7 best theme parks in Europe
Do you love that butterfly feeling you get in your stomach when you’re on a roller coaster dropping from a great height or looping the loop? Can’t get enough of giant swings or pirate ships? Then you better start planning your trip to one of these fabulous theme parks in Europe.
Theme parks in Europe
Planning your next getaway and looking for a fun day out, or looking to arrange a whole holiday around an amusement park? Here is our pick of the seven best theme parks in Europe, in no particular order.
1. Disneyland Paris, France
Disneyland is of course on this list, as it is the place where all your favourite fairy tales come to life. And there is not just one park, no, Disneyland Paris has two! You’ll find the iconic Disneyland castle at Disneyland Park and, just around the corner, you can venture into the movie-themed Walt Disney Studios. In Disneyland Park, fairy tales are spread across five lands, brimming with Disney characters and filled with attractions, street parades and shows.
Don’t be fooled by the sweet outward appearance of Disneyland, however. There are also rides that will have you scared silly and screaming your lungs out (but in a good way, obviously). Big Thunder Mountain is precisely one of these rides: the runaway mine cart will take you around a haunted mountain and have you screaming as you plummet through the darkness. Another famous attraction is the Star Wars Hyperspace Mountain, a thrilling takeover of the classic Space Mountain. Is the force strong in you?
Want to uncover the secrets behind your favourite Disney film scenes? Then Walt Disney Studios is the place for you! You can learn how to animate the Disney way and also ride on attractions like the Finding-Nemo-themed Crush’s Coaster or the half-pipe coaster RC Racer. Disneyland is perfect for the whole family.
2. Europa Park, Germany
There is an abundance of theme parks in Germany, but Europa Park is definitely one of the most popular, being the largest theme park in the country. It undeniably deserves a place on this list, as it is the second most popular theme park in Europe.
Located in Rust, in the southwest of Germany, it covers an area of 950.000 square metres, has more than 100 attractions and a whopping 13 roller coasters. What makes it special, though, is its 15 European-themed areas, featuring countries from Iceland to Austria and showcasing some of each country’s most admired scenes. It’s literally a mini-continent that allows you to whizz around 15 countries in a matter of hours.
There’s something for everyone at the park, and adrenaline junkies are sure to be satisfied with rides like Blue Fire Megacoaster, which takes you from 0 to 100 kilometres an hour in just 2,5 seconds, and Alpenexpress Coastiality, a roller coaster which has you wearing a VR headset whilst you ride. Experience a virtual reality world that perfectly matches the roller coaster movements!
It’s not all about European countries though: the park also features areas such as Adventure Land, where you can enjoy a lake adventure or simply take in the beautiful nature; and Grimm’s Enchanted Forest, where you can jump into some of your favourite Brothers Grimm fairy tales, such as Hansel and Gretel.
3. Phantasialand, Germany
Located in Brühl, between Cologne and Bonn, Phantasialand is another fantastic park in Germany. It attracts over 1,75 million visitors annually, and is famous for its unique rides and amazing shows. Some of the rides at the park even hold world records, like the high-speed roller coaster TARON, which was the fastest multi-launch roller coaster in the world when it opened in 2016, or RAIK, the fastest and longest family boomerang in the world.
The park has six areas - Fantasy, Deep in Africa, Berlin, Mystery, Mexico and China Town - and some of the popular attractions include the Black Mamba roller coaster, with plenty of twists and turns; Maus Au Chocolat, where you have to shoot mice using pastry bags in a cake factory; and Temple of the Night Hawk, where you ride through the black of night on a virtual hawk.
4. Efteling, the Netherlands
Efteling is the largest and most iconic theme park in the Netherlands, focussing on fairy tale stories. Efteling is, of course, not just famous for its abundant fairy tales, but also for its awesome rides.
The park is divided into five different areas, each with different kinds of attractions. For example, if you love roller coasters, Ruigrijk is the area you need to head to. If you have children, the Marerijk area is your best bet, as it has many child-friendly attractions.
The park has a mix of water rides and terrifying roller coasters, such as Joris en de Draak, a double-track wooden racer roller coaster, which will have you squealing your lungs out as you accelerate to race the other team to the finish. Another extremely popular roller coaster is Baron, a dive roller coaster that plunges down 37,5 metres at a speed of 90 kilometres an hour. One more worth a mention is Vogel Rok, an indoor roller coaster that will surprise you as you dive through the darkness.
5. PortAventura, Spain
PortAventura is one of Europe’s most iconic parks. It is the most-visited theme park in Spain, with around 4 million visitors per year. Located south of Barcelona in Salou, Tarragona, it has six worlds for you to discover. These include Mediterrània, Polynesia, China, México, Far West and SésamoAventura. And yes, that last one is a world based on Sesame Street!
The park has a bit of everything, from jump-out-of-your-skin roller coasters to water rides and child-friendly rides and mazes. A few rides catch the eye, such as the Furius Baco, one of Europe's fastest roller coasters that hits 135 kilometres an hour in just three seconds; Shambhala, a 76-metre tall roller coaster, the tallest in the park and the one with the longest drop, and Hurakan Condor, a 100-metre long free-fall ride.
The park also boasts a 175 square metre Mayan-inspired maze filled with sensations and visual effects: perfect for bringing out your inner explorer! And these are just a few of the awesome attractions the park offers. It also has a Ferrari Land, with more than 70.000 square metres of excitement. One ride that definitely deserves a mention is Red Force, which will have you accelerating to 180 kilometres an hour in five seconds with a force of 1,3G and reaching a height of 112 metres!
6. Gardaland, Italy
Gardaland in North-Eastern Italy is not just a theme park; it is also an amazing aquarium! Garda Sea Life Aquarium allows you to venture into the deep blue via a transparent oceanic tunnel. Look all around you, and especially above you at sharks, rays and other tropical creatures. The aquarium also features interactive rock pools and 40 themed fish tanks amongst other spectacular sights. It is possible to visit the aquarium only, but for a full day of excitement, combine it with a Gardaland park ticket.
The park is full of attractions for all ages, so there will be something to do for the whole family. A few thrill-seeking rides you won’t want to miss out on are the Blue Tornado roller coaster, which will have you feeling like you are on a supersonic jet; Shaman, a double loop-the-loop roller coaster that is simply exhilarating, and Mammut, which will have you racing over the roller coaster tracks to avoid the Mammoth that’s chasing you.
7. Tivoli Gardens, Denmark
The last on the list, but certainly not the least popular, is Tivoli Gardens in the capital of Denmark, Copenhagen. This theme park is the second oldest in Europe and the world, having opened its gates in 1843! The park has something for everyone and is especially enchanting in the evening when fairy lights illuminate the grounds.
If you are looking for a thrill, step aboard the Aquila to experience the world upside down from 11 metres high and feel centrifugal forces of up to 4G being unleashed. Adrenaline junkies should also make sure they don’t forget to try the Golden Tower, one of the tallest rides in the park at an impressive 63-metres tall; or the Demon, a roller coaster with three loops and the option to experience it using a VR headset.
Kids can enjoy an array of rides and there are also stages across the park with certain performances already included in the ticket price. Need some peace and quiet? Tivoli also has an area offering green space and garden ambience.
What is your favourite European theme park?
There are so many more theme parks we could mention, but then we’d be here all day. Have you visited any of the above-mentioned before? What is your favourite theme park in Europe? Let us know in the comments section!
This article originally appeared on IamExpat in Germany.