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Munich Oktoberfest for the newbie (non drinkers part of group)

I am not planning on spending a great deal of time at Oktoberfest while in Munich at the end of September, but I think there are those in my travel group that would like to at least see what some of it is like. I need suggestions from those of you that are experienced with traveling to Munich during that time.

I'm traveling with my son and his wife. My niece will join us for the afternoon on Sunday, Sept 24. (She works in Frankfurt and that was what worked with her schedule). They are all in their 40's. My son and I don't drink, by daughter-in-law and niece do. What I am looking for are some practical ways to get a short glimpse of Oktoberfest without spending a great deal of time or money doing it. We will be spending the majority of our time in Munich elsewhere on other days. Feel free to be detailed in your answers as if talking to someone who knows nothing about Munich during this time. You will be spot on.

Posted by
8117 posts

Munich will be packed with people during Oktoberfest, and hotels will be expensive and difficult to find. If you're not drinkers, I wouldn't suggest going to the festivities or even visiting the city.

I'm also a non-drinker, but if I was in Munich the first of October, I might be inclined to knock back a few liters. It might be the greatest night of your life.

I first experienced Munich in 1970, and still love the place. It's been awhile since we have been there as we've been experiencing most all of the other great European cities--except Lisbon.

Posted by
1942 posts

While there are others things to do in Munich, I will agree with the others that if you aren't going to the actual Oktoberfest and NOT drinking, it will be an expensive holidays as hotels charge outrageous prices.

If you still want to go I'd go in the early part of the day and perhaps try to get a seat in a tent. The popular tents take reservations but others you can buy on the day of. Basically, it's starts to get rowdy the later the hour. I love, love Munich but probably the only person who would never travel there during Oktoberfest. There's a museum and restaurant dealing with Oktoberfest if you are really interested.

Posted by
7502 posts

If you will be in Munich already, and have your rooms, or I suppose daytripping there, then yes, hit up the fest.

People talk like it is only drinking, but it is a whole festival, part carnival, part beer tents. It costs nothing to enter and walk around, even to go into the various tents. The tents themselves are something to see, as long as the tent is not at capacity, you can go in look around, listen to the band, you just cannot order drinks or food unless you can get seated at a table. There are smaller tents you likely will be able to get into, or there are many food stands outside the tents.

If it is packed, and you can't get a table in a tent, head to one of the beer gardens around town, lots of food options and non-alcoholic drinks available, in addition to beer.

Posted by
243 posts

I'm with Paul. If you have your accommodations, go check it out. Many tables are reserved for the evening, so going early in the day might enable you to be seated for awhile before the table goes to the reserving party. Sunday might destroy this strategy since perhaps the afternoon could be prime time. It is a sight to behold and then you could move on to another venue. The U Bahn gets you reasonably close to the Theresienwiese, just follow the crowds. Have your next stop in mind for when you are ready to move on.

Posted by
16 posts

It's a blast and you don't have to drink to have fun. It's free to come in and early in the day it's not a hard party place. You can eat from the food stalls that are all over the place just opened up to outside. Check out the carnival rides(some are quite scary and incredible bits of engineering) and just marvel at the tents themselves! They are incredible to see just from the main street and it's fun to pop your head in early in the day and hear a brass band play and a huge bunch of people sing along! I'd go just to eat some of the food that you'd never have room to try in one trip! We are going back next year and have a list of things to explore beyond 'sit and drink a huge stein and eat half a chicken and sing' which to be honest was awesome too.

Posted by
696 posts

I agree with Tom. It's a blast even for nondrinkers. I was imaging that it would be a lot of very drunk and sloppy people but it was nothing like that at all. People are dressed up ,with families and just having fun. We ended up going twice. Try the food stallls..we loved the grilled mackerel on a stick.

Posted by
18 posts

I'm with others that suggest you can have a great time at Oktoberfest without even going to the big beer tents or drinking much or at all. The only costs you will incur are ride tickets, food/drink and any shopping you do. Here is a link to the official Oktoberfest site . There are rides, shops, games, the olde weisn (small charge to go into this area), and smaller tents that serve food and drinks of all sorts. I often tell people from the US that ask what it's like is to think of a large state fair. If that sounds appealing I'd go and have a great time!

Posted by
4780 posts

What I am looking for are some practical ways to get a short glimpse of Oktoberfest without spending a great deal of time or money doing it.

Consider going during the first or middle part of the afternoon. No crowded at all compared to a night visit. You can enter the grounds free and should be able to visit a tent or two before the crowds arrive. Sit at a table and enjoy the music. Those who drink can have a beer (large or small) and those who don't can have a soda. At least they could last time I was there. There is also food available if you want to have a bite. But there isn't any reason you can't experience the fest without spending a lot of time and / or money.

Posted by
443 posts

To get the most out of it, get familiar with the music! Look up Wiesn Hits.

Posted by
155 posts

Hi Carol,

I know it's possible to have fun at Oktoberfest and not drink. i do not drink beer, occasionally wine. In 2019 my husband and I were staying in Mittenwald and took the train to Munich during Oktoberfest. We arrived late morning and left mid-afternoon. We walked into several huge tents. All had spaces available to sit and have a drink or food. I enjoyed looking at how each tent was decorated. The music was too loud to suit me and the size of the tent was overwhelming so we didn't linger too long in any big tents. There was a midway with kiosks and carts selling souvenirs of various sorts. It was fun to look at the rides. After looking in many huge tents (Just observing how they served huge quantities of food and beer was amazing to me.) we found our way to the Old Wiesen part of the festival. It cost just a few Euros to enter but the pace seemed a little slower and more laid back. We found a place to sit in a tent, ordered food, chatted with our table mates and listened to music. The whole time at the festival I enjoyed people watching. I don't recall what I ordered for a beverage but there was something non-alcoholic I enjoyed, likely Spezi. I think you could have a really good time there. Oh, I did not see any people who appeared to be drunk when we were leaving mid-afternoon.

We are going to Bavaria again this year, arriving two days after Oktoberfest ends. I'm not sure why we decided not to go before it ended because we had such a good time in 2019 but we did. A bit regretting that decision now. My understanding is every fourth year no Old Wiesen is held as an agricultural type show is held in that space. The next time we decide to go to Oktoberfest we will be sure it is a year when Old Wiesen is held.

Whatever you decide, happy and safe travels to you and your family!

Traveler Girl

Posted by
302 posts

I agree with other posters, you do not have to drink to have a good time. It’s a lot of fun.

The food in the tents is good. There are concessions everywhere filled with great food choices. We found a salmon sandwich stand that was amazing. You have many other beverage options. It’s just so much fun. Entry is free. You only pay for what you eat, drink, or if so inclined, the rides. Download the official app so you know the rules and get more advice on how to visit.