As a lifelong Disneyland Paris fan, I’d never really considered visiting other theme parks within Europe. I was normally content with any theme park visits on the continent being to DLP, with rare visits to UK theme parks to get my rollercoaster fix. Over the last couple of years though that started to change. I began watching more and more vlogs on European theme parks, and my interest immediately went to two theme parks in particular – Efteling in the Netherlands and Europa Park in Germany. It just so happened that I was visiting Amsterdam over the May bank holiday weekend, so decided it was time to check out Efteling!
For anyone who hasn’t visited Efteling before there are numerous options to get there from Amsterdam (and other nearby cities, but I won’t discuss that here). You can get public transport, a combination of trains and buses, which takes around 2 hours. We instead chose to rent a car as it was quicker (its about an hours drive) and worked out cheaper overall (about 75 euros for car hire, parking and petrol compared to about 90 euros for trains and buses). With the park opening at 10am we set off around 8am and arrived in plenty of time for park opening.
I know I’ve used this as the feature image but I need to include it again because wow the entrance was super impressive!
They were already letting people into the park well in advance of park opening so we headed in. At this point we had a decision to make – should we head around to where the rollercoasters are in the Ruigrijk area of the park, or head to Symbolica, the newest state of the art dark ride added to the park. We eventually decided on Symbolica because I can’t resist stuff that is new and shiny.
Symbolica takes place within the King’s palace, and that is truly evident from the stunning exterior!
We waited about 20 minutes in the exterior queue before we were let into the preshow. I won’t spoil it too much for anyone who hasn’t been, but the basic premise is you’re being welcomed to the castle when the jester Parodes appears and insists on giving you a tour of the hidden parts of the castle. This leads to an incredible moment before you head into the final part of the queue. This was one of the coolest preshows I’ve ever seen. It had a perfect blend of my favourite things – great animatronics, cool effects and a fantastic surprise at the end. Even before getting on I knew I was going to love this ride.
Just before you head onto the ride itself, you get to choose between 3 different tours – Hero, Music or Treasure.
You’re then taken through the secret areas of the palace before finishing at the King’s party! The ride Symbolica can be easiest compared to is Ratatouille at Disneyland Paris. They both use trackless systems and are both large scale dark rides. After riding both though I have to say I much prefer Symbolica! I find Ratatouille to be far too much a case of “move around in front of screens”, while Symbolica was a full moving dark ride experience featuring incredibly themed rooms and several interactive elements. The icing on the cake for me though was no 3D! Seriously 3D effects never really work well for me with my glasses so I was so relieved to see no glasses in sight. In case you can’t tell I loved this ride. It’s easily Disney level of quality and afterwards I only had one thought – how did this cost 35 million Euros and Ratatouille cost 270 million??
Keen on making the most of the quieter mornings, we headed towards the rollercoasters and quickly joined the 25 minute line for Baron 1898.
This is similar to Oblivion at Alton Towers but its a bit longer, containing two inversions as well as a near vertical drop. A couple of things struck me about this ride. Firstly, and most obviously, this ride is a lot of fun! It’s still maybe a little too short, but the addition of the inversions makes it more of a full experience than Oblivion. Secondly the themeing was great! From the wheel on the outside, to the the exterior of the queue and the preshow, you can tell a lot of care and thought has been put into every part of this ride. Two thumbs up again!
Whilst in the queue I booked a return “boarding pass” for Python through the Efteling app. This is essentially their version of Fastpass. They’re only in testing phase at the moment and when I visited it was only available for Python. This is one of the oldest rollercoasters in the park so its a bit rough. Thankfully though it has the same modern restraints system as Hyperspace Mountain at Disneyland Paris which made it slightly more comfortable!
It was about 11.30am at this point and we were both starving. Unfortunately a lot of the lunch places didn’t open until midday so we made do with some fries, croquettes and cokes for about 7 Euros each!
We got these from the Station de Oost quick service location. Again, fantastically themed and if you visited during regular lunch hours there’s several stations offering a lot of choice.
Stomachs a bit more full, we decided on a change of tactic. We’d leave the more popular rides until later in the day and head to the other side of the park and do some of the quieter rides and shows. We took a leisurely walk around the park and I just fell in love with how lush and quiet it was in certain areas (the weather obviously helping a bit too!)
I’ll summarise the next few things we did to stop this post going super long. Firstly we did Vogel Rok, an indoor rollercoaster which was much faster than I was expecting! It was a lot of fun, had a very impressive exterior and a really short queue.
We then headed over to Carnival Festival. I had no idea what this was, but kind of guessed it would be like Its A Small World. And it was but, well, I’ll let this picture speak for itself.
Not the most politically correct ride in the world!
We then headed down to collect show tickets for the Raveleijn show, but had some time so headed into the Villa Volta. This was all in Dutch so I had no idea what was going on, but kind of picked up that the house was cursed. The ride itself was pretty much exactly the same as Hex at Alton Towers – you sit in a room, your seats rotate and the room rotates to make you feel like you’re going upside down. Fun, but not worth waiting long for.
Then it was time to check out the Raveleijn show.
Again this was all in Dutch, and I haven’t read the plot, so I’ll try and guess based on what I saw! These four friends are looking for their lost friend. A witch/priestess sends ravens from the world of Raveleijn. The friends then enter the world and have to save the priestess and their friend by defeating an evil dude. I think that basically sums it up. Regardless I enjoyed the show. The set was technically fantastic and the show included some very impressive stunts too!
With the show over we headed next door to another highly recommended attraction – Droomvlucht. This turned out to be way better than I expected. It was essentially a slow moving flying coaster through lots of fairytale stories. Again, like many of the attractions at Efteling, the quality of the scenes and attention to detail really stood out. Every scene had its cool elements, but I loved the space scene most of all!
It was now getting on a bit in the day and I’d been told by so many people to check out the Fairytale Forest. We grabbed a few ice creams ( 4.25 for a large ice cream with 5 toppings – not bad!) and had a wander through. Wow, this was stunning! I can really see why this area is so beloved. Its essentially a long forest trail with several detailed fairytale scenes, each with multiple animatronics. I was so impressed with this area and found it a refreshing change of pace from the rest of the park.
At this point we were really rushing for time, so decided to spend the rest of our park time hitting up the two main rides we had to do. First, a racing wooden rollercoaster called Joris en de Draak.
Like Python this was rough as hell but I was laughing the whole way round so it must have been fun. And our side won! Then it was our final new ride of the day, a water coaster and dark ride hybrid called the Flying Dutchman. Again this was a lot of fun. I was particularly impressed with the highly detailed queue and boarding station, as well as the dark ride section at the start which perfectly built up the tension. The splash was also very much welcome on such a hot day!
We then had one more ride on Symbolica – Music side this time, pretty much the same as Heroes but with a few cool small differences – before checking out the fountain show that plays a few times at the end of the day.
This was OK, but nothing compared to something you’d see in a Disney park. We actually decided to bail early and get a head start on the traffic out of the park. We skipped the queues to pay for parking – I paid on the app and would recommend anyone does the same – and had a quick 1 hour drive back to Amsterdam.
To summarise, I fell in love with this park to the extent that I think its my 2nd favourite park in Europe behind Disneyland Park at Disneyland Paris. The rides were varied and well themed and maintained, the staff were all lovely, the park itself was absolutely gorgeous and it just had the kind of feel I love from a theme park. With such easy transport links within the Netherlands and from other European countries like the UK, I recommend that any theme park fan makes it a priority to visit this wonderful, wonderful place.