A Toast to Munich’s Oktoberfest

Decorations depicting men and women in traditional German costumes, at Oktoberfest celebrations in Munich, Germany.

“Ein Prosit, ein Prosit, Der Gemütlichkeit. Ein Prosit, ein Prosit, Der Gemütlichkeit.” 

A traditional German beer drinking song wishing good health and cheer to companions.

I was first exposed to Germany’s Oktoberfest culture when I was eight years old. During a whirlwind trip to Munich, my parents’ German friends whisked us away to what seemed like every famous city landmark.

First, there was Munich’s Rathaus (city hall), where we watched the Glockenspiel figurines on the intricate tower twirl upon the hour. We then headed to the splendid two-domed church called the Frauenkirche. And since a visit to Munich is not complete without stopping by the famous Hofbräuhaus, we ventured there for a hearty meal as well. Once inside the legendary brewery, which dates back to 1589, I recall hearing polka music emanating from shiny brass instruments. Committing a German faux pas, we upset a Lederhosen-clad local when we mistakenly sat at his Stammtisch (a table reserved for regulars).

Aside from those Hofbräuhaus happenings, I vividly remember anonymous adults getting sick on the cobbled streets outside the brewery.

“What’s wrong with them?” I asked my mother, with great concern. “Are those men okay?”

I don’t recall how she responded, but let’s just say that during this moment, I had officially been introduced to German’s fest season.

Now that autumn is in full swing, I find myself missing the lively festivals I once enjoyed in Germany. From the Heidelberg Herbst (which I attended nearly ten times since I lived in Heidelberg for a decade) to the Bad Dürkheim Weinfest, and the granddaddy of them all – Oktoberfest, fall is a fun time to be in Germany.

Though Oktoberfest is soon drawing to a close, I thought I would pay tribute to Oktoberfests past with images that showcase pretty Dirndls fit for a wine princess and Lederhosen befitting the most traditional of German men.

Other ubiquitous Oktoberfest elements pictured here are Brotzeit sessions and waitresses fine-tuning their biceps by carrying massive glass mugs. Each of these glasses contain one liter of beer; they are known in German as ein Maß. Mammoth pretzels and Lebkuchen hearts with sugary-sweet messages also make regular appearances at Oktoberfest.

If you cannot make it to the world’s biggest fair this year – which has been held in Munich since 1810 – Oktoberfest will take place again next year starting in September and ending in October.

So, start shopping for the perfect Dirndl or Lederhosen now. Begin learning the lyrics to some catchy beer-drinking tunes. And finally, reserve your fest table well in advance.

Prost! Cheers!

Women in Bavarian clothes Oktoberfest
Oktoberfest flowers for Paulaner
Oktoberfest in Munich Sign
Man in Lederhosen at Oktoberfest
Man in Bavarian clothes at Hofbrauhaus in Munich
Oktoberfest in Munich
Father and son on streetcar for Oktoberfest in Munich
People on escalator for Oktoberfest in Munich
Oktoberfest in Munich
Oktoberfest Paulaner Tent
Oktoberfest Signs
Hofbrauhaus decoration / Oktoberfest
Pretzels at Oktoberfest
Waitress serving bier at Oktoberfest
Oktoberfest fest tent
Oktoberfest Brotzeit
Oktoberfest tent
Lebkuchen at Oktoberfest
Lebkuchen hearts
Man in Bavarian beer mug hat at Oktoberfest
Oktoberfest in Munich
The candy-colored chair swing ride.
Girls in Bavarian costume at Oktoberfest
Oktoberfest in Munich
Man in Bavarian costume at Oktoberfest
Oktoberfest in Munich Sign
Oktoberfest in Munich Sign
Oktoberfest flowers

Where in the World?

Planning Pointers:

  • Oktoberfest runs from the middle or end of September until the first weekend in October – for 16-18 days! Approximately 35 temporary tents are set up on Munich’s Theresienwiese. Locals might refer to these fairgrounds as Wies’nMunich’s official website features upcoming Oktoberfest dates, beer tent whereabouts, a schedule of events, and more.
  • The city of Munich publishes Munich public transit timetables and maps here, and Germany-wide train tickets and schedules are available on the Deutsche Bahn website.
  • Because of Oktoberfest’s popularity, accommodation tends to be limited or expensive. The first two times I went, I stayed at a friend’s apartment. For my third Oktoberfest, Shawn and I went to Oktoberfest for a day trip, then made it to the picturesque town of Oberammergau in time for dinner. It’s famous for its frescoed homes, and for hosting the Passion Play every ten years. We spent two nights at the Gästehaus Hildegard (affiliate link). We found the beds to be comfortable there, the owners were helpful and kind, and the breakfast offered a lot of variety. The guest house is centrally located in Oberammergau too, and it’s not far from the Tiroler Gasse bus stop. The train station is also only about 1 km away.
  • Are you exploring Bavaria for a few days? I’ve also written about visiting the storybook Neuschwanstein Castle, riding an alpine coaster through the foothills of the Alps, watching knee-slapping dancers in the village of Oberammergau, and stopping by King Ludwig’s Linderhof Palace. My Germany page also indexes all my posts from Germany.

