Oktoberfest: Facts and Tips
Everything You Need To Know
Be a part of the Oktoberfest in Munich this year when the world's largest folk festival celebrates its 203rd birthday! You're welcome to come with us on tour or use the information below to do it yourself. (That said, you'll be hard-pressed to do it cheaper than what we offer in our guided Oktoberfest tours.)
Oktoberfest 2013: September 21 (Sat) thru October 6 (Sun)
Below we've penned 18 interesting and need-to-know facts for the fairgrounds and beer tents.
(1) There is no cost to enter a beer tent or the festival grounds.
(2) In 2012, the price for a liter of beer (called a Maß, pronounced like ‘moss’) cost between 9.10€ and 9.50€, depending on the tent. To simplify, pay the waiter/waitress 10€ per beer and this will account for the tip.
(3) Besides beer, sodas and mineral water are available in every tent, as well as alcohol-free beer (in liter mugs for the same price as normal beer).
(4) Beer is served from 10:00 Mon-Fri (from 9:00 Sat/Sun) until last call around 22:30; tents begin closing at 23:00 but “Käfer’s Wies’n Schänke” (No. 12 on our beer-tent list) stays open until 01:00, last call 00:15!
(5) In all tents you have to be seated to order a beer, with the exception of the standing zone in the Hofbräu tent (No. 5 on our beer-tent list). And you must order your beer from the server responsible for the section you’re in.
(6) Tents are usually packed Friday nights, all day Saturday, and Sunday till around 19:00. If there is a line to get in, try the side and back entrances. When the tent is utterly “overflowing with people” you’ll see a sign propped on or near the closed doors with the words: Wegen Überfüllung geschlossen! (In which case, try your luck at another tent or come back later.) Week days are typically no problem to get a seat in a tent and week nights are reasonably busy (with the exception of the last Thursday night of the fest when it is chock-a-block). The larger the group you are, the more difficult it will be to find a seat. Small groups of 2-3 persons are manageable; larger groups should be prepared to split up or join our Oktoberfest tour-package.
(7) The drinking age in Germany is 18 for hard alcohol and 16 for beer, therefore you may see some juvenile faces in the mix.
(8) In the center of every tent is a stage for live bands to play sets from noon until closing with few breaks.
(9) All tents have a large kitchen and multiple chefs who prepare delectable Bavarian cuisine for lunch and dinner, e.g. cold cuts, sausages, soups, sauerkraut, schnitzel, schweinshaxe, pommes frites, potato salad, roast chicken and duck, pork with dumplings, apple strudel. Some tents specialize in a particular fare, like roast ox at the Ochsenbraterei (No. 7 on our beer-tent list) and smoked fish at Fischer Vroni (No. 1 on the list).
(10) It takes two months for construction workers to transform the fairgrounds from an enormous 100-acre asphalt expanse to a pulsating city of beer tents and food stands, roller coasters and carnival rides—and one month to disassemble it all.
(11) Some 6 million people will visit the fairgrounds during the two-week event and together they will consume the same number in liters of beer as well as 500,000 roasted chickens, 120,000 pairs of sausages, 80,000 liters of wine, 50,000 pork knuckles, 30,000 bottles of champagne, and a gazillion pretzels. All told, fest-goers will bring an economic boon to the city of Munich to the tune of around 1€ billion, or US$1.3 billion. That’s roughly 62€ million, or $80 million, per day!
(12) You’ll be relieved to know there are roughly 965 toilets and 1 km of urinal troughs at the fairgrounds.
(13) Interestingly, by the end of last year’s Oktoberfest, Lost and Found had a mountain of some 4,000 unclaimed items, including 260 pairs of eyeglasses, 200 cell phones, two pairs of crutches, one wedding ring, and—get this—one set of dentures. Crutches we understand, beer for centuries has been used as a curative, but dentures? What a night that must have been….
(14) Speaking of after-dark entertainment: With the introduction of electric lighting, the year 1880 marked the first Oktoberfest to take place in the evening thanks to illumination afforded by incandescent lamps. Today, however, we take things like amps and volts for granted and the thought of a blackout would be—well—unthinkable, thus the fairgrounds is equipped with two independent power-supply systems in case of a “lights-out” failure in the municipal grid.
(15) In 1892, the first glass beer mug was introduced; before that stoneware was the norm.
(16) In 1950, then Munich mayor Thomas Wimmer was the first Bürgermeister to tap the keg at noon on opening day and establish the “O’zapft is!” (It’s tapped!) tradition.
(17) An immensely popular gimmick and sign of affection, lovers and admirers gift one another huge gingerbread hearts (pictured above) that are often worn around the neck before being eaten. “Ich liebe Dich” is the most adoring of all the quotations, meaning “I love you.” Sweet, indeed!
