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When in Munich: How to Dress & Eat like a Local at Oktoberfest
When in Munich: How to Dress & Eat like a Local at Oktoberfest

Munich’s Oktoberfest is a warm-hearted celebration of Bavaria’s seasonal beers, but it’s not just 17 days of nonstop drinking. Oktoberfest is the largest folk festival in the world and an integral part of Bavarian identity. Though beer may take center stage during the festivities, Oktoberfest is also in no small part about the hearty foods and traditional dress of Bavaria.

Across the globe, garb and grub are two of the strongest markers of cultural identity. And while it’s true that in a globalized world we pretty much all wear blue jeans and eat McDonald’s, Oktoberfest welcomes visitors from the all over the planet to partake in traditional Bavarian merriment.

If your goal when traveling is to truly embrace the culture of a place, food and dress are two of the most fun ways to do so. This is certainly no exception at Oktoberfest, where old-timey clothing and traditional German food are just as plentiful as the ever-flowing beer. There is no better way to get into the spirit of Oktoberfest than dressing and eating according to custom.  If you’re planning a trip to Munich this fall, here are all the Oktoberfest foods you need to eat and the Oktoberfest outfits you need to wear to truly feel like a part of the festivities.

Oktoberfest Outfits: Lederhosen and Dirndl

Lederhosen and Dirndl have become synonymous with Oktoberfest celebrations, but their origins are quite humble. Lederhosen were once the traditional outfit for fieldworkers (think denim overalls), and the Dirndl was the typical uniform for housemaids. As time went on, the upper classes adopted these styles and transformed them into festive, leisure attire.  Today, both Dirndl and Lederhosen are adored in Germany, Austria, and abroad, as a form of nostalgic kitsch.

If you’re at all worried that donning the traditional German peasant garb could be interpreted as offensive, don’t be. Bavarians are completely unjealous about sharing their Tracht with foreigners, and it’s very common that Germans with no Bavarian heritage will don these outfits as well. Oktoberfest is a time when you’re likely to see more Dirndls and Lederhosen than street clothes, on locals and tourists alike. You’re probably more likely to stand out if you opt to wear regular clothes!


What to Wear to Oktoberfest for Women: Dirndls

The typical Dirndl consists of a tight-fitting bodice over a puffy, white, low-cut blouse and a full skirt. Depending on the season, Dirndls come in all sorts of colors and can be made from cotton, linen, wool, or velvet. Common accessories include an apron (knotted to the right if the wearer is married/taken, and to the left if she is single), chains for the bodice lacing, brooches, and silk scarves. Though this outfit has become quite sexualized over the years and many women opt to wear heels with their Dirndls, this has no historical basis and is furthermore not recommended for Oktoberfest – you’ll be doing a lot of walking and it will make it difficult to stand on the benches! Plain leather loafers are the traditional footwear to match a Dirndl, but modern shoes like ballet flats, oxfords, or even simple sneakers will pair well. Braided pigtails are a popular hairstyle to go with women’s Oktoberfest outfits.


What to Wear to Oktoberfest for Men: Lederhosen

The classic Lederhosen are short or knee-length breeches made of leather that include suspenders worn over a checkered, collared shirt. Traditional Lederhosen are made from tanned deer leather, making them super durable for farm work, but contemporary versions tend to be made from cow leather, or synthetic materials like velour or corduroy. Many Lederhosen feature decorative embroidery or buttons.  Dressed up, a complete Lederhosen outfit may also include a wide-brimmed hat with a feather or pom, a matching sport coat, and a neck scarf. The shoes traditionally worn with Lederhosen are called Haferl and made of black leather, but contemporary men’s dress shoes, sneakers, and boots fit the look as well.


Where to Buy Classic Oktoberfest Outfits

There aren’t very many Dirndl and Lederhosen makers outside of Germany, so your best bet for finding a classic, well-made Tracht is to just wait until you get to Munich. Especially around the time of Oktoberfest, you won’t be able to walk too far before finding a vendor. Just keep in mind that everything is pricier during the festival! Of course, prices vary according to quality, but you should expect to pay anywhere between 200 to 600 euros for a complete outfit from good materials.


