It’s that time of year again when over 6 million people celebrate Oktoberfest. Hopefully you contacted the beer tents early in the year to reserve an Oktoberfest table. If you’ve tried to get an Oktoberfest tent reservation and the tents were fully booked, you can always try to get a seat (or two) without a reservation.
At one point the city of Munich required beer tent owners to keep one third of the seats in an area of their tent unreserved during weekdays and all of them on weekends. I’m not sure this is still the case, but nonetheless, here are some twelve tips on getting a seat without a reservation.
Step 1: Keep it small
It is better if your group is small (up to six people). This means once you are in a tent, you can share a table with someone whose guests could not make it or had to follow most tent guidelines and reserve at least one table or a minimum of 10 seats.
Step 2: Dress the part
Your chances are better if you dress in Tracht (the traditional Bavarian dress such as Dirndl or Lederhosen). It just shows that you are in a real Oktoberfest mood. Warning: The cheeky t-shirts with photographs of a dirndl don’t count-they have “tourist” written all over them, so do those corny looking Oktoberfest hats. Leave the souvenir items at the hotel or wear them somewhere else.
Step 3: Timing is everything
Plan to go during the week and not peak periods (opening, weekend, bank holidays). In addition, it is advisable you go before the evening slot. If you are in a tent until around 4:30 p.m., you’ll have to leave since those that have reserved a table for the evening slots begin to arrive.
Step 4: Keep your eyes open
Once you have entered the tent, walk around and look for a free table. Reserved tables will have signage that reads Reserviert (booked). You’ll need to be a little bold and grab a free table while avoiding bodily harm to yourself and guests of course as you scramble to obtain that free table or seat.
Step 5: Watch out
When searching for a table, keep your eyes alert and watch out for waitresses carrying liters of beer. There is an aisle reserved for them, but I’ve seen many tourists accidentally walk down that aisle. If it happens, the Bouncer will politely escort you away or the accident waiting to happen means you could potentially be doused in German beer. The music, mood, and experience are overwhelming so folks, be careful out there.
Step 6: Thank your neighbors
If you see a few available seats, ask the table guests in German if you can sit at their table by saying “Entschuldigung, ist hier noch frei für mich und meine Freunde?” (Excuse me, are there free spaces for me and my friends?). If they say nod their heads positively or say something link Ja, natürlich (Yes, of course), thank them in German by saying “Vielen Dank” (Many thanks) and take a seat.
Step 7: Be patient and keep looking
If you still don’t find open seats keep looking and ask a few more people. It might take a while before you find some open seats but it’s worth it.
Step 8: It doesn’t hurt to ask
You can also ask the waitress if she knows of available seats. If she finds you some, I recommend giving her a nice tip. That has also been know to ensure the beer comes in a timely manner.
Step 9: Keep it real
Most international visitors have a tendancy to frequent the large tents which is fine, but if they are full you’ll have to find another tent anyway to get the party started. If you still don’t have any luck finding free seats, try one of the small tents which tend to be less frequented by non-locals.
Step 10: You’ve made it!
Once you find a seat you can place an order, relax, and enjoy Oktoberfest. Most tents don’t take credit cards so make sure you have enough cash on hand if you haven’t had to purchase beer and food vouchers ahead of time. This year a Mass (liter of beer) is nearly 10 Euro (nearly $12.50) and you’ll also need to pay for food and souvenirs.
Step 11: Raise you glass
Now that you have a Mass in your hand and are sitting at a table with total strangers, don’t forget to raise your glass toward your neighbors looking at each of them directly in their eyes (It’s the German way) and say Prost! or Zum Wohl! (Cheers!). That’s how a toast is done in Germany.
Step 12: Hold my seat
Now, stay in the tent for as long as you can. When you need a bathroom break, make sure someone is at your table so you don’t lose your seats. Otherwise you’ll have to repeat the twelve-step process all over again.
Have a wonderful time at Oktoberfest, you’ve earned it!