Munich annually, get it’s start? Let’s take it back to the year 1810.
Bavaria’s Crown Prince, soon to be King Ludwig I, was due to marry Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. Munich’s citizens were invited to celebrate in a grand royal ceremony topped off with horse races, music and dancing.
Held on the expansive meadow in front of the city gates on October 17th, the first Oktoberfest gathering commenced. To later honor the new Queen, the meadows where Oktoberfest is still held today was thereafter named Theresienwiese. Today, locals simply call it “Wies’n.”
To celebrate the anniversary of the couple, another public gathering was held at Theresienwiese the following year. The festivities continued year after year and by 1896, beer stands were replaced by tents, horse races were replaced by fairgrounds and the Oktoberfest we know today began to take shape.
TIP #1: The dates for Oktoberfest change every year.
Don’t be like me, make sure you’re looking at the current years dates. And no, Oktoberfest does not start in October. To make the festivities more comfortable for attendees, the gathering was moved to September’s milder temperatures.
TIP #2: Where to Stay for OktoberfestThanks to some travel friends I had met in Prague a couple weeks prior who took me under their wing (and their Airbnb), my Oktoberfest extravaganza was saved. Note, prices for accommodations skyrocket during Oktoberfest. The hostel dorm that normally costs €20, now it’s up to €80. The key here is to book as early as possible. If you’re going with a group, your best bet is an Airbnb.
The folks responsible for saving Oktoberfest after my date mixup ↓
TIP #3: The Metro Runs Differently on Opening DayIt was 7 in the morning, coffee consumption was to a minimum, when all of a sudden the train came to a complete stop. In between literal cement. Best part? The only soul around was a drunk German man who didn’t speak a lick of English. I attempted to communicate with him asking why the train stopped. All he could say was, “Train” and “Stop.” Helpful dude, helpful. I thought, this is fine. Everything is fine. The train had to start back up again… right? 10 minutes in, nothing. 15 minutes in, drunk German man starts singing. Still no train movement. 20 minutes in, frantically turning my phone on and off to get some sort of signal. 35 minutes in, and I see the conductor walking through the train. Hallelujah! Ignorantly I believed, oh good! Maybe the conductor can let me know what the hell is going on, I bet he speaks English. L.O.L.
TIP #4: Don’t Piss Off the Grouchy German Train ConductorInstead, the conductor rushed into our cabin and began yelling in German (a lethal combo), while I sat there like the dumb tourist I was. As hard as I tried to maintain my composure, the stress tears unleashed from their holding pin in a giant, muddled swoosh down my cheeks. So there I was, dressed in my Oktoberfest garb, sitting on a train between cement while the last text my friends received from me was, “I don’t know what’s happening, the train stopped. All I see is cement and the only person here is a drunk German man who doesn’t speak English.” Settling. I’ve never been so relieved in my life until I heard that train start its engine about 45 minutes later. That is until it pulled into a completely empty train station save for the 3 German police officers waiting for me. I should mention now, I forgot to buy a train a ticket. I thought I was done for it. I broke the rules in Germany. They’re going to lock me up in an Oktoberfest prison. I quickly wiped away any remaining tears and braced myself for the worst. Leading the pack was a very stout, blonde lady cop, “Wohin willst du gehen?” Word vomit spewed from my mouth, “I’m so sorry I only speak English. Do you speak English? I thought this train was going to the next stop, I’m trying to meet my friends at their Airbnb and I don’t know what to do, the conductor yelled at me, I’m so sorry, please take pity on this dumb American. Help. S.O.S.” So much for maintaining any semblance of composure.¯\\_(ツ)_/¯
TIP #5: German Cops Are Friends, Not Foe’sThis is when the lady cop explained in perfect English that the trains run on different schedules for the opening ceremony of Oktoberfest. Then detailed which way I needed to go and stood with me at the metro station to ensure I got on the correct train. I wish I could have sent that policewoman a giant fruit basket. Or a keg of beer.
THE DAY IT ALL BEGINS: OKTOBERFEST OPENING DAY & CEREMONIES
- While most will say to be inside a tent by 8am, we arrived around 9:30am and were able to find room at a table. Mind you though, there were only 3 of us and we grabbed some of the last open spaces in the entire tent.
- You’ll be waiting around for a long time before that first sip of beer. Alcohol cannot be served until the mayor taps the first keg at noon.
- But this doesn’t mean you can just sit at a table and chill. If you’re sitting down at a table you must order something per Oktoberfest etiquette.
- Order a traditional opening ceremony drink before noon, a mixture of a Coke like soda with a hint of lemon juice. It’s to “prevent a hangover.”
- Or if you’re hungry, which you should be after waking up absurdly early, order some food off the menu to give your belly a good foundation before the drinking commences.
- However, be forewarned, if you order the white sausage please know how to eat it properly.