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Oktoberfest, Munich

Making the most of your first Oktoberfest

Oktoberfest is the largest Volksfest in the world, celebrates Bavarian culture and is filled with delicious German beer, food and funfair attractions. If you're heading there for the first time, read our tips for the best experience.

It actually starts in September - not October!

Don't make the mistake of booking your Oktoberfest trip for October, as the chances are you'll have missed out on the festivities by then. It usually runs for 16 days, starts in mid-to-late September and finishes on the first Sunday of October.

The first Oktoberfest was held in 1810 from the 12th to 17th of October to celebrate the royal wedding of Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen, but was moved back to September to take advantage of the warmer weather.

If the first Sunday falls before German Unity Day on the 3rd October, which celebrates the unification of East and West Germany, then the festival is extended to that date.

Oktoberfest gingerbread heart

Head to Munich for the authentic Oktoberfest experience

While Oktoberfest celebrations happen all over the world, the festival's heartland is in Munich where it all began. First-timers should make a beeline for the Bavarian capital to capture the festival at its beery best.

Book early – it gets very busy

Around 6 million people head to Munich every year for the festival. That means there's lots of competition for hotel rooms, so make sure to book your flights and hotels early to keep the price down.

Don't forget travel insurance

Travel insurance is a good idea for any trip and Oktoberfest is no exception. It's easy to lose things after one too many beers, and accidents happen, so give yourself some piece of mind by booking insurance with us.

Book your hotel as close to the main tents as possible

After a full day in the beer tents, you'll want your stumble home to be as quick and easy as possible. The Munich festival takes place on the Theresienwiese near the old town so try and stay around this area if you can.

Oktoberfest tent, Munich

Book a table or get to the tent early

There's plenty of competition for seats in the lively tents so plan ahead to avoid disappointment. You can book a table directly with the tent you plan on visiting – they sit 8 to 10 people, making this a great option for large groups.

Some of the seats aren't reservable so smaller groups can enter the tent without a booking. Just make sure you arrive early when the tents are less crowded.

Go during the week to avoid the weekend crowds

The festival tends to be less busy during the week than at weekends, so you'll have better luck finding a seat if you visit on a weekday.

Make sure to visit multiple tents

There's a tent for every occasion, whether you want to relax with a Maß or party the night away. Plus each tent usually serves beer from just one brewery so move around to sample the full range of German beers on offer, from Augustiner, Paulaner, Hacker-Pschorr and more.

Dress in traditional Oktoberfest outfits

Don't worry, you won't look out of place – in fact, you'll look more out of place in your normal clothes! So don your lederhosen or dirndl and party like a local.

Oktoberfest, lederhosen and dirndl

Dance on the benches, not the tables

There'll likely come a point where you'll want to get up and dance on the benches, and we say go for it! Just make sure not to step on the table itself – you don't want to kick anyone's drink over, plus it could get you kicked out of the tent.

Know the beer drinking etiquette

The standard drinking glass is a 1-litre beer mug called a Maß (pronounced mass), which is usually the only size served. When cheersing with these mighty vessels, hold the handle, not the glass, to avoid bashing your fingers.

The beer is stronger than you might be used to

Don't be deceived by how easily the delicious festival beers go down – this is strong stuff. Oktoberfest beers generally range from around 5.8% to 6.3% in alcohol, so don't be surprised if you feel their effects quicker than usual.

For something lighter, try a radler

A radler is a German beer style which combines lager or wheat beer with a fruit soda like lemonade, grapefruit or orange. It is refreshing and lower in percentage than the Festbiers, making them a great option if you want to keep a clearer head.

Oktoberfest beers

There's more to it than just beer

Festbiers often change the minds of those who don't like beer, but there's plenty on offer to the unconverted. You'll be able to find wine, spirits, cocktails, alcohol-free options and more – different tents have different offerings, so check directly with the tent before you go.

Wine lovers should seek out the Weinzelt, where you can find a large selection of wines, sparkling wines and champagne. Lots of tents also have excellent food offerings, and there are games and rides to enjoy around the site.

Learn the lyrics to Ein Prosit

Ein Prosit is a German toast that calls on the Oktoberfest crowds to raise their glasses and say cheers. If you hear it, and you will, be prepared to sing these lyrics at the top of your voice:

Ein Prosit, ein Prosit
Der Gemütlichkeit
Ein Prosit, ein Prosit
Der Gemütlichkeit

For those who don't speak German, here's how to pronounce that:

Ayn Prawseet, Ayn Prawseet
Dare Gae-meet-lich-kite
Ayn Prawseet, Ayn Prawseet
Dare Gae-meet-lich-kite

For a taste of the original Oktoberfest, head to the Oide Wiesn

You'll be able to experience old Bavarian customs in cosy beer tents at the Oide Wiesn, all to the sound of traditional folk music. The €4 entry fee is well worth it for the historic fairground rides and attractions, many of which cost just €1.

Oktoberfest carousel

Children are welcome

You don't have to leave the kids home for this one, as children are allowed in Oktoberfest tents every day until 8pm. There are lots of rides and attractions to keep them entertained – many of these are half-price on Tuesdays.

Make some time to explore the wider city

There's so much more to Munich than Oktoberfest. Bavaria's quirky capital is home to a thriving arts scene, lively outdoor markets and friendly bars and restaurants, so step outside the tents and find out everything this wonderful city has to offer.