From the classic and traditional amusement parks to the
thrilling and unusual!
Europe is a traveler’s dream – whether you go city hopping, beach exploring, hiking or wine tasting, shopping, museum and castle visiting, or luxuriating on a cruise.
In this piece, we examine Europe’s best Theme Parks, Adventure and Amusement Parks, giving you a perspective regarding what to expect, when to visit, best parks for families, most exciting parks, parks well suited for adventure seekers and some unique and unusual parks you might never have heard about anywhere else. Let’s explore!
Top Amusement Parks in Europe
Disneyland Paris (originally Euro Disney Resort)
Disney’s theme park was established in Paris in 1992; it is the first Disney Amusement Park to be opened in Europe. This magical universe provides fun-filled adventures for the entire family; you will not want to leave when you get here! With over 8 million visitors annually, Disneyland Paris is the most popular theme park in Europe regarding visitor numbers.
Fun things for families at Disneyland Paris
Disneyland Paris is the ideal attraction for families with children of all ages; there are several activities available for children and for adults! From meet and greet Mickey Mouse, Captain Hook or any other of the many popular Disney characters, kids will have a magical and surreal experience. They can also enjoy many attractions tailor made for children such as Adventure Isle and Alice’s Curious Labyrinth among many more. Tweens and adults are covered with over fifty attractions available to choose from, some of the more popular ones are the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith – this is a thrilling ride that reaches up to a 100km in 3 seconds!
With so many daily shows, parades, and movies, Disneyland Paris will provide unfettered and unending fun for the entire family throughout the trip, you will surely not regret the decision to take your family here.
How long and where to stay at Disneyland Paris?
To get the full experience of Disneyland Paris, we recommend that you stay for at least three days. This will give you enough time to enjoy all the rides, have the kids meet all their favorite characters and to immerse yourself in the Disney culture. Staying at one of the Disney hotels would definitely add to the experience, you can walk to the Adventure Park instead of taking a shuttle, you will also have access to early park rides that are not as accessible to outside guests. If you choose to stay outside of the park, most nearby hotels provide free shuttles to and from the amusement park, so you will have no trouble getting there and will still have a magical experience.
How to get to Disneyland Paris
Disneyland Paris is in Marne-La-Vallée, which is about twenty miles from Paris. It is approximately an hour away from the Paris airports if you are taking a shuttle bus. There are over 500 daily flights to the airports in Paris, so you will have a wide variety of options for flying in. Travelling by train is a convenient alternative since the Marne-La-Vallée train station is located just two minutes by foot away from Disneyland Paris. You can jump on the magic shuttle from the airport (remember to pre-book), or take the Disney Express from three locations in Paris.
The Tivoli park entrance, Copenhagen, Denmark – between ca. 1890 and ca. 1900.
Denmark’s Tivoli and Legoland
The welcoming and friendly country of Denmark has two famous Amusement and Theme Parks, which have been extremely popular destinations for children for decades, even generations. Let’s explore these magical places!
The Tivoli park entrance today hasn’t changed much!
Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, Denmark
This is one of the more unique and traditional amusement parks in Europe, hosting over 4.5 million visitors annually. It was established in 1843 and maintains the architecture and feel of olden days, the rides at the park also reflect the traditional theme and a visit to this alluring park will trigger feelings of nostalgia and magic.
Fun for the entire family at Tivoli Gardens
Tivoli provides great entertainment for all members of the family. One of the main attractions that the children will surely enjoy is the Tivoli Boy’s Guard, which is a children’s version of the queen’s royal guard and a Danish tradition. They are attractively dressed, and their marching and music displays are awe-inspiring and provide superb entertainment. The rides at the park are also heart-stopping, and you will hear endless shrieks of joy. The Aquila and the Demon are two of the rides not to be missed when you visit Tivoli Gardens. There are nightly family concerts and exciting shows, and on weekends the Park is also a buzz with magical firework displays.
When is the best time to visit Tivoli Gardens?
Tivoli Gardens is a seasonal attraction, open continuously from late March to end of September for the Summer season. It then reopens for Halloween between October 13 and November 5 and again for Christmas between November 18 and December 31. There’s also a winter opening in February, refer to their opening dates here. Visiting in the summer is best since all the attractions will be open at this time. The Halloween and winter seasons provide more limited and themed activities.
Legoland in Billund, Denmark
Legoland is in Billund, Denmark, and rivals Disney for the crown of “the happiest place on earth.” Opened in 1968, the park got its name from a small plastic brick called Lego which was created and manufactured in the town. This unique theme park is especially appealing to younger children and families due to the nature of the attractions. Miniland is one of the top attractions for the youngest; it is composed of over 20 million plastic blocks that are used to create global icons such as the Kennedy Space Center and miniature cities such as Nyhavn, which is the oldest town in Denmark. There are also fun family rides such as X-Treme Racers and Power Builder to get your adrenaline pumping and relaxing options such as Atlantis which is a large aquarium built around Lego models of underwater life.
When is the best time to visit Legoland?
Legoland is open to the public from early April to early November. When you purchase a ticket for the park, it will give you access to all the attractions and rides. The tickets are reasonably priced and will fit in anyone’s budget.
How to get to Tivoli Gardens and Legoland and how long should you stay
Flying into the Copenhagen airport or the Billund airport is a hassle-free way of getting to Tivoli Gardens or Legoland respectively. Denmark also has one of the most developed public transportation systems in Europe inclusive of trains, buses, and taxies that will get you to these attractions efficiently and at a reasonable cost. If you are visiting Denmark to experience Legoland and Tivoli Gardens, you will need at least a day at each park, there is a lot to do and explore for children of all ages.
Port Aventura Theme Park in Barcelona, Spain
The world-renowned Port Aventura Park in Barcelona, Spain, is not for the faint of heart. It is home to Europe’s highest roller-coaster (Shambhala) and an equally heart-stopping ride called Dragon Khan. These are the two flagship rides at Port Aventura Theme Park and are a major attraction for thrill seekers. The park is also extremely child-friendly with a specific kids area called Sesamo Aventura, which provides exclusive activities for young children including riding on the roller-coaster Tami Tami, taking a flight in their aeroplane called Coco Pilot or going swimming on the back of the Magic Fish. This Park welcomes over 4 million guests annually, and will appeal to the entire family.
When to visit Port Aventura and how to get there
The Park is in full swing between April and November. If you are flying in, there are two airports close to the theme park – the El Prat de Llobregat Airport is approximately an hour away, and the Reus Airport is just 15 minutes away. You can also take the train, a bus, a taxi or rent a car to get to the Park, the route is well serviced, and you will have no transportation issues.
The Prater Theme Park in Vienna, Austria
The Prater in Vienna, Austria, is the most outstanding and unique Theme Park in the country. It is known for its iconic Giant Ferris Wheel, the Wiener Riesenrad (“Viennese giant wheel”) which is the most recognizable symbol of the city. Riding on the Ferris Wheel is a fun activity to do with the family at the park. You can also enjoy Wind-O-Bona, which is a unique indoor skydiving wind tunnel generating speeds of up to 280 km/h. This wind tunnel facilitates parachute jumps from as high as 4,000 meters, providing thrill for participants. The Prater Theme Park also includes over 6 million square miles of green areas, a museum and a 75 year old miniature railway (Liliputbahn) that provides entertaining train rides on a 4 km round trip!
The Prater provides a different type of theme park experience which you will not find at a traditional theme park. It focuses on combining entertainment with education and environmental preservation; you should take the family along to enjoy this unique park.
When to visit the Prater and how to get there
In Austria, the public transportation network is excellent. You can easily get around once you fly into Vienna (or maybe you arrive by train! All of Europe is well connected by rail). It is not necessary to rent a car, all the major attractions in Vienna are accessible by train, bus, and underground metro. Check out the Vienna card that offers free travel on public transport and discounts on a long list of museums, attractions, shopping and tours. You can also get the app before you go.
The Prater differs from other parks in that it’s free to enter the area, and it’s open 24/7 from January to December! Individual attractions may have different opening hours and some charge for the rides. The fees are not expensive, they vary from Euro 1.50 to 5.00.
Other Unique Theme Parks in Europe
On the top of our list is the magical and uniquely French experience Le Puy Du Fou in the western part of France, the multicultural theme park and zoo Pairi Daiza in Belgium, and Mini Europe in Brussels. In addition, there are many Activity Parks in several European countries with high levels of physical activity for those who like a more active and challenging trip. Read on to get the inside scoop on this!
Le Puy Du Fou Theme Park, France
Le Puy Du Fou is a fascinating theme park with historical reenactments that attracts over 2 million visitors annually. It differentiates itself by focusing on live shows and the performing arts and was voted as the best European theme park in 2013. Some of the activities to look forward to include the Organs of Fire, which takes place nightly on the Le Puy Du Fou Lake and Cinescenie which is a live performance with over 1,200 actors and dancers putting on a Grande show with fire eaters, fireworks, performing horses and battles. This Park is surely one to consider if you are looking for a theme park experience with a difference!
When to visit Le Puy du Fou and how to get there
Le Puy du Fou is only open during peak season, from April through September and weekends in October. The park is not close to any big airports, it’s one hour drive from the regional Nantes airport, or 1 ½ hour train ride from Angers, or a 3 ½ hour drive from Paris!
Although it takes some time and effort to get there, and all the shows and entertainment are in French, it’s a lifetime experience immersing visitors in history and magic.
Prepare to spend some time visiting Le Puy du Fou. There are many different shows going on throughout the day and to get the most out of your experience, arrive early or even the day before, there are hotels nearby.
Mini Europe in Brussels, Belgium
Of the many excursions and activities you can find in the Capital of Europe, one that both parents and children will enjoy is Mini Europe! It’s a miniature park close to the Atomium in Brussels, Belgium, with reproductions of 80 cities and over 350 monuments and buildings from other European countries. It’s great fun to walk around seeing all of these up close and in a small scale, all recreated down to the smallest detail. And where else would you get to see the whole of Europe in a day?
When to visit Mini Europe and how to get there
Mini Europe is open year round, and attracts most visitors in the summer months and on weekends. Brussels’ Airport Zaventeem is less than an hour away, and it’s easy to get into town by train. Or rent a car, visit Brussels and Mini Europe and the next day, head over to our next featured park below.
Pairi Daiza, the zoo experience in a theme park setting
Belgium is a rather small country, and with an excellent highway network making it easy to drive to this more remote park; we promise you won’t regret it! The Pairi Daiza is centered around a different vision of a zoo, where visitors walk around the various sections of the park enjoying animals and birds while also visiting the parts of the world where these animals originate. It’s incredibly well done, where the focus is also on the culture and gastronomy of the different regions.
Discover an African village next to the hyena enclosure where the lions are closely watching them from across the river. Visit a Balian temple close to the elephants and a Buddhist temple where even monks come to visit as tourists. Enjoy the Japanese garden and sit down for tea, and further down the way get a fish foot bath and “pedicure”. Descend into the caves of a medieval abbey haunted by bats – for real! The park also boasts of giant pandas, koalas, orangutans, gorillas and white tigers, in addition to Tasmanian devils and a host of birds in the largest aviary in Europe in a beautifully landscaped park.
When to visit Pairi Daiza and how to get there
Pairi Daiza is only open during the summer season, it’s closed in winter for upgrades and special care of the animals. The price may be on the high side, but a season pass is quite reasonable, it appears lots of Belgians chose this option. It’s a well-loved park! There’s also a Pairi Daiza app that can prove useful during the visit.
