So you wanna go to Oktoberfest. The largest beer festival in the world occurs over a two week period toward the end of September to the beginning of October. Over 6 million people will attend the event and it’s everything you’ve dreamt of…and more. If your schedule has you visiting Oktoberfest during the opening weekend, don’t worry! Visiting Oktoberfest during the opening weekend does come with its perks. The excitement of Oktoberfest beginning makes the whole city seem to dazzle with energy. People are just happy and that’s really contagious. This post will have you more than prepared for the time of your life.
When my husband originally asked for vacation dates, putting us at Oktoberfest in the middle of the week, it got denied. 🙄 We were so upset because the only other dates that worked had us arriving in Munich on the Friday before the opening weekend. I almost told him no. I imagined Oktoberfest to be as insane as Disney World is on New Year’s Eve.
But with Marc’s 30th birthday coming up and this being all he ever wanted for that big number, we decided we’d make the best out of visiting Oktoberfest during the opening weekend. And boy, did we ever.
Things to Know When Visiting Oktoberfest During the Opening Weekend
Book your accommodations far in advance, if possible.
Oktoberfest dates are always high demand, but Oktoberfest during the opening weekend is probably the busiest time to go. We booked an AirBnB that was a 7-10 minute walk from the festival grounds. Being able to walk there was the cherry on top of this spacious apartment. The AirBnB was booked before anything else on our trip, about 7 months before we went.
We did meet other people that booked accommodations last minute, so they are out there. I just have no clue how far out from the city they stayed or the condition of the accommodation.
People start lining up on the opening Saturday around 7:00-8:00am.
That’s about three hours before they open the doors to the beer tents and about five hours before they start serving beer! This means getting into a beer tent without a reservation is pretty slim if you don’t arrive extra early. I’m not saying it’s impossible, I’m saying we got there at 11:00am and only tried two tents because they were filled to the brim with people eager to start drinking.
- Beer is not served until 12:00pm on the opening Saturday. The mayor will open the first keg in the Schottenhammel tent and that kicks off the celebrations.
The solution is to find a seat in a beer garden.
The beer gardens (biergartens) are outdoor seating areas where they still serve up liters of beers, pretzels, and more. You’ll have a server and you’ll hear the music inside the beer tent, you just won’t be in the chaos of the interior.
We snagged a seat around 11:50am without a problem. We heard the cheer as the mayor tapped the first keg and our first liter of beer arrived precisely at noon. It started to get busier and busier so we had more Oktoberfest visitors sitting with us at the table. We landed the jackpot with Carmen and Lorenz. This Bavarian couple was super friendly and spoke English very well. The next thing you know, we’re making plans to visit one another, prost-ing with every sip, and getting insider tips (see the bottom of this post for the most important tips). Suddenly, 5 hours had passed and we had to get ready for our Flytographer shoot.
To us, the beer garden was the perfect start to the weekend, especially because the weather was absolutely gorgeous.
Opening weekend features two parades.
On the first Saturday of Oktoberfest, about 1,000 people come together for a parade route marching from Munich’s city center all the way into Oktoberfest. You’ll see the mayor of Munich, tent proprietors, breweries and carnies along the parade. The horses are beautiful and the excitement of the start of Oktoberfest is so exciting!
The next day is the Traditional Costume Parade with nearly 10,000 people participating. It’s quite the sight to see and many Bavarians show off their costumes and dancing routines. People from all over Europe can participate and they even have VIP seating along the route. We skipped this parade so we could get a good seat in the Augustiner tent, but you can find all the information here.
There’s so much more than beer tents.
Even though I’m a major planner, I knew that without reservations we would have to be flexible. We totally just went with the flow on Saturday. When the beer tents were crazy busy, we took advantage of the rides, games, and food! I had no clue just how many crazy and awesome rides were at Oktoberfest. And although they can be a little pricey, they’re so much fun! I just don’t suggest getting on the spinning swings after a day full of drinking. 😉
Pro Tips to Get You Through the Weekend:
Hold Your Beer the Right Way with the Locals
I did a lot of research on Oktoberfest before we crossed the pond and this was something I simply don’t remember reading. And to this day, I see photos with Oktoberfest tourist veterans making this mistake. The Bavarian couple we met giggled at the way we held our beer by the handle. “So American,” she laughed. The proper way? Slide your four fingers into the hole of the handle and have your thumb wrapped around the front or on top of the handle.
The disadvantage? Your beer will get warmer quicker because you’re giving it a nice little hug with your hand. Your fingers might also get in the way when prosting with your friends. Oh, and by the time you’re on your third beer, you really don’t care how you’re holding it.
Tip the Bathroom Attendants
Luckily, I didn’t have to use the toilet before our Bavarian couple arrived. As I excused myself she politely asked me if I needed a coin. “What for?” I asked. She explained that there would be a small bowl for tipping outside the bathroom. It’s expected for everyone to tip between 20 cents to 1 Euro. Not a problem. I was happy to tip because I was so impressed with how clean the bathroom was several hours into the first day.
That brings me to my next point, bring cash with you! We did not use our credit card once at Oktoberfest and it’s not because we didn’t want to (I love getting points), but because everyone wanted cash. From tipping the bathroom attendants to paying for a ride, cash is king.
Don’t Be Afraid to Make Friends
You can absolutely go to Oktoberfest solo because you will make friends. Everyone we met, whether Italian tourists that we could barely understand to another couple that sat with us from Dallas, everyone is your new best friend. I’ve never been to an event with so many friendly personalities. We’ve kept in touch with six of the people we met at Oktoberfest!
Don’t Forget to Eat & Drink Water
Ya’ll, those beers go down way too easily. Order that pretzel. Get the whole chicken. Buy yourself a schnitzel. You need to eat with all that beer. Don’t be the guy that gets escorted out by security in a drunken stooper.
Don’t Plan on Tent Hopping at Oktoberfest During the Opening Weekend
This tip is a little tricky because you could get lucky as we did. When we returned Saturday evening, Oktoberfest was wild. We went into several tents to check them out, but settled on Hofbrau. On Sunday morning, there were a ton of open seats in Augustiner-Festhalle. We were going to jump to another tent before noon, but met the fun couple from Dallas and decided to stay. Sunday afternoon, we hopped to a couple beer tents like Hacker and Schützen, but we didn’t get a seat. We got a beer somehow, but I don’t remember who was nice enough to buy it for us. We then headed back to Hofbrau (one of my favorites) and stayed there the rest of the night. The point is, if you do not have a reservation and you find a seat, stay put for a while. Almost everyone stays in their seats for hours, so the chances of snagging another good spot in the middle of the day, during the opening weekend, is pretty rare.
Go Early or Late on Sunday
Sunday was a pleasant surprise. We skipped the parade (although I’ve heard it’s awesome with over 9,000 people in it) in hopes of getting a seat in a tent. Our tent wasn’t full until about 11:00am. That evening was still very crowded, but we did get a seat. I read that Sunday night starts to slow down and it was true.
Don’t Bring a Big Bag
Oktoberfest prohibits any large bag, but you’re allowed to bring a small one. Most girls have a small crossy-body bag or a wristlet. The dirndls will typically have one pocket, but I wouldn’t rely on it to hold your money and phone.
Dance on the Benches
So, a big tip I read before going was to definitely not stand on the table unless you want to be peer-pressured into chugging your entire beer. Um, no thank you. So, I was very careful to not put a single toe on a table. However, everyone dances on the benches! Then Sunday night rolled around and the entire Hofbrau tent was madness. Everyone was standing on the benches, dancing, singing, falling over, and living their best lives. The guy next to me was slumped over and um, couldn’t keep his beer down. So I wanted to hop across the table before he got my shoes dirty (don’t worry, they escorted him out with his friend that was taking care of him). I was scared to step on the table, but with the chaos that was happening around me, nobody noticed and nobody cared. I was not peer-pressured into chugging my liter beer!
But, be careful. I can’t promise the Bavarians will let this slide if it’s not as crazy in the tent!
German Words to Know
Whether you’re visiting Oktoberfest during the opening weekend or going in the middle of the week, be polite and learn some of the German words!
Hallo (hah-lo) – Hello!
Danke (Dahn-keh) – Thanks!
Bitte (Bit-uh) – Please // You’re Welcome
Prost! (Pr-OH-st) – Cheers!
Eine Maß, bitte (eye-nuh Mass bit-uh)– A beer, please.
German Ein Prosit Lyrics:
Ein Prosit, ein Prosit
Ein Prosit, ein Prosit
OANS! ZWOA! DREI! G’SUFFA!
Other Frequently Asked Questions:
Does it cost money to get into Oktoberfest?
Nope! Getting into Oktoberfest is free, but if you make a reservation or book a beer tent-hopping tour, expect to pay up. The rides can also be a little pricey.
What do I wear to Oktoberfest during the opening weekend?
You don’t have to dress up, but in my opinion, you absolutely should! I wrote a post about what to wear and where to get it. The traditional lederhosen and dirndl make the experience that much better.
What is the weather like?
It’s a little unpredictable. Some years, the weather could be a perfect 65 – 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Other years might have loads of rain. Our time at Oktoberfest gave us a little bit of everything. We arrived on Friday to very warm, sunny temperatures. It rained overnight and cooled down to a high of 65, but with the sunshine, it was perfect. It cooled down again in the evening, and then Sunday was a high of 70 degrees with some gloom. Sunday evening it poured rain on us the whole walk back to our apartment, but you better believe we danced in the rain.
Where can I find the Oktoberfest dates?
The 2019 dates are Saturday, September 21st – Sunday, October 6th.
Oktoberfest 2020 is Saturday, September 19th – Sunday, October 4th.
What if I don’t drink beer?
Then you will by the end of this trip! I’m kidding. While beer is the main attraction here, they also have a wine tent! With more than 15 wines to try and some sparkling wine, too, Weinzelt is the perfect place when you need a break from the beer. There’s a lot of people that visit Oktoberfest just for the entertainment, rides, and food.
Is Oktoberfest family-friendly?
Absolutely! Families with babies, young kids, and teenagers could be found everywhere, including the beer tents. Again, Oktoberfest is huge and has so many attractions for the whole family. “Family Day” is each Tuesday during the two-week festival. You’ll also find older gentlemen and ladies that can totally drink you under the table. 🍻
How did you get those photos?
You’ll see in my other Oktoberfest post that we have a few more pictures of the two of us at Oktoberfest. No, we didn’t bring along our camera and tripod. I’m a huuuuge fan of Flytographer when we travel! We had a 30 minute session with Gloria and she captured all the fun we were having on opening night. We never brought our nice camera with us into Oktoberfest, so we’ll totally cherish these photos forever! If you want to try out Flytographer on your next vacation, use code KATHERINEFOX for $25 off your session!
Overall, Oktoberfest is going to be a blast no matter when you choose to go. I hope this helped you with your planning for the biggest party of your life! If you have any specific questions, leave a comment below or send me an email and I’ll get back to you ASAP!