The festive and colorful vibe in an Oktoberfest tent
Europe Germany

The Non-Beer Drinker’s Guide to Oktoberfest

July 23, 2019

Are you going to Oktoberfest for the first time, but not sure what you’ll do there because you don’t drink beer? Worry not! I don’t drink beer either, so I was also concerned about whether a non-beer drinker can really enjoy Oktoberfest. Short answer: you absolutely can!

I was on a family vacation in the Austrian Alps, close to the German border, and decided it would be a really cool experience to head to Munich for the day, and check out Oktoberfest! But I had heard stories of needing to make reservations for the Oktoberfest tents MONTHS in advance. Do you really need to? Here’s your quick and easy guide to planning an Oktoberfest trip for non-beer drinkers – everything you need to know about the best Oktoberfest tents, tent reservations, the alcohol served, and the best days to visit!

When and where does Oktoberfest take place?

Oktoberfest is a two-week long extravaganza that takes place at the end of September and beginning of October, a few subway stops away from the Munich city center (but still very much in Munich).

Atmosphere in the grounds of Oktoberfest

What is Oktoberfest all about? Is it free?

Oktoberfest is kind of like Disneyland or any other theme park. You’re in a massive open space, with lots of rides and games around. There are food and souvenir stalls everywhere, and people dressed in traditional Bavarian outfits (drndls for women and lederhosen for men). It’s like a crazy and fun carnival. And of course, the highlight of them all – the Oktoberfest tents where you drink beer and eat.

It is technically free to enter Oktoberfest or any of the Oktoberfest tents, though you are required to order a minimum at some of them.

Traditional German outfits in Oktoberfest tents


What are the best Oktoberfest tents to visit?

There are 14 big tents, and about 20 smaller ones. The big tents have capacities as large as 10,000! Each tent has a different vibe, music, and atmosphere. Don’t worry too much about picking the “best” tent. They’re all great, and eventually just pick one that has the shortest queue. All tents will serve beer, but some special ones will also serve other alcohol. More on that below.

Note that there aren’t really choices when it comes to the beer. Each tent serves just one type of beer and that’s it! It actually makes your life a lot easier 🙂

The colorful vibes of Oktoberfest from above

The atmosphere inside an Oktoberfest tent

Do I need a reservation to enter one of the Oktoberfest tents? What is the best day to visit Oktoberfest?

Oktoberfest tents are generally open from 10:00am-10:30pm. If you plan to visit on the weekends, keep in mind that it will be crowded. Either make a reservation well in advance (using this link) or be prepared to wait in queues to enter one of the tents. The process of making an Oktoberfest tent reservation is tedious so I’d recommend you just show up, and find a tent with a shorter queue (quite difficult on a weekend).

Thursday to Sunday, and post-4pm are the most crowded times. So if there is a way you can visit outside of these times (I visited on a Tuesday morning around 11:00am), then you can walk straight in. We ended up visiting SO many tents just because there were no queues.

Prost with beer glasses in an Oktoberfest tent

What can I do as a non-beer drinker at Oktoberfest? Is it as fun for someone who doesn’t drink beer?

You ABSOLUTELY can enjoy Oktoberfest if you don’t drink beer! The vibe of the whole festival is just SO fun and lively, and you don’t have to pay a penny to enjoy that.

  • Every tent will serve non-alcoholic beer. It’s basically a strong apple cider!
  • If you’re traveling with children, you can enjoy the games and rides.
  • Lots of tents will serve food, so you can enjoy nibbling on Bavarian snacks while your friends enjoy the beer.
  • Most tents will not serve any alcohol other than beer, so if you’re looking for wine, vodka or cocktails, there are just a handful of specific tents. Check out Weinzelt for lots of different wines, and Kafer – the only tent that serves cocktails and other liquor (17 euros for a glass, so you have been warned).

Standing outside a Paulaner beer wagon at Oktoberfest

Do they serve food?

Yes, most of the Oktoberfest tents will serve food (super expensive though). Some will just serve snacks such as pretzels with obatdza (a delicious, spicy, Bavarian cheese dip). Others will serve additional vegetarian food. You can also get some food between your tent-hopping at the food stalls around. Don’t expect to be able to have a proper vegetarian meal at Oktoberfest though. You will have to make do with the nibbles or some pizza!

Beer, pretzels and obatdza in an Oktoberfest tent

That’s obatdza with the pretzels!

Fun facts about beer and Oktoberfest:

  • The “Big Six” Breweries in Germany brew special beer for Oktoberfest, that is not available any other time of year. It has a higher alcohol content than usual. So be careful! You’ll be sufficiently tipsy after one liter, so pace yourself. And don’t pregame Oktoberfest!
  • Each tent will only serve one type of beer from one of the breweries.
  • Everything is expensive! Be prepared to pay 11 euros for a liter of beer, or 12-17 euros for a glass of wine or vodka.
  • Contrary to popular belief, Oktoberfest is not a tourist trap. 70% of the attendees are German, so it’s still very much a local event 🙂
  • Oktoberfest started in 1810 – WOAH!

In Munich for longer and looking for suggestions? Check out my recommendations on some of the coolest, most unique things to do in Munich.

There you have it! You can most definitely enjoy Oktoberfest as a non-beer drinker.