europes best theme parks

DestinationsEuropeFamily Holidays

The Best Theme Parks in Europe, And Where to Stay Nearby

PortAventura theme park, Spain

Thrilling, heart-racing rollercoasters, spectacular shows, character parades, and breath-taking firework displays await you in the best theme parks in Europe. 

Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie or prefer the slow pace of a carousel, the best theme parks in Europe are full of options to suit all the family. The fun-filled atmosphere of a theme park is something many of us are craving right now, and luckily we have no shortage of parks to choose from – most just a short flight away. So, fasten your seatbelts while I take you on a whistle stop tour of what I think are some of the best theme parks in Europe, and give you tips on where to stay too.



1. Disneyland Paris, France

Disneyland Paris is one of the best theme parks in Europe

Undoubtably the most popular theme park in Europe, Disneyland Paris attracts an average of 12 million visitors annually. With two amazing parks – Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios Park, there is so much to discover that you will easily need to spend two or three days here. 

Read: My top tips for visiting theme parks


It goes without saying, there is a ride for every age, interest, and level of adrenaline you are seeking at these parks, from the tummy churning Tower of Terror to the gentle spinning of the Mad Hatters Tea Cups.

Tea cups ride at DIsneyland Paris

For the little Princesses in your house, be sure to visit the Princess Pavilion for a photo opportunity they’ll treasure. The famous Disneyland Parade takes place on Main Street usually at 5.30pm (check your timetable), it’s normally good to grab a spot at the beginning of the parade (opposite Belle Notte restaurant),  and then scoot off to the rides once it has passed. Finally, the nightly fireworks display is an absolute must to finish a magical day at Disneyland.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Sarah Slattery – Travel Expert (@the_travel_expert)

We visited at Christmas time and loved it. You can read all about our trip here:

Read: Top tips to visit Disneyland Paris at Christmas time



Where to Stay:

There are eight resort hotels in Disneyland Paris, each with a different theme.  We stayed in the Disneyland Hotel, and while it was magical, I felt it was overpriced. We also stayed in the New York Hotel previously and felt it was very similar, and a much better price point. This hotel is due to be reimagined this year as The Art of Marvel hotel.

Another popular choice is Newport Bay Hotel. One of the main benefits of staying in a Disney resort hotel is the extra magic hour you get to enter the park before the public, and in many cases you are able to walk to the parks.

Book Disney hotels & park tickets here


However, don’t overlook some of the nearby hotels, as they are much lower in price and most offer a free shuttle bus to the parks. The Explorers Hotel, located just 10 minutes away have large family rooms sleep up to 10 people, as well a swimming pool with slides onsite. 

See Explorers here


See Park tickets here



How to get to Disneyland Paris

The quickest and easiest way to get to Disneyland Paris is to take the TGV train from Charles de Gaulle Airport, you will arrive in Disneyland Paris in just 12 minutes. Disney’s Magic shuttle bus is also available, approx. 1 hour, or alternatively take a private taxi. 

Read: The best time to visit Disneyland Paris



2. PortAventura & Ferrari Land, Spain

PortAventura World is one of the best theme parks in Europe

For most families, a visit to PortAventura is an added bonus for an exciting day or two, during a summer holiday to the Costa Dorada region of Spain. However, we enjoyed a fabulous few days when we stayed on site a few years ago. Not only is PortAventura one of Europe’s largest theme parks, I firmly believe it is one of the best theme parks in Europe. I recommend visiting as a stand alone trip too, perhaps a long weekend away, or a getaway over the mid term break.


PortAventura features six distinct worlds with an exciting theme associated with each. The two most thrilling rides in the park are Shambhala, the parks tallest rollercoaster at 76m and reaching a speed of 134km/h, and Dragon Khan which will take you through 8 loops in 69 seconds! When we visited our children were too young to try these (that’s my excuse anyway!), but we loved the water rides.