Photography & text © Tricia A. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

Published by Tricia A. Mitchell

Tricia A. Mitchell is a freelance writer and photographer. Born in Europe but raised in the United States, she has lived in Valletta, Malta; Heidelberg, Germany; and Split, Croatia. An avid globetrotter who has visited more than 65 countries, she has a penchant for off-season travel. Tricia has learned that travel’s greatest gift is not sightseeing, rather it is the interactions with people. Some of her most memorable experiences have been sharing a bottle of champagne with distant French cousins in Lorraine, learning how to milk goats in a sleepy Bulgarian village, and ringing in the Vietnamese New Year with a Hanoi family. She welcomes any opportunity to practice French and German, and she loves delving into a place’s history and artisanal food scene. A former education administrator and training specialist, Tricia has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in international relations. She and her husband, Shawn, married in the ruins of a snowy German castle. They’ve been known to escape winter by basing themselves in coastal Croatia or Southeast Asia. Her writing has appeared in Fodor’s Travel, Frommer’s, and International Living.

38 thoughts on “A Toast to Munich’s Oktoberfest

    1. Thanks so much, Chillbrook! During this adventure, I learned that it was not wise to try out a new camera and lens in such a hectic spot! Just another reason to return. :) Have you been to Oktoberfest?

    1. Lucy, I was surprised the first time to see it was a large fair, with beer of course. If you go, consider getting a Dirndl (traditional German dress). :) In Germany, they were available at a wide range of department stores not long before O-fest, and from year to year, it seemed as though the number of people in traditional costumes grew, creating an even more festive atmosphere. Every year, I’ve sort of lucked out and found friends who had reserved tables in a good tent, but that’s another must – reserving a spot in advance. I hope you make it!

  1. I loved the octoberfest! People who have never been think it’s just a messy piss-up, but it’s really more of a family affair, with games, stalls, and excellent, excellent food. Nice report :)

    1. Alessandro, did you sport Lederhosen (traditional leather pants) when you went? You’re right that Oktoberfest is really what one makes of it. I remember coming to Munich by train for my first Oktoberfest. I was surprised to see so many families arriving at the station, with every member wearing traditional Bavarian clothes. It really created a fun atmosphere! And the pretzels are so good.

  2. This is delightful account of this cultural fun-lovers, beer-lovers, music lovers festival. Pretzels, food, dirndls,crafts, rides…you name it. Have only attended a small local festival at a German American Social Club. They do have fun.
    Prost to you, Tricia.

    1. And to you as well, Lynne! I think the small fests can be just as much fun; an added bonus is that they’re less crowded. What’s wonderful about Germany is that there are so many this time of year. I’m looking forward to being back there for Christmas Market season later this year. Nice to hear from you Lynne, as always!

    1. Claudine, that’s such a fitting comment… traditions largely staying the same, with only people changing. I think that’s what makes Europe’s celebrations so much fun – they’re a way to experience the past. Did you wear traditional attire when you went to the Oktoberfest?

      I hope your week is off to a beautiful start! Until next time. :)

  3. Vielen dank, Tricia – I enjoyed your photos and description of what my long-lost kin are up to at their festivals! I don’t expect to get to Deutschland any time soon, BUT have visited Frankenmuth here in Michigan often with my family. The town calls itself ‘Michigan’s Little Bavaria’, was settled by Germans, and goes to great lengths to appear as German as it can. It likely succeeds in some ways and completely misses in others. Guten tag, meine blogging freunde!

    1. Guten tag, Sid, & vielen Dank! I didn’t know you were such a German linguist. :) Where’d you pick up your German?

      There seem to be so many ‘little Bavarias’ in the United States. My husband and I were recently in Seattle and read there was a Bavarian look-alike in Leavenworth, WA as well. And now, your mention of Frankenmuth.

      Like you, I have much German ancestry. Perhaps that’s one reason why I enjoy exploring Europe so much – and imagining what life was like in the Old World. Do you know where your ancestors came from?

