Oktoberfest is the world’s largest beer festival and traveling funfair a “Volksfest.” It occurs annually in Munich, Bavaria. It is held from mid-September through the first Sunday in October for a total of sixteen days.
The festival has been held since 1810 and attracts more than six million people annually. It is the world’s largest celebration of Bavarian culture. The event is centered around the consumption of beer and traditional German food in beer tents. Millions of liters of beer are consumed at the event. In addition to beer drinking, there are fairground activities to participate in, including amusement rides.
The original festival was a part of the celebration of the Bavarian crown prince Ludwig’s wedding.
The single biggest misconception on the internet is that you need a ticket to attend Oktoberfest.
You do not need a ticket. Entry is free to all, and there is no such thing as a ticket.
You may want to consider a reservation within a tent so that you are guaranteed a seat at a table. However, it’s not required.
Beer Tent Reservations for Oktoberfest Germany
The real challenge starts here for those looking for a guaranteed seat at a table. The reservation process is cumbersome and confusing, to say the least.
Here are some key facts you need to know before we even get to how you reserve a table:
Any reservation is for inside the tent, not the beer gardens.
Reservations are typically for four-hour blocks.
You will need to reserve an entire table, which is 6-10 people, and it varies by the tent.
When you make a reservation, you pre-pay for at least two beers and food. It will cost you approximately 30 euros per person. So, unless you have a large group, you will need to split the reservation with others. It is possible, and I will explain.
Reservations can only be made directly through each tent.
You have to be on time for your Oktoberfest reservations. If you don’t arrive 15 minutes before the reservation, you may lose the table.
If you are a first-time attendee getting a table reservation is close to impossible. Preference is given to prior attendees, and the tent will validate your attendance ask for your prior year’s customer number.
The only tent that does not require a minimum consumption with a reservation is the Festzelt Tradition tent.
It is prohibited to buy a table reservation and re-sell it. This being said, tons of people do it and some companies specialize in this. I have friends who purchased theirs through a third party and had no issues at all. Just know that’s it’s frowned upon and you run the risk of being scammed!
If you are a first-time attendee, ask for a reservation throughout the week and the day. This will enhance your chances of getting a beer tent reservation.
To make a reservation read on, you have to reserve with each tent individually below:
Beer Tents of Oktoberfest Germany
There are 14 big and 21 small tents in Oktoberfest, Germany.
Entrance to the festival and all tents is always FREE.
Home of the crossbow competition since 1895, this is one of the most popular tents. This tent is also considered family-friendly, adding to the popularity. A tent many recognize from the bright green and white stripes that dress the roof. This tent is one of the most open to and even encouraging new customers. In past years they have offered weekend and evening reservations at the last minute.
This tent is already sold out for 2021!
However, keep checking as they make open reservations up.
To request a reservation: Fax the reservation form to +49 89 237 037 05.
One of the largest of all the tents – it seats 5,000 inside and another 2,800 in the beer garden. In a family-friendly tent, sprogs under twelve can pour their lemonade from a lemonade fountain in the beer garden. And, sprog size toilets are provided.
A trendy tent. This tent is famous for the blue sky and white clouds, often used in promotional photos. Weather permitting, the tent ceiling can be opened. This tent holds open seats that are available on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Approximately 1700 seats open daily Monday-Friday and 4000 open on the weekend.
There is a site dedicated to all things Oktoberfest. They can’t secure your reservation for you, but they can email you when reservations open up. Sign up for Beer Tent Alarm here.
When Can I Reserve a Table for Oktoberfest 2021?
As mentioned above, all reservations are managed by each tent. All of the tents release their table reservations at different times. Here is a summary of when each tent is expected to release reservations for 2021.
Augustiner-Festhalle – Expected only for regulars
Armbrustschützenzelt – Expected March
Bräurosl – Not expected before June
Fischer-Vroni – Expected May
Hacker-Festzelt – Expected May
Hofbräu-Festzelt – Expected March
Käfer Wiesn-Schänke – April 1st
Löwenbräu-Festzelt – March 6th
Marstall – January
Ochsenbraterei – Expected May
Paulaner-Festzelt – Expected April
Schottenhamel-Festhalle – October
Schützenfestzelt – September 1st
Weinzelt – Expected January
Alternatives To Enjoy Beer Tents if You Don’t Have A Reservation.
Don’t panic if you don’t score a table reservation! You have plenty of options to take advantage of all the fun!
Before we dive into ways to score a table without a reservation, here are some general tips that will increase your chances:
Stick to weekdays! All of the locals are off during the weekend. As you can imagine, Saturdays and Sundays are packed. Sunday, in particular, is a hectic day.
Go early! The earlier you arrive, the better your chances are. Lots of tables are reserved after 4 pm, so you can enjoy the seats until the reserved people arrive.
Walk up and enter!
Munich’s city requires beer tent owners to keep one-third of the seats in the central aisle “unreserved” during weekdays and all of them on weekends. We walked into many tents; however, we were restricted to standing areas as most if not all seats were taken. If your strategy is the walk-in, you might want to consider getting there really early to ensure a table.
Lastly, if you use the walk-in strategy, you can always ask people at tables if there is a spare seat or two. You may have to ask a few tables, but this has worked for many tourists.
Connect up with others that have purchased a table reservation and split it with them.
