Hidden away in the Black Forest in Germany is a theme park like no other. Europa-Park is a family-run park and yet it is enormous – one of the biggest in Europe. Each area of the park is based on a different European country. Beside the main theme park lie a selection of upmarket hotels, a camp resort with wagons, log cabins and teepees and a campsite. There’s even an open water swimming lake and a nature reserve. Here are my top 20 tips for making the most of your visit.
1. Check what’s on before you go
Europa-Park host a plethora of fantastic events. On specific dates like Halloween and Christmas they pull out all the stops. But throughout the year there are things going on for both children and adults. So if you have some flexibility with the date of your visit, check their events page before you go.
2. Time your visit to avoid the queues
The queues at Europa-Park are incredibly reasonable in comparison to other European Theme parks. I visited in August and didn’t queue for more than half an hour for anything. However the theme park is located on the border between Germany, France and Switzerland. Journalists from the Guardian visited during May half term when children from those countries were in school. They commented that they only had to queue for a maximum of five minutes for the rides.
3. Check age and height restrictions
The rides at Europa-Park have both age and height restrictions. It is worth checking these before you go. Older children will be unable to go on certain rides or use the splash-pads, and there are several children’s rides that are unsuitable for younger children. If you have a child who will just miss out on rides they want to go on, it may be worth adjusting the timing of your visit to make sure they get the most from it.
4. It’s not just for children
Europa-park is a theme park that has something for everyone. The big rides are some of the fastest and most extreme in the world. They host evening shows that are just for adults, all the hotels have spa access and there’s even a Michelin starred restaurant. If you’re travelling with an adult-only group don’t rule it out.
5. Don’t forget swimwear
For younger children, there are splash-pads to play in that can only be enjoyed if you remember to bring their swimwear. These are great for cooling down on a hot day and they are a great way to keep young children entertained if older children and adults are on the big rides. There’s even a natural swimming lake at the Camp Resort if the adults fancy a dip.
6. Take some time to relax
Europa-Park is by some distance the most relaxing theme park I’ve been to. You could definitely enjoy a day there without going on any rides. Take a leisurely cruise on the Africa Queen boats or the Jungle Rafts. Relax on a sun-lounger, enjoy a pint in the Irish pub or take a stroll around the nature reserve. If you’re staying in the hotel, you’ll have use of the swimming pool and spa facilities. Book a treatment in advance for ultimate relaxation.
7. Take a ride in Virtual Reality
Europa-Park really do lead the way with Virtual Reality technology. You’ll need to pay a couple of Euros extra for the VR headsets on Coastiality and the queue can be a little longer as only the back few seats are set up for the VR ride. But it’s all worth it – it’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced before and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
8. Use the EP Express to get around
Before visiting Europa-Park, I’d somewhat underestimated the sheer size of it. Walking around the park all day can be tiring, especially for little legs. When you arrive, make a mental note of where all the EP Express stations are. You’ll be glad of it when you’re moving from zone to zone, it’s a great chance to have a sit down and save some energy. It will even take you back to your hotel, you’ll be lounging by the pool before you know it.
9. Don’t forget the single rider line
This is a theme park run with stereotypical German efficiency. The staff don’t want people to end up queuing for a long time for the rides, so they try to fill up all the spare seats. So if you’re travelling alone or willing to split up your party and ride separately, head for the single rider line. You’ll generally get on busy rides within about five minutes, even when the regular queue is half an hour long.
10. Don’t overlook Wodan
The wooden coaster Wodan doesn’t go upside down or break any speed records, but it’s one of my favourites. This is a fast rollercoaster with a unique feel to it due to the sound and feeling produced by the wooden structure.
11. There’s more to Europa-Park than the rides
I felt like this was more than just a theme park. The luxury of being able to relax, watch a show, eat in an up-market restaurant, swim in a lake or even have a spa treatment means that you can spend a whole day there without going on any rollercoasters – and still have a brilliant day.
12. Plan your day
Due to the massive scale of Europa-Park, you’ll never manage to do everything. So do your research – take a look at the website before you go and decide which attractions you definitely don’t want to miss. You can even download an android app or iOS app to help you plan. They have some great features for when you’re in the park too, such as letting you know queue times.
13. See the whole park from Euro-Tower
With all the big rides and high-end technology, it is easy to overlook Euro-Tower. However it’s a brilliant place to see both the park itself and the beautiful Black Forest that surrounds it. The tower revolves slowly so you can really take in the scenery. Check out my video to get an idea of the amazing view.
14. Plan lunch at a restaurant or bring a picnic
There is a huge selection of restaurants at Europa-Park, both within the park itself and at the hotels. They have every type of cuisine and it’s well worth deciding what sort of thing you want before you go so you can aim to be there at around lunchtime. Prices are reasonable for a theme park but food costs add up when you’re buying for a family. Luckily, there are plenty of picnic areas around the park so you can enjoy your own food and save some money if you prefer.
15. Brave the queues for the FoodLoop restaurant
The FoodLoop is a fantastic restaurant where your food is delivered via a mini rollercoaster. When I visited in August, there was quite a big queue to get in here and I nearly gave up. But I noticed that the queue was actually moving really quickly and they were slotting in individuals and couples to make sure all the seats were used. We only ended up queueing for about ten minutes and and it was well worth the wait to have our food delivered by rollercoaster.
16. One day isn’t enough
To get the full experience from Europa-Park, you’ll need to spend more than one day there. I spent a full day at the park and returned the following morning for an hour before we had to go. I don’t think I managed to get around half of the attractions in that time and had I been with my family, everything would have taken a lot longer. I’d strongly recommend putting aside at least two days to enjoy Europa-Park, and more if you can manage it.
17. Don’t assume the accommodation is beyond your budget
There is a great range of accommodation to suit every budget. From high end hotels with Michelin starred restaurants to log cabins and teepees. There’s even an area for camper vans, so if you’re travelling around Europe this is the perfect place to stay.
18. Beat the queues
If you do decide to stay in one of the hotels, you will have access to the park half an hour before the general opening time. It’s worth making the most of this quiet period to go on the more popular rides before the queues build.
19. Enjoy the evening entertainment
The hotels all have their own entertainment in the evening. There are shows, fireworks and laser displays. After a tiring day at the park, it’s easy to just eat dinner and collapse into bed. But if you’ve still got the energy, the entertainment is excellent.
20. Take time to visit the local area
The Black Forest boasts the sort of idyllic scenery you might associate with the side of a chocolate box. There are quaint little villages and vast expanses of woodland containing hiking and cycling trails. There are also vibrant cities with stunning architecture. If you have the chance to combine your trip with a holiday, it’s well worth taking the time to explore the region. Europa-Park is located on the border with both France and Switzerland so you can have a real European odyssey without venturing too far.