What you need to know!
After a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, I am embarrassingly excited to offer our top 5 tips on how to do Oktoberfest in Berlin. But first, a bit of background on this internationally known and beloved folk festival…
Oktoberfest actually starts in September.
Wait…what? Allow me to explain…
Oktoberfest is the ultimate pre-game festival – leading up to, and through, October. As with birthdays, Germans like to celebrate into things (though don’t you dare wish a German happy birthday before midnight: das bringt Unglück!). So naturally, when the Bavarians decided to celebrate the coming of October, they gave themselves a full16 days. And yes, this is a Bavarian folk festival, most famously celebrated in Münich. The rest of Germany does, however, love to get in on the fun…especially Berlin!
For the ultimate Berlin experience, here’s what you’ll need to navigate it like a pro:
1. Find your style
“Trachten” (traditional bavarian garb) is the visual highlight of the festival. Otherwise, you’ll likely never see, nor likely wear, this type of clothing in Berlin. These garments are beautiful works of art and are typically quite expensive. Of course, there are some cheaper, mass-produced versions that you can get your hands on if you’re not too keen on shelling out hundreds of Euros for a single festival.
Traditionally, women wear Dirndl while men wear Lederhosen. But since gendered fashion is a thing of the past, we encourage you to find whatever fit you like and rock your favourite colors! This is one time of year where black is not the color of choice for Berliners.
Here are some online stores where you can find this type of Bavarian costume.
Keep in mind, though, that – with a bit of luck – you might be able to find an outfit at your local Humana or other second-hand shops in the city.
2. Select your playlist
So are you a Disko bunny or more of an Oompapa loompa? Traditional beer tent festivities include a brass band and schlager music. By the evening, the youngsters put a beat to it and are dancing on tables. Either way, you can find a playlist to fit your mood. Here are my personal suggestions – I hope they make you smile and want to break out the beer right here and now!
Extra points if you can sing along to this one…better study up! (Don’t worry, you’ll get more than one shot at it – this song will be played multiple times throughout the night!)
3. Reserve your seat (or table to stand on later…)
Berlin is definitely a bit different than in Munich. For the most popular places, you often have to pay for entrance, which may or may not include a seat reservation. It’s also an option to book a whole table if you’re a large group. These reservations though sometimes include a beer or two for each guest. In any case, you buy your tickets online in advance. For large areas like Alexanderplatz, it’s not necessary, but otherwise, you might not even be allowed entry. You can check out this list of places in Berlin where you can make reservations. As with most things in Germany, it pays off to be prepared…
4. Order your food
Aside from the unique ambience, the food is definitely one of Oktoberfest’s highlights. Below is an idea of traditional food you’re likely to find in a beer tent or Oktoberfest hall in Bavaria. However, seeing that we’re in Berlin, this could totally vary. Expect the unexpected (!) but, in any case, these are some of the dishes you might see on the menu:
- Brathendl: Rotisserie chicken you’re welcome to eat with your fingers.
- Bratwurst: Sausage served with mustard and/or ketchup on far too tiny Semmel (roll).
- Weisswurst mit Senf + Brezel: White sausage with sweet mustard and a pretzel. Don’t forget to remove the casing!
- Gebrannte Mandeln: Sweet roasted almonds.
- Kaiserschmarn: Similar to strips of pancakes topped with powdered sugar and some sort of sweet fruit topping, often plums.
- Leberkas/Leberkäse: Not cheese! Kind of like a sausage but in loaf form served like a sandwich. Better tasting than its description.
- Lebkuchenherz: I’ve never actually seen someone eat these, rather give them as a gift that then becomes decoration…
- Obazda: A soft, cheesy spiced-up spread with onion slices for your dark bread or pretzel.
- Schweinehaxe: Roasted Pork leg, usually served with sauerkraut and a Semmel.
- Käsespätzle: Baked german cheese noodles. Usually topped with fried or spring onions.
5. Cheers your beers
- Maß – 1 litre of beer; or radler (half beer, half limo); or alcohol-free beer
- Schnapps – 1 alcohol shot, usually fruit liquor
Now, some very important drinking etiquette:
- Wait for everyone to have their drink before taking a sip (at least for the first round)
- Once everyone has their drink, then you can toast / clink glasses
- Be sure to look everyone directly in the eye as you cheers them (clink glasses)
- Do not cross-clink with another clinking pair
- Always say, “Prost” or “Zum Wohl” to the person you’re clinking
- And now…you may drink!
Last, but certainly not least, viel Spaß!!
We hope you have a great time celebrating Oktoberfest. Let us know in the comments what your plans are, or if you have any tips for us!