Oktoberfest 2017 and Beyond: Everything You Need to Know
Oktoberfest began as the marriage ceremony between Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese on October 12, 1810. All of the townspeople were invited to attend the festival, which took place in the fields outside of the city gates. Following the wedding the fields were named Theresienwiese after the Princess, and the party was such a hit that the townspeople asked King Ludwig to continue the celebration the following year. Oktoberfest in 2017 will mark the 210th anniversary of the festivities.
Why stop a good thing!?
Today the remnants of the gates still stand and the fields, known by locals as the Wies’n, now host the largest beer festival in the world: Oktoberfest! What was a simple wedding celebration has transformed into a 17 or 18-day festival in which 7 million people from around the world participate in, consuming more than 6 million liters of Bavarian beer. That’s 1 million gallons of beer! Oktoberfest officially begins on the second to last Saturday in September at noon when the mayor of Munich taps the first barrel at the Schottenhamel Tent, crying “O’zapft is” (It’s open). The festival concludes the first Sunday of October following German reunification day on October 5.
There are 14 main beer tents at the Theresienwiese grounds serving brews by the Maß (1-liter stein). Of the 14 tents there are 6 large tents, which rotate up to 12,000 people per day! That is a whole lot of beer! Only six breweries are represented at the Oktoberfest grounds – Späten, Augustiner, Paulaner, Hacker-Poschorr, Hofbräu and Löwenbräu. Everyone has their preferred brew by the end, which one will be yours?
Also, for those of you who fancy a break from the frothy brews there is a special wine tent called Weinzelt.
♦ Where is Oktoberfest?
The original Oktoberfest takes place in Munich, Germany, on the ground known as “Theresienwiese”, which is also called “Festwiese” by the locals.
Half of the year, the grounds are simply a public park. Around June, the tents and fun fair foundations begin their staggered process of construction with a completion date of late September, just in time for the beginning of the festival. This area hosts a space of 420,000 sq ft and is easy to get to from central Munich.
♦ When is Oktoberfest?
Oktoberfest begins in September and ends in October on the first Sunday in October, or on October 3, whatever is later. It lasts for at least 16 days.
The next Oktoberfest Munich dates are:
• Oktoberfest 2017: September 16 – October 3
• Oktoberfest 2018: September 22 – October 7
• Oktoberfest 2019: September 21 – October 6
• Oktoberfest 2020: September 19 – October 4
♦ Oktoberfest starts in September…why is it called Oktoberfest?
The first Oktoberfest was celebrated in Munich in 1810 in honor of Prince Ludwig’s marriage to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen. The festivities began October 12, 1810, and lasted for almost a week, until October 17. The public celebrations ended with an exciting horse race. After such a spectacular party, the happy couple decided that the same type of festival should be continued annually. In the following years, the galas were repeated every October, prolonged and, eventually moved forward into September primarily because of the weather.
♦ What’s the deal with Beer Tent Reservations?
Every year, it’s a long process for us to book beer tent reservations, and you don’t always get exactly what you want. Every tent has its own system for booking reservations, not to mention they each start the process at different times of the year. You always have to make reservations in groups of 8-10 people, and most of the reservations go to locals who have held tables at the Wies’n for several generations.
The big tents (holding 7,000-10,000 people at a time) are the most difficult to get into and often close their doors by noon on Saturdays simply because they’re already full. It’s nearly impossible to get into a big tent without a reservation on a busy day; however, you can sometimes squeeze in with someone at a table outside and order a beer to establish your spot. If you’re already in a tent when the reservation time has expired, you can stay in that tent – you just have to find an opening at a table in a non-reserved section. Weekdays are much less crowded compared to Saturdays and weekend nights. Two people can usually find their way into a tent and find a seat to get a beer. At night it’s often too crowded to order food (unless you have vouchers with your reservation) but don’t worry; there are plenty of vendors serving hearty Bavarian food on the Oktoberfest Fair Grounds.
