Have you been dying to go to Munich for Oktoberfest and unsure on how to make it happen? One of the most confusing things for the uninitiated is the actual process for reserving a space at Oktoberfest. Although it's not required, it's highly encouraged. But how is this done and what do you do when you're late in the process or feel out of options? Bubbly Tourist is here to ease your worries by providing you what you need to know. Read below...
How to get into an Oktoberfest tent?
When and how can I start booking?
For most of the festival tents, reservations for Oktoberfest become available in Spring, at the latest in April or May. You can book directly through the tents themselves. Bubbly Tip: Book early including your hotel. Hotels book up too.
Book early directly with one of the tents
For big parties of 8+ people, it is an easier path. You can book directly through the tents where blocks of 8+ (sometimes as low as 6) are sold. As already mentioned, you have to plan early for this though, like in April when the tents open their reservations. Spots fill up quickly and seats are offered to regulars with tickets from the prior season first. Note: some tents (like Hofbrau) release space periodically so you should check periodically for any new openings. Bubbly Tip: Avoid weekends and Holidays.
Book early directly with a tour
If you have a smaller group of people and/or you are unable to make a reservation directly through one of the tents, you can book directly with a tour company. We booked two couples with Viator (who arranged it through Radius tours locally) in June and had an amazing experience. The tour included a brief history of Oktoberfest including orientation of the Oktoberfest fairgrounds which was extremely helpful, seats in the Hofbrau tent from 10am - 5pm, vouchers for 2 liters of beer and a half chicken per person and an Oktoberfest cookie which we termed the "love cookie". We were then seated at the tables with individuals from the same tour.
Wing it without a Reservation
The good news is that some of the tables in the large Oktoberfest tents are kept free for spontaneous visitors. By law, each tent has to keep a minimum amount of spots kept open for daily first-come-first-served visitors. The number of first-come-first-served seats averages over 1000 per tent, but they go very quickly. You’ll have to be there between Noon-2pm on a weekday to snag seats or by 6am on the weekend. Make sure you choose a section/table marked unreserved or “Nicht Reservierter Bereich” in German. In the evening and in groups, however, it may well be that you don't get a seat - or don't get into the tent at all because it's closed due to overcrowding. Even with the doors closed, there are secrets to getting in as we will discuss later.
Hofbrau tent has a standing room only section
As mentioned earlier, the Hofbrau house has a standing room only section. As long as you get in early enough you can stay all day and night if need be. In the standing room area, there are no chairs, only high top tables. Even with the standing room area you will need to by in line by 5-6am on weekends or arrive by Noon-2pm on a weekday.
Lowenbrau tent's middle nave section
In reading through their website's documentation and in accordance with city ordinance, Lowenbrau's tent interior (“middle nave” section with 2,600 seats) may not be reserved on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays. These seats can be taken by guests without a reservation if they show up early.
Go to the Oide Weisn for a Traditional experience
Oide Wiesn, "old Oktoberfest" in English, is a separate area in the back corner of the fairgrounds that emphasizes the traditional character of the Oktoberfest with brass music, ceramic beer mugs and historical dances and yodeling. You'll have to pay 4€ per person to get into this area but it's money well spent! Once our reservations ended at our tent, we immediately went to Oid Weisn and found plenty of open spots in the tent where we camped out for a few more hours ordering more beer and pork knuckle ( worth ordering!) and watching the traditional dances.
When the Tent Doors are closed
As long as the tent doors are open, you can go inside any tent. Even if you don't have a reserved seat. Bubbly Tip: When the front doors of the tent are closed, this means they're at capacity so go to the side doors. If the side doors are closed, then go to the back doors. If the back doors are closed and you really want to get in, then make friends with one of the waitresses on their smoke break and ask her to let you into her section. Believe it or not, this actually worked for us when we decided to go late to the Lowenbrau tent.
Bubbly Tourist Bon Voyage!