So long as you do this on an individual basis and not through a ticket scalper you will be fine.
Woo a local and ask them to get you in.
Many people at our hotel used this strategy and gained access to many beer gardens and tables in various tents.
Butter up and befriend a waitress.
If you are kind, most will assist you if there are seats available. And, if someone helps you, hook them up! Don’t be cheap and tip them generously.
Indulge in the Beer Gardens & Small Tents.
Sure the atmosphere might be smaller in scale, but it’s still the authentic experience.
Booking a Tour of The Beer Tents
If you are not comfortable trying to navigate the table reservation process, a good option is to book an Oktoberfest Germany tour:
What to Expect at Oktoberfest
Oktoberfest is probably the craziest event you’ll ever attend. Approximately seven million people visit every year. And, it’s estimated that 85% of attendees are Germans. People are falling all over by noon, there are hour-long lines for the restrooms, and it’s often cold and/or raining. Piles of barf litter the street, and the smell of urine are unforgettable. However, these are common trade off’s for any large festival.
People are ecstatic! If there wasn’t a big band playing traditional music in almost all tents, you might think you have arrived at a rave. People climb the tables to sing and dance along. It’s a once in a lifetime experience.
Oktoberfest Germany Hours
Day one starts at noon after the Lord Mayor of Munich taps the first keg.
Day one runs from 12:00pm to 10:30pm
Beer Tent Opening Hours
Monday through Friday: 10:00am to 10:30pm
Saturday, Sunday & Public Holidays: 09:00am to 10:30pm
Closing Hour: 11:30 pm – daily.
The “Käfer Wiesn-Schänke” and the “Weinzelt” are open until 1:00am. Last call is at 12:15am.
Food & Drink at Oktoberfest
If you had told me that I’d fall in love with German food a year ago, I would have said, “you are crazy.” The reality is it’s hard not to fall in love with the local dishes.
While each tent has its own dishes, the typical fare is Bavarian cuisine. Some typical examples are:
Hendl – roasted half chickens
Schweinshaxe – pork knuckles
A variety of oxen dishes
Bratwursts – sausages
Traditional sides like sauerkraut, red cabbage, potato dumplings, and potato salad
Bavarian soft pretzels
The choices are endless, and outside of Bavarian dishes, there’s plenty of other cuisines available.
Where to Stay During Oktoberfest
We stayed at the Holiday Inn Munich – Unterhaching, and we took the train to the festival, which is really easy to do. We loved this hotel! Most of the rooms have two stories, so you have a separate living space and an upstairs bedroom. We used points for the stay!
Hotels in Munich
What to Wear at Oktoberfest
Some people will tell you that only tourists wear traditional Bavarian outfits. This is not the case. There are more people decked out in dirndls and Lederhosen than there are people not dressed up.
Word of warning! There’s a lot of judgement about outfit choice. If you are going to dress up then you really need to consider the real deal and not a Halloween version.
I was able to buy out outfits for a reasonable amount, and they were decent. The perfect example of no-no is if the Lederhosen is not leather, you are buying junk.
Women traditionally wear a dirndl. A drindl is a colorful dress worn over a white blouse with a bright apron. You can buy dirndl’s from various retailers online, or you can hit your local German store.
How to Tie the Apron:
If you tie it on the left side, it means you’re single.
If you tie it on the right side, it means you’re taken.
If you tie it at the front, it means you are a virgin.
Make sure your dirndl isn’t too short; it should be knee-length in the shortest!
Men traditionally wear Lederhosen, which is essentially leather breeches. Lederhosen’s can be shorts or knee-length and are attached to suspenders that connect across the chest. Lederhosen are worn over a plaid shirt and accompanied by long socks and loafers.
There are many authentic Lederhosen’s online, and many come with the loafers!
While you can rent a dirndl or kederhosen for Oktoberfest, I DO NOT recommend it. Oktoberfest Germany is packed and messy! Even if you don’t drink, don’t barf, or wet yourself (yes, that happens here), you will likely get dirty. If you rent and anything happens to the outfits you rent, you’ll end up owning them, which in the long run is way more expensive than simply buying your own outfits.
Yes! It’s not technically required, but it’s customary. And, if you are planning more than one drink in a tent, it’s a must, or you will be waiting a long time for your second beer.
How Much Should you tip?
One euro per liter is a good starting point, so have any change on hand. Or, round up to the next euro.
Having change is a must. The servers may or may not have change on hand to give you.
Note: Beers start at 11 euro’s. If you do not have change you might end up paying 20 euros for one beer.
I never set out to attend Oktoberfest Germany, and it was on Brian’s bucket list. I’m not a beer drinker, I am not a fan of lines and queues, and while I’m not claustrophobic, I am not a fan of large crowds. Regardless, I am glad that we did it. It was a crazy experience that leads to many other wonderful experiences in Germany that I would not trade for anything.
I firmly believe that everyone should experience Oktoberfest Germany at least once in their life and for some once will not be enough!
Looking for more posts on things to do while in Munich, start here:
Nikki Webster is a travel writer who covers how to travel while grinding a day job, how to travel without breaking the bank, hotels, cruising, and off-the-beaten-track experiences. She is particularly fond of Florida and writes extensively about the state. She flies around 60,000 miles per year and has visited 54 countries, 50 states, and six continents. You can read all about her travels at www.britonthemove.com.