Things I Love About Europa Park

Long time readers of this here blog will know that in the past I've not been a fan of Europa Park. Having visited twice before, once in 2012 and once in 2015, I never really understood the hype around the place, nor why people call it magical or even the best theme park on the planet. For that reason over the years it has ended up on many a 'most overrated parks' list from myself, as well as me building a bit of a 'thing' around the fact that I disliked the place when everyone else seemed to love it. 

That said, I have always maintained that I'd love the chance to go back and give it a proper go. My visit in 2012 was with a person I'd prefer to forget exists, and on my visit in 2015 my phone was stolen which put a sour note on the whole trip for me, so I've always been acutely aware that I was probably not giving the park a fair review. So finally earlier this year we made it happen, and as a treat for Sam's birthday we headed to that little German town of Rust for four days of Resort hotels, dark rides and animatronics on literally every corner as I finally got to understand why Europa Park has the reputation it does. Here's some things I absolutely fell in love with on this trip. 

So starting this list with something that doesn't technically sit within the walls of the park itself but something that undoubtedly improved our visit tenfold, and that is the Resort Hotels. The park had good operating hours anyway, closing the gates at 7PM, but with such a massive selection of hotels to choose from with restaurants, bars and live entertainment until the early hours, you can continue the fun of being in the Resort until long after park close. Yes, even if you're not staying on site.

For the first few nights of our trip we stayed in a cute little apartment in Rust (because the Resort hotels are fantastic but they are expensive!) but we still managed to visit a different hotel every night and have a great time as if we were guests anyway. Dinner looking out at the fountains in Colosseo, incredible cocktails at Bell Rock, ridiculous live entertainment at the Silver Lake Saloon, cigars at Bar Buena Vista Club - we enjoyed a different Resort every night and even though we had a 15 minute walk into town back to our apartment at the end of it it really didn't matter. 

We stayed at Kronasar on our final night for Sam's birthday treat but as we spent the majority of our evening swimming around with cocktails in Rulantica it was probably, ironically, the hotel we spent the least amount of time in if you exclude the parts where we were sleeping in our room. They're the best theme park hotels in the world in my opinion (yes, better than Disney and Universal in my experience) - the theming is top notch, the food and cocktails feed 'real world' worthy (you know what I mean, usually theme park hotels do this watered-down-catering-for-a-mass-contained-audience thing where everything is just a little bit underwhelming?) and the entertainment was like something you'd get on a night out in the city. Just incredible fun and a great way to relax after a day on park.

I love me a dark ride. From the jankiest, fustiest piece of crap you find half-falling into the sea at the end of a pier to Rise of the Resistance, there's just something about a good dark ride that sets my world on fire. So good news then that Europa Park seem to have a rule that if there's some spare warehouse space hanging around they will do their damnedest to squeeze some sort of dark ride in there. 

The stand out for me has to be Piraten in Batavia. I'll admit I didn't remember tons about this ride pre-refurb aside from the fact it felt a bit like Pirates and it went through a Chinese restaurant, so riding this was like having an entirely new experience for me and it was glorious. Massive, epic sets, tons of animatronics (of course, it's Europa Park), loads of kinetic energy with seemingly endless storylines for every character in every scene the more you look, beautiful projection mapping, a wonderful soundtrack and, oh yh, it ends with a trip through a Chinese restaurant. So rerideable and fun, just a joy to float through and was easily our most-ridden ride of the trip aside from maybe Wodan?

But even the non-dark ride rides have dark ride sections squeezed in. Log flume that goes through a diamond mine, pre-launch show scenes on Blue Fire, giant whale animatronic on the splash battle, etc etc. It's clear Europa Park love dark rides just as much as I do and are determined to squish every variation of what a dark ride can be into their park. 

For most theme parks you'll find all of the budget is spent up front making the 'main' areas look attractive, then the lesser trodden pathways tend to be fairly stripped back or even unsightly depending on which chain you find yourself in. Again, even Disney and Universal and my beloved Efteling are guilty of this. But not Europa Park. If fact, something I soon discovered was that you can stumble across any number of hidden gems by wandering off down what might appear to be an unused walkway at first glance, only to suddenly find yourself in a Swiss mountain village with houses full of animatronics, or down the back alley of a street lined with umbrellas and cinema posters. There is quite literally no area of this park untouched and every nook and cranny is a joy to find oneself in. 

This also extends to going above and beyond with the attention to detail. As mentioned previously, if Europa can stick an animatronic somewhere, they are gunna. Sam and I had a running joke that painted Roland as a tyrant, walking around inspecting the park demanding more animatronics be added to any area lacking. It just adds in that extra layer of kinetic energy that elevates parks to that next level, and is something I fundamentally believe should be integral to any theme park design. Disney are the masters of this of course, but there's a real joy that comes with sitting in Italy at Europa, for example, surrounded by dark rides and transport rides all doing their thing at different levels, symbiotically bringing the place to life.

There's many silly things in Europa Park that had me laughing to myself wondering how on earth anybody could come up with such a concept. It's something a lot of German parks do, actually, even the German fairs. It's kind of got that British seaside, 'Carry On' vibe almost, where it's bizarre and strange and titillating. The difference when Europa Park do it is the theming isn't janky and musty smelling, so there's less of a Five Nights at Freddies vibe like you do get in some lower budget places and instead are just left with the whimsy. 

It's camp is what it is, so, so bloody camp. A roller coaster that traverses under fishnet clad legs of Moulin Rouge dancers as the Can Can plays? Camp. Roller coaster station filled with animatronic pigeons followed by a lifthill where you're surrounded by clucking animatronic chickens? Camp. A dark ride where all the dinosaurs are wearing fancy knitted scarves and hats and having a little tea party? Camp camp camp. I adore how silly and ridiculous so many of the themes are - there's something joyless about parks that take themselves a little too seriously in trying to deliver an experience whereas Europa just seem to do things because it's funny or zany or silly, and isn't that ultimately what theme parks should be about?

This goes without saying I suppose - Europa Park are infamous for their shit hot operations and my experience in January was no different. The park wasn't exactly busy, but they were still running a full train operation on everything where possible (Wodan was only on two trains but I think one is out for maintenance?) The thing that gets me is the staff don't even look like they're breaking a sweat, and yet everything is dispatched at breakneck speed with no messing about. I'm not sure how it works from a H&S perspective but hats stay on, bags come on with you, glasses stay on, very much the Disney school of thought in this area. 

But the other thing that got me was things like if small kids want to ride the car ride, parents can walk the track next to them to make sure they don't jump out half way round if they get bored. Something totally logical but definitely in the 'only in Europe' camp of behaviour that is deemed safe. Essentially it's like they let logic dictate what you can and can't do and trust their guests not to be imbeciles, and it works a treat both in terms of minimising friction points with guests by having to explain seemingly nonsensical H&S rules and in speeding things up by removing that element of faff. It's great.


Of course, this is not an exhaustive list. There's tons more I could say about the place, and I am so glad to have finally had 'that' trip there to get to experience all this great stuff for myself. I will say that  it's still not a top park for me - the style of theming is personally not my preference, I still think they're lacking an 'excellent' coaster (maybe the Big Dipper will fill that void?) and for me it doesn't have the magic the likes of Toverland or Phantasialand or Efteling have for me. BUT, it is a great park, and everything they do goes above and beyond to be as good as they can possible make it. I'm very excited to go back once the new land/coaster is ready, hopefully there won't be an eight year gap before I return this time!

What do you think about Europa Park? Is it a top park for you? Let me know in the comments, I'd love to have a chat.

Talk later xoxo,


  1. Piraten in Batavia takes place in Indonesia and the restaurant is Indonesian!

  2. You sound quite stupid first disliking it calling it overrated and now suddenly loving it. Like you didnt see the park the first 2 times you where there?

    1. I literally explain in the blog post why I didn't enjoy it the first few times, no need to call me stupid