A family stay at the Gold River Hotel, PortAventura World

Grand Canyon Rapids is perfect for kids of all ages while Silver River Plume is more like a coaster with one big drop, and you will need to factor in that you will get quite wet. PortAventura is also home to Caribe Aquatic Park. This is seasonal and usually opens from May to September.


Younger children are well catered for also with Sésamoaventura, the Sesame Street themed world that offers lots of gentle fun rides, and even the possibility of bumping into Bert and Ernie along the way. As well as the incredible selection of rollercoasters and rides, the park also offers impressive shows, a great fireworks display, and a huge variety of restaurants.

Read: Top 10 reasons to visit PortAventura World


Opened in 2017, Ferrari Land is the newest addition to the PortAventura World resort. The main attraction here is the terrifying Red Force and at 112 metres high, you won’t have to search to find it. It’s not only the tallest rollercoaster in Europe but also the fastest, accelerating you from zero to 180km/h in just 5 seconds. I was brave or daft enough to try this, and to be honest, I’m still not over it!
You will get around Ferrari Land in just over half a day so I would definitely opt for a combination ticket to include both parks.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Sarah Slattery – Travel Expert (@the_travel_expert)


Read: My guide to Ferrari World, Spain



Where to Stay:

We stayed in PortAventura’s Gold River Hotel and loved it. It is located next to the park, boasts large family rooms and suites, and has a great restaurant on site. A stay here will include entry to PortAventura during your stay and a 1 Day entry to Ferrari Land.

Book PortAventura hotels here


You could also stay in the nearby holiday resorts of Salou, La Pineda or Cambrils. Depending on the time of year you visit, why not combine a sun holiday with some time in one of the best theme parks in Europe?

View all hotels here


Book tickets here



How to get to PortAventura:

PortAventura is located 15 minutes from Reus Airport or just over an hour from Barcelona Airport.




3. Gardaland, Italy

Gardaland is one of the best theme parks in Europe

Taking top spot for the largest and most visited theme park in Italy is Gardaland, sitting on the shores of beautiful Lake Garda. The park boasts 32 rides which includes 7 rollercoasters and 3 water rides, perfect to cool the family down on a hot Italian summer’s day.


Conveniently they have categorised each of the rides into three groups, so you know what you’re getting in advance! Fantasy is aimed at younger children with lots of colourful gentle rides, as well as exciting adventures such as driving a tractor through the park’s crazy farm. 


Adventure has rides to suit all ages, most of which you don’t have to be too brave to take on! Finally, there is Adrenaline which is made up of the highest, fastest, and most thrilling rides in the park. There is possibly a perception that Gardaland is a family day out for younger children, but take one look at these rollercoasters and you’ll soon realise older children and adults will be left pretty impressed.


We visited Gardaland about ten years ago, but it has changed so much since then, with lots of new attractions and parks added. Two of the newer additions to Gardaland are Peppa Pig Land, and excitingly for the first time in Europe, Legoland is due to open their Lego themed water park this year. With all these new additions, this must surely make Gardaland a contender for one of the best theme parks in Europe.


Also to note, Gardaland’s Magic Halloween experience runs from 8th October into early November and with flights operating throughout October to Verona, this is certainly a trip to consider.

Peppa Pig Land at Gardaland



Where to stay:

Gardaland Hotel is located just two minutes by complimentary shuttle from the park. Campsites are generally one of the more popular accommodation choices for families to Lake Garda, and Del Garda Village & Camping is one of the closer to Gardaland just 3km away. 

Book tickets here

How To get to Gardaland:

The closest airport is Verona, a 25-minute drive from Gardaland. Venice (Marco Polo Airport) is approx. 90 minutes drive.



4. Legoland Windsor, England

Legoland is one of the world's most popular theme parks

One of the UK’s most well-known theme parks is Legoland in Windsor. The park is designed mainly for children aged between 3 – 12 years featuring over 55 interactive rides, live shows, and spectacular LEGO creations. Some of the highlights include the new DUPLO brick Dinosaur rollercoaster, the thrilling LEGO Dragon ride, and the 3D behind the scenes animation of THE LEGO MOVIE set.


With its popularity with the young (and young at heart), for the last decade, Legoland Windsor may not be one of the best theme parks in Europe, but it is certainly one of the most popular. If you are planning a trip to Legoland, it is worth taking a look at the events organised throughout the year particularly the Halloween and Christmas themed weeks. This is either a destination on its own where you could easily spend two full days exploring the resort, or as an exciting day trip during a family city break to London.

Read: The top things to do in London with kids and where to stay



Where to stay:

Legoland Resort hotel has rooms that will sleep up to a family of five, and offers packages with park tickets included. Alternatively, the 4-star Castle Hotel is located in the heart of Windsor, less than a ten-minute drive from Legoland, a short stroll from plenty of shops and restaurants, and just a two-minute walk from Windsor Castle.


Book tickets here

How to get to Legoland:

Legoland is located 20km from London Heathrow Airport, and also accessible from other London airports.



5. Alton Towers, England

Alton Towers is the UK's most popular theme park and one of the best theme parks in Europe

Spread over 500 acres, Alton Towers is the UK’s biggest theme park and impressively appeals to all age groups and levels of bravery, with its offering of over 50 rides and attractions. It won the theme park of the year at last years theme park awards, and is undoubtedly one of the best theme parks in Europe.


For thrillseekers, the infamous Oblivion and Nemesis rides are sure to leave you speechless. Or if that hasn’t scared you enough, you won’t know whether to laugh or cry as you make your way through the dark and terrifying Alton Towers Dungeon.


On the opposite end of the spectrum, Alton Towers is also home to CBeebies Land which opened in 2014 and is hugely popular with children from 1- 6 years, where they have the opportunity to interact with their favourite characters. Daily shows include the Teletubbies Big Band Show, which is sure to have your little ones singing and dancing along.

Postman Pat at Alton Towers theme park

In addition to the incredible selection of rides and rollercoasters, Alton Towers also has a water park located within their Splash Landings Hotel.

Downloading the Alton Towers Resort App in advance will help you get the most out of your visit, allowing you to check current waiting times, the option to purchase Fast track and the ability to set reminders for the shows taking place.



Where to stay:

Alton Towers’ Resort has a host of accommodation options, including rooms that will sleep up to six. Hilton Garden Inn, Stoke-on-Trent is 20km from Alton Towers, and with a central location it is within easy walking distance to explore the city.

If you are taking the ferry, a stopover in Chester might be worth considering. Check out the beautiful Crowne Plaza Chester with indoor pool located right in the heart of the historical walled city. 

Book tickets here



How to get to Alton Towers:

The closest airport to Alton Towers is East Midlands, approx. 45-minute drive. Car rental is the most convenient option.
Alternatively, it is also popular to take the ferry to Holyhead and drive 2 hours 45 minutes to Alton Towers. Consider an overnight stop in the lovely town of Chester and a visit to Cheshire Oakes outlet centre or a visit to Chester Zoo.



6. Phantasialand, Germany

Phantasialand, Germany theme park

Germany is probably not the first country you think of when you think of the best theme parks in Europe. It may surprise you that Germany has in fact two parks ranked among Europe’s top theme parks, Phantasialand being one of them.


During a visit you will be transported all around the world ,from the savannah plains in Africa to the Aztecs in ancient Mexico. Through the six themed areas, you will have the option to take in more than 40 attractions. A couple of the more noteworthy rides to mention are Black Mamba – the inverted design will see you travel at high speed through loops and corkscrews, and Mystery Castle – an award-winning terrifying bungee drop and Chiapas – taking you on the steepest log flume descent in the world.


The restaurants in each zone continue the theme of the region, for example, enjoy noodles and spring rolls in China Town or Churros and Nachos in Mexico. There are also a number of shows including the breath-taking Fantissima Dinner Show.



Where to stay:

Phantasialand have three ‘experience’ hotels on site, which you can see here. Alternatively, H+ Hotel Köln Brühl is located under 3km from Phantasialand and close to the centre of the pretty German town of Brühl. Search all hotels close to Phantasialand here.

Book tickets here


How to get to Phantasialand:

Phantasialand is approx. 25-minute drive from Cologne Airport.



7. Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen

Tivoli Gardens at night

Tivoli Gardens holds quite a few impressive accolades that most other theme parks cannot take claim to. The park dates back to 1843, with fairy tale writer Hans Christian Anderson being one of the first to visit. Walt Disney also visited many times, and it was here he found the inspiration for Disney World. Also, the unique location in the heart of a Denmark’s capital city sees Tivoli Gardens surrounded on each side by the town hall square, the main train station, and Hans Christian Andersen’s house.


The beautiful layout of the park has led to plenty of open space with gorgeous, landscaped gardens, a lake, and a pantomime theatre. Although most of the rides are more gentle than thrilling, there are some attractions to get your pulse racing. Try out Vertigo where you take 360 degree turns at 100km/h, or ride through the 3 loops of The Demon at high speed.


Music is also a popular feature with the Tivoli Concert Hall offering many events throughout the summer. It is also a fabulous place to visit at Christmas time. The park is covered in over 1 million fairy lights, with numerous Christmas market stalls and carol singers, even Santa pays a visit. See more here.


You only need to check out the TripAdvisor reviews to see the love people have for the atmosphere, setting, and the nostalgia that Tivoli Gardens evokes, and why it is considered one of the best theme parks in Europe. I had the pleasure of visiting Copenhagen a few years ago and loved it. It is a small city that is very easy to navigate and ideal for a city break.

Read: My city guide to Copenhagen

The Travel Expert in Nyhavn, Copenagen



Where to stay:

Eric Vökel Boutique Apartments are less than a 10-minute walk from Tivoli Gardens, and within easy walking distance of most of Copenhagen’s main attractions. 1 Bedroom Apartments will sleep up to 4- and 2-Bedroom Apartments up to 6. 

Buy tickets here


I would highly recommend buying a Copenhagen Card – this allows access to more than 70 of Copenhagen’s top attractions including Tivoli Gardens. 

How to get to Copenhagen:

Fly to Copenhagen Airport, journey time by taxi approx. 20 minutes. There is also a train station at the airport with a regular service into the city centre taking approx. 15 minutes.



8. Efteling Park, Netherlands

Efteling Parkis one of Europe's best theme parks

Four realms make up this unique fairytale-like theme park, which is the largest theme park in The Netherlands. Let’s start with Fairy Realm where fairy tales are brought to life – from the witch’s house in Hansel and Gretel, to Rapunzel’s tower. Next we have Adventure Realm, this is where the daredevils should head for.


Baron 1898 rollercoaster will plunge you free falling at 90km/h into a mineshaft, or how about Python, a steel rollercoaster with double loops and corkscrews. For more heart racing action, make your way to Alternative Realm where you should be prepared for plenty of screams at the Spookslot Haunted House.

Efteling Park rollercoasters

And finally, journey around the world in 8 minutes in the Travel Realm at the Carnival Festival attraction. Check out the times for the park’s daily shows and don’t miss out the spectacular illuminated water show at Aquanura at the end of each day. You could easily spend 2 days exploring Efteling Park.



Where to stay:

Efteling Hotel is located a 5-minute walk away from the entrance of the park and includes unlimited access. A nice option if you wanted to extend your stay in the Netherlands would be to base yourself at Beekse Bergen Campsite, a four-star campsite with holiday homes and a safari park onsite. Beekse Bergen is located less than 20 minutes from Efteling Park.  

Book tickets here

How to get to Efteling:

The closest airport is Eindhoven, a 20-minute drive from Efteling Park. Amsterdam is 80 minutes away.



9. Futuroscope Theme Park, France

Futuroscope theme park, France

Not your usual theme park, Futuroscope’s main emphasis is on multimedia, and offers a totally immersive experience full of 3D and 4D special effects. The park offers 25 fun experiences including Dances with Robots – a dancing lesson you’ll take with giant robots who will send you waltzing 23 feet in the air!


Destination Mars – a train journey that will take you to outer space with stunning evening shows with a display of 3D aquatic effects and dancing lights. It’s not difficult to see why this is one of the most popular amusement parks in France.

For its size, the park offers a great selection of restaurants, and prices look quite reasonable by theme park standards with lots of meal plan options available. For a family visiting during a French camping holiday, parking is available for the day for €9.



Where to stay:

For a one- or two-night stopover near the Park, the Appart Hotel Futuroscope 2 is an 8-minute walk from the park. 1 Bedroom Apartments sleep up to 4. La Roche Posay campsite is a 40-minute drive from Futuroscope. 

Book tickets here


How to get to Futuroscope :

Depending on whether you fly or take a ferry, the closest airport is Poitiers, but many families will take the ferry to France, and drive to Futuroscope.



10. Europa Park, Germany

Europa Park is one of Europe's best theme parks

After Disneyland Paris, Europa park is the second most visited theme park in Europe, although probably not as popular on the Irish market as there are less direct flight routes to that part of Germany from Ireland. Nonetheless, the park attracts on average 5 million visitors per year, incredibly offering more than 100 attractions.


The park is made up of Europa Theme Park and Rulantica Water World. A couple of the main features of the theme park are Wodan Timburcoaster, which is a giant wooden ride reaching a speed of 100km/h, and Swiss Bobrun which is a take on a bobsleigh where you speed down a metal ice run at 50km/h – with no tracks!


These are just two of the thirteen rollercoasters at Europa Park, but not only are adrenaline seekers catered for, young children also have an abundance of suitable rides, shows and playgrounds to choose from. These are spread throughout 18 themed areas, each of which are named after a different country.

rollercoaster at Europa Park.

Ireland even has its own themed area for younger children where they can take a ride on Ba-a-a Express and visit Limerick Castle. The Rutlantica Water World opened in November 2019 and includes an indoor waterpark the size of five football fields!

Europa Park is considered one of the best theme parks in Europe, and with two parks, there’s plenty to keep the whole family entertained for 2 or 3 days.



Where to stay:

Europa Park have six themed hotels which you can see here. Alternatively Eurocamp have a campsite, Campingplatz Herbolzheim Campsite, located 10 km from Europa Park.

Book tickets here



How to get to Europa Park:

Strasbourg Airport is less than an hour away, but flights currently are indirect from Ireland. The closest airport with directly flights from Ireland is Zurich which is approx. 2-hour drive from Europa Park.  


I hope you enjoyed this post on the best theme parks in Europe and it inspires you to travel overseas again soon. Prices and attractions are taken from theme park and hotel websites, but are subject to change. Please check with individual park or hotel for clarification. Some of the links in this post contain affiliate links, where I receive a small commission if a booking is made, but at no additional cost to you.



DestinationsEuropeFamily Holidays

My Review of PortAventura World


PortAventura, Caribe Aquatic Park and Ferrari Land, read my review of PortAventura World for tips, tricks and recommendations for visiting all three parks.

PortAventura is huge! With the addition of Ferrari Land, PortAventura World now has the largest number of theme parks in Europe. If you want to visit the main PortAventura park, Caribe Aquatic Park and Ferrari Land, I would suggest taking three full days to see them properly. My review of PortAventura World will explain why.

review of portaventura

PortAventura Park

Home to 41 attractions and 40 daily shows, I was really impressed with PortAventura and the variety on offer. There are plenty of rides for all ages and my 6 and 9 year old had a ball. There are six different lands, each with their own unique feel.

When you walk into Mediterrania, ‘O Sole Mio’ bellows from the sound system, while ‘The Good, The Bad And The Ugly’ plays in the Far West land – it is extremely well thought out and the attention to detail is superb.

