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A Comprehensive Guide to Oktoberfest in Germany

Updated: Jun 3

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See my recent blog post from 2024 here:


Woman in Dirndl - Tracht Traditional German Folk Wear for Oktoberfest and Festivals
Photo by: Alfred Burger Photography @b_boy__photography

Introduction to Oktoberfest in Germany


Oktoberfest is a beautiful tradition that brings the world together by sharing the German love for fun and festivities, including carnival rides and games, delicious local cuisine, colorful parades, traditional folk wear, and a nice cold beer. It began in Munich, celebrating the marriage of the Bavarian Crown Prince Louis and Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen. Hence, the location's name is Theresienwiese (abbreviated "Wies’n"). Other popular celebrations have since then been adopted nationwide.


Find the official Munich Oktoberfest website here.


Find the official Stuttgarter Cannstatter Volksfest website here.



Oktoberfest Lodging


I would reserve six months or more in advance if you want to attend the main Oktoberfest in Munich (called München in German). Ideally, I would suggest planning a major trip like this at least a year in advance for the best results. I booked in February of 2023, and the cheapest hotel I could find was around $250 a night at Motel One (Europe's are nicer than America's). The hotel was a 45-minute walk away from festivities or 25 minutes using public transportation. Walkable, but not close. It was a lovely stay during 2023, and we easily navigated the city from there.


Don't believe me? Go look!


If you compare prices closer to the festival online, you'll find they are outrageously more expensive. Therefore, if you can plan that far in advance, I would.


Remember, you can book lodging on some sites for no money down with free cancellation! So, there is no risk to booking your accommodation ahead of time. Work smarter, not harder.


Cannstatter Wasen / Volksfest Houseboat Lodging Airbnb
Photo taken from the Airbnb site.

Be careful what you book!


I found this houseboat on Airbnb for Stuttgart's Cannstatter Volksfest in 2022 ($65 per person per night). While it was a neat experience, I was NOT expecting the boat to be filled with numerous festival workers, which made it more of a hostel-like situation. We were housed next to the bathroom; they were up all night long partying. I barely got a wink of sleep. If you're in your 20s and looking for a fun and unique place to stay, I'd say go for it! The lady who owned the boat was very kind, and we enjoyed our breakfast the following day. However, I'm 37, and I need my sleep!


Oktoberfest Ticket Germany - Octoberfest

I've heard of Munich's Oktoberfest, but there are more?


Yes! Oktoberfest has spread all over Germany; you can even find events in other countries if you look! Most take on the name Oktoberfest, but ones such as Stuttgart's Cannstatter Volksfest have their own unique origins, names, and traditions. The Cannstatter Volksfest technically claims not to be an "Oktoberfest," but to me, it is indistinguishable, and the fact that it is held at the same time of year makes their claim moot.


Sorry, Stuttgarters, it's an Oktoberfest.

Pro tip: don't call it an Oktoberfest to their face.


Please enjoy this small Tiktok (below) I made last year after attending! We went during the day on a weekday, so it wasn't busy until nighttime (as you can see).



How do I attend a smaller village's Oktoberfest?


This may be a bit tricky if you are from another country. The smaller the town/village, the less likely they will sell tickets online/electronically (the cities near me sold them out of a local store/office). Tickets or table bookings may also be required. I wouldn't risk showing up to one without reservations hoping to get in (unless it states on their site that this is ok). My advice would be to try to find a trustworthy local who can help you out.



When should you book your table?


Festival tents begin to open up reservations as early as February/March. Most, though, start in April/May. If you are looking to attend the Munich Oktoberfest on opening weekend, I would book the tent you prefer as quickly as you possibly can. This is the most popular and internationally known Oktoberfest, which means table reservations can go fast—especially the tables in front of the entertainment stages. When booking, consider whether you will be boxed in on all sides, where the bathrooms are, and the proximity to entertainment. The tents can be very crowded and loud, so all these factors will affect your experience.


Attention! Entrance to the festival grounds is always FREE!


Don't let someone try to sell you tickets for this. They are scamming you!


Cannstatter Volksfest /Wasen Stuttgart Germany - Oktoberfest
Cannstatter Volksfest Stuttgart

How to book a table reservation?


There are NO tickets! Only table reservations!


Each tent (and there are many) has its own reservation system. Some require you to fill out a form, and they will contact you with a reservation offer. Others will let you book online and reserve your tables virtually, etc. It can be a little confusing. To help guide you, I have created a detailed guide with step-by-step instructions on how to book a table at Oktoberfest. Click on the pdf below to see (best viewed on a computer)!


Oktoberfest - A Comprehensive Guide to Reserving Your Table
.pdf
Download PDF • 3.60MB

Keep in mind that when booking, you will usually have to reserve an entire table for 8/10. Now and then, I have found a tent that offered half-table reservations for 5, but that isn't common. There are no individual reservations available.


Which tent and what table should you choose?


They all have their ups and downs. I provided several Munich tent suggestions in the document above, including those you may want to avoid. I will also list many of the factors you may want to consider when making a reservation:


  1. How much of a party atmosphere are you looking for? Oktoberfest can get wild, especially at night. It is common to stand and dance on the benches, and as you can imagine, when alcohol is involved, things can get messy. Think of injuries, fights, and lots of broken glass as the night goes on.

  2. Do you want to be in a tent with all the other tourists, or would you rather find one that the locals frequent? Tourist tents tend to be more of a modern party (see above) and will not offer as authentic of an Oktoberfest experience.

  3. How close is your table to a bathroom?

  4. Are you claustrophobic? You may want to choose a table that isn't surrounded on all sides. They offer tables on the edges and areas above ground level away from the main crowd.

  5. Do you hate crowds? Perhaps a smaller, more intimate tent would be a better choice. Some of the biggest tents have over 5,000 seats, so you would want to avoid them.

  6. What kind of entertainment are you looking for? Entertainment can range from lively concert-like performances to traditional instrumental bands and more. Each tent will provide a schedule of what bands are playing and when. Sometimes, there are even prominent famous performers, so be on the lookout!

  7. Type of beer? Food? Each tent serves its own style of beer and food.

  8. Decor preference? There is a wide range of tent decorations, such as rustic, traditional, light, airy, and more.

  9. What packages/services does the tent offer? Many tents let you choose a meal and drink package before attending (most at least come with two drink vouchers). My tent at Stuttgart this year even has a form I can fill out requesting secco, water, and other items, so it will all be ready when I arrive! Very efficient.


Sonja Merz Cannstatter Volksfest / Wasen Beer Tent / Hall - Oktoberfest 2022
Cannstatter Volksfest Stuttgart

When booking, what day or time is best?


Weekends will be the busiest time to attend—especially opening weekend when they have the tapping of the keg ceremony and parades. I prefer to avoid crowds and inconveniences, so I usually attend these more prominent festivals during the day on a weekday. However, if you want to experience as much as you can, you may want to at least stick around until 8/9:00 pm. After that, I will gauge when to leave by the number of people falling off their benches and broken glass on the ground. When that begins, that is my queue to exit the premises!


If you bring your family, I highly suggest making a daytime reservation. Also, don't forget to check out Munich's Familientag or "family day," which offers discounted rides, performers, and snack stands for children until 7:00 pm. The larger tents also offer discounted children’s dishes and menus.


Likewise, Stuttgart's Cannstatter Volksfest offers a similar Familientag.



Are reservations necessary?


If you attend on opening weekend, I encourage you to reserve a table, especially at night. Sometimes, you can wait in line (get there early), and they will have tables open for you inside or outside, but that is a risk. However, if you attend during the weekday and don't want to waste money, I would say, possibly no, I wouldn't bother. Just keep in mind that the only way to ensure you have a table is to make a table reservation. I've heard many stories of people quickly making friends and being invited to sit at tables or empty beer tents they could walk right into, but it's always a slight risk not to book. Personally, I tend to play it on the safe side and spend the money.


Note: If it rains, people will flock to the tents, and finding seating without a reservation will be more difficult.



What do Table Reservations Include?


Your table reservation will often come with food and drink or money vouchers. So, the table reservation itself isn't all that expensive. Let's say I reserved a table for 160 euros. Usually, only around 40 euros would go to the actual table reservation, and I would receive vouchers for the other 120 euros for food and drink! When looking at it this way, those table reservations aren't all that expensive after all.


Can I leave once I enter?


You want to be very careful about this. Sometimes, the answer is no. Please verify with an official worker that you can get back in if you leave. If a tent is jam-packed and you do not have a reservation, I would perhaps stay.



Planning to attend the opening ceremonies and Parades?


Oktoberfest kicks off with grand opening ceremonies that capture the spirit and tradition of Bavaria. The festivities begin with a colorful parade featuring horse-drawn beer wagons, traditional Bavarian costumes, and marching bands, creating a vibrant and lively atmosphere. The highlight of the opening day is the ceremonial tapping of the first keg by the Mayor of Munich, who declares, "O'zapft is!" ("It's tapped!") to start the celebrations officially. This time-honored tradition is followed by a parade of landlords and breweries, setting the tone for the joyous and convivial days to come.


