Updated: December 2017

Oktoberfest 2015 - Schedule for Oktoberfest 2015

When does Oktoberfest take place? Oktoberfest (note -- not spelled Octoberfest!) is an annual festival held in Munich, Germany, each year in the early fall, spanning late September and early October. Each year nearly 6 million visitors come to Munich to experience Oktoberfest, making it the largest festival in the world.The history of Oktoberfest takes us back to the year 1810 when Crown Prince Ludwig married Princess Therese on Oct. 12. The wedding celebration was held in Munich on the fields outside the city gate. These fields are today called Theresienwiese, and they are where the Oktoberfest celebration is held each year, commemorating this event. Horse racing was the original entertainment, but carousels were added in 1818, always with plenty of beer. The famous beer tents that now line the fields began in 1896, backed by the large brewering around Munich, famous for its Bavarian beer. Most people don't realize it, but Oktoberfest is really more like a carnival, with all kinds of midway rides, ferris wheels, game booths, food, etc., as well as being a great place to enjoy beer, traditional music, and comraderie from people from all over the world. In this guide, we will take a look at how to plan a trip to Oktoberfest, what to expect, where to stay, and much more.

Getting to Munich

It's no surprise that the majority of Oktoberfest visitors come from nearby European nations, like Switzerland, Italy, Austria, and France (and of course Germany). But you will find people from all over the world here, toasting one another, singing, and generally having a good time. If you come by train, you will arrive at the Hauptbahnhof, or Main Train Station, which is located right in the heart of the city, just a mile or two from the main square (Marienplatz). By plane, you will arrive at the Munich International Airport, about 25km from central Munich. There are taxis, buses, and trains that can carry you from the Munich airport into the old city. The main Munich Airport website is Munich-Airport.de. Getting to the actual Theresienwiese field where the Oktoberfest is held is easy via the subway system there -- on the U4 or U5 trains, exit at Theresienwiese or Schwanthalerhohe stops; on the U3 or U6 trains, get off at Goetheplatz; for the commuter rails trains, the S-Bahn lines 1-8, get out at Hackerbrucke. You'll find many hotels and lodging choices within stumbling distance of the fields, but the subway system makes it easy to get around. You can get a nice detailed PDF map of Munich and the transportation system here.

What is Oktoberfest Like? What to expect?

The main Oktoberfest website is Oktoberfest.de (from the homepage, select the flag of the country you want the language to be in). Oktoberfest takes place out on the large fields outside the old Munich city walls. It's basically a large carnival kind of atmosphere, with thrill rides, games, food and drink, with large beer tents on the perimeter sponsored by the large local brewers in Munich. Sure, its an excuse to drink good beer, but it is also a festive occasion with lots to do. Tourism has been pretty steady the last 20 years, bringing in between 5-6 million visitors during the two week run of Oktoberfest. The beer halls can accomodate more than 100,000 people at their tables and benches at any given time - this is no county fair! Most days the festival runs from 10AM to midnight, 9AM on weekends. Crowds tend to be largest over the opening and closing weekends, and lightest toward the middle of the second week. There is no admission charge and no charge for going into the beer tents. You can see an Oktoberfest map showing the general layout of the park and beer tents here. The main beer halls, sponsored by the big 12 brewers, at Octoberfest are: Schutzen, Lowenbrau, Paulaner, Pschorrbrau, Schottenhamel, Augustinerbrau, Hackbrau, Hofbrauhaus, Armbrust-Schutzen, Spatenbrau, Hippodrom, and Fischer-Vroni. You can see another interactive beer hall map here. How much does beer cost at Oktoberfest? Well for starters, you will be drinking out of much larger 1 liter glass steins, not puny little 12 ounce bottles or glasses. These big mugs, which you will see the serving maids carrying 4-6 per hand, will set you back about 7.5 euros, or close to $9-$10 US. You can call in advance and make reservations for table space at specific tents, but most people just wander around and settle in where they find room. Be sure to arrive early in the afternoon, especially if you have a large group. When the tents get full you will have to wait in line to get in, which can often take an hour or more. And you cannot be served a beer unless you are seated at one of the tables in the tents. The Munich tourist site has information on reserving an Oktoberfest table: Muenchen.de. Being inside the tents is a noisy, raucous affair. They have live alpine bands playing traditional oompah music, and chances are neighboring table will be singing and making plenty of noise. Serving maids will come around to take your drink orders and deliver your beer and snacks. A highlight of the festival is the opening ceremonies which includes the grand entry of the Oktoberfest landlords and breweries, pulled in big horse-drawn carts. You'll probably find a lot of rivalry between groups from neighboring countries, singing their anthems or soccer songs. We've been to Oktoberfest twice, though, and have never seen any fighting. It does happen, with all the young people and drinking, but overall the entire experience is pretty safe and secure, and you can enjoy yourself in the Bavarian tradition when visiting Munich. How long should you stay at Oktoberfest? For most people, 2-3 days is enough to experience Oktoberfest. If you have time, consider staying an extra few days to see more of Munich and perhaps some of the surrounding Bavarian countryside.

Finding a Hotel for Oktoberfest

With 6 million people coming through Munich over 2 weeks, you can imagine that hotel rooms are in short supply this time of year. It is ESSENTIAL that you plan and book your hotels as far in advance as possible. If you think you can just show up and find a place to stay, you will be sadly mistaken! A good European site for helping you find rooms in particular regions of Munich is here. You'll find the Stadtmitte, which means city center, which is the area around the main historic, tourist center (Marienplatz, Glockenspiel, etc.). To be closed to the fields, select the Theresienwiese district. Personally, we prefer the flavor of the city center, but Munich is a big city and there are lots of loding choices. Keep in mind that room rates during Oktoberfest can be 3 times higher than the normal rates, and finding a cheap hotel for Oktoberfest is pretty much impossible, though there are some youth hostels if you looking for that kind of lodging. You can of course find and book Munich lodging on all the major travel sites, like Orbitz, Expedia, and Travelocity.