It's the time of year when the beer is flowing, the big bands are playing, and the crowds are descending on Munich's Oktoberfest. If you're planning a visit, read these tips before you go:
Arrive with a Plan
Fourteen halls can overwhelm even the most accomplished connoisseur. Use the cheat sheet below for general descriptions of the tents and beer served. We've listed them in order of preference. See oktoberfest.de/en/ for more information.
2. Winzerer Fähndl (Paulaner): tel. 089/62 17 19 10, fax 089/62 17 19 19. Heinz Müller's 17-piece brass band occupies the center bandstand in this tent. Run by Willi and Helga Kreitmair; great beer, food, and band make for a gemütlich atmosphere. Rotisseri chicken, stuffed with special herbs and spices, is delicious.
5. Augustiner (Augustiner): tel. 089/23 18 32 66, fax: 089/260 53 79, www.augustiner-restaurant.com. Run by Manfred Vollmer for the past 16 years; an institution and a favorite tent of the real Münchner. Families feel welcome in the friendly atmosphere.
6. Hacker-Festhalle (Hacker-Pschorr) tel. 08170/73 03, fax 08170/73 85. Nice decorations, with a friendly and professional landlord, named Toni Roider.
7. Hippodrom (Spaten-Franziskaner-Bräu): tel. 089/29 16 46 46, 089/29 54 42. This tent had a negative image until a few years ago, when Sepp Krätz turned it around. He has made it a good place to eat, but be warned, it's not cheap.
8. Armbrustschützen-Zelt (Paulaner): tel. 089/23 70 37 03, fax 089/23 70 37 05 armbrustschuetzenzelt.de/en/. Run by Peter Inselkammerm this tent features the Unterbrunner brass band in a somewhat dreary atmosphere.
9. Ochsenbraterei (Spaten): tel. 089/38 38 73 12, fax 089/38 38 73 40. Watch the roasting of a whole oxen for entertainment, but note that ox meat is prepared better elsewhere.
How to Reserve a Table
The mechanics of reserving a table are pretty simple. Contact the tent's operators in the early spring for fall reservations. For all tents, the requirements are basically the same: You must pay for 20 beers and 10 half-chickens per table in order to make a reservation. Your reservation begins at 5:00pm, so others may be sitting at your table if you wait until then to arrive. Some tents will require you to pay in advance and pick up your tokens and tickets when you arrive. They are sold without "service," so when you present a them to your server, you must pay the "tip" at that time (about 15 percent additional). Those who don't like chicken can use the tickets for other food items. The tokens are good for either regular or alcohol-free beer.
When you arrive on the day requested, there will be a list posted inside the tent with your name and the location of your reserved table.
The tents generally open around 10:30 to 11am, and the bands strike up around noon. Perhaps 10 percent to 20 percent of the tables are unreserved and available on a first-come, first-served basis. It's easier to get a seat before noon on a weekday than at 6:30pm on a weekend evening. Reserve midweek to celebrate with more locals in a less chaotic atmosphere.
Evenings can get rowdy, with the younger crowd dancing on the tables and spilling beer on one another. Sometimes altercations ensue, but everyone seems to have a good time anyway.
Consider a Package Tour
Perfect Travel is offering an Oktoberfest package September 17-October 3, including bed-and-breakfast accommodations in or near Munich from $47 to $84 per person per night. A package including one beer, one-half of a roasted chicken, and a souvenir costs $29 per person. Contact: tel. +39/06/47 41 956, fax +39/06/4820733.
* Subscriber Rober Rann contributed to this article. He has attended Oktoberfest every year since 1977. On his first visit, he wanted to drink a beer in each tent, all in one day. He and a group of international friends, who all met for the first time at Oktoberfest, have been reserving a corner table in box 31 of Winzerer Fähndel since 1988.