I’d never been to Oktoberfest before, but I thought I’d capture some thoughts that might help future travelers. To set the stage, we attended Oktoberfest on the last Thursday of the festival during the day session in the Hofbrau Festzelt tent, the largest and oldest of the beer gardens.
Here are my top 5 Oktoberfest tips:
1) Get the traditional German wear; for guys it’s the lederhosen, and for women it’s the drindl dress.
My wife and I thought it was a joke that the Germans play on American tourists, but isn’t. The lederhosen are essentially leather pants/shorts, form fitting, but surprisingly comfortable (although would get pretty warm on a hot day). There are many shops right by the train station that sell you all you need, but don’t expect any great deals. The good news is that after shopping around a bit, all the merchants essentially charge the same, so no need to hunt around for good deals. We paid 240 Euros for my lederhosen, shirt, and Janet’s drindl dress. You could spend another 20Euro on a hat. Some friends of ours just wore khakis with a checkered/gingham shirt. That looked fine, but it’d suggest biting the bullet and going all the way with the traditional garb.
2) A table reservation is nice, but not absolutely necessary. A group of 3-4 can easily Find a spot to get a beer. Problem is that they won’t serve you unless you’re at a table.
At the Hofbrau Haus tent, there’s a standing room area in front of the band that’s great. There are two “sittings” – roughly noon and 17:00. You can either try to show up early and squat at a table that isn’t reserved, or you can show up about 2 hours into each session when many people start getting “sleepy”. Funny how many open spots there are towards the end of sessions.
3) Be sure to eat! That seemed to be the #1 downfall of people who got especially “sleepy” early. I’d highly suggest the tasty half chickens, which have a great salty baste to them that goes perfectly with the beer. But don’t expect any fancy side dishes, this is truly just a half chicken that looks like it just came out of the Safeway deli counter.
4) Don’t go expecting to have a “St. Paulie Girl”-type maiden serving you beers.The ladies serving in the tents are obviously protected by tenure, and all appear to be as old as the Oktoberfest tradition. These ladies are old, large, and been dealing with drunks for weeks – they are not happy people.
5) Unless you’re staying within walking distance of the festival, take the public transportation. It’s an incredibly efficient system, consistent, and can get you any where around the city or surrounding towns pretty quickly. It might take a little work to figure out how it works, but once you do it’s incredibly helpful for getting around.
Hope that’s helpful.