Our list of the 10 best European amusement parks focuses on the combination of its attraction value, entertainment value, and overall reputation. What makes an ordinary amusement park extraordinary, typically offers so much more than a collection of rides and attractions. It will have a special ambiance that will make it unique and inviting enough to welcome visitors from all over the world. Even among locals, a premium amusement park will convince them to not just visit out of curiosity but keep coming back for more as a favorite hangout to spend the day.
10 Best European Amusement Parks
#10 – Parc Asterix
Based on the popular cartoon character, Asterix the Gaul, Parc Asterix is a family-friendly themed resort that’s loaded with French history and humor. On average, more than two million visitors come to the park, stepping into a rustic realm that would be France’s equivalent to the wild frontier. This theme park is well-known for its large variety of rollercoasters, as well as the combination of cultures such as Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, and the Gauls.
The park is just over twenty miles north of Paris and twenty miles south of Disneyland Paris. Just twelve miles away is the Plailly commune and its historic Chateau de Chantilly. Parc Asterix opened in 1989, fashioned after the comic book series written by Albert Uderzo and Rene Goscinny.
Before Disney’s arrival in the region, Asterix was the nation’s most popular park. After Disney’s arrival in 1992, there was a thirty percent drop in attendance as the world wanted to take a gander at what became Europe’s most visited theme park currently in operation. However, the popularity of Parc Asterix was too great to see the influence of this park fall to dust. The seven rollercoasters and seven waterslides are what keep locals coming back for more, as well as returning tourists.
Among first-time tourists who don’t want to visit a place as busy as Disneyland Paris, Parc Asterix perfectly accommodates a world-class amusement park that has plenty to offer to keep children of all ages entertained for hours. The Tonnerre 2 Zeus is a large wooden coaster that’s been a major draw for thrill-seekers since 1997. If you love a rollercoaster with a special twist, the Pegase Express briefly stops at the halfway mark of the ride and then reverses the direction as you continue.
#9 – Leolandia
The best part about Leolandia as a themed amusement park is the focus it has on kids. While most amusement parks are designed for children of all ages, the charm behind Leolandia is the smaller kids have access to so much. Between boarding Thomas the Tank Engine, as well as painting the animals at Educational Farm, there is no shortage of activities to keep the youngsters entertained. Even among adults, there is much to see and do here. Check out a miniaturized Italy with Minitalia and its collection of over one hundred monuments that give reason why this European nation is so popular among tourists.
Close to the city of Milan, Italy, Leolandia is located in Capriate, approximately twenty minutes east when traveling by car. This park intended for children began in 1971 as Minitalia before it was changed in 1997 to FantasyWorld Minitalia. In 2008, it became Minitalia Leolandia. Now, it’s referred to as Leolandia. Annually, over two hundred thousand people visit the park and not just families with small children. The historical value it has, thanks to the twelve talking statues, makes this a favorite attraction for anyone.
#8 – Grand Parc of Puy de Fou
The incredible shows featured at Puy du Fou give visitors a real treat as it feels like they’ve stepped back in time as far back as the glory days of the ancient Roman Empire. Adding to the beauty of this park is the unspoiled countryside that makes this place so inviting. Located in the Pays de la Loire region of Western France, this park sits in Les Epesses as a historical landscape that welcomes more than two million visitors per year.
This is one of the most popular parks in France, as well as in Europe in general. The inspiration for Puy de Fou began with Phillippe de Villiers as he created a show while he was still a student in his twenties. “Cinescenie” was his 1977 creation, before Puy de Fou officially became a theme park. His show didn’t receive much interest after it was first presented in 1978 at the ruins of a renaissance-era castle he discovered in the village of Les Espresses. However, it did manage to catch on by the end of the first season of its run once word got out about the entertainment value guests experienced while there. Traveling to Les Epesses by highway southwest of Paris takes between three to four hours. It’s about an hour’s drive southeast of Nantes, France.
Cinescenie was based on the story of Maupillier and his family that lived in the era as far back as the fourteenth century. The authentic history of this Vendee soldier peers into the conflict it had with the French Republic during the French Revolution. The family’s history continues up to World War II. This theatrical presentation by Phillippe de Villiers became successful enough that he assembled L’Association du Puy du Fou, an organization that started off with six hundred members but has since grown to well over three thousand. His son, Nicholas de Villiers, currently has the helm as its president. The Grand Parc of Puy de Fou was established near Cinescenie in 1989 as a theme park dedicated to bygone eras ranging from the timeline of Ancient Rome to WWII. On several occasions, Puy du Fou has received awards for recognition, including Best European Theme Park by the Parksmania Awards.
#7 – Alton Towers Resorts
The Alton Towers Resort offers about five hundred acres of rides and attractions for the entire family to enjoy. This includes Adventure Land, Dark Forest, Forbidden Valley, Gloomy Wood, Katanga Canyon, Merrie England, Mutiny Bay, and X-Sector. In order to keep up with tourist interest, Alton Towers often changes some of its themed areas from time to time, always with a multicultural flair. Currently, this theme park situated near the village of Alton in Staffordshire, England, welcomes approximately two million visitors per year. It is one of the UK’s most popular amusement parks. Once upon a time, this was a private estate owned by the Earls of Shrewsbury. In 1860, the grounds belonging to Alton Towers opened up to the public before it was eventually turned into a theme park.
From 1980 and beyond, a host of popular rides and attractions have lured visitors from all over the world to have some amusement park fun. Some of those rides and attractions include Congo River Rapids, Galactica, Nemesis, Oblivion, and Runaway Mine Train. There are ten rollercoasters that challenge thrillseekers to keep their lunch, as well as an Alton Towers Waterpark, and a rather unique golf course. From spring until fall, the park keeps its doors open to the public. However, whenever there are special events such as Mardi Gras, Halloween, and Octoberfest, Alton Towers makes exceptions. The collection of accommodations and other lodging facilities remain open throughout the year.
#6 – Gardaland Park
Spanning about sixty-four acres of land that see about three million visitors each year, Gardaland Park is one of Europe’s most popular theme parks in operation. If thrills are what you seek, the Blue Tornado is a rollercoaster that shouldn’t be missed. Children of all ages will have the opportunity to meet Peppa Pig at Peppa Pig Land. If you want to enjoy a ride that gives you a great view of Lake Garda, Flying Island would be it. Italy has always been one of the “it” nations to visit for tourists who come to the nation from every corner of the world. Lake Garda and its infamous park is situated at the commune of Castelnuovo del Garda, which is a very short drive to the Italian northeast city, of Verona. It is less than ninety miles, smack between Milan and Venice, going from east to west.
Gardaland Park was recognized by Forbes Magazine as one of the top ten amusement parks in the world with the best turnover going into 2005. In 2006, it became a property owned by Merlin Entertainments, a British-based company that still controls it today. Gardaland was first built in 1975 on the eastern shore of Lake Garda. It expanded over time and has since become one of the most popular European theme parks in operation today. From its roster of thirty-two rides, seven of them are famed rollercoasters that include Blue Tornado, Mammut, Oblivion: The Black Hole, Raptor, and Shaman.
#5 – Tivoli Gardens
Even world-class amusement parks like Walt Disney have a source of inspiration to draw from somewhere. Located at the heart of Copenhagen, Denmark is Tivoli Gardens. More than two dozen of this park’s rides inspired Disney to take a page out of their book and add it to their own. Aside from the rides and attractions that make this one of the most popular parks in Europe, it has fantastic live concerts, light shows, and fireworks. Tivoli Gardens keeps the doors open during the summer months but also pops them open to celebrate Halloween and the Christmas season. Currently, Tivoli Gardens is the third oldest amusement park in the world still in operation. It first opened up its doors on August 15, 1843. Dyrehavsbakken near Denmark’s Klampenborg is the oldest, which first opened in 1583. The Wurstelprater in Vienna, Austria, is the second oldest with the opening year of 1766.
With over four million visitors on an annual basis, Tivoli is the most popular amusement park among the Scandinavian nations. It is the second most popular seasonal amusement park in the world, just after Europa Park. In order to access Tivoli Gardens, it’s right next to the Central Rail Station, in downtown Copenhagen. The history of the park began as Tivoli & Vauxhall, supposedly named after the Jardin de Tivoli in Paris and London’s Vauxhall Gardens. This is according to the numerous books that have been published over the stretch of time. The founder of this park was Georg Cartensen, who suggested to King Christian VIII a venue to keep people entertained will help keep their minds off politics. At Tivoli Gardens, this is a commitment still kept today in an effort to keep the troubles of today’s world away from a realm that’s designed to be a happy place.
From the beginning, Tivoli Gardens welcomed a variety of attractions that weren’t strictly limited to Scandinavian culture. This is evident with the influence of the Orient, as well as other ethnicities. As much as Tivoli Gardens is dedicated to maintaining its original roots, it also keeps looking to the future as new trends continue to push the boundaries of one’s imagination. In 1844, Carstensen made a quote that Tivoli would never be finished. Going into the mid-1940s, this quote was repeated by Walt Disney himself after his experience with Tivoli Gardens inspired him to create Disneyland in California.
#4 – Siam Amazing Park
Tenerife’s Water Kingdom, a Siam Amazing Park highlight, has the distinction of being classified as the best waterpark in the world. Adding to the magnificence of this theme park is the Thai architecture that graces the landscape. Between free-fall slides and meandering rivers, this park is guaranteed to be considered an experience of epic proportions. Never has it been as inviting to dive in and have some fun as here. More commonly referred to as either Siam Park City or Suansiam, this facility doubles as an amusement park and a waterpark. Its location is in the Khan Na Yao district belonging to Bangkok, Thailand.
It first opened up its doors on November 19, 1980 as the first waterpark in Thailand. It was situated on what was the only manmade beach in Bangkok. Today, it is the oldest operational amusement and waterpark facility in Southeast Asia. This is where Asia’s first suspended looping rollercoaster with five inversions is located. It’s called Vortex and remains one of the largest of its kind in the world.
The park takes up over one hundred acres of land that is divided into two entities. The one is an amusement park loaded with approximately forty rides and attractions while the waterpark features a 44,620 square feet wave pool. In 2009, it was recognized as the world’s largest pool of its kind by the Guinness World Records. Annually, about two million visitors visit Siam Park each year. Currently, it is the oldest running park in Thailand, possibly the reason why in 2019 it was rebranded from Siam Park City to Siam Amazing Park. Despite the name change, locals still refer to it as either Siam Park City or Suansiam.
#3 – PortAdventura Park
When visiting PortAdventura Park, you step inside a realm that has six worlds for you to explore. If you want a true feel of multiculturalism as an amazing experience, this would be the place to go. As a destination, Spain is already one of the world’s favorite nations to visit for tourists. The park sits inside PortAdventura World Resort, which is just over fifty miles southeast of Barcelona. It opened its doors for the first time to the public on May 2, 1995.
The conception of PortAdventura park came from the Busch Entertainment Corporation as they jointly ventured with the owners of Tibidabo Amusement Park to develop this ambitious amusement park project. Tibidabo backed out before the construction process was over but was replaced by a new team of investors that included the Tussauds Group. When PortAdventura Park was ready to open up, it was Tussaud that became the first operator. The curiosity of the people brought nearly three million visitors during the first two years it was open. Going into its third year of operation, it welcomed approximately eight million visitors. In 1998, Tussauds Group sold its shares to Universal Studios, which then decided to rebrand the theme park to Universal’s Port Aventura. This became Universal’s first theme park in Europe.
Going into 2004, Universal sold its interest to PortAventura and the park has gone back to its old name but with one exception. Originally, it was Port Aventura but altered to PortAventura for trademark reasons. With the exception to the impact of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, anywhere from three to five million people visit PortAdventura Park for some fun under the magnificence of the Spanish sun. There are six themes that make this amusement park what it is. Visitors get to visit the park’s little versions of China, the Far West, the Mediterranean, Mexico, Polynesia, and Sesame Street.
#2 – Disneyland Paris
In Chessy, France is Disneyland Paris. Already recognized on a global scale as the “it” place to go for family entertainment, Disney opted to open up as a European destination in 1992, briefly as Euro Disney Resort, then Euro Disneyland Paris, and then Disneyland Paris. It kept this name until 2002, the same year The Walt Disney Company propped open Walt Disney Studios Park. For seven years, it was referred to as Disneyland Resort Paris before reverting to the name it has now. So far, well over 320 million people have visited Disneyland Paris.
This makes it the most visited theme park in all of Europe. Disneyland Paris was the second park from the conglomerate to establish a theme park outside of American soil. In 1983, Tokyo Disney Resort was the first of the two. The one in France, however, is the only one entirely owned by The Walt Disney Company. Summing up the landscape of Disneyland Paris includes seven hotels, each with its own theme. As a theme park, what better place to have a layout of fairytale flair than a community less than an hour’s drive east of Paris?
