10

Oktoberfest tents are super-crowded and it's recommended that people arrive early. However several websites disagree over what 'early' is. Oktoberfest.de says:

Of course you can also enter the tents without any reservation. But please consider to come early, because the tents fill up very quickly! When the tents are overfilled, you can not enter anymore. On weekend the tents often close before 11 am. because of overfilling. During the week the tents are normally open until afternoon.

While Bigboytravel.com says:

Weekends can be almost impossible to get in but a Weekday before 3pm will greatly increase your luck. On a weekend you'll need to be there 90 minutes to 2 hours before the tents open to get a spot.

What times should I arrive to the Oktoberfest tents, both on the weekend and on weekdays, to guarantee myself a free spot?

  • 1
    Arrive in September? – paul Jun 5 '15 at 5:12
  • 2
    Yes, last week of September. – JonathanReez Jun 5 '15 at 8:29
12

As a Munich native I simply can't just move on after seeing this question =) Please forgive me if I expand the scope of this question too much - but there is simply no way to explain the biggest Volksfest in one or two sentences.

There are quite some different factors influencing your chance to get your Mass beer:

Yourself

  • If you're travelling alone and therefore only need to seat a single person you might always get some free centimeters on a Bierbank as long as the tents are not closed.
  • Couples and small groups (maximum of four or five persons) who are able to wait patiently and sober (you won't get something to drink as long as you don't have a place to sit down), while a drunken horde is dancing on the tables around them, have a realistic chance of capturing a fair amount of space. But be aware of the fact that you will need to defend the new gained territory against others!
  • Larger groups really need to develop negotiation skills (bavarian tongue preferred) or arrive much earlier.

The party tent

Beer tents are like clubs: divided in different areas.

  • There are boxes mostly reserved by local companies to amuse their partners, clients and staff. You won't get into one if you are not invited!
  • The largest part of the tents is offered as first come, first served. These areas have the highest demand and get really crowded.
  • Outside and around most of the tents you find so called beer gardens which mostly do not have a roof upon. These places are seeked for by families, elderlies and those who want to escape the enormous noise level inside the tents. Here is a constant coming and going. (Good chances to catch some seats) Food is also served out here.

The day of choice

  • The first weekend attracts the largest crowds. Simply don't try to come here on the first day. Local youths and young adults get to the Wiesn on the first crack of dawn just to wait until noon when the first beer is served.
  • Also simply avoid the last day of Oktoberfest: locals mourn about the ending of the fifth bavarian season. People are queuing up in front of the tent entrances already before 7 o'clock.
  • Sounds like the second weekend is the perfect time spot to have some beers? The one in the middle is traditionally called the Italian weekend. Around 200.000 Italians cross the alps to populate the tents - that could get a bit crowded.
  • On Tuesdays all rides offer special prices for families and kids. That's why the whole Theresienwiese is jam-packed with small humans from toddlers to teenagers. A good day to escape from the hordes to a tent for one or two (or some more) beers.

The weather

  • Sunny and hot weather makes the Wiesn show her beauty: Everybody heads to the Oktoberfest and needs to get some beer to cool down. Tents close at least an hour earlier than usually.
  • Bad and rainy weather in the morning keeps the large crowds off. This gifts you some time: the tents close later. On weekdays the tents are sometimes not closed at all.
  • A sudden rain break out in the afternoon drives everybody into the tents. Those might be closed within a few minutes.

TL/DR

Both statements quoted in the question describe the situation rather good. On weekdays arrive at least before three or four o'clock. On weekends try to get to the Festwiese around 8 o'clock.

But as long as you stay friendly and ask kindly you always might find a little spot and you will make contact to great people from all over the world.

So have fun, enjoy our beer and have a safe way home. See you in September ;)

6

I have been to the Oktoberfest only once and on a single day, the opening day, so this is not any exhaustive experience. I think it is pretty hard to give a precise answer to your question.

The sources you quoted sound realistic to me. The exact time to come is obviously unknown because every tent does not get filled at the same time, there are even multiple entrances to the tents, ... For the weekend, it changes everyday because the opening day and closing day are probably the busiest, and there are only 3 weekends, so only the middle weekend might be easier to get in.

Anyway, my memory was that getting in a tent just after the opening ceremony, around 11 AM (maybe later since tents start serving at noon) was not possible on the opening day. We managed to get in the late afternoon but I suppose it was pure luck.

On weekdays, German people likely meet at Biergartens in general just after work, sometimes as early as 4-5PM, so getting in before 3PM does sound reasonable.

In the end, to be honest, there is no set time the tents will have open spots or not. Given the popularity of the event, people there, including you, spent much money to even be in Munich and attend the event (and not only try beer), and you are likely to make the effort to arrive very early, wait if needed, and stay the whole day, or most of it. So get there as early as possible (in the morning on weekend days, in the early afternoon on weekdays), and once you have a spot, stay there, enjoy the beer and chicken.

Another way to make sure you can sit inside a tent would be to reserve your seat. You can still book your table for some tents, even though some are already full. Reserving a spot usually costs you to pre-buy 2 maß of beer (1 liter each) and food for each person on the party, but it is up to every tent to decide.

  • Chicken? What happened to wurst and sauerkraut? – DJClayworth Jun 4 '15 at 16:34
  • @DJClayworth Somehow I remember the specialty food for the event, coming along any reservation was beer and chicken, but I can't find it anymore. But I agree with you, Currywurst are the best anyway! – Vince Jun 4 '15 at 18:25
  • 3
    @DJClayworth Certainly chicken (bavarian called Hendl) is the most served dish on Oktoberfest. Besides Weisswurst which is only served for breakfast in bavaria, Würstl are mor common in more nothern parts of Germany. Typicall variations are Bratwürst in Franconia and of course Currywurst served even farther north for example in Berlin. – Daniel Jun 5 '15 at 1:41

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