For some people, theme parks are utter hell and best avoided at all costs. For others, they combine a day out with friends or family with white-knuckle rides and attractions. But if you’re bored with all the UK parks, or are simply looking for a new theme park experience, European theme parks have lots to offer.
Generally better themed and more immersive than UK parks, European theme parks offer a unique and fun weekend get-away. And there are some excellent theme parks closer than you might think! By taking the car, you have complete freedom to travel how and when you like.
Here we take at look at the 5 best European theme parks which are close to the UK, so therefore perfect for a weekend away. But be sure to check out the map below, where we have listed some other great parks in driving distance of Calais!
Firstly, the cost. Surprisingly, the cost of European theme parks is less than you’d expect. For example, an adult ticket for PhantasiaLand, one of Europe’s best parks, is €45 (approx. £35) which is about two thirds the price of an adult ticket at Alton Towers (£51.60)
As a result, a weekend European theme park trip can actually work out cheaper than a weekend in the UK, even with the channel crossing!
Crossing The Channel
There are a couple of ways to get from the UK to Europe:
- Euro Tunnel – journey time is approximately 35min and with up to four departures an hour, it’s the quickest route to France. https://www.eurotunnel.com/uk/home/
- Ferry – generally cheaper than the tunnel, but will take you longer. Dover to Calais is approximately a 1.5 hour sailing time, plus the faffing at each end loading and unloading cars.
Our Top 5
Plopsaland De Panne, Belgium – 45 minutes from Calais
Winning the award for having the most amusing name, Plopsaland is the closest theme park to Calais. Already boasting a number of rides for all ages, opening this summer is ‘Heidi The Ride’ - a brand new wooden rollercoaster. Plopsaland also features an impressive indoor waterpark – perfect for those rainy days. There’s no on-park hotels, although local accommodation is available. Photo: Plopsalamd De Panne
Park Astrix, France – 2.5 hours from Calais
Often overlooked in favour of Disneyland Paris due to the close proximity of each other, Park Astrix is a great family day out. Offering four white-knuckle rollercoasters along with plenty of family-friendly attractions, Park Astrix is a park for all the family.
Although no official on-site accommodation, the Hôtel des Trois Hiboux is only 200 metres from the park and offers guests the chance to have breakfast with Asterix and Obelix, the park’s characters. Photo: Park Astrix
Efteling, The Netherlands – 3.5 hours from Calais
Up there with Europe’s best, Efteling is a fantasy themed park with a truly enchanting character. Covering over two square kilometres, the park has four distinctly themed areas. All the rides have a backstory and outstanding theming – none more so than the new vertical-drop rollercoaster ‘Baron 1898’ which is themed around a mine in 1898, where guests take on the role of the Baron’s employees.
Open every day of the year, and with three unique and enchanting hotels on site, Efteling is not one to be missed. An amazing day out for the whole family, it’s a park which truly reminds you what a theme park is all about. Photo: Efteling
PhantasiaLand, Germany – Approx. 4 hours from Calais
OK, so these last two are a bit further away. But trekking into Germany for theme parks is well worth it. The Germans don’t do anything by halves. You’ll find excellent parks in Germany with so many unique subtleties you’ll be well impressed.
PhantasiaLand has excellent theming, great rides and two impressively themed hotels. Just opened are two brand new rollercoasters in a brand new themed area. ‘Taron’ is a thrill-seekers dream, whereas ‘Raik’ is a family rollercoaster. What’s really cool is that the tracks intertwine with each other.
It’s an outstanding park, aimed more at the family market, but still boasting some thrill-rides and rollercoasters, and should be on everyone’s list to visit. Photo: PhantasiaLand
Europa-Park, Germany – Approx. 6 hours from Calais
Yes it’s the furthest, but we’ve saved the best until last. With extraordinary theming, classic quirky rides, family-friendly shows and entertainment, and adrenaline-pumping rollercoasters, Europa-Park has it all.
Staying in one of the FIVE themed hotels is a must – one’s even built in the style of a coliseum! If you can, time your visit to coincide with one of Europa-Park’s special events i.e. Halloween or Oktoberfest - you wont regret it. Europa-Park pulls out all the stops. Here's The Guardian's take on Europa-Park.
Probably too far to travel on its own, unless you’re a real hard-core theme park nut, but combined with other parks/cities, you can have a nice short holiday. Photo: Europa-Park
Get The Most From Your Channel Crossing
We’ve just highlighted some of the parks you should consider visiting in Europe but there are lots more. Below is an interactive map showing the bigger theme parks in Europe. To make the most of your trip, you could consider combining three or four parks and creating a nice circular route.
However you visit them, European theme parks are worth the effort. If you have any others you think we’ve missed, comment below and we’ll add them to our map.