We only have a few dates set in stone that we have to work around for this year abroad. One of those dates was making it to Munich for the opening day of Oktoberfest. We had a discussion of places we had to cut out in order to make it Munich in time. Diem wanted to cut days from San Sebastian and I wanted to cut Geneva, Switzerland. I ended up winning but that meant we had a long train ride from Bordeaux to Munich. We had a quick transfer in Paris where we had to take the metro from one train station (Paris Montpasse) to another (Paris Est) but we made it. We arrived in Munich late at night around 9 PM and went straight to bed to prepare for what we thought would be a long day of drinking.
We woke up at 6 AM the next day to get to Oktoberfest early. We were going to opening day of Oktoberfest and one of the most popular tents without a reservation. We read online that people would start lining up around 7 AM to get into the tents and that if it rains, it’s harder to get into the tents as well. It was supposed to rain all day so we tried to leave our place by 7 AM to get to the tents by 8 AM. We ended up getting to the festival around 8:40 AM and waited outside the huge line at Schottenhamel tent. I originally was a little bit nervous about going to Oktoberfest on opening day. It was only a couple of months removed from the terrible attack in Nice and in the back of my mind was the thought that Oktoberfest might be targeted. However, there was a lot of security in the area and they searched everyone going in the festival and didn’t allow backpacks so I felt pretty safe going in. We ended up getting into the tent around 9:45 AM but they started gradually letting people in starting around 9 AM. We sat upstairs at a table that was reserved at 2 PM but we were allowed to sit there until then. We shared the table with 3 Australians and 3 Americans. It was pretty brutal waiting until noon until the first keg was tapped, but we were able to order food starting at 10 AM which helped pass the time a little.
The main reason we decided on the Schottenhamel tent is that it is the home of the official opening ceremony where the Mayor of Munich taps the first keg and starts the drinking at Oktoberfest. Here's a clip of the official countdown. Most other days, beer starts flowing at 10 AM but on the first day it starts at noon. It was a really cool atmosphere, the beer was good, and the people were nice. After the beer came out, time went by quickly since we only had essentially under 2 hours to drink before we were kicked out. We powered through the two hours and were kicked out of the upstairs a little before 2 PM. We made our way downstairs and some of our table-mates made some new friends and we sat with some Austrians for a bit downstairs. We ended up having 7 beers (liters) between the two of us decided that we had enough and made it back to our Airbnb by 4 PM. It’s important to note that Oktoberfest tents only take cash so make sure to bring plenty of money since beers are about 11€ each and the food is mostly around 10-15€ per item. If you are spending all day in a tent you can easily spend 100€ per person.
We were supposed to make it back to Oktoberfest the next day and try a different tent. We woke up and realized that day 2 was not happening. We were both pretty hungover and it was raining pretty hard outside we could not imagine ourselves getting out of bed anytime soon. We stayed in, worked on our blogs, and set up our travel itinerary for the next month.
I had been to Munich before back in 2001 and there is a lot more to see than the tents of Oktoberfest. I felt bad that Diem didn’t get to experience the rest of the city but she didn’t seem to mind. We had terrible weather but I would love to go when the sun is out and see the different beer gardens. I think I would definitely go back to Oktoberfest, but not on opening day. I would also like to dress up in lederhosen (I talked Diem out of it to save on budget) and go with a group of friends. If you want to visit multiple tents, go during the week and during the day. We just missed going with some of my law school friends but we would meet up with them at our next stop in Salzburg.
To summarize, if you plan on visiting Oktoberfest, I would suggest the following:
- Don’t go on opening day or the weekends – Unless you have a reserved table, you will have to wait for a seat or come early and wait in line. To maximize your ability to see different tents go during the week where the crowds are smaller.
- Bring lots of cash – Credit cards are not accepted at Oktoberfest and money goes quickly when alcohol is involved. I would say bring at least €100 per person if you plan on staying a full day.
- Tip your server – In our tent, beers were €11.20 each and the server expected you to round up to €12. If you want to be the first table he/she comes to when beer comes out, be more generous.
- Dress up for maximum fun – As much as I didn’t want to spend money on the Oktoberfest outfits, it would have been cool to dress up. We saw costumes you can rent for around $30-40 USD or you could get more high quality costumes for more money. We talked to some people who spent over $500 on their authentic lederhosen and we saw some that were over $800 if you want to go all out. Since we didn’t want to have to send the costumes back or carry them for the next 8 months, I was fine with not getting legit costumes. However, if we go back I think we’ll get some.
- Pace yourself – As I mentioned, drinking on most days starts as early as 10 AM and goes until around 11:30 PM (Last beer at 10:30 PM) on most nights. It’s easy to get excited when you first get going. The beers are specially brewed for Oktoberfest and they have higher alcohol content than normal so don’t go overboard. You may also see people put their leg on the table which means they have to chug their stein. In some cases they kick people out for standing/dancing on the tables but you can stand/dance on the benches.
- Don’t bring a backpack – with increased security you won’t be able to get in so don’t risk it. For the ladies, don’t bring big purses. Diem almost didn’t get in with her small bag so make sure you have a small enough bag.
- Make friends – Oktoberfest is a celebration and most people are very happy to socialize. It’s always more fun to drink with friends so don’t be shy.
See the full gallery of our drunken time in Munich here: Oktoberfest, Germany