Since I live in Munich, Oktoberfest is a common topic and a large reason people visit. Suddenly our delightful and efficient subway system swells to maximum capacity and renders anything in the vicinity of Theresenwiese useless for the few weeks that Oktoberfest lasts.
First things first - Oktoberfest begins in September.
2010: September 18 - October 4 (this is the 200th anniversary!)
2011: September 17 - October 3
2012: September 22 - October 7
It's the celebration of what must have been an elaborate wedding reception that was so amazing it continues on today. People here often refer to it as 'Wies'n'. It's sensory overload and what many Americans would consider a glorified fair.
Go super early if you want a chance at getting a table. Even then many are reserved, so you will have to squeeze in or find one that's open. You have to be seated at a table to be served, so that can also be an issue.
From what I understand the best time to get a table is on Monday after the first weekend, when everyone is partied out. This is according to the cab drivers, who I assume have a slump on the first Monday. Even though many tables are reserved they are open through the early part of the day and free for the taking, so go early!
Here are the prices from the past couple years:
2009 = 8.10-8.60€ / liter
2010 = 8.40-8.90€ / liter.
It's easy to drop a lot of cash, although it tends to be a wonderful time.
How can you reserve a table?
Well you're going to need a lot of friends and a fair amount of money. Reservations are done many months in advance towards the beginning of the year and it certainly helps to know people. If you're a tourist you can pretty much bank on not getting a reservation, but it doesn't mean you're out on the fun.
The tents are all very different (here are photos of the interiors + exteriors). It's worth trying to walk around and walk in, even if there are no seats in the place. If there are seats you will probably want to grab them while you can. When choosing tents it's best to pick by the beer selection... avoid drinking logos with animals or tools.
You're in luck if you're a group of ladies, however you might get harassed a bit. Last year we had offers for golf lessons, free tickets to a Beatles Experience show, and my friend even had a marriage proposal from a Norweigen guy. 1. Hippodrom - smallest of the tents and a bit of 'see and be seen' atmosphere. It seems the TV stations are always there... as are those who want to mingle
2. Armbrustschützen-Festhalle - 'crossbow shooting tent' - this is ultra traditional with the oompah music and all.
3. Hofbräu-Festzelt - The place to go if you want to hang out with Americans or Australians. It's a frat party atmosphere. This tent was also clearly the smelliest after the smoking ban.
4. Hacker-Festzelt - This tent is very beautiful and it appears as though you're sitting under the sky.
5. Schottenhamel - This is the tent that starts it all at noon on the first day. The Mayor taps the kegs here before the others can begin. It tends to be very traditional and cosy since they have unique square tables and a favorite among all.
6. Winzerer Fähndl - Cosy Paulaner tent with the enormous beer on top.
7. Schützen-Festzelt - Löwenbräu tent right under the Lady Bavaria statue.
8. Käfer's Wies'n-Schänke - A posh tent with higher end food, due to being owned by one of the gourmet groceries in town.
9. Weinzelt - wine tent with an older clientele and late hours.
10. Löwenbräu-Festhalle - least popular among locals (or maybe that's just my opinion). You're probably going to regret sitting outside and hearing the Lion rawr 'Löwenbräu' every few minutes.
11. Bräurosl - traditional and untraditional Hacker Pschorr tent. This tent is popular for gay men, especially on the first Sunday of the fest.
12. Augustiner-Festhalle - very popular with the locals. This is Munich's beer - yes, they all technically are, but this is a favorite.
13. Spatenbräu-Festhalle (Ochsenbraterei) - Ox specialities. Each ox has a name and you can read who is being served up daily, when it was born, and how much it weighed.
14. Fischer-Vroni - catering to fish specialities and even sushi.
More information on the tents and Oktoberfest can be found here.
For a hotel I would get something close to one of the S-bahn lines or near the U4/ U5 if possible. Also close by is the U3 /U6.