Oktoberfest Clothing on the Cheap

We understand it may be out of the question to spend so much money on a costume that you may not have any cultural ties to and that you may only ever wear once. The good news is that, as Halloween season approaches in the States, ultra-kitsch versions of Lederhosen and Dirndls are widely available wherever you can buy ready-made costumes. While these may not be items that you’ll want to pass down to your grandkids, they are affordable and good for a single trip. You may feel a bit envious of the German festival goers who have inherited a handmade Tracht or invested in a high-quality piece, but you won’t look out of place. Besides, nobody is going to be able to see straight after noon anyways.

Otherwise you can always save some money by purchasing just the main piece (the Dirndl bodice or Lederhosen breeches), and supplying the rest of the outfit from your own closet. The undershirts, shoes, socks, scarves, apron, and other accessories are pretty flexible, and are probably things that you or someone you know has laying around anyways.


Oktoberfest Foods

With all the drinking that goes on at Oktoberfest, hearty food is a necessity for survival. Luckily, traditional German food is just that: Hearty. Expect plentiful meat, bread, and potatoes during your time in Munich. But if you think that sounds bland, think again. Like the purity of German beer, which can legally contain only malt, hops, and water, Bavarian food has a way of perfecting the basics so that it becomes something truly amazing.



What English speakers have come to know as pretzels have been baked in Europe since the 8th century. Though its origin story is debated and there are plenty of myths around its invention, Brezel (the high-German term for the baked good) has come to be an important symbol of the European baking tradition. Its interlocking form is the emblem of the bakers’ guild. The Brez’n (in the Bavarian dialect) you’ll find at Oktoberfest are a far cry from the hard, salty bite-sized snacks we eat in the States. Bavarian pretzels are gigantic, warm, chewy, and come in all sorts of sweet and savory varieties. Go with the classic Laugenbrezel with butter to accompany your beer, and opt for one stuffed with marzipan for dessert.



Sausage is a staple in traditional German cuisine, and the Bavarian tradition of Weißwurst is a favorite regional variation, particularly at Oktoberfest. Traditionally Weißwurst is made fresh each morning from minced veal and pork bacon, and seasoned with parsley, lemon, cardamom, and ginger. Unlike many of sausage variations eaten in the States, traditional Weißwurst contains no preservatives, and has historically been served for breakfast or lunch so that it wouldn’t spoil in the heat of the afternoon. But Weißwurst isn’t eaten like just any other sausage. The skin is to be avoided, so locals will suck the meat out of the end. The process is just as fun as the taste is good!



The roast chickens of Oktoberfest may just give the beer a run for its money in terms of our favorite thing to consume. These chickens are slathered with delicious spices and roasted on a spit so that the skin is a crispy, crackling perfection while the inside is soft and tender. They are usually ordered in halves or wholes. That may sound like a lot, but when you’ve spent the day singing in German and guzzling beer, you’ll be picking the bones before you know it.



Named for a late 19th century Bavarian Prince, Prinzregententorte is a six- to seven-layer sponge cake brimming with chocolate buttercream and apricot jam. To make it even more sinful, the cake is glazed in a chocolate shell. Rich though it may be, this is not an overly sweet dessert, making it actually a pretty nice compliment to Oktoberfest beers (or your post-beer pick-me-up coffee).  Order a slice from a bakery stand on the festival grounds, or take a whole cake back to your hotel room with you.



Bavaria has a hearty and welcoming character that makes it among Germany’s most beloved tourist regions. The warm-heartedness of Bavarian culture has certainly made an impression on the rest of the world; cities all over the globe hold their own local versions of Oktoberfest and celebrate with the same beers, food, and dress. Even if the thought of wearing a peasant outfit and consuming thousands of calories worth of liquid and solid carbs sounds silly to you, when you’re in Munich for Oktoberfest, the spirit is simply contagious. Before you know it, you’ll be linking arms with fellow merrymakers and swaying back and forth to a drinking song.

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