Activity and Adventure Theme Parks in Europe
It might have something to do with the abundance of nature and mountains in Norway and Switzerland to offer so many activity and adventure parks! Or does it hint at how sporty and active their inhabitants are? In any case, check out these places for a truly active and often challenging trip, in beautiful and wild landscapes:
Høyt og Lavt Klatrepark, Activity Park in Norway
Klatreparker (climbing parks) are found in several places in Norway and are among a few parks in Europe that offer climbing and obstacle and ropes courses with zip lines, making them a fun destination for the active and sporty family. One of the most exciting activities offered is the rope courses. There are several levels to chose from, the easiest course starts at 3 feet above ground level and the most challenging goes up to 72 feet above ground level. You can do as many as you have time and strength for! There are some height requirements to partake in the different courses, and some require adults to stay with their young children. This experience is perfect for families seeking unusual and active Theme Park Adventures.
When to visit Norway’s activity parks and how long to stay?
The biggest airport in Norway is Oslo Gardermoen (OSL) and you’ll find flights there from all over the world, it’s well connected by all major airlines as well as budget airlines. The closest activity park is in Oslo, near the famous skijump Holmenkollen. It’s only 30 minutes by public transport from the city center. For the other 12+ locations in Norway you will need a car. The activity parks are mostly closed in winter, from mid October, and open in May for the summer season.
To maximize your experience, arrive at or before opening time at the park, and prepare to spend the day there trying many different courses. Bring lunch and snacks, or buy them at the location. Norway is expensive, so bringing food is a good idea! And here’s a tip, don’t be put off by bad weather; a little sprinkling of rain is a good thing as there will be less people in the park and less wait time for each activity!
Adventure and activity parks in Switzerland
We were particularly enchanted with Forêt Aventures, a remote park in Vercorin; getting there is not fast but the experience is absolutely worth it. It’s located on high elevation with spectacular views in the south-western part of Switzerland.
You can take a cable car (teleferique) from Chalais in the valley up the mountain side to get to the park, for a scenic ride instead of driving the last bit. Once there, they cater to both the youngest in the family with a special circuit closer to the ground, as well as soaring high ropes courses in the treetops with ziplines criss crossing the park. Be prepared to do some walking too!
When to visit Switzerland’s activity parks and how to get there
Switzerland has several airports you can fly into, the biggest are Zurich, Geneve and Basel. All these airports have train stations connected to them so you can easily continue your trip by rail, or rent a car at one of the many agencies located there.
It is possible to travel by train and bus throughout Switzerland, public transportation is impressive and of course punctual. For more flexibility and faster travel, driving a car would be best. Also, some of the parks we mention here are rather secluded and are not all close to big cities. In our opinion, that’s part of the charm and makes for a very special experience in the world renowned Swiss Alps!
The best time to visit Switzerland’s activity parks is in the summer season, from April through October. The rest of the year visitors can enjoy world class skiing!
Get lost – or not – in a giant maze at Labyrinthe Aventure!
You’ll find a different take on adventure in Labyrinthe Aventure play park. Younger children in particular will have a blast here, there’s a huge playground with many fun things to do and explore, with an enormous 98 ft tall slide tower and inflatable jump houses and many other toys, puzzles and games. The crown jewel is the giant maze, the biggest permanent labyrinth in the world measuring almost 7.5 acres! It’s a lovingly maintained green labyrinth where families and groups can have fun finding their way through and out, while being challenged to find treasures and overcoming obstacles.
Where is the Labyrinth Adventure Park?
The Labyrinthe Aventure is in Evionnaz, close to Sion in the Valais, and about 1 1/2 hour away from Geneve. It’s easiest accessed by car, although if you look it up you can actually get there by rail! As mentioned before, Switzerland can boast of a very good public transportation system.
Most of the adventure and activity parks are only open in the summer season from March to November, so please refer to their websites for details if you’re traveling early or late in the year. Some of them open shortly during school breaks, so it’s worth looking up. Allow one day in each park to try and do everything there, and expect the kids to ask to return to do it all over again!