The thrill of the big wheel, the whoosh as the rollercoaster hurtles downhill and the almighty splash as the log flume hits the water; visiting a theme park is one of the most sensory, exciting activities you can do whatever age you are. And some of the best can be found not too far from home. From visiting famous landmarks in Mini-Europe to scaling lofty heights and stepping into storybook realms, here are some of the best theme parks in Europe.
The Netherlands: Efteling
The largest amusement park in the Netherlands, Efteling brings traditional fairy tales such as Snow White and Hansel and Gretel to life before your very eyes. With larger than life characters roaming the park, enchanted forests to explore and numerous interactive experiences, you’ll really feel like you’ve stepped into another universe. Of the four realms found within the park, Droomvlucht is the most popular, a wonderful dream world with elves and fairies. The magical city of Raveleijn is also a highlight, featuring a medieval domain with awe-inspiring theatrical shows. Many of these shows are conducted in Dutch, though audio guides are available for most common languages. For thrill seekers, the park holds plenty of rollercoasters, including a pirate-themed water ride, and the Joris en de Draak – the first wooden racer in northwest Europe. Even the park’s restaurants have fairytale themed interactions, and you can even stay the night in the attraction’s storybook village. Efteling is only an hour’s drive from our Rotterdam port.
As wonderful as Disneyland Paris is, it’s far from France’s only theme park. Futuroscope, found near the small city of Poitiers close to Nantes and Le Mans, is one of the country’s very best. With over 25 unique experiences based around 3D and 4D theatre, Futuroscope takes you on heart-hammering rollercoaster rides, thrilling fairytale shows and mind-blowing, futuristic journeys that are built to suit all ages. New in 2017, ‘The Extraordinary Journey’ lets you take to the skies after Phileas Fogg, floating over hot air balloons and past skydivers. The whole experience is computer-generated, but it looks and feels startlingly real. Your legs will dangle, you’ll be flipped 90 degrees in the air, and you’ll really feel like you’re soaring through the sky.
What if you could see the colourful streets of Copenhagen, hear the chimes of Big Ben and visit the Leaning Tower of Pisa all in one day? Well, at Brussel’s Mini-Europe, you can do all that and more! Located right by the city’s sparkling Atomium, this park features some of Europe’s most famous landscapes, all sized down on a scale of 1:25. Tremendous precision has gone into each one – the Spanish Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela for example took 24,000 hours to create – equal to 13 years of work for one person! With pulleys, step buttons and more, you can bring some of Europe’s historical scenes to life for yourself – whether that’s watching the Romans build their empire, the fall of the Berlin wall or the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Inside, there’s also an interactive museum all about the history of Europe, and once you’ve finished exploring, refuel at the attraction’s restaurant, which holds panoramic views across the park.
Germany’s largest theme park Europa-Park is situated to the west of the country, close to Strasbourg on the French border, which means that it’s reachable by car from P&O ports at Calais, Zeebrugge and Rotterdam. As you might guess from its name, there are 18 zones dedicated to countries all over the continent – from England to Russia. Drop from 73 metres in the air on the Silver Star hyper coaster, loop the loop on Blue Fire, or try an otherworldly experience by getting on the Alpen Express rollercoaster and donning a virtual reality headset. In 2017, Europa-Park opened its biggest single ride investment ever – the Voletarium. Billed as a flying theatre ride, you’ll soar over Europe’s greatest monuments, feeling wind and water in your face as you go.
Ready to go? Take a look at our Adventure Page for more inspiration.