You might think the Wiesn is all about the drinking… and you may be partly right. Some families do brave it and actually enjoy it but it is world-renowned as a drinking festival. And said drinking takes place mainly inside the tents. And, believe me, that is a good thing. The worst thing you can do is sit in any tent sober. Do try it, but believe me, it’s unbearable. After you’ve had a couple of drinks though, you don’t want to leave. Ever.
What are these “tents” all about?
There are 21 “small” tents and 14 “large” tents at the Wiesn (covered, somewhat indoor spaces where people drink beer and listen to live music).
The latter are especially popular. The small tents have a reputation of hosting rather lame parties (by comparison that is; it is really all relative at the Wiesn since the party is unavoidable). But, as they say, the more the merrier, so most people want to land a spot in one of those 14 large tents. In order to do so, you have to either reserve or arrive early. And I mean early, as in crack of dawn early! Otherwise, you might be met by the unpleasant, “wegen Überfüllung geschlossen” sign which means: “the tent is closed because it’s full”.
If you want to play it safe, reserve well in advance — as early as March or April. Each individual tent has its website where you can make an online reservation. Choose wisely because each one has its own distinct character. While a lot of it is folklore with some grains of truth in it, it is entertaining Wiesn trivia and crucial knowledge if you want to experience Oktoberfest like a local.
Let’s go tenting!
Breaking it down
Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce the world-famous tents **drumroll**:
- Marstall: The successor of the Hippodrom tent carries on its tradition. Posh and “schicki micki”, it is the tent for the rich and famous. It has a champagne bar and offers a more sophisticated fare than just meat and potatoes. “Normal” people are welcome too! The band will play a mixture of hip and traditional music.
- Armbrustschützen: This is one of the more old-fashioned tents. The crowd will be somewhat older and less hip. Therefore, the music is a bit more traditional and the party might be a little less crazy. Differences are quite subtle but they will be there. As with all tents which have an “old fashioned” label, it might be easier to find a seat in this one.
- Hofbräu: Because of its world-renowned name, this tent attracts a lot of tourists and Wiesn newbies. As a result, it is kind of frowned upon by locals but, again, the differences are subtle. Supposedly, this is where crazy Australian tourists regularly flash their boobs and the party is quite rowdy, but this is only hearsay.
- Hacker: This tent is popular with locals and young people. Thus, it is quite hip and the party great fun.
- Schottenhamel: Other than being where the very first beer keg is ceremoniously tapped by the mayor of Munich at noon on the first Saturday, this tent has a reputation for being popular with very young people -as in teenagers, remember the legal beer drinking age is 16! Thus, the party can be a bit exuberant.
- Winzerer Fähndl: Some tents have more of a profile and some less. The Winzerer Fähndl is a somewhat, “normal” tent, for lack of a better word. More on the young than the old-fashioned side, but other than that a good option when the hip tents are full.
- Schützen: Every born and bred Munich person I know names this tent as their favorite. It is definitely popular with locals, on the young, hip & posh, “schicki micki” side.
- Käfer: This tent is quite small for being one of the “large” tents but I guess it scores points in other ways. The owner, “Käfer” — the most famous Munich provider of gourmet food and delicacies — caters to Germany’s celebrities. Football players of Bayern München, starlets and Boris Becker can all be found here.
- Weinzelt: As the name suggests, this tent serves wine rather than beer. If you crave a beer while there, your only choice will be wheat beer. The food is more upscale than the usual fare, so it is somewhat posh and the party is not overly wild. Most people come here when the other tents close as it stays open late.
- Löwenbräu: Similar to Winzerer Fähndl this is a low-profile tent, but more old-fashioned than young-oriented. The reason might be the unpopular Löwenbräu beer (see below).
- Bräurosl: This tent is famous for “turning pink” on the first Sunday by hosting “Gay Sunday”. On every other day, it is filled with a local and young crowd.
- Augustiner: This tent is local and rather old-fashioned, just like the beer itself. Because everybody likes Augustiner beer, it is still quite popular.
- Ochsenbraterei: Similar to Armbrustschützen, this tent is old fashioned, a bit “quieter” & therefore, less popular. It offers Ochsensemmel, a kind of beef burger, as their specialty. This is great hangover food and a must-try if you need a pick-me-up after all the drinking!
- Fischer-Vroni: As the name suggests, this tent offers various fish specialties. First and foremost you will find Steckerlfisch (grilled fish on a stick), a yummy treat. Il also turns pink on the second Monday but on any other day has a mixed crowd and a great party.
Each tent is associated with a Munich brewery so that, as in many local pubs much to every cosmopolitan’s dismay, there is only one kind of beer available. Count: one. I am not a beer drinker myself, but if you want to get into the subtle differences of local beer here’s what the general consensus says:
Löwenbräu tastes like lions pee (Löwe meaning lion), hence very bad. Hofbräu not much better. Spaten just a notch above that. Hacker is good. Paulaner is very good and Augustiner is well appreciated by all.
The tent/beer pairs are as follows: Armbrustschützen/Paulaner, Augustiner/Augustiner, Braurösl/Hacker, Fischer-Vroni/Augustiner, Hacker/Hacker, Marstall/Spaten, Hofbräu/Hofbräu, Käfer/, Löwenbräu/Löwenbräu, Ochsenbraterei/Spaten, Schottenhamel/Spaten, Schützen/Löwenbräu , Weinzelt/wheat beer, Winzerer Fähndl/Paulaner.
And remember, the beer at the Wiesn comes in one-liter glasses called “Mass”. When ordering, never call it, “Bier” but “Mass”, as in: “Eine Mass, bitte.” or in Bavarian, if you dare, “I mog a Mass.” Finally, keep in mind that the tents close at 10:45 pm. Only the wine tent stays open until 12:30 am.
Karina worked as TV producer before being cursed with two kids. In her previous life, she was used to writing. She’s been in Munich for ten years now but still doesn’t understand the menu and probably never will. As a German herself, with close ties to the expat community, she provides LMBB with a different angle on life in Munich.