The Bucket List Events packages includes at least 1 beer tent reservation per person. Depending on which weekend you’re in Munich, you may end up at a big tent (5,000+ capacity) or a medium tent (under 1,000-5,000 capacity). Most reservations include 2 beers (1 liter each) and 1 food voucher (usually a chicken plate). It is sometimes possible for us to include a second beer tent reservation in your package for an additional charge – just ask!
♦ How much does a liter of beer (the “Maß” Oktoberfest Beer) cost at one of the tents?
The price for a liter of beer ranges between €8 and €9 per liter (about $10-12). A liter of table water costs about €6. Soft drinks also cost about €6-7 (you’ll usually find Coke and Spezi, a Coke/Fanta mix).
♦ What’s the average age of Bucket List Events clients?
Hard question to answer, but most of our clients are between the ages of 28-45. But it varies with each group. We’ve had guests that are 60+ years of age as well as kids with their families and college students. We don’t have an age limit; you just have to be ready to have a good time!
♦ Is there a best tent?
Many people hear about Hofbräu and think they must go to that tent. Truthfully there is no best tent. All of the tents have a unique aspect about them but none of them are any better than the others. Locals prefer the less known tents while college kids like the Hofbräu. No matter what tent you are in your going to have the time of your life. Just don’t drink too much and take some pictures so you remember it!
♦ Is beer the only thing available to drink?
While beer will be occupying just about every inch of the 420,000 square foot Oktoberfest grounds, there are some wine and champagne options at just about every tent – just ask.
♦ How strong (alcohol percent) is the beer?
All beer served at Oktoberfest is 13.5% Stammwürze, which equates to around 6% alcohol content. The average American beer is about 3-5%. The beer is often stronger than at home, too, so pace yourself and eat plenty.
♦ What is the drinking age?
16 years old.
♦ Are children allowed to enter the beer tents?
Children under six-years-old must leave the tents by 8 p.m., even if they are with their parents. The tents tend to get crowded by the evening and it wouldn’t be fun for either the children or the parents to be in the tents at that time, anyway. Activities like carnival rides in the fair grounds would be more suitable for children.
♦ Do we have to dress up in Bavarian attire?
Absolutely not, but we highly recommend it. It’s part of the cultural experience! Many locals and visitors of all ages choose to suit up in Trachten, traditional garb for the fest, with men sporting the suspendered the leather trouser lederhosen and woman the traditional Bavarian Dirndl.
♦ Where can we purchase Lederhosen or Dirndl?
Considering the amount of stores in the vicinity of your hotel, where can’t you purchase an outfit? Whether it’s in the train station or a pop-up vendor just outside the tents, the pricing is pretty consistently in the €100-125 euros. If you prefer shopping a wider variety of options, we recommend the popular department store C&A, located in the Neuhauser- and Kaufinger Straße. This is an easy walk from your hotel.
♦ How many people attend Oktoberfest?
In 2015, over 7,000,000 people attended over three weeks.
♦ What else is there to do at Oktoberfest besides drinking?
As expected, the focus at Oktoberfest is the drinking, eating, cavorting and singing. It is this tradition, atmosphere and spectacle that makes it so special. To break up proceedings, you can amble through the fairground that surrounds the beer tents, where there are seemingly endless rides and carnival games in which to partake. However, if you are visiting at the right time, you may be coinciding with some of the special events that take place.
On the opening weekend, the Costume and Riflemen’s Parade sees some 7,000 costumed performers and musicians, thoroughbred horses, oxen and associated farmyard animals walk through the centre of Munich to celebrate the Oktoberfest’s opening weekend. If the weather holds, an open-air concert featuring 400 musicians will take place on September 25 at the Theresienwiese.
♦ How much tip is common?
Within Oktoberfest grounds, it varies. If you’ve got reservations and vouchers, the tip is sometimes included. In this case you do not need to give extra tip, or just if you think the service was extraordinary. If tip is not included, the waitress will tell you what the tip is. In fact, it’s not really a tip – it’s more like a “service fee”. It should be not more than 10 to 15% of the beer or food price. And yes, giving a bit of extra tip will ensure that the waitress will always serve you in time and in quality.