Last year in Munich, I even booked tickets to watch the parade from reserved seats in a grandstand! I really enjoyed this, and it worked out quite nicely.


Note: Munich offers two different parades on opening weekend. The first is on Saturday and is called the "Parade of the Landlords and Breweries," followed by the tapping of the keg. The second is on Sunday, called the "Costume and Hunter's Parade."


Grandstand Tip: Purchase seats next to the buildings/shops. These are in the shade. Somehow, last year, I managed to buy tickets to the only grandstand in full sunlight (I believe it was on the Grünstreifen)! I was so mad, lol.


Warning: The tapping of the keg is sometimes impossible to see unless you watch it streamed live. I was told not to bother trying to see this and instead to focus on the parades (Munich has two).


Find Munich's tapping of the keg and parade(s) information here.


Find Stuttgart's parade information here.


Cannstatter Volksfest / Wasen Stuttgart Germany - Oktoberfest

Which Oktoberfest should I attend?


So far, I prefer the smaller local Oktoberfests or Stuttgart's Cannstatter Volksfest. I firmly believe everyone should go to Munich at least once because that is THE primary and traditional Oktoberfest. However, after 2023, I will most likely never go again (unless I'm playing tour guide). Local is smaller and may not have any rides, but it can be less of a hassle and just as fun.


If you are in the Ramstein area with me, be sure to reserve a table at either the Landstuhl or Ramstein Oktoberfest! I had a great time at Landstuhl's last year.


Cannstatter Wasen / Volksfest Stuttgart German - Oktoberfest

Are there carnival rides?


Yes! The larger Oktoberfests offer carnival rides and games on the premises. Although after last year, I will never go on a ride again without seeing what it does first. It went up, down, sideways, flipped me, and went on forever! Never again.


Speaking of carnival rides and attractions, don't forget to check out Munich's historical Oidn Wiesn section, which offers cheap nostalgic rides for around 1.50 euros, a museum tent (or more) with special children's programs, traditional folk singers and music, and beer tents set in the old-fashioned style to give attendees an idea of what Oktoberfest used to be like!


Cannstatter Wasen / Volksfest Stuttgart German - Oktoberfest

Is there food and drinks outside of the tents?


At the larger Oktoberfests like Stuttgart and Munich, yes. You will find all sorts of food and drink vendors.



Do they only sell beer at Oktoberfest?


Not at all! While beer is traditional, depending on the tent you choose, you will find a variety of liquor, wine, and bubbly selections! Everything you could ever want to get truly snockered.


I discovered this last year when my friends ordered shots for us at midday. As you can imagine, things comedically went downhill from there...


Are you a wine lover? Snag a reservation at the Weinzelt!



Don't forget to wear your Tracht(en)!


Women usually wear dirndls, and men wear lederhosen. The latter originated in Bavaria in the 19th century but has recently been adopted nationwide for festivals and special occasions.


When buying your outfits, remember that they are often sold in individual pieces. This means you must buy your dress, shirt, pants, hat, stockings, and anything else separately. It can add up quickly!


Wear closed-toed shoes!! 


There will most likely be broken glass somewhere. Please wear footwear that will protect your feet!


There have also been huge debates on what is appropriate to wear on your feet—literally whatever you want. Unless you are marching in a parade or participating in an official ceremony, no one will care what you have on your feet! If they do, then that's their problem. Wear comfortable footwear. That's all.


Cannstatter Wasen / Volksfest Stuttgart Germany - Oktoberfest Beer & Dirndl

Do not buy a cheap costume!


This is horrifying and will scream tourist. Spend the money and buy proper traditional German tracht(en) or wear regular clothing (but come on, that's so boring). Amazon.com does have some legit-looking suggestions. Dirndl and Lederhosen outfits (all parts) usually cost around $100 or more. If you see something online for cheap, it's most likely not what you are looking for. Custom-made Lederhosen can even peak above $1,000!



Should I arrive by plane, train, bus, car, or boat?


Whatever works best for you! Please keep in mind that there will be plenty of traffic near the major cities, trains will be packed, and flights will be booked (I have no clue about boats; I was kidding about that). Give yourself plenty of travel time and room for error. In 2023, I drove to my Motel One in the city and had no issues, and parked nearby. I would choose times outside rush hour traffic if you take the train. Plane flights should be booked with at least a day or two cushion to allow for any disruptions. Plan smart!


