From September 17th to October 3rd 2016, Oktoberfest fans and everybody who wants to become one can enjoy the biggest fair in the world for 17 days. The 183rd Oktoberfest will be started with the traditional “O’zapft is!” cry, meaning “It (the barrel) is tapped!” by Munich’s prime mayor Dieter Reiter in the Schottenhamel tent at noon today.
On Saturday, September 17th, the Schottenhamel tent is the place to be, if you want to catch the official opening ceremonies. At noon, the Mayor of Munich will have the honor of tapping the first keg of Oktoberfest beer. Once the barrel has been tapped, all visitors will then be allowed to quench their thirst. It pays to arrive early in order to experience the festivities up close and personal and it’s quite common for visitors to come around 9 am to secure good seats. The festival will last until October 3rd.
Oktoberfest began as the marriage ceremony between Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese on October 12, 1810. All of the townspeople were invited to attend the festival, which took place in the fields outside of the city gates. Following the wedding the fields were named Theresienwiese after the Princess, and the party was such a hit that the townspeople asked King Ludwig to continue the celebration the following year.
Today the remnants of the gates still stand and the fields, known by locals as the Wies’n, now host the largest beer festival in the world: Oktoberfest! What was a simple wedding celebration has transformed into a 17 or 18-day festival in which 7 million people from around the world participate in, consuming more than 6 million liters of Bavarian beer.
Oktoberfest Beer and Foods
All beer served at Oktoberfest is 13.5% Stammwürze, which equates to around 6% alcohol content. The average American beer is about 3-5%. The beer is often stronger than at home, too, so pace yourself and eat plenty.
In the 14 tents with their total of 98.000 seats, the big six Munich breweries (Augustiner, Hacker-Pschorr, Löwenbräu, Paulaner, Spaten and Hofbräuhaus) will offer their special Oktoberfest beers with an original wort of about 13,5%. In the big and small tents, the price for a mass (1 litre) of Oktoberfest beer lies between 10.40€ to 10.70.€.
Oktoberfest fans have to spend an average 3.11% more for a Mass in the beer tents.
The most expensive beer is sold at the Bratwurst for 10.70€ for one liter. The lowest price of 10.40€ can be found at the Augustiner Festhalle, the Familienplatzl, the Haxnbraterei, Heinz Wurst- and Hühnerbraterei, Wirtshaus zum Schichtl and at the Festzelt Tradition on the neighbouring agricultural fair.
You have a good choice of dishes. Bavarian specialties like roast chicken, horseradish, Obazda (spread cheese), pork sausages or fish on a stick go especially well with the festival beer.
A must-try is the classic “Wiesn-Hendl” (grilled chicken), best enjoyed with French Fries. The slow-roasted, butterbasted chicken is irresistible after a few beverages. Freshly-baked and doughy, salt-strewn pretzels are delicious and extremely popular. Also expect to sample traditional sausages and the seemingly endless dessert options available at Oktoberfest. All the tents have English menus, so feel free to ask your waitress for it.
Question: How do I enter the Oktoberfest festival grounds?
Answer: As usual, all entries to the festival grounds are open and not blocked, just as in recent years.
Q: What is this about a fence? Where exactly will it be located?
A: Similar to recent years. Even then there was a fence around the Oktoberfest, but the entries were free and still are. The fence only restricted areas not for the public, such as the back side of the fun-rides and the parking spaces for sideshow operator vehicles.
This year one remaining gap at Theresienhöhe will be closed so that nobody can avoid the bag checks at the entry points. Seven exits are, however, also planned there. In case of danger, the complete fence can be opened within less than a minute.
Q: Do I need a ticket?
A: No, access to the festival grounds continues to be free of charge.
Q: Can I enter the beer tents without a reservation?
A: Of course you can also enter the tents without any reservation. But please consider to come early, because the tents fill up very quickly! When the tents are overfilled, you can not enter anymore. On weekend the tents often close before 11 am. because of overfilling. During the week the tents are normally open until afternoon.
Q: Is smoking allowed in the beer tents?
A: No. Since August 2010 there is a new no-smoking law in Bavaria which interdicts smoking in all kind of bars, pubs and restaurants including beer tents. Contravention is punished by not being served or from 2011 on also by a fine.