♦ What beer is served at Oktoberfest?
Only beer conforming to the Reinheitsgebot, at a minimum of 13.5% Stammwürze (approximately 6% alcohol by volume) may be served at Oktoberfest. The beer must also be brewed within the city limits of Munich. Beers meeting these criteria may be designated Oktoberfest Beer.
The breweries that can produce Oktoberfest Beer under the criteria are:
♦ Staatliches Hofbräu-München
♦ What do you eat at Oktoberfest?
You have a good choice of dishes. A must-try is the classic “Wiesn-Hendl” (grilled chicken), best enjoyed with French Fries. The slow-roasted, butterbasted chicken is irresistible after a few beverages. Freshly-baked and doughy, salt-strewn pretzels are delicious and extremely popular. Also expect to sample traditional sausages and the seemingly endless dessert options available at Oktoberfest.
All the tents have English menus, so feel free to ask your waitress for it.
♦ How much beer do you drink at Oktoberfest?
Certainly you should try to not drink too much. But how much is “too much”?
We say that up to two Mass beers (two liters) are OK. This can typically be handled by normal folks without any serious problems. With three Mass (three liters) you will quickly approach the borderline. The beers are large and pack a punch.
♦ I do not speak any German. Will this be a problem?
This will not be a problem. The language sections of the travel guidebook usually contains the German translations for relevant dialogue, so you are able to sneak by if needed. Again, most tents also have English menus, so ask for them if you are not comfortable ordering in German.
♦ How is the bathroom situation in the beer tents?
There are enough facilities in the tents. But in a tent with thousands of people drinking thousands of liters of beer there also is a clear need for these! For men, this usually means a wait between 5 and 10 minutes in the line. For women, this usually means a wait between 10 and 20 minutes in the line.
♦ What time do tents close the doors?
Beer Serving Hours are typically 10 AM to 10:30 PM on weekdays, and 9 am to 10:30 PM on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. At 10:30 PM the band will stop playing, the lights will go on, and the waitresses will start to clean the tables around you. Typically you will have left by 10:50 PM.
♦ Is there a program of events that we can see?
The highlight event of the Wies’n is the Oktoberfest Costume and Riflemen’s Parade. The parade occurs on the first Wies’n Sunday of Oktoberfest. It starts at 10am and lasts about 3 hours. More than 7,000 performers will participate along the 7 kilometer (5 mile) parade route.
Other important events include the Parade of Oktoberfest Landlords and Breweries, the Official Tapping of the Keg on Opening Day (at the Schottenhamel tent), the Oktoberfest Mass, the Böllerschießen (handheld canon salute) in front of the Bavaria statue, and the Open-Air Oktoberfest Music Concert Fest.
♦ Is Oktoberfest safe?
Yes, it’s very safe. But just like any travel/festival experience, be aware of your surroundings. Keep money is a safe place (not in your back pocket). Everyone is really friendly but of course with so much bier, you’re bound to see some altercations. Security is very present in the tents and Polizei outside the tents.
♦ How do I get to the festival?
The hotels where Bucket List Events guests stay are just a couple of blocks away from the Oktoberfest grounds. Whenever there is a dinner or beer tent reservation, our staff will guide you to your destination.
♦ What are the must sees in the area?
Munich is a large city with a plethora of things to do as a tourist. Your package with Oktoberfest Tours comes with a bike tour of many of Munich’s famous attractions, including the English Gardens, as well as a trip to the famous Neuschwanstein Castle.
Here are some common destinations of our guests:
♦ Olympic stadium and Olympic park
♦ BMW World & BMW Headquarters
♦ Isar River
♦ Deutsches Museum
♦ Schloss Nymphenburg (Palace)
♦ Hofgarten and Residenz
♦ Neues Rathaus
♦ Allianz Arena (Home of FC Bayern Munich)
♦ Dachau Concentration Camp
♦ What is “Die Wiesn”?
The locals in Munich refer to Oktoberfest as “die Wiesn” because of the festival location, Theresienwiese. The location, Theresienwiese, was named after Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen.