A tent a day keeps the thirst at bay

Augustiner-Brau is one of the oldest beer brands in Munich -- munichFOTOIt is time! In only two more days the Oktoberfest party officially begins and you can almost hear every Oktoberfest fan's (Lebkuchen) heart beating out of their chest with excitement and anticipation. Every year, millions of people gather from all corners of the world to eat, drink, and be merry at the world's largest and most famous beer festival. Most people would agree that a true Wies'n experience requires a visit to one of the numerous beer tents, but for those who aren't familiar with what each tent has to offer, this decision can prove quite difficult. In order to help you out with this "beerlemma", here is a short introduction to all the major tents.

Schottenhamel Festzelt:

This is where it all begins. As it has been for over 60 years, the traditional opening ceremony on the first day of the Wies'n will again take place right here. When the clock strikes at exactly 12 o'clock noon all the revelers' eyes will be on Munich's beloved mayor Christian Ude as he taps the first beer barrel with as few blows as possible. Thousands of hungry and thirsty guests will be waiting eagerly for the mayor's legendary words "O'zapft is!" (Bavarian for "it is tapped") to echo through the tent and across the entire Oktoberfest, since this is the moment when all the tents are officially allowed to serve their first steins of chilled beer. However, this is not the only thing that's special about the Schottenhamel. Instead of the typical long benches and tables you get to see in other tents, this one is equipped with square tables that, according to some, improve one's ability to engage in conversations with everyone else sitting around the table. If you happen to be sitting outside in the beer garden, there's no need to worry about cold weather since it is kept warm with gas heaters. The majority of guests who frequent the Schottenhamel are young students who, together with the fantastic Bavarian brass music of the "Otto Schwarzfischer" band, make for a very cheerful and lively, yet cozy, atmosphere that intensifies in the early evening hours. Be sure to try one of the many classic treats on the menu to go along with your stein of full-bodied and malty Spaten-Franziskanerbräu, like the golden-brown Wies'n rotisserie chicken filled with parsley and served with potato-mâche-salad, or one of the delicious new dishes on the menu, such as a plate of savory bison goulash with mashed potatoes and coleslaw.

Seating capacity: 10.000 (6000 inside, 4000 outside)   Beer: Spaten-Franziskanerbräu, EUR9.50

Festhalle Pschorr Bräurosl:

The Bräurosl tent gets its name from the brewery owner's daughter Rosi Pschorr, who is said to have possessed such stunning beauty that guests used to swarm to the tent in droves just to catch a glimpse of her. While you cannot find Rosi Pschorr in this tent anymore, the rush of people has not decreased one bit. In fact, it is quite the contrary - the Bräurosl is as popular as never before, especially among Munich natives and companies with their staff who are all regular visitors to this tent and who are fond of the typical friendly Bavarian atmosphere, brought to life by the tent's very own yodeler Carolin Weidner who, during the Oktoberfest, always goes by the name "Bräurosl" to keep up the brewery owner's daughter's wonderful tradition. Thanks to her and the tent's two bands, the "Südtiroler Spitzbuam" and the "Ludwig-Thoma-Musikanten", the music never lacks in variety and provides unbeatable Bavarian entertainment. Another thing which doesn't lack in variety is the menu. The braised veal shank in rosemary jus with roast potatoes and vegetables accompanied by a stein or two of Hacker-Pschorr beer is only one of many dishes that will make your mouth water. On the first Wies'n Sunday, the Bräurosl tent is the traditional meeting place for thousands of the gay and lesbian community who, every year, celebrate the beginning of the Oktoberfest with exuberant joy on the so-called "Gay Sunday".

Seating capacity: 8400 (6200 inside, 2200 outside)  Beer: Hacker-Pschorr Bräu, EUR9.40

Fischer-Vroni:

You don't even have to go inside to know what this tent is all about, since you will likely notice its signature dishes' appetizing smell long before you see the tent itself... fish, of course! Just follow your nose and you will be treated to an absolutely unique Wies'n experience in the world-famous Fischer-Vroni which you will certainly not regret. Its menu offers a wide variety of Wies'n classics and fish dishes, such as coalfish coated in Augustiner beer batter and fried to golden-brown perfection before being served with potato salad and garlic mayonnaise, but you shouldn't pass up the opportunity to try its immensely popular signature dish, the "Steckerlfisch" (fish on a stick, like mackerel, char or salmon trout). It is grilled on wooden sticks just outside the tent over live charcoal and those who are on the run can even buy it right there without having to go inside. However, if you aren't in a hurry, it will be worthwhile to peek inside and experience the uniquely cozy and intimate atmosphere in this comparatively small tent. This pleasant atmosphere may be the reason why the Fischer-Vroni is so popular with families, tourists and the older generation. But of course, this doesn't mean that young people will be bored! The band "Sepp Folger und seine Münchner Musikanten", which plays brass music, Schlager songs and even hard rock on a podium that is shaped like a ship, is known to cause people to jump to their feet to dance and party just like people do in the big tents. And here's a plus: even when all other tents are already closed due to being overcrowded, you will often still be able to find a seat in the lovely Fischer-Vroni. Like the Bräurosl, the Fischer-Vroni also has a special day where the gay community gathers in the tent to celebrate, but here it is called "Rosa Wies'n" (Pink Wies'n) and will take place on the second Monday of the Oktoberfest.

Seating capacity: 3395 (2695 inside, 700 outside)  Beer: Augustiner-Bräu, EUR9,50

Augustiner Festhalle:

This tent is regarded as a true classic and favorite among Munich natives. As a guest in the Augustiner tent you will quickly realize how much emphasis is put on hospitality and the preservation of Bavarian tradition. It is the only tent on the entire Wies'n in which the beer is still tapped from traditional, wooden, 200-liter barrels (called "Hirschen", which are stored in the tent's 30-meter-high cooling tower) instead of steel containers and once you indulge in a sip of refreshingly smooth Augustiner-Bräu you will certainly be able to taste the difference. This may be the reason why a majority of people in Munich considers Augustiner-Bräu to be the best type of beer on the Wies'n. Not only is this tent famous for its beer, but also for the remarkably friendly members of its waiting staff who, even during the busiest and most stressful hours of the day, always keep a smile on their faces while scurrying around and ensuring that all guests are constantly provided with plenty of beer and food. If you choose to go there, try their flavorful bowl of creamy wild mushrooms served with bread dumplings, or a few slices of succulent pork roast with its typical crispy crust and potato dumplings. In the Augustiner tent, the festivities can already reach their peak during the afternoon hours with people dancing on top of tables to the traditional brass and Schlager music played by Augustiner's very own music band, which even has Rock and Roll in its repertoire. While the atmosphere is definitely animated and party-like, it doesn't get too wild in here and families and people of all ages love to come to Augustiner and enjoy its inviting and truly traditional ambience.

Seating capacity: 8500 (6000 inside, 2500 outside)  Beer: Augustiner-Bräu, EUR9.30

Armbrust-Schützenzelt

The name says it all - the "Armbrust", which is the German word for "crossbow", is this tent's major theme. Every year during the Oktoberfest, members of the German crossbow association arrive from all parts of Bavaria to witness or take part in the great spectacle that is the German crossbow championship, as it is staged in this tent's very own 30-meter-long shooting range. Once you enter the tent, you will quickly see how much effort is put in the elaborate details of its decoration. For example, instead of being numbered like the other tents, the so-called "boxes" (little areas with tables that are secluded by low wooden walls and can be reserved by guests) and balconies are decorated with beautifully handcrafted wooden signs that have letters and animals on them. Together with the brass and waltz music and popular Wies'n songs of the "Platzl Oktoberfestband" and the "Wolfsegger Buam", it gives the Armbrust-Schützenzelt a typical Bavarian and very bucolic feel that is responsible for repeatedly drawing thousands upon thousands of Bavarians of all ages inside. Note: the waiting staff is exclusively female, which is why this tent is also a favorite among men. However, you know the rule: remember to only look and not touch, or that plate of tender, crispy duck with braised red cabbage and potato dumplings (one of many Armbrust-Schützenzelt specialties!) might just land in your lap. Other than that, nothing would tarnish the lighthearted, warm atmosphere in here and you will be sure to have a great time celebrating and swaying to the music together with the countless, lovely Bavarians sitting around you.

Seating capacity: 7450 (5830 inside, 1620 outside)  Beer: Paulaner-Bräu, EUR9.35

Käfer Wies'n-Schänke:

This very small tent is by far the most elegant and fancy one on the entire Wies'n, and also the most expensive one. Therefore it comes as no surprise that its audience is mainly limited to celebrities, epicureans, the haut monde, the jeunesse dorée, and everyone who loves to see and be seen. If the Italian writer Dante Alighieri were alive today and we asked him about the Käfer tent, he might reply with the words, "Abandon all hope, ye who want to enter here!", since, unless you have made reservations or happen to be particularly famous, it is virtually impossible to gain entrance to this highly exclusive tent during the evening hours. However, if you can afford it and manage to get past the bouncer (try the earlier hours of the day), the Käfer tent offers an extraordinary, one-of-a-kind experience to its guests. While it is called a "tent", it is actually not one in the literal sense. Instead, you will see that it is in fact a solid, country-style house made out of real wood with rooms and lavish decoration which only add to the noble and rustic feel of the Käfer Wies'n-Schänke. It even has four bands playing on different floors which go by the names "California Sun", "Gerry and Gary", "Dreirad", and "Speedos" who are all sure to rock the house with a wide variety of musical entertainment. But still, it is important to note that the Käfer tent's atmosphere always tends to stay on the reserved and demure side and that any wild behavior would be inappropriate. Another big highlight is the luxurious gourmet food. Here, you will not eat - you will dine. On the menu you will find many culinary delights such as roasted, medium-rare saddle of venison in juniper cream sauce, paired with roasted mushrooms, "Reiberdatschi" (a Bavarian-style pancake made from grated potatoes), buttered spätzle, pickled cranberries, homemade pumpkin compote, and braised red cabbage with apples. Despite the fact that the Käfer Wies'n Schänke is not the average Wies'n visitor's cup of tea because the experience in here is not very "Wies'n-like", many will (unsuccessfully) attempt to get in during the late evening hours since, together with the Kuffler Weinzelt, it is one of only two tents that are open until 1:00am, unlike other tents which have to cut off their beer supply and close their doors at 10:30pm.

Seating capacity: 3264 (1164 inside, 2100 outside)  Beer: Paulaner-Bräu, EUR9.50

Hofbräu-Festzelt:

If you plan to come here, you better not have sensitive ears. The Hofbräu tent has long been notorious for being the loudest tent on the entire Oktoberfest with its noise level rising already around noontime. Its guests - consisting mostly of American, Australian, and Italian tourists who, quite frankly, are prone to underestimating the high alcohol content in Hofbräu's Oktoberfestbeer (with 6,3% abv, it is the strongest beer on the Wies'n!) and therefore frequently tend to celebrate in a rather wild and boisterous manner - can already be heard singing from afar. One of the reasons why the Hofbräu tent is THE go-to place for tourists from all around the world is because it is the Oktoberfest's equivalent to Munich's world-renowned Hofbräuhaus. In this tent, you will not only be surrounded by its fun-loving guests, but you will also be greeted with its invitingly homely atmosphere and unique decoration of the tent ceiling. Looking up, you will see more than half a ton of beautifully arranged hop vines hanging from it. Looking back down onto your table, however, you should have before you a piece of savory roasted Schweinshax'n (pork knuckle) with caraway jus and potato dumplings, or sirloin steak with pepper Béarnaise, baked potato, and herbed quark. What? There's nothing on your table? Well, then what are you waiting for? Order one of these or pick one of the many other classic dishes on the menu and don't forget a stein of Hofbräu-Oktoberfestbeer! In the meantime, as you wait for your food to be brought, time will fly by with the entertainment provided by the "Plattlinger Isarspatzen's" merry folk- and brass music and Schlager songs. Another interesting fact: this tent is the only one equipped with a standing area that will hold approximately 1000 people. Furthermore, it is a very family-friendly place to be on Tuesdays during lunchtime since 600 seats are always kept unoccupied solely for parents with their children.

Seating capacity: 10.000 (4500 inside, 1000 in the standing area, 1500 on balconies, 3000 outside)  Beer: Hofbräu, EUR9.35

Kuffler Weinzelt:

To those of you who do not actually enjoy beer but are in desperate search of something other than this beverage on the world's biggest beer festival, we say fear not, for this place will be your oasis! In here, you will find everything that the wine connoisseur's heart could wish for: a bottle of dry, subtly fruity Cuvée l'Eremite, an elegant, aromatic Lugana , or a bottle of Louis Roederer Brut Premier champagne are only a few examples of Kuffler's excellent and wide selection of white and red wines, champagnes, proseccos, and more. While you will also be able to find beer in here, it is no specially brewed Oktoberfestbeer and instead just a regular type of wheat beer that is served in a 500ml glass instead of a stein. Also, you will have to dig deeper into your pocket to pay for this one: with EUR14.60 per liter, it is easily the most expensive beer you'll find on the Oktoberfest and you will only be able to order it until 9:00pm. After that time, the tent will truly live up to its name and nothing but wine will be poured into the glasses until its doors close at 1:00am. With its exquisite variety of both traditional Wies'n dishes and exotic treats, Kuffler also ensures that no guest will go home hungry. The truffle tortellini topped with freshly shaved summer truffles, the Miyagi oysters on crushed ice served with Chester bread, or the Spanferkel (suckling roast pig) with bock beer sauce, braised red cabbage, and potato dumplings topped with buttery breadcrumbs are only three of countless other dishes that will please even the most discerning palates. While you dine in the charmingly cozy and intimate atmosphere of this small tent, you will be sitting very comfortably in so-called "boxes" on wooden corner benches with backrests. Being a favorite among families, the older generation, women, and gourmets of all ages, the Kuffler tent's atmosphere is rather civilized and family-friendly during lunchtime, but never fails to evolve into an exuberant party later in the evening as all the tireless guests coming from all the other tents which already close at 10:30pm begin to swarm into Kuffler's. Of course, one could also blame the tent's three fantastic bands for that - the "Sumpfkröten", "Blechblos'n", and "Högl Fun Band" will undoubtedly rock the tent with their vibrant folk music and typical Wies'n songs.

Seating capacity: 3000 (2500 inside, 500 outside)  Beer: Paulaner Weißbier, EUR7.30/0,5l

Löwenbräu Festhalle:

Legendary for its 37-meter-high tower and its almost 5-meter-high lion figure sitting enthroned directly above its main entrance, the Löwenbräu tent may be the most iconic attraction on the Wies'n. Every few minutes, the lion's deep and powerful "Lööööööweeeenbrääääu!" roar can be heard booming across the Wies'n, drawing thousands of beer fans to its tent like a siren call. Once lured inside, you will find all the things a Wies'n fan could wish for: fantastic beer, delicious food, and great music. As soon as the "Heldensteiner" (one of the best brass bands on the entire Oktoberfest) begin to play some of their famous tunes that range from traditional Bavarian brass music to polka-, folk- and even pop- and rock music, it will be almost impossible not to dance and sway along. The Löwenbräu tent has a very authentic Bavarian feel to it that will be greatly enhanced if you accompany your visit with one of the Bavarian culinary classics, like the mouthwatering rotisserie chicken, grilled pork sausages with sauerkraut, or the tent's home-made "Kaiserschmarrn" (a type of sweet, scrambled pancake that is made with raisins, cooked in a cast-iron skillet, and topped with powdered sugar). This welcoming tent is the preferred gathering place for both players and fans of the "TSV 1860 München" soccer team as well as for young and old Bavarians and visitors from all across the world. What's not to love?

Seating capacity: 8500 (5700 inside, 2800 outside)  Beer: Löwenbräu, EUR9.50

Ochsenbraterei:

It takes but one look at this tent to figure out what delicacy you will find in here: roasted ox on a spit. Above the tent's entrance, you will see an enormous, fake ox rotating and "roasting" over an equally fake fire and it is the clear harbinger of the tent's number-one specialty. 131 years ago, in 1881, the very first whole ox was roasted on a spit right here by the butcher Johann Rössler and, with the exception of 1893 to 1898, it has been an unbroken tradition ever since. Here's a fun fact: while being roasted, every ox has its name written on a little chalkboard above the grill and every year, the very first ox to land on the spit bears the name "Max". Next to a wide variety of classic Oktoberfest treats you will find plenty of delicious ox dishes on the Ochsenbraterei's menu, such as tender, marbled pieces of ox roast with a hearty red wine sauce and potato salad, or their medium-rare prime rib beef with potato-cucumber salad. With such a great number of different ox dishes being available, it is not surprising that over one hundred oxen are eaten in just two weeks, all of which are picked by the tent's landlord himself. Your sweet tooth will also easily be satisfied with one of the Ochsenbraterei's desserts, like their creamy apple strudel with rum-vanilla-sauce. Also responsible for the tent's popularity is the typically merry beer tent atmosphere that animates its guests - 80% of which are said to be Munich natives - to grab their stein of Spaten-Frankziskaner beer and cavort with the people sitting around them. At noon you will be able to enjoy your meal and beer to the sound of the band "Siegertsbrunner Blasmusik" playing brass music, followed by the "Festzeltkapelle Bruno Gress" and the "Pucher" who will provide plenty of musical entertainment during the afternoon and evening hours. On the last Wies'n evening, the landlord of the tent even plays the trumpet as a thank-you to all his guests. If you want to get a seat in the Ochsenbraterei on the weekends, you should remember to arrive early because it tends to fill up rather quickly.

Seating capacity: 7580 (6000 outside, 1580 inside)  Beer: Spaten-Franziskaner Bräu

Hacker-Festzelt:

Designed by the famous Oscar-winning art director Rolf Zehetbauer, the Hacker tent's decoration has all the others' beat by a mile. Its beautiful ceiling, painted like a blue sky with fluffy white clouds, is decorated with golden, star-shaped lamps which light up and bathe the tent in enchanting and romantic light during the evening time. In addition, its walls are painted with some of Munich's famous landmarks. The tent's two bands, the "Kirchdorfer" and the "Cagey Strings", play their brass- and rock music on a stage which is located in the middle of the tent and is designed to rotate so that everyone around the podium can enjoy the view equally. The Hacker-Festzelt is equipped with a so-called "convertible roof" which can be partially opened if the weather outside happens to be nice. But even if we aren't blessed with sunny Wies'n weather, a simple look at the bright ceiling will make you forget all about the dreary weather. Written on a giant banner ribbon on one of the walls, you can read the tent's slogan, "Himmel der Bayern" (meaning both "sky" and "heaven" to Bavarians), which accurately describes the type of feeling many of the young Bavarian visitors get from this tent once they enter it; they find themselves to be on cloud nine in Bavaria's heaven. And who could blame them? The atmosphere is always heated thanks to its predominantly young, high-spirited, and party-loving guests and the food is something you can never go wrong with. Have a stein of Hacker-Pschorr Bräu and try their "Käsespätzle" (a type of soft and thick egg noodle) which are covered in alpine cheese and fried onions and come with green salad. Or try their tangy Ox goulash with bread dumplings, or their crispy Schweinshax'n (pork knuckle) served with potato dumplings. If you want to come here, don't forget to arrive early. Thanks to its immense popularity among the youth, the Hacker tent always fills up in the blink of an eye, especially on the weekends. On a Saturday or Sunday you will have to stand in line as early as 9:00am. Otherwise, you might not get the chance to see this beautiful, idyllic, and cozy tent from the inside.

Seating capacity: 9350 (6950 inside, 2400 outside)  Beer: Hacker-Pschorr Bräu, EUR9.40

Hippodrom:

Like Käfer's Weinschänke, the Hippodrom is a tent that has lots of national and international VIPs among its regulars. But also the younger generation appreciates what this tent has to offer. Awarded the "Five Star Diamond Award" in 2008, the Hippodrom is guaranteed to treat its guests to a high-class Wies'n experience with both its extraordinary service and gourmet food. Nowhere else on the Wies'n will you be able to order a Wagyu sirloin steak (served with green beans and roasted baguette), or king prawns (served with vegetables and roasted baguette) together with your stein of beer. However, the menu also offers a wide variety of classic Wies'n dishes, such as a freshly baked, crispy pork knuckle with bacon coleslaw and potato dumplings. And if you still find a little bit of room in your stomach after that, you shouldn't pass up the opportunity to try one of its absolutely delicious desserts, like the baked apple with cinnamon, sugar, and vanilla ice cream. As the name indicates, this tent used to be a hippodrome up until the eighties where guests would come and watch other more-than-slightly inebriated guests' amusing attempts to ride a horse. While it is not a hippodrome anymore and also not very big in size, this tent still shines with its love for Bavarian tradition and entertainment and thereby manages to attract thousands of guests every year. All in all, Hippodrom's atmosphere is both glamorous and fun, albeit not as loud or wild as most other beer tents. The tent's upbeat musical entertainment is provided by the bands "Simmsamma" and "Münchner Zwietracht" and the singer Linda Jo Rizzo. One more thing: if you're looking to meet a new girl or guy at the Wies'n, this might be a good place for you to try, as the Hippodrom has a champagne bar which is said to be the Oktoberfest's number one place for flirting.

Seating capacity: 4200 (3200 inside, 1000 outside)  Beer: Spaten-Franziskaner Bräu, EUR9.40

Schützen-Festshalle:

This tent is often confused with the Armbrustschützenzelt due to its similar name and similar theme. If you are planning on visiting this tent, keep a lookout for its distinct feature, the big balcony full of geraniums which makes the tent look like a typical alpine house. One should also know that, unlike the Armbrustschützenzelt that is centered on crossbows, the Schützen-Festhalle revolves around competition shooting with air guns. Every year, Bavaria's sporting shooters' association organizes the traditional "Oktoberfest shooting" and its venue is the Schützen-Festhalle's very own shooting range. Many guests come from all parts of Bavaria to observe this spectacle and watch as two winners are crowned as the "shooting king" and "shooting queen" at the end of the Oktoberfest. With the band "Die Niederalmer" playing everything from folk- to pop- and rock music, the Schützen-Festhalle is a well-liked tent among Bavaria's youth and families who feel at home in its cheerful, warm, and snug atmosphere. Speaking of warm: if you choose to sit outside in the tent's beer garden, you will not have to worry about cold temperatures since it is shielded with glass walls. If you come here to eat, be sure to try one of the tent's Spanferkel (roasted suckling pig) specialties, such as the Spanferkel roasted with malt beer and served with potato dumplings and coleslaw, or the succulent venison roast on creamed wild mushrooms with buttery spätzle and orange-cranberry sauce. Of course you will also find equally sapid vegetarian dishes on the menu, such as fresh chanterelles in herbed cream sauce with bread dumplings. Visiting this tent will indubitably be worth your while, but try to come earlier in the day since the Schützen-Festhalle will often already be closed at noontime due to all seats being taken.

Seating capacity: 5390 (4300 inside, 1090 outside)  Beer: Löwenbräu, EUR9.50

Paulaner Festzelt Winzerer Fähndl:

Having almost 11.000 seats, you are likely to be able to find a seat in here as the Winzerer Fähndl is the biggest tent on the entire Oktoberfest. Analogous to the tent's size is also its 25-meter-tall tower. With its colossal, 6-meter-tall beer stein rotating on top of it, this tent's signature attraction is not easily overlooked. One of the remarkable things about the Winzerer Fähndl is that it was the very first tent to receive a central beer distribution system, thus being able to ensure that its beer flow never slows down. But its constantly flowing refreshments aren't the only things that keep all of its guests in a merry mood. You are guaranteed to have a phenomenal time singing and dancing along to the brass music of the "Nockherberger" band that helps in giving the tent its traditional and jolly atmosphere. If you like soccer or the sight of particularly nice calves in Lederhos'n, this tent might be especially interesting to you since the Winzerer Fähndl is a place where you'll frequently be able to spot members of Munich's most famous soccer team, 'FC Bayern München'. While, like most other tents, the atmosphere in here tends to be somewhat reserved in the early hours, this one also unleashes its rather unrestrained and fun side during the evening time. If all the singing and dancing made you hungry, try Winzerer Fähndl's crispy, oven-baked duck served with sauce, braised red cabbage with cranberries, and potato dumplings and follow it with a piece of plum tart topped with whipped cream. And if you take a look at the guests around you, you'll know without a doubt that this beer tent has something in it for everyone because it is a favorite among all age groups and nationalities.

Seating capacity: 10.900 (8450 inside, 2450 outside)  Beer: Paulaner-Bräu, EUR9.40

With 16 days to enjoy Oktoberfest and 14 tents listed here, it seems possible (though not probable) to visit all of them this year. The best thing is that one does not need to choose wisely, as there are equal and copious amounts of fun (and beer) in every tent!

 


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