Q: From what time can I get onto the festival grounds?
A: Between 1.30am and 8am nobody is allowed on the festival grounds. You can only access the grounds starting at 8am. So it is recommended to sleep in and gather your strength for your Oktoberfest visit.
Q: Who will be checked at the entries?
A: The security staff pays special attention to larger pieces of luggage, bags and backpacks. Backpacks and large bags are generally forbidden at this year’s Oktoberfest. It is best to leave everything behind that is not required for partying. Those who do not carry any bags or backpacks will be afforded quickest access to the festival grounds.
Q: What size are the bags and backpacks that may be brought to the festival grounds?
A: Bags and backpacks that can be taken in must not exceed a capacity of three liters and a size of 20 cm x 15 cm x 10 cm.
Q: What can I bring?
A: Nearly everything that fits into a bag that does not exceed the permissible size. The following items continue to be forbidden: aerosol spray cans or anything that could explode, objects that may be used as cutting, thrusting and stabbing weapons, and similar items. Knives to adorn traditional attire or for cutting snacks should be left at home.
Q: Are there any exceptions regarding bags and backpacks that exceed the specified measurements to be brought to the festival grounds?
A: A few rare exceptions will be made at the checkpoints. Such bags and backpacks will be checked by the security staff and furnished with a “security check banderole”. Thus necessary medical equipment can be taken with.
Q: I suffer from a disability and have to rely on medical aids. Can I take the necessary medical devices and accessories to the festival grounds?
A: Such necessary equipment is certainly covered by the excepted devices that may be taken to the festival grounds. Just have the equipment checked by the security staff at the entry who will apply the “security check banderole” and in you go!
Q: What happens to baggage that exceeds the maximum volume, is not covered by exceptional provisions and thus cannot be brought to the festival grounds?
A: There are sufficient options for secure baggage storage (for a fee) available around the festival grounds (see plan).
Q: What must I observe if I want to take my family, small children, pram and diaper bag to the festival grounds?
A: Nothing special. At the entries large bags and baby strollers will be checked and furnished with a “security check banderole”. As before, strollers are forbidden at certain times. On Saturdays and on October 3, “the Day of German Unity”, strollers are forbidden all day long. On all Oktoberfest days strollers are not allowed after 6pm.
Q: Do I have to expect waiting times at the entries?
A: The entries have not been changed, neither with respect to number nor to size. Since this year there will, however, be more checks of bags and backpacks, short waiting times may occur. In the event of backlogs, it is recommended to proceed to another entry.
Q: I do not speak any German. Will this be a problem?
A: This will not be a problem. The language sections of the travel guidebook usually contains the German translations for relevant dialogue, so you are able to sneak by if needed. Again, most tents also have English menus, so ask for them if you are not comfortable ordering in German.
Q: Are children allowed to enter the beer tents?
A: Children under six-years-old must leave the tents by 8 p.m., even if they are with their parents. The tents tend to get crowded by the evening and it wouldn’t be fun for either the children or the parents to be in the tents at that time, anyway. Activities like carnival rides in the fair grounds would be more suitable for children.
Q: How much tip is common?
A: Within Oktoberfest grounds, it varies. If you’ve got reservations and vouchers, the tip is sometimes included. In this case you do not need to give extra tip, or just if you think the service was extraordinary. If tip is not included, the waitress will tell you what the tip is. In fact, it’s not really a tip – it’s more like a “service fee”. It should be not more than 10 to 15% of the beer or food price. And yes, giving a bit of extra tip will ensure that the waitress will always serve you in time and in quality.
Q: How is the bathroom situation in the beer tents?
A: There are enough facilities in the tents. But in a tent with thousands of people drinking thousands of liters of beer there also is a clear need for these! For men, this usually means a wait between 5 and 10 minutes in the line. For women, this usually means a wait between 10 and 20 minutes in the line.
Q: Is Oktoberfest safe?
A: Yes, it’s very safe. But just like any travel/festival experience, be aware of your surroundings. Keep money is a safe place (not in your back pocket). Everyone is really friendly but of course with so much bier, you’re bound to see some altercations. Security is very present in the tents and Polizei outside the tents.