(18) Trivia: How many steins of beer can a waitress carry at one time? In November 2008, Bavarian Anita Schwarz set a (Guinness) world record when she carried 19 full beer steins (5 in either hand and 9 on top) totaling 45 kg, or 90 lbs—a full stein weighs an average of 2.3 kg, or 5 lbs—over a distance of 40 meters without any spillage and placed on a table. (Pictured: Anita Schwarz and Brett Harriman.)
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Dating from 1850, Lady Bavaria is the glorious statue made of bronze towering 18 m (59 ft) above the western edge of the fairgrounds. She is the personification of the kingdom by her idealistic creators, who complemented Bavaria with a sword, oak wreath and a lion to symbolize discipline, loyalty and strength. Climb the broad steps to reach her feet and a dynamite view. Or, for adult 3.50€ (student 2.50€), you can climb another 124 steps up to the observation platform in her head (enter at back of statue, during Oktoberfest, daily 9:00-19:30). The neoclassical temple behind Bavaria is the Ruhmeshalle, or Hall of Fame, celebrating distinguished Bavarians of the era for their contributions to the arts, sciences and politics.
Not surprisingly each tent must keep tens of thousands of liters of beer on hand every day to serve their thirsting customers. In most tents beer is stored in multiple 5,000-liter vats, or super kegs, that allow the proprietor to hold upwards of 80,000 liters at any one time. Tents are replenished each evening by so-called Biertankers that arrive at 23:30 to refill the vats (tankers are only allowed onto the fairgrounds from 23:30 to 12:00). In preparation for a Saturday, for example, it usually takes two tankers three trips each through the night and well into the morning to fill the multiple vats.
To clean a tent and sanitize its service areas usually takes a 30-person team all night, beginning from 22:30, and well into the early morning hours to get the job done.
Below are 10 tips concerning the Oktoberfest fairgrounds and beer tents. They are:
(1) In the beer tents do not wear open-toed shoes, i.e. no sandals! Those giant liter mugs are continually being broken by inebriated persons toasting a belligerent “cheers” resulting in thick glass chunks falling to the ground, which—as you can imagine—is very dangerous!
(2) Since Oktoberfest beer is brewed extra strong, roughly 6% alcohol by volume, be sure to eat something substantial before you start drinking.
(3) Outside the hours 10:00-15:00 food can be pricey at the Oktoberfest; consider eating at one of the delicious yet cost-effective ethnic Turkish eateries on nearby Landwehrstrasse.
(4) But the Oktoberfest isn’t always a high-priced affair, you can save up to 30% off food as well as on merchandise and carnival rides during the week (Mon-Fri) between 10:00-15:00 from vendors (including the tents) displaying the sign “Mittagswiesn.” If you’re not sure or don’t see the sign, just ask (but note the discount does not apply to beer).
(5) Every Tuesday is family day, officially 12:00-18:00, when families and their children receive discounts from most vendors on rides, games, etc.
(6) No matter which tent you choose, don’t even think about paying with a credit card (the wait staff literally have no time for such transactions). Bring cash!
(7) The word Vorsicht the wait staff keeps barking is a warning for you to “watch out” or “step aside” because they’re “coming through!”
(8) Smoking is no longer permitted in tents at Oktoberfest.
(9) Ride the Ferris wheel (6€/person) for a sweeping, romantic view of the fairgrounds, and Munich. Don’t forget your camera!
(10) Lastly, a trip to the Oktoberfest wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the historic Krinoline merry-go-round, the fest’s oldest carnival ride, dating from circa 1900. In those days, the Krinoline and the swings were all the rage. Originally the carousel was powered by hand-crank until an electric motor was installed in 1909. As the decades passed and sleeker, more thrilling novelty rides were introduced to the fairgrounds, the Krinoline lost its luster. To assist in recapturing its “darling” status, a mini stage was built into the merry-go-round for a live oompah band to entertain the young and old fair-goers waiting their turn for a nostalgic ride on the vintage carousel (about 3€ for 3 min).
Click here for Oktoberfest Beer Tents
Click here to go to Oktoberfest Getting There
Click here for Oktoberfest Introduction
(This page was last updated December 2012)
PLEASE take a moment to let us and others know your thoughts about Oktoberfest, or the information on this page, or perhaps you have a question about a particular tent or beer. Simply type in your comment below and click "Post as" (note that you can login via your Facebook or Twitter account in which case we'd get to see your avatar). To view the newest comments, click the drop-down "Discussion" menu below the "Leave a message" field then click "Newest." Lastly, this is an open message board, thus please refrain from using foul language or disrespecting others. Thank you, Brett Harriman