Oktoberfest
Festivities

ZUM WOHL!

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.

1. Bräurosl (Hacker-Pschorr): tel. 089/89 55 63 53, fax: 089/89 55 63 56, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. A good place to start for a typical Munich experience, yodeling and all. The South Tirol Spitzbuam musicians perform daily during lunchtime and from 6-7pm.

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.

3. Fischer Vroni (Augustiner): tel. 089/66 10 42, fax 089/65 25 34, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Small but lively atmosphere and fantastic Steckerlfisch. (Steckerl in the Bavarian dialect means "little stick," and in this dish a stick is inserted lengthways through the fish, so it can be angled over a charcoal fire, allowing the fat to run down the stick and not into the fire.)

4. Schützen Festhalle (Löwenbräu): tel. 089/23 18 12 24, fax 089/23 18 12 44, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Another smaller tent; people are on the benches early here, but it never gets too chaotic.

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.

10. Käfer (Paulaner): tel 089/416 83 56, fax: 089/416 88 80, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Very special, but not in the traditional Oktoberfest sense. By invitation only.

11. Weinzelt (Wine, Sekt,): tel. 089/29 07 05 17, fax: 089/29 40 76, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Enjoy some 15 different wines, in addition to different types of Sekt (sparkling wine) and champagne, courtesy of the Kufflers.

12. Löwenbräu-Festhalle (Löwenbräu): tel. 089/47 76 77, fax 089/470 58 48, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. An Oktoberfest mainstay, popular with tourists from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the United States.

13. Hofbräuhaus (Hofbräu München): tel. 089/448 96 70, 089/448 35 87, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Another venue that's popular with Aussies, Canadians, Kiwis, and Americans.

14. Schottenhamel (Spaten-Franziskaner-Bräu): tel. 089/544 69 310, fax 089/544 69 319 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Used to be an institution that hosted city council and meetings of former fraternity members. These days, a younger crowd seems to be more interested in finding a date.

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.