Parade at Oktoberfest in GermanySpend a few days at Oktoberfest in Germany.
September 2, 2013

Visit Oktoberfest with your Eurail pass

by Laurel Robbins in Train routes

Oktoberfest is Germany’s most famous celebration, and for good reason – it’s all about celebrating beer! It’s also the world’s largest fair, attracting more than 6 million people – many of whom can be seen dancing on benches throughout the event. The 16-day festival is held in Munich every year. The name is actually a bit misleading, because most of the festivities take place in September. This year, Oktoberfest runs from September 21 to October 6.

How to get to Oktoberfest with your Eurail pass

Lowenbrau tent at Oktoberfest

Munich is easy to reach from all of Germany’s major cities. A train ride from Frankfurt takes just a bit more than three hours, and you can reach Munich in around six hours from Berlin or Hamburg. Reservations are not required, but I recommend making one, since the trains will likely be crowded. Oktoberfest is as popular with Germans as it is with visitors.

You will want to either walk or take public transportation to Oktoberfest. The U-Bahn metro lines 4 or 5 both go to Theresienwiese, where the festival grounds are located, from Karlsplatz, which is just a short walk from the Hauptbahnhof, Munich’s central station. You can also take the S-Bahn city train lines 1 – 8 directly from the Hauptbahnhof to the to Hackerbruecke. It’s about a 15-minute walk to the festival from there. Don’t worry, you won’t get lost – just follow the swarms of people.

How Oktoberfest works

Oktoberfest is free to enter, as are the tents. Beer costs between 9.40 – 9.85 Euros, depending on which tent you’re in. There are 14 tents and a variety of carnival attractions. Tickets for the carnival rides can be purchased inside the grounds. Table reservations for the tents are required months in advance.

There’s also an Oktoberfest Parade on Sept. 21, starting at 10:45 .am. The breweries that stock the Oktoberfest tents participate in the parade, and so do regional bands. It’s definitely interesting, but you probably won’t get into a tent that day at Oktoberfest – people start lining up early in the morning!

In my opinion, the best time to go to Oktoberfest is during the week. There’s still a festive atmosphere, but it’s nowhere near as busy as on the weekend. If you show up by 5 p.m., you will probably get a table if you have a small group. On the weekends, you’ll need to be there before 10 a.m. It’s also worth going several times and checking out different tents each time, since each tent has its own feel. The Augustiner is known to be the friendliest tent, while the Armbrustschützen is famous for its crossbow competition. You can try a variety of oxen specialities at the Ochsenbraterei.

Don’t bring more than you absolutely need to – the grounds are notorious for theft. If you have luggage, there is storage available at the entrance to the Oktoberfest grounds, or more conveniently, leave it at one of the storage lockers at the station. If you’re spending a few days in Munich, be sure to leave all valuables in your hotel safe.

You’re likely to spill your fair share of beer at Oktoberfest, so wear comfortable clothing that you can easily wash. You will also probably find yourself dancing on benches, so wear comfortable shoes with a low heel.

Where to sleep

There are several hostels near the Hauptbahnhof, which is a convenient location for getting to the Wiesn – as the locals call Oktoberfest. Hotels are notoriously expensive during the festival – a cheaper alternative to hotels is renting a room through a service like Wimdu, Air B&B or HouseTrip. Wherever you choose to stay, book as far in advance as possible. Accommodations fill up very quickly, and often what’s left is expensive or inconveniently located.

Top 5 tips to get the most out of Oktoberfest

Traditional clothing at Oktoberfest

  1. Go during the week instead of on the weekend – it will be less busy, but the tents will still be full.
  2. Head to the after-parties. Most of the tents close by 10:30 p.m., and half the fun is hitting up one of the many after-parties throughout the city.
  3. Check out the Weinzelt (Wine Tent) for something different. As an added bonus, it’s open until 1 a.m.
  4. Get in the spirit by purchasing some Tracht (traditional Bavarian clothing) – dirndl for women or lederhosen for men. It doesn’t matter if you’re not Bavarian, everyone wears it. You can purchase inexpensive Tracht near the Hauptbahnhof or near Marienplatz.
  5. Eat at Oktoberfest. Local specialities like Hendl (chicken), or Steckerlfish (fish on a stick) are served and are actually quite good.
  6. Get the full low down on discovering Germany with a rail pass.