I’m going to be real honest, after four trips to Oktoberfest, I can honestly say that attending the world famous Oktoberfest without a plan and finding a seat is pure luck. This luck is not bestowed upon few and I would not suggest being one.
There are two ways to experience Oktoberfest:
1) drinking beer, singing and dancing on benches (not tables, that’ll get you kicked out), making new friends, eating half chickens, etc.
2) standing there, watching these people, and taking photos to show people what you almost got to be a part of
With a plan, however, you can be a part of group one. Trust me, I know some of you might not care to be a part of the masses/cool kids/drunks/whatever but here, I guarantee you do. Disney World is not the happiest place in the world, the Wiesn is.
First, a few numbers.
- 6.4 million people visited Oktoberfest this year (source) and the population of Munich is 1.4 million (source)
- There are 14 big tents (source) that hold 73,891 attendees inside and 24,272 outside (98,163 total).
- Armbrustschützen: 5830 + 1600
- Augusteiner-Festhalle: 6000 + 2500 (outside)
- Bräurosl: 6220 + 2200
- Fischer Vroni: 2695 + 700
- Hacker-Festzelt: 9300
- Hippodrom: 3200 + 1000
- Hofbräu Festhalle: 6896 + 3022
- Käfer’s Wies’n-Schänke: 1000 + 1900
- Löwenbräu: 5700 + 2800
- Ochsenbraterei: 5900 + 1500
- Schottenhammel: 6000 + 4000
- Schützen-Festzelt: 5400
- Weinzelt: 1300 + 600
- Winzerer Fähndl: 8450 + 2450
Oktoberfest cannot fit the demand and not everyone gets a seat. If you travel all the way to Oktoberfest, you want a seat, right? Oh, and let me not forget to mention that to get a beer, you will need a seat at a table.
How to get a seat at Oktoberfest:
There are a few effective methods:
- Make a reservation with one of the tents in advance (and I mean way in advance). Contact numbers can be found here.
- Make a friend with a table reservation.
- Arrive early – and I mean early. On weekends, I suggest 6 am. Stowaway some Red Bulls in that purse of yours. Stand in line with the thousands of other people and make sure you have a buddy to hold your spot when you need a bathroom break. When they open the doors, make a run for it. The reservation-less tables are usually in the middle surrounding the band. Many tables may have a reservation starting later in the day, around 5 pm so watch for the postings (taped on the end of the table). It’s best to get a table without, but this early in the morning, you might want to leave by 5 anyway. This is a relatively small price to pay for an experience of a lifetime.
- Go on a weekday (just make sure it is not a German holiday). I still suggest arriving before lunch time and securing your spot. If it’s Monday or Tuesday, you can likely wander between tents and have a beer in a few, getting to see how spectcular they all are.
- Sit in the beer garden. You are more likely to find a seat here and it is still a great time, especially if the sun is shining.
- If the tents are not locked, enter and find a reserved table with room for you and your cute friend. Flutter your eyelashes and smile that smile and ask to join. This works shockingly well, particularly with older gentleman.
- Ultimately, you want a seat inside. Why?
- You cannot rely on great weather for Oktoberfest. It has rained 3 out of 4 times I’ve attended and it’s beginning to cool down this time of year in Germany.
- Most importantly, the band is inside. The bands play traditinal Bavarian folk songs while also getting people to drink with a round of “Ein Prosit!” At night, the band turns it up a notch and plays beerfest classics like “Hey Baby!”, “Sweet Caroline”, “So Ein Schöner Tag”, “Country Roads”, etc.
- “Ein Bier, bitte.” -> One beer please. “Danke Schön!” -> Thank you!
- One liter beer will cost you 9 Euro and change. You pay 10.
- When you do snag an oh so coveted table, do not leave the tent until you are ready to leave beer tent for good.
- If you have the luxury of picking your table, look around for some people (preferably Germans) looking to have a good time. They can teach you the songs and explain some of the traditions.
Lastly, enjoy yourself, sing, smile, make friends – you’re at the Wiesn!
And bitte, drink responsibly and treat those around you with courtesy. You are representing your nation, whether you realize it or not. Prost!