Bus trips can be convenient, but be careful about how much you drink! No one wants to be the one (or near the one) who is puking on the way home.



Do I need cash, and if so, how much?


You will absolutely need to bring cash with you. Beers are about 15 euros each, and the food will be around that or more. Rides and anything you buy at vendors along the way may also require cash. To be prepared, I would bring at least 150 euros each day.


Please only use official bank ATMs


When withdrawing money, use an official ATM and always decline their exchange rate offer. Let your bank decide on what rates are appropriate for that day. Any other method of exchanging foreign currency will rip you off. For example, my aunt used the exchange at the airport the other day, and she gave them 200 dollars and only received 130 euros in return.


Credit Cards


If you are traveling outside of your home country and using a credit card, ensure there are no surcharges for using that card internationally.


Tipping


Tip at least 5% and 10% or more in Germany if you receive excellent service. You do not need to tip 20% like in the States. That being said, I've heard that if you tip the server for your table nicely up front, sometimes you might receive better service.


Tipping in Germany is not done like in the States. When you pay, you often have to tell them how much you would like to tip BEFORE they run your credit card. Once they run your credit card, they may be unable to add the tip afterward. Cash is usually preferred.



Be safe!


Stay with a group if possible, and watch your alcohol intake! It's so easy to drink too much at Oktoberfest, and there are thousands of people from all over the world. Please always make safety a priority. In Germany, there are two numbers you can call in case of emergencies. 112 is for fire and medical assistance, and 110 connects you to the police.


What size bag can I bring?


You don't want to be carting anything bulky around in these big crowds. There isn't much room in the tents at the tables to store things, so keep that in mind. If you bring a backpack, be prepared to be searched at a security checkpoint when entering. Munich (and other Oktoberfests) has specific rules on what you can bring, and you can find all that information here.




Should I be wary of pickpockets or theft?


I would always store your belongings securely. Anytime you visit a foreign country or a crowded event (especially one involving copious amounts of drinking), please ensure your valuables are secure. I personally wear a Cabaia Backpack and have everything securely zipped away in an inner pocket. When I sit down, I place the backpack on the ground with my leg through one of the straps. Nothing will ruin a trip faster than losing credit cards, IDs, and money.


Munich had smaller bag requirements, so I had to downsize.


Are kids allowed?


Of course! Almost all German festivals are fun for the whole family! However, you'll likely want to avoid opening weekends (or weekends in general) and the evenings. If you'd like to bring your children, I would aim to attend on a weekday during the day. I visited the Cannstatter Volksfest twice during the afternoon in 2022 and 2023, and on both occasions, there was hardly anyone there, and they still had entertainment! It was like a festival made just for us!


Some of the larger festivals have family days (search for kindertag or familientag). On these days, you'll find cheaper rides and other deals!


Find Munich's familientag here.


Find Stuttgart's familientag here.


Should I bring my stroller?


It depends on when you go and where. Each festival will have its own rules. It may be okay if you go during the week in the afternoon after the opening weekend. However, according to my friend (who has a kid), strollers can be a pain at these events. I'd leave them at home.



What kind of weather should I prepare for?


Germany's weather can be very unpredictable. I would say around September/October, it tends to be cooler, but be prepared for anything.


In 2022, it was cold and rainy when I attended Stuttgart's Cannstatter Volksfest, but luckily, I had prepared for that and brought an umbrella and poncho. In 2023, it was blazing hot inside the tents in Munich. I was so glad I brought a portable fan! Check the weather and be prepared accordingly!


For the ladies, I would suggest packing fleece-lined tights or festive stockings, warm shoes (waterproof is a bonus), a poncho, and an umbrella. If needed, gentlemen can switch from short-sleeved sleeves to long-sleeved shirts and warmer socks. Or you can be like me, and I'll often buy what I need as I go (more expensive).



Additional Information:


German Girl in America Facebook Site:


Where to buy dirndls?

  • I bought mine on base at Ramstein this year.

  • House of Clocks in Weilerbach is an option.

  • Traditional costume fashion | Fashionable Costume, Dirndl, and Lederhosen Trachten Online Shop | Alpenclassics.de - a simple Google search will pull up many Dirndl websites! However, be wary of ordering online. Dirndls can be very tight, and finding the right size could be challenging. Also, note that the dresses may come separate from the aprons, blouses, and stockings. You may need to buy these pieces separately.

  • Here in Germany, you can buy them on Amazon. There are plenty of options. I even looked online at the American Amazon and found some decent options as well. These costumes are not cheap. I spent around $100 for my dress, apron, and shirt each time.



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