Oktoberfest - ein Fest der Landeshauptstadt München
Photo: Sebastian Lehner

The beer gardens at the Wiesn and in Munich

You can not only enjoy your beer in the tent

The tents are full, the weather is beautiful, and you want to eat, drink, and enjoy the Wiesn atmosphere? Then off we go to the beer garden! Not only at Munich’s Victuals Market or the Chinese Tower, but also on the Theresienwiese!

The festival tent beer gardens on the Wiesn

Many people don’t even know when they first visit the Wiesn: Every big tent also has a beer garden where you can enjoy your beer and half roasted chicken outside in fresh air and sunshine. And many of the small tents and “Hütte” also have open-air guest gardens. If you expect chestnut trees over your head and pebbles under your feet, you’ll be disappointed, but the beer gardens are a great alternative to tents — especially if they’re full or even closed. You’ll almost always find a place to sit in the beer garden, in part because you can’t make a reservation here. Many hosts have installed radiant heaters for cooler days. Beer and chicken taste just as good here, and if you sit near one of the doors to the tent, you’ll also hear some of the music and the atmosphere from inside.

The Bavarian Beer Garden Ordinance even applies to the Wiesn

We don’t have to someone ahead at every place. In a real Bavarian beer garden like the one at the Chinese Tower in the English Garden or the Hirschgarten, you’re allowed to bring your own snacks (but not drinks) and eat there. This regulation is something very special. Many Munich residents move into their beloved beer gardens on weekends with picnic baskets and tablecloths. It’s sociable and inexpensive. And it’s even allowed on the Wiesn: In all Oktoberfest beer gardens, you can actually bring your own snacks and eat them!

The history of beer gardens in Bavaria

How did the idea of the beer garden actually come about? From a problem of Bavarian Brewing Law of 1539, which only allowed the brewing of beer between autumn and spring. Production was too dangerous in the summer, as the risk of fires was too great when boiling. The brewer Joseph Pschorr, married to Maria-Theresia Hacker, came up with the idea of digging a huge underground beer cellar where the beer would stay cool and fresh throughout the summer. Chestnut trees were planted over the cellars, which were usually driven into the high banks of the Isar, to provide shade for the soil. With their flat roots, the trees didn’t damage the vaults and grew very quickly. Thus cozy gardens were created above the cellars – above all on the Schwanthalerhöhe left of the Isar, in Haidhausen, and the Au right of the Isar.

Bring your own snack: How it came to this

The new beer gardens were located in the Munich suburbs and attracted many visitors. This annoyed the brewers and landlords of the city, as they were not allowed to sell their beer directly. King Maximilian I Joseph defused the beer dispute with the Beer Garden Ordinance of 1812, which allowed the municipal brewers to serve beer, but not to sell food. And so the people of Munich brought their own snacks with them. This tradition has remained to this day, even if, of course, there are now all kinds of food to buy in every beer garden.

In the Munich beer garden: Dos and Don’ts

Similar to the tent, the beer gardens at the Wiesn are also very popular: Hockt’s Euch zam! Specifically because you can’t reserve a table outside, you’ll rarely have a table for yourself. Instead, look for some company. All according to the motto: Hockt’s Euch hera, na samma mehra! (Have a seat here, it’ll be more fun!) Still, you should ask before you sit down, just to make sure that nobody’s just gone to the bathroom and coming right back. The rule in the classic city beer garden applies: Bringing your own snacks is explicitly allowed, but please do not bring any drinks, soft drinks, or prosecco. Liquids are bought from the host. Some beer gardens have areas serviced by waitstaff, most well-signposted or recognizable by the fact that there are tables and chairs instead of beer sets.