Munich Oktoberfest for Beginners

Munich Oktoberfest entrance

“It seems you have almonds, over there.” Andre belches and leans over to view the end of the bench. “What was your name again?” he adds clumsily. But the girl in the lilac mini-dirndl isn’t keen on sharing her roasted Caipirinha almonds, let alone a conversation. “That’s a false impression,” she shrugs and continues munching. It is half past eleven, the world’s biggest fun-fair, the Munich Oktoberfest, has just closed for the day, and the local train is full of cheerful people who are tipsy but rather entertaining.

Dirndl and Lederhosen

revellers at Munich Oktoberfest in rain

Many of the young men are wearing traditional knee-long lederhosen (leather trousers), although some combine them with stylish white sneakers and cosy fleece sweaters.

In specialised Trachten shops all over Munich, the lederhosen are marked down already. Next to them glare flashy mini-dresses in pink and turquoise, with patterned blouses and many frills. They are certainly not traditional garments, but they resemble the classic dirndls just enough to create a stout Bavarian beery atmosphere. “So many people are wearing these fake dirndls,” we had commented to a Bavarian friend. “Fake? Oh, the ones with petticoats? They are called Wiesn dirndl, made especially for the Oktoberfest.”

Fairground attraction Menzels Zugspitzbahn at Munich Oktoberfest

For the weekend, S. and T. from Bochum are coming to visit the Oktoberfest. The idea of enjoying huge quantities of beer in large beer steins and riding merry-go-rounds seems rather strange to them. Even Isa, who has been to the Oktoberfest only once before, can almost feel like an insider. When we meet S. and T. at the station on Friday afternoon, some of the teenagers in lederhosen are already drunk. They are wearing the lederhosen a couple of sizes too big and well below the groin. Never mind. S. is keen to taste the Bavarian beer and see a bit of Munich, and T. is toying with the idea of a roller coaster ride.

Munich Oktoberfest – a wedding party?

The Oktoberfest is held every year for 16 days. Strangely this is in late September and only a few days in early October. The festivities date back to the wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig (later Ludwig I) and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen in 1810. Originally, they organised a big horse race on the meadows outside town for the citizens of Munich. Apparently the crowds liked it and some sort of fair was repeated almost every year from then.

From 1835 a parade has been added to the festivities. Today it forms an important part of the Oktoberfest. Almost 8000 people in traditional costumes walk through the centre of Munich, to the fairgrounds on Theresienwiese. The traditional horse races, however, were discontinued after WW II. Today the Oktoberfest is still a highlight in the Munich citizens’ calendar, but many visitors come from other parts of Bavaria, Germany, and the world. “Italians!” a friend sighs. “But mind you, after a couple of those one-litre steins they don’t live up to the cliché…”

The run for the Munich Oktoberfest beer tents

Gingerbread hearts at Munic Oktoberfest

The next day we mingle with the Oktoberfest crowd. A bunch of giggling girls in turquoise gingham skirts jostles past us. Gingerbread hearts screaming „Darling“ or „I love you“ in sugar icing dangle at their hips like handbags. They are wearing neon-coloured wristbands. They are among the chosen. The chosen thousands, that is, who can still get entry into one of the 14 beer tents. For those who don’t have a reservation – like us – the tents remain closed. Inside there may be music and dance, roast pork and pretzel, beer and Oktoberfest atmosphere, but today they have been inaccessible at least since 11 am due to overcrowding. We can’t even get a glimpse inside.

almond stall at Munich Oktoberfest

Outside, there is also beer, pretzels, and Munich Oktoberfest atmosphere, but it’s raining. Dripping wet, T. returns from the roller coaster. He admits to having closed his eyes all through the loopings, but is nevertheless enthusiastic about the world’s biggest mobile rollercoaster. Like the other thousands of none-chosen, we resort to the fairground rides and the outdoor foodstalls: they offer all the Bavarian classics from roast pork to smoked mackerel and from Magenbrot to roasted almonds. Those are not simply caramelised. No, the stalls offer a wide choice of classic, vanilla and chocolate-strawberry almonds. But this year’s selling hit are the Caipirinha almonds.

Would you like to visit the Oktoberfest in Munich? Or have you already visited it? Tell us about it in the comment box!

What else to do in Munich and around?

For some suggestions what to do in Bavaria after visiting the Munich Oktoberfest, look at our other blog posts. For instance, our travel blog article about the King Ludwig Hiking Path will send you to Neuschwanstein Castle. Bavaria’s famous king Ludwig II, who built it, was the grandson of Ludwig I whose wedding the Munich Oktoberfest celebrates. Or read about the fantastic baroque church Wieskirche. More Bavarian Beer? Read our blog article about the Bayreuth Brewery Museum, also in Bavaria.

NB: This travel blog article about the Munich Oktoberfest was not sponsored in any way. We paid all expenses ourselves.

Never miss a new post! Get notifications about new posts straight into your inbox!


  1. I think the history of Oktoberfest is fascinating. Many people look forward to the debauchery of it, without knowing its beginnings. Going to Bavaria for Oktoberfest is on my bucket list. But for now I am celebrating it at home.

    1. Dear Donna, Oktoberfest in Bavaria is really fun! Although you should be prepared for a lot of drinking. And also make sure to go with people you like to party with!

  2. Being based in Hamburg, Oktoberfest to me is more exotic than Chinese New Year. Hence, I read your report with great interest. I particularly love the pix at the beginning of your post – they actually have something Martin Parr-ish to them #hugecompliment. I love Munich – for the art museums and for the Residenz – but I certainly won’t visit the Oktoberfest. Therefore, I’m very happy you took me there in your post 😉

    1. Dear Renata, I have many friends who thought like you and who enjoyed the Oktoberfest anyway. You have to go with someone you like and this must also be someone who has been there before and is able to show you around.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *