Living in the UK, if you are thinking about visiting a European theme park, then I am guessing the first place that springs to mind is Disneyland Paris? Or maybe Port Aventura located just outside the popular Spanish resort of Salou? Both great destinations and theme parks, but have you ever seen any advertising and package holidays for the German theme park Europa Park advertised anywhere? Unlikely. There are a few specialist companies that offer trips, but in general it goes unheard of. It’s a very well kept secret. But here is the thing, it is an amazing theme park – probably one of the best in Europe.
I was going to wait until my next visit to Europa Park before writing this post. Firstly because I wanted to get some more (and better) photos. Secondly, there are a few new additions to the park since I last visited. The things is though, Europa Park needs a little bit of love. A couple of weeks ago, a major fire broke out in the park, destroying one of their older rides (Pirates in Batavia) and a fairly substantial area of the park. Thankfully nobody was hurt, but it was very sad to see the park featured in UK news reports and for all the wrong reasons. So, for that reason, I am going to talk about, and show you the delights of this fantastic theme park located in the south west of Germany now.
Located in a small town called Rust in southern Germany, fairly close to the borders of France and Switzerland, Europa Park opened it’s gates for the first time in 1975. Founded by the Mack family (who incidentally build rollercoasters and theme park rides), it was inspired by a trip visiting the USA theme parks by Franz Mack and his son Roland. By it’s third year in operation, it had hit over a million visitors. It now sits as the 2nd most popular theme park in Europe – 5.7 million people passed through the gates in 2017. It is still owned and run by the next generation of Mack family, who are very actively involved in the day to day running of the park. You will often spot one of them around the theme park or resort (if you know what they look like).
The park is made up of 18 themed areas (mostly themed to European countries), each with a wide variety of rides, rollercoasters, shows and restaurants. The majority of the rides in the park are designed and built by Mack (apart from a couple of the larger rollercoasters), the benefits of this being smooth running and operation. Breakdowns are rare and usually fixed quickly. Ride operations are super speedy – the queues move at a pace I haven’t seen at any other theme park I have visited. This is almost an annoyance given the amount of attention to detail and theming throughout the queuelines – you barely get a chance to take it all in. Guest experience is key at this park. It’s a stunning place. Every small detail is considered within the themed areas, even down to the toilet block decor.
So without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the highlights. This really is merely a small taster aimed at us big kids of what is available in the park – seriously, there is a lot of stuff to do that would take you days to get around.
We may as well start off with the tallest coaster eh? Let me introduce you Silver Star, the 240ft tall hypercoaster that towers overs the park. With a maximum speed of 127km/h, this coaster manufactured by Swiss company Bolliger & Mabillard is great fun and packed with airtime hills heading out and back across the car park.
France was also the home of the retro Eurosat indoor space themed rollercoaster, which is currently being rebuilt and rethemed as Eurostar: Can Can Coaster. Yes that’s correct, a rollercoaster themed around the Can Can dance and the Moulin Rouge. Only this park could get away with something so camp and unusual – the verdicts will be in later this year when it opens to the public.
The Swiss area of the park really transports you into the mountain villages of Switzerland with it’s quaint wooden log chalets and streams running through the cobbled streets.
The main attractions of this area are the Swiss Bob Run rollercoaster winding down a metal ice run, and the Matterhorn Blitz – the park’s wild mouse rollercoaster ride (the queueline for this is a treat, if you like animatronic farmyard animals).
Home to another space themed rollercoaster (they were all the rage back in the day), Euro-Mir is a unique spinning coaster with a particularly retro and spacey theme. The queue line runs under a scale replica of the Mir Space Station (also a walk through attraction), while the ride track is built around and within 5 large mirrored glass towers. Another fun ride with some unique features.
The Greek area is one of the most impressive themed areas within the park. Set around a Mykonos village, featuring a Greek taverna, whitewashed buildings, windmills and temples it is visually stunning. The main focal point of the area is the Water Rollercoaster Poseidon, a combination of meandering boat ride through ruined temples and a high speed rollercoaster with some impressive splashdowns. It’s great viewing as a spectator too, and the ride station is one of my favourites.
Iceland is a ‘relatively’ new area of Europa Park, and my very favourite. It was actually brand new during my first visit, and having been back many times since it’s great to see the area’s landscaping has bedded in, along with some new attractions – the scale of these are next level in terms of theming and quality.
First up, lets’s have a look at blue fire Megacoaster, probably my favourite attraction in the park. A launched, multi looping rollercoaster, it is packed with thrills as it races along the track, with near misses through jagged rockwork. The queue line takes you on a lovely stroll through an Icelandic fishing village with mossy roofed huts and fishing boats. There is a dark ride section, special effects, an awesome soundtrack as well as on-board audio. It’s definitely a complete package of a ride, and looks stunning.
You’d think that blue fire Megacoaster would be the only large attraction you would need for this area, but oh no, a few years later they only went and included the parks only wooden rollercoaster, Wodan – Timburcoaster. Apart from Silver Star, this is the only coaster not manufactured by Mack, but instead by the giants of wooden coaster construction, GCI.
Themed around Norse mythology, the queue line area of this ride is absolutely outstanding in terms of theming – equal to Disney or Universal parks in my opinion. There are fantastic effects and animatronics as you wander through torch lit tunnels before arriving at the large wooden station building. The ride itself is a high speed thrill experience, with plenty of airtime, twists and turns.
As if that’s not enough, there’s even more superb scenery in this area – this time in the form of the family water ride Whale Adventures. A ‘splash battle’ boat ride through a fishing port, with plenty of animatronics, great scenery and lots of water. You are unlikely to come off this ride dry.
The Austrian area is located towards the rear of the park, a nice green area focused around fun rather than thrill. The signature ride here is Europa Park’s log ride, the Tiroler Log Flume. A typical log flume ride, meandering through the trees and the amazingly scented Diamond Mine – a walk-through attraction packed full of animatronics (please don’t miss this if you visit), followed by a great big splashdown at the end.
Portugal has a lovely feel of summer, and again, it’s another beautiful part of the park. The main feature here is the large water ride, Atlantica Super Splash. A large boat ride with a tall and wet splashdown, it’s great fun on a warm summer day. Another beautifully themed ride station in the form of a fortress, which sits next to the large Santa Marian sailboat (perfect for a cooling drink afterwards).
The above really is purely a taster of what’s on offer in the park. There are plenty more rides and attractions as well as a host of great quality bars, restaurants and shows. It’s a park you can stroll around aimlessly and keep finding new things on every visit.
There are also seasonal events. The park host one of the best Halloween events that I have seen. Every October, the park is dressed with thousands of pumpkins and squash, with Halloween parades and entertainment. There is an adults only evening event, formerly Horror Nights, which has now been re-branded as Traumatica. It includes a handful of horror maze attractions, scare zones, entertainment and the Vampire Club – a night club which is set up in one of the ride stations. The event is a great spectacle, but fairly full on if you are easily scared.
Well that was a lot more wordy that I was expecting, but stick with me, as you won’t want to miss some information about the resort hotels.
It’s not just the park that focuses on attention to detail. The hotels do an even better job if anything. Europa Park currently* has six accommodation options, each offering something a little bit different to it’s guests. It’s worth mentioning at this point, that the accommodation options are fairly high end (with fairly high end prices) but totally worth saving some pennies for a while before visiting. Most of the hotels are of 4 star quality or above.
Europa Park’s Camp Resort is located near the main entrance to the park. A rustic Wild West themed area offering accommodation in teepees, log cabins and covered wagons set around a gorgeous lake. It is great for families and people on a smaller budget. There is a great dining and entertainment space in the form of the Silver Lake Saloon. Even though I have never stayed, I will always head over there when I visit as it’s a great place to hang out for the evening.
Hotel El Andaluz
The Spanish themed Hotel El Andaluz borders the Spanish area to the rear of the park. With it’s terracotta tiled floors, tropical gardens, courtyards and outdoor swimming pool along with a great Spanish themed restaurant, Don Quichotte, it also has one of the coolest bars on the resort – El Circo. A lovely hotel and well worth staying there.
Hotel Castillo Alcazar
To the rear of Hotel El Andaluz, and with great views across the park the Hotel Castillo Alcazar is themed to an old Spanish Castle from the middle ages. The rooms are rustic and cool, and it’s definitely worth opting for a room with a park view. There is a buffet restaurant and on the 9th floor of the building, the super cool Buena Vista Club bar offers a collection of small rooms and panoramic park views.
Hotel Santa Isabel
Themed in the style of a Portugese Monastery, the Hotel Santa Isabel is truly beautiful and peaceful. This is the hotel where you should stay for some true rest and relaxation. It’s definitely my choice for the next visit. There is an outdoor pool and a great spa and wellness area, along with the most stunning corridor I have ever seen in a hotel, which sounds like a daft highlight, but take a look below.
Hotel Bell Rock
The newest of the resort’s hotels, Hotel Bell Rock is themed in a New England, USA style (which I found a slightly odd choice for a theme park focused on European Countries, but am I to question). There is no doubt it has an impact though. It’s large coastal style buildings and nautically themed rooms, along with a full scale lighthouse which includes some amazing looking suites and the resort’s Michelin star restaurant, Ammolite. They don’t do things by half here. There are also a range of other restaurants and bars in the hotel, with a nice outdoor pool and decked dining area where you can watch light shows across the water.
I’ve saved my favourite until last. I’ve stayed at Hotel Colosseo for at least one night on all of my visits. It’s just amazing. Where do I start.
Themed around the roman Coliseum and a large Italian piazza – the Piazza Roma, this hotel feels like the hub of the resort. The full height lobby area opening up to a large fresco on the ceiling is magnificent. The rooms are comfortable and well themed (try and get a room overlooking the piazza).
The piazza itself features a large central fountain light shown which is great fun to watch for kids and adults. The restaurants and bars on the ground floor are set around the piazza. There is a high quality buffet restaurant along with a la carte restaurants, all with the option of outdoor seating on the piazza.
To the opposite side of the piazza stands the focal point of the hotel – the replica Coliseum ruins. The steps up to the top offer great views back to the hotel. Within the building is yet another fantastic wellness spa area, and a private outdoor pool hidden to rear. It really is wonderful. Oh, and if you want a late nice drink, Bar Colosseo on the top floor of the main building is a large and vibrant open area with great views. I could go on, but I will just show you some photos instead.
The great thing about the Europa Park resort, with the exception of the Camp Resort, is that all the hotels are near each other and while staying in one, you can freely visit all of the others. It really is worth spending some time taking a look at what they all offer. In fact if you are spending a few days at Europa Park, stay at more that one hotel and soak it all up. With link corridors and tunnels joining the hotels closest the park, and a monorail station outside El Andaluz which will transport you to various stations around the park as well as the main entrance, getting around it really simple.
Getting to Europa Park is simple from the UK (or anywhere else). It’s easily accessible from the airports of Karlsruhe-Baden, Strasbourg and Basel. We normally fly into one of the those and hire a car, for a simple 30-40 minute journey. The nearest train station is Ringsheim, 4km away from the park with a regular bus service. The resort can also offer a shuttle service too. Plenty of options.
So, if you have never heard of Europa Park until you have read this, and like what you have seen, I hope it tempts you to visit. You won’t be disappointed.