Efteling and its enchanting backstory

Efteling and its enchanting backstory

Efteling is the most beloved amusement park in the Netherlands, steeped in fairy tales and nestled in an enchanting forest. It is one of the oldest theme parks in the world, and one of the best theme parks in Europe - in fact it's Europe's third most visited theme park.

Located in a green woodland area, it is complete with ponds and eternally lush green trees – thanks to the Dutch weather. This sets it apart from the rest.

The most visited attraction in the Netherlands

Efteling was the most visited attraction in the Netherlands in 2017 and reached a record of five million visitors, beating all of the Dutch museums and the Keukenhof by a lot. Whether you want a day out with a group of toddlers or a crowd of roller coaster-loving dare-devils, or even if you just fancy a stroll around reminiscing about your favourite fairy tale, Efteling is an outstanding world-class theme park experience to remember.

Efteling and Disneyland

Efteling is comparable to Disneyland in many ways, although it is twice as large as the original site of Disneyland in California and three years older. It actually offered some inspiration to Disneyland and the two giants have kept a long-lasting positive relationship. 

Disneyland Paris consulted Efteling, looking for inspiration on building an American theme park that would be sure to fit European tastes. As a token of appreciation, the Disney company bestowed a small statue upon Efteling. 

In 2004, Efteling won the Thea Classic Award, the highest honour given by the Themed Entertainment Association. It turned out that the Efteling had been nominated by the senior vice president of Walt Disney Imagineering.

Building the Efteling

Efteling Nature Park Foundation was established in 1950, named after the 16th-century farm that had been on the same site. Built on 12 acres, the fairy tale forest at the heart of Efteling was designed by illustrator and artist Anton Pieck, and engineered by filmmaker and photographer Peter Reijnders. 

A lot of the park’s visual associations stem from illustrator Anton Pieck’s imagination, high standards and discerning taste. His style of illustration and character building was somewhat dark and sombre but at the same time romantic and nostalgic. The characters and scenes he developed in the 1950s led to the distinctive visual style and branding that remains to this day.


The first visitors to Efteling

The park officially opened on May 31, 1952, with the Fairy Tale Forest and the nature park finally unfolding to the public. The life-size characters from 10 different fairy tales were a resounding success and captured the imaginations of a generation. The precise and imaginative dioramas were brought to life by smooth mechanics, lighting and sound effects in ways that dazzled visitors young and old. In its first year alone, the park welcomed 240.000 visitors.

In 1978, Efteling began to expand to become a theme park complete with roller coasters and other thrilling rides. The double-loop Python roller coaster was added in 1981, and from then on, it has expanded exponentially. Nowadays, there are 28 fairy tales in total, 15 from the Brothers Grimm and the others from Hans Christian Andersen, along with some other more obscure tales.

Efteling in the 21st century

Not just a theme park anymore, the park now includes a golf course, a hotel and a holiday village, making it a magical family holiday destination. 

Strolling around the park all day, you might get a little peckish. Luckily, there are more than 12 places to eat. For instance, you can get scrumptious pancakes at Polles Keuken, Octopus serves classic Italian food and, keeping up with the times, Welkom serves organic food. There are even cottages selling Dutch snacks such as poffertjes.

Sleeping at Efteling can be really fun and enchanting and there are two lodging options: The Efteling Hotel, which has 122 rooms, including 22 fairy tale theme suites, ideal for one- or two-night stays. Or Efteling Village Bosrijk, which is a complex of cottages built recently, a better option for larger groups or longer stays.

Efteling is now open all year round

Have you been to Efteling yet? It's an ideal place for families and kids to go during the school holidays or as a fun weekend activity with friends or coworkers. 

It’s now easier than ever, being open all year round! It’s also easy to get there via public transportation: take a train to Tilburg or Den Bosch (also known as s’Hertogenbosch) and take the special Efteling bus! Located in the province of North Brabant in the south of the Netherlands, Efteling's nearest Dutch cities are Tilburg, Den BoschMaastricht and Eindhoven

If you're looking for high-quality entertainment, have a wild imagination and appreciate a touch of old-fashioned charm, then the Efteling is for you! With a striking mix of modernity and nostalgia, centred around storytelling, green forests surrounding you and feeling at one with nature as you wander around, you're in for a treat.



Rachel Deloughry


Rachel Deloughry

Rachel is a writer, editor and digital content creator, passionate about the arts, culture and lifestyle.

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