The most important things you need to know about Oktoberfest on one page.
Dear first-time-visitor, congratulations on having decided on a trip to felicity. Especially, if you’re not familiar with the Bavarian Volksfest-culture, you’re most likely to have misconceptions about the largest folk festival in the world. But even, if you’ve already been the festivals in Straubing or Rosenheim or smaller ones, you should read this short guide, as many things are different in Munich.
What is Oktoberfest?
The Oktoberfest is a festival, which has been celebrated since 1810 at the Theresienwiese (Therese’s Meadow) in Munich. It dates back to the horse race as a part of the public celebration of the wedding between crown prince Ludwig and his Therese, on October 17, 1810. Due to its tremendous success and the search of the young Kingdom of Bavaria for points of identification, the festival was repeated ever since. It’s usually visited by more than six million every year and is said to be the largest fair of the world. It's neither a holiday nor a season or a type of event.
Admission and Reservations
Let’s begin with a misconception, many foreigners share: Admission to the Munich Oktoberfest is free. Commercial “Oktoberfest”-events, which have sprung up like mushrooms outside of Bavaria in the last couple of years usually want you to buy tickets in advance, which is not the case at the original. There is no such thing as Oktoberfest tickets. Even table reservations are in general for free, only a number of vouchers has to be purchased in advance.
The circumstance that shady scalpers are able to charge four-digit prices for table reservations (often called tickets in that context) results from the fact that the beer tents at the Oktoberfest are regularly closed for overcrowding on Friday nights and Saturdays, while a reservation guarantees admission. Such a reservation is never obligatory to enter the large beer tents. Twelve of the large 14 beer tents and the three at the Oide Wiesn all have to keep large areas of their tents free from reservations.
The Munich Oktoberfest is mainly divided into two areas: On the right (west) side, seen from the main entrance, you’ll find the Wirtsbudenstraße with most of the large beer tents. The Schaustellerstraße (Showmen Street) on the left (east) side, is home to most of the large rides. They are connected by multiple cross-ways, the largest being the Matthias-Pschorr-Straße in front of the Bavaria statue.
In most years, the Oide Wiesn takes place south of that street, behind the Ferris Wheel. This is another separate festival offering three more large beer tents and several historic attractions. Although actually being a pretty new event, the Oide Wiesn offers a way calmer and traditional atmosphere than the actual Oktoberfest. Every four years, however, the Oktoberfest ends at the Matthias-Pschorr-Straße as the Central Bavarian Agricultural Fair will then take place in the south part of the Theresienwiese.
Also if you have enough time to see everything, you may still simply overlook some attractions or simply not understand, what they’re about. This is only a short list of the most famous classic Oktoberfest attractions:
An old fashioned vaudeville theater dating back to 1867. It is legendary for its parade, which can be seen for free on the outside and the execution of a visitor by a guillotine on the inside.
The large statue can be climbed up on the inside, offering an overview of the Oktoberfest. Another, even better possibility of getting an overview is offered by the tower of the Paulskirche, the church north of Theresienwiese. If you are lucky, you may even get to see spectacular views with the Alps appearing right behind the Ferris wheel.
The Krinoline, built in 1924, may not be the oldest Oktoberfest ride, but still, it is one of the most charming ones, as it is the only one with a traditional brass band playing for its guests.
Maybe the most beloved ride among the locals is the Teufelsrad. Since 1908 its visitors compete against each other for staying on a spinning disc as long as possible. By paying once you can stay in there as long as you like.
Especially after dawn, hundreds are watching the Toboggan riders failing to climb the slide’s tower using a really tricky treadmill.