Aside from the medieval-style fairytale makeup that mainly defined Disney, the park’s top attractions include Big Thunder Mountain, Buzz Lightyear’s Lazer Blast, It’s a Small World, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Star Wars Hyperspace Mountain. Big Thunder Mountain is where thrill-seekers can ride the mine train rollercoaster as part of Frontierland’s landscape. The space-aged rollercoaster ride featuring Star Wars is in the Discoveryland district. For something friendlier for all ages in Discoveryland, this is where Buzz Lightyear’s Lazer Blast is located. Families favoring something pirate-themed can venture over to Adventureland.
The size of Disneyland Park is massive with about 4,800 acres of land. The park itself is divided into two main parks that have their own set of attractions inside them. There is an expansion project in the works where The Walt Disney Company hopes to have ready in time for the 2024 Summer Olympics that are scheduled to take place in Paris.
#1 – Europa-Park
Take a step back in time between the German Black Forest and the Vosges and you will come across one of the world’s most beautiful theme parks. Europa-Park receives well over five million visitors per year as they flock from every corner of the globe just to check out more than one hundred of its attractions and shows. Located in Rust, this tiny town’s pride and joy is Europa-Park, adding even more charm to a quaint municipality that happens to be home to Gearmany’s largest amusement park. Situated at the Elz River as it merges with the Upper Rhine River Plains from the southeast, Rust and its Europa-Park are surrounded by three villages at its border. Kappel-Grafenhausen, Rheinhausen, and Ringsheim all share the legacy of Europa-Park, as well as France’s Rhinau. The closest big cities to Rust and its park is Stuttgart, Germany to its northeast and Zurich, Switzerland to its south. Both are about two hours away by highway travel.
In 2022, Europa-Park was awarded Best Theme Park in the World for the eighth year in a row by Amusement Today, a US-based magazine that uses its Golden Ticket Award committee to cast its votes. This has much to say about a park that began in 1972 after Franz Mack and his son, Roland, were inspired to open up a theme park in Germany. Since 1958, Mack ran a family business he would later rename Mack Rides. The idea was to use the amusement rides his company was already building as a collective unit to design a theme park. Originally, Breisach was destined to serve as the park’s home. As a name, Europa-Park was fashioned after Europaweiher, the community’s small artificial lake that commemorated a historical pilot poll that took place in 1950. The vast majority of the voters involved were in favor of European unification.
As desirable as Breisach was to serve as the home for Europa-Park, it was prone to flooding issues. As a result, the location of the park was moved a short distance north after Mack Rides purchased Rust’s Balthaser Castle and its parkland, as well as the adjacent fairytale park. On July 12, 1975, the park opened to the public for the first time. Mack, along with Roland and his other son, Jurgen, managed the park together. The first year welcomed about two hundred and fifty thousand visitors. Going into the second year, the visitor count nearly tripled. Going into 1978, it broke the one million visitor mark for the year. Going into the 1980s, Europa-Park began integrating international themes, starting with Italy in 1982. Since then, the influence of Holland, England, France, Scandinavia, and Spain joined the lineup as themed districts within the park. In 1996, German Alley became the latest theme-specific area to become a feature in the park.
In 2012, Rulantica began as a waterpark project as part of Europa-Park’s expansion plans. Five years later, it opened Voletarium, the biggest flight motion simulator theater in Europe at the time. This popular attraction also had a collection of preshow elements that entertained the people who were waiting in the queue line. On May 26, 2018, a fire broke out in a complex next to the park’s Holland and Scandinavia districts. While Holland remained unscathed, Scandinavia wasn’t so lucky. Thankfully, nobody was seriously injured, aside from seven firefighters who were battling the blaze. Although the building the fire came from was destroyed, it was the closest thing to business as usual for Europa-Park going into the next day.
The Pirates of Batavia ride, which belongs to the Scandinavia area, had to be rebuilt, as well as Koffiekopjes. There were also a few gift shops, the fjord water ride, a restaurant, and a theater that were destroyed. Aside from this and recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, Europa-Park remains on top as one of the world’s most beloved theme parks in existence. Today, there are eighteen themed areas where all but three focus on European culture. For the sake of location convenience, the Europa-Park Resort features six hotels that have themes of their own. Because of this, visitors no longer have to try and pack as much as they can in a single day. This has resulted in Europa-Park becoming one of the most desired tourist destinations on a global scale as the annual visitor count since the 2020 pandemic has bounced back to as high as six million.
10 Best European Amusement Parks article published on BigCityReview.com© 2023
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