Coaster Kingdom

Europa Park

Visiting Europa Park was a logistical nightmare for me. Each review on Coaster Kingdom is a justification for the amount of stars you find at the bottom of each page. By this token, you can tell that our philosophy goes way beyond simply awarding good rides five stars.

It is easy to become fazed by the daunting task of summarising a ride or even park with a simple thumbnail-sized graphic. As you visit more and more theme parks, this task becomes simpler, as although direct comparisons are still a no-no, a benchmark can at least be set by the standard of other similar parks elsewhere.

Europa Park had a lot to live up to, so I visit expecting to come back raving unequivocally and to conclude with a string of gold stars. Instead, not only do I find a five-star park, but also I find a park capable of completely wrecking my finely tuned rating system in one fell swoop.

There are times when simply awarding a park or attraction merely five stars seems shamefully inadequate and you really wonder whether attractions that share this accolade really are worthy of this rating.

No case would ever stand up in court without evidence, just like you can’t take my word for it that Europa Park is not a molecule short of being phenomenal, but unlike many good parks, it is easy to identify why Europa Park is one of the best parks in the world.

It has become a sad fact of life that not only do we pay to get into theme parks, but also have to bring along our own bodyweight in gold just to pay the park extra to make our day that much more fun.

Modern society dictates that in order to enjoy theme parks to their fullest, you should be prepared to pay for the privilege. Worse still, ways of emptying pockets are camouflaged as benefits to you that you cannot do without.

Having paid your ransom to enter, as soon as you’re through the gates you at least want to be re-assured that your money has been put to good use. Where this slips the minds of most parks, Europa lay out the red carpet and make you feel as welcome as lipstick at a slumber party.

I present to the jury exhibit A: a stage down the centre of this German boulevard alive with costumed characters doing their best to welcome you.

With the exception of Disney and Universal parks, I am at a loss to think of theme parks that use costumed characters with such regularity. Not only does this reassure you that your visit to the park is worthwhile, but come home time it makes sure your last memory is a good one.

Despite being a strange shape park, twice as long as it is wide, Europa Park is laid out well. Rides are well situated and seem to follow an ‘anchor ride per area’ formula which seems to work nicely. France has Eurosat, Greece has Poseidon and Russia has Euro Mir for example. Although such rides pretty much form the basis upon which the area is built around they never look shoehorned in.

The distinction between areas is glaringly obvious thanks to the striking architecture. Space from area to area is never wasted, often with fountains or rock gardens.

Theming at Europa Park goes well beyond the call of duty to the point that even without rides, the park could be considered as an expo of European countries. Each country has sympathetic architecture and relevant cuisine, each has a character of its own.

The point of theming I think goes way beyond stylisation of a ride – there is no point beautifully finishing off a detailed haunted house if you’re going to stick a corrugated warehouse the size of a football pitch on the back, paint it sky blue and hope nobody will notice.

Theming by its very nature invites you to notice the little touches, so it is always infuriating that the more you look at theming, the more oversights you notice and the more you notice how the theming is just chicken wire on the front of something normal.

Rides do not have to be themed to be good, but people are too quick to compare a parks’ level of theming to that of Disney. The real litmus test is whether by looking at theming you notice things that should have been themed and haven’t (bad), or whether you notice theming on things that didn’t need to be themed (good).

I present exhibit B: a Russian satellite dish, in excess of 100ft tall. This frankly unnecessary feature is only eye candy. It isn’t on the map, nor is it part of a ride or attraction – it is just another spectacular landmark that in this case spends the day panning around scanning the skies.

I could of course introduce you to further evidence such as exhibits C, D and E; a training capsule as used for the crew of the Mir space station, a flotilla of Greek fishing boats and a fleet of F1 cars respectively, but that would just be going over the top (as Europa have done). It is this ‘theming for the sake of theming’ attitude that raises Europa Park way above most parks.

With areas themed after the countries of Europe, theming is rarely emotive. This means emphasis is placed on genuine and detailed theming, not on deliberately making you happy or intimidating you.

The river flowing through the centre of the park is never an opportunity wasted. France for example is built around this river, with cobbled roads and street cafes along its bank. Not only this, but a great deal of the parks’ electricity is generated thanks to the perpetual flow of water.

Theming is often used to disguise something rather plain and vanilla and a good attraction is created by virtue of this. If theming is in addition to something already quite remarkable then something truly spectacular is unavoidable.

Exhibit F: Euro Mir. The bare bones of this ride alone is something remarkable, not only with a unique layout but with one of a kind trains that even to this day are still unique to Europa Park. On top of this, extraordinary lunar landscapes and incandescent mirrored towers fuse together to make a magnificent ride.

Let’s eat. Europa Park does not use the frilly architecture of buildings to hide the golden arches of fast food restaurants. Each restaurant is unique and offers an innovative menu and tasty cuisine. Table service is not rare and restaurants are sizeable and never overfull.

Staff - they are never gushingly polite, but never rude. It is unlikely you’ll ever find a more professional group of staff anywhere in the world. The German efficiency at Europa Park even makes America look shabby.

Let me introduce to you Hans, exhibit G: His job on my day of visiting was to let visitors into Eurosat in groups of thirty-or-so. Whilst he waits for the queue in front to empty down, what does he do? Does he stand around looking generally dozy? Of course not. He sweeps up some dust on the ground. This dust is undetectable to the naked eye, but sure enough, he clears our path of any rogue dust-particles. Not only this, but his colleagues upstairs load trains in less than 15-seconds.

I am sure it will come as no surprise that Europa Park is spotless. Keeping the park clean also doesn’t mean that the day will be spent having to move out the way of small dustcarts. Instead of having pint-sized bins that need emptying every couple of hours, many of the bins at Europa Park are large enough that they don’t need to be touched all day. A great touch, but hardly rocket science.

The hotels at Europa Park are by far the best hotels you can expect to find in any European theme park. Never do you actually stay in a hotel and actually BELIEVE that it is a medieval castle. At the risk of sounding like a stuck record, theming simply cannot get any better than this.

Some more evidence, this time in the form of exhibit H: every corridor has a unique character, most of the hotel is lit in candlelight and features spectacular surprises around each corner in the form of animatronic prisoners under the stairs or simple delights such as extravagant lanterns or stained glass windows.

The table service restaurant shares that of the neighbouring hotel, a Spanish themed retreat with lush garden lit by flaming lanterns.

The bar is a wonderfully warming experience. With the main atrium awash with the restful melodies of a quintet, a warren of corridors lead off to private rooms and nooks and crannies where your group can truly escape with breathtaking views of the park.


Marcus Sheen


Europa Park

Europa Park
Park Reviewed

Euro Mir

Silver Star

Search Site
Search Coaster Kingdom for more reviews (