      1. Not quite a German linguist – I may have told you everything I know! As for my ancestry, my dad’s family came from Westphalia -and settled in Westphalia Michigan. And your family? My wife has done extensive genealogy work. She could probably fit you in somewhere! :)

      2. Sid, we’ve done a bit of genealogy, but have hit a few roadblocks. I think our family’s from Baden-Württemberg, the Rheinland Pfalz, and areas that are now Poland. I wouldn’t be surprised if we did find we were connected somehow, as the world is such a small place. :)

  4. Tricia, you made my heart burn for my home city. I has so many childhood memories of the Oktoberfest. Riding the Karoussels until my head was spinning, die gebrannten Mandeln , oh und die Brezen mit Butter natuerlich Though i was never fond of drinking beer aus diesen grossen Kruegen. It is true that within the last few years the dirndls become more fashion again, when i lived there I would wear dirndl’s in Summer and Winter und Trachtenkostueme. Gibt es den Flohzirkus noch, und den Auf geht’s beim Schicht’l where they pretend to chop off your head??Oh und der Geruch von der Fischer Vroni, gegrillte Forellen. Thank you for sharing those wonderful images and thank you for visiting my home town, Munich is a wonderful city surrounded by the Alps within an hour drive. Servus! Cornelia

    1. Cornelia, I hope I didn’t make you too homesick for Munich and I’ve very much enjoyed reading your personal Oktoberfest highlights.

      You’ve mentioned two of my favorite Oktoberfest treats (die gebrannten Mandeln & gegrillte Forellen) and my husband’s too (Brezen mit Butter). He’s the one devouring that gigantic pretzel in one of the pictures on this post. :)

      I think it’s charming that you so regularly sported the traditional attire – year-round – as a child! When I was a young girl, my mother bought me a small yellow Dirndl and a pair of red Lederhosen. So began my love of wearing the attire, I suppose!

      Do you have any plans to visit Munich? My husband and I are headed to Bavaria (where my parents live) in about a month. I’m very excited to be back in Germany, and must start practicing my German again. Until next time…

      1. Tricia, thank you for your reply. OK here goes the practice of your German. So bald habe ich keine Reise nach Deutschland geplant. Falls is im Lotto gewinnen sollte ( spiele aber nie, haha) wuerde ich gerne im Februar gehen wenn meine Tante 101 jahre alt wird, ich war dieses Jahr zu Ihrem 100. Geburtstag da, in Garmisch . Ansonsten plane ich erst naechstes Jahr im Sommer zu einer Hochzeit nach Muenchen zu fliegen. Gruesse Muenchen von mir und have your husband eat eine grosse dicke Butterbreze fuer mich, I guess he wouldn’t mind that? Ah als kleines Maedchen haette ich auch gerne eine rote Lederhose gehabt anstatt weisse Strumpfhosen zu tragen die dann immer schnell Grasflecken bekamen. Meine Mutter hatte mir die Dirndl immer selbst genaeht und meiner Puppe dasselbe. Isn’t that neat? Hoffe du hast schoenes Wetter in Bayern!!! Bis dann wieder Servus

      2. Was für ein Unterricht, Cornelia – vielen Dank! How fun that you and your doll donned the same attire. :) If you make it to the Garmisch area, keep me posted as I’ll be in Oberammergau in the coming months. Schönes Wochenende!

    1. Hopefully they transported you to the fest in spirit, Virginia. :) As you can see, my husband is drawn to pretzels, and I gravitate to the Lebkuchen (gingerbread) hearts. Dressing in costume and being among so many who are also donning the Bavarian garb is also quite fun!

      1. Maurice, I’m so thrilled that you pointed me in the direction of your glorious photographs from Europe! The composition, the golden sepia tones – they are magical! For how long were you in Europe? Were you there for business or pleasure? Your lovely shots make me wish I could go back in time.

    1. Gina, despite the crowds and mayhem, it’s well-worth going, at least one time in your life! Do you think you’ll get a Dirndl (traditional dress)? In the Bavarian specialty shops, you’ll find beautiful ones (though they’re hundreds of Euro). I got my Oktoberfest Dirndl at a German department store called C&A. They’re less pricey than the specialty stores, and you won’t feel guilty when revelers spill beer on you in a fest tent. Here are some here: http://mode.ladenzeile.de/damenmode-c-und-a-kleider-dirndl/ The last few times at O-fest, I’ve noticed more and more ladies wearing the Lederhosen (leather pants) too.

      They make fun Halloween costumes once you get back to the States too. :)

      Thanks for stopping by.

  5. You can’t beat the German Oktoberfest, just love being in those huge packed halls and the smell of beer. Paulaner is the way forward…love the stuff!

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