Big disclaimer: you only need one day at Oktoberfest. Any more than that just won’t be as enjoyable, so while it is a “once-in-a-lifetime” experience, plan a few other things to do if you’re in Munich for a long weekend.
If you’re going to Oktoberfest on any day other than the first day, you really don’t need to get to the park too early because it only opens at 10am and the first drinks aren’t served until 11am. My group did attend on the first day, so we watched part of the parade then head over to the tents. The parade ends at the park and brings the mayor to a tent to tap the first barrel and take the first drink of the festival for the year. We got standing spots in Hofbrau tent, which coincidentally was where the mayor performed the opening ceremony, but there really is no one tent that’s better than another.
We stayed in the tent for about 3 hours during which we learned a lot of about how the festival works. It’s incredibly hard to get a table so many people stand around them just as we did. When you first get there it’s hard to figure out how to get drinks, but after a few minutes you’ll notice waitresses angrily blowing their whistles at you as they barrel through the crowd with 8 to 10 and sometimes up to 12 1-liter mugs. You have to swarm her when she puts them down on a table, grab however many mugs you want and quickly pay her with cash. Ours were 15 euros each or 2 for 25 and the rest of the tents tend to have similar prices. There are also other waitresses coming around with baskets of snacks, mostly pretzels, and there’s live music in the tents as well. You’ll also notice that most of the people there are American or German for the most part. Funny enough, at the table a few steps away from where my group was standing, I recognized 2 girls from my high school there, and one of my friends accidentally ran into a friend from middle school in our tent.
Outside of the tents, however, there are a lot of other things to do as well. The park has two main streets that run vertically through the park and cross streets that connect them. One main street has all the tents, and the other has the rides and many of the food and souvenir stands. Besides the obvious reason for why people visit Oktoberfest, to drink, the rest of it is actually just like a big American carnival. Not many people know this, but the entire festival started to celebrate the wedding of King Ludwig I and because Bavarians like celebrations so much, they decided to bring the festival back annually. The rides are pretty cool; however, they do tend to be on the expensive side, ranging from 5 to 7 euros. Besides that, the food stands sell a large variety of food, of which we had crepes, sandwiches, sausages, and even chocolate covered fruit. From previous trips to Germany I’ve encountered “Schoko-Banane” which is a fresh banana coated in milk, white or dark chocolate and I honestly highly recommend it. At these stands they have a lot of other fruit as well, including apples, strawberries, raspberries and even mangos. These are all cash only so make sure you bring enough money if you’re spending most of your day at the festival.
Though this entire article sounds like a typical experience at Oktoberfest, and it is, I had a significantly different experience than most of my friends. I personally don’t like beer all that much and so I didn’t drink more than maybe ¼ of a liter spread between sips of friends’ beers. My aversion was one of the things holding me back when my friends were booking this trip but I decided to tag along anyway just because I didn’t see myself ever coming back. Contrary to what you might think, I had a great time despite not being a big fan of beer and not having drunk much that day.
Though Oktoberfest is one of the most famous tourist attractions in the world, Munich is still a pretty interesting city, with a rich history and lot of tourists every year, so if you need something else to do in the city, I recommend taking the Sandeman’s New Europe free walking tour of Old Town which I’ve linked here. I took it 4 years ago when I visited Munich for the first time and then took it again this past weekend with one of my friends. But of course, also try to make the most out of Oktoberfest experience. Don’t stress too much about doing everything to a certain schedule, because in the end, you’ll still get your drinks, experience the festival, and have a great time with your friends.