We loved the water rides. Grand Canyon Rapids is perfect for kids of all ages while Silver River Plume is more like a coaster with one big drop, and you will need to factor in that you will get quite wet!

review of portaventura

The wooden coaster Stampida is a good choice for those who like rollercoasters but don’t like going upside down (my type of coaster!) It is still intense though and I would say suited to 8 years and above. There are plenty of rides for adrenaline junkies, Shambhala, Dragon Khan and Tutuki Splash, being the most popular.  

Little ones are well catered for too with the Sesamo Aventura land offering 11 rides as well as sesame street characters wandering around.

There was only one attraction that we didn’t like – El Secreto de los Mayas. This is a maze of mirrors which was extremely hard to get out of. Luckily we met a staff member inside who helped us out but it is definitely not for anyone with claustrophobia! 

family holiday in Salou

PortAventura was extremely clean and the restaurant choices were excellent. We ate in Raco de Mar in Mediterrania and it was great. There are pretty views across the lake and flowers everywhere, you would never think you were in a theme park.

Prices were very reasonable too and they had a good mix of pizzas, chicken Caesar salad as well as a kids menu. Beers and ice creams didn’t break the bank either, they were dearer than in the resort centre, but not extortionate. We found the park overall very reasonably priced compared to others we had visited, and thankfully not full of fast food restaurants.

review of portaventura

We went during a weekend in July, which I was told was quieter than going midweek strangely enough. I guess holiday makers tend to arrive over the weekend and go to the park during the middle of their visit. We didn’t have express passes and the longest we queued was 30 minutes. We didn’t opt for the express passes for two reasons. They were very expensive, and most of the rides they covered (the high speed rollercoasters) we weren’t going on anyway.

If you want to go on the fast coasters, then possibly you should consider them, but it really depends on how busy the park is and the time of year you visit. There are many options to choose from. The Express Max (€33pp), only allows one fast access per attraction (and not front row seats). The Express Premium Gold (€58pp), allows unlimited express access to the main attractions rides, with one single ride in the front row on the three main coasters, Shambhala, Furios Baco and Dragon Khan. See more details here.

review of portaventura

Another highlight was the parade and fireworks display at midnight. Not only is night time a great time to visit the park as there are virtually no queues, but the fireworks are in my opinion a ‘must see’. We arrived 15 minutes before the start time and got a perfect viewing point.

Caribe Aquatic Park

Caribe Aquatic Park is adjacent to PortAventura, in fact you can walk from one to the other in minutes. This was another big hit, we all loved it. There is a huge Caribbean style wave pool with sun loungers if you just want to chill out, a splash park for younger kids and a pirate ship pool with slides for older kids.

I loved that there were plenty of family rides and queues were minimal. The longest we queued was 30 minutes but on average it was about 10 – 15 minutes for most rides. All of us were able to go down on one ring in El Torrente and we were able to go on double rings in lots of other rides. We also raced each other on Rapid Race and relaxed on the lazy river.

review of portaventura

Needless to say we weren’t brave enough to try King Khajuna, where you free fall from 31 meters and reach speeds of 6 meters per second! We did however, find that there was plenty of rides to suit us all and we left happy!

Note you will need to rent lockers (big queues) for your camera, glasses etc, as you can’t bring anything on the rides with you, including waterproof cameras. You can purchase a photo pass, where an automated machine takes pictures of you on the rides, but unfortunately I didn’t notice this until we were leaving! Note Caribe Aquatic Park is only open from June to mid September.

review of portaventura

Ferrari Land

We didn’t visit Ferrari Land on this occasion but I was there for the opening launch, you can read my review on Ferrari Land here. This is also located beside Port Aventura park but in my opinion a half day is plenty of time to discover it. Europe’s highest rollercoaster Red Force is a must for rollercoaster fanatics where you reach 180km per hour in 5 seconds!

Car enthusiasts will love the F1 simulator rides (extra charge) where you can feel what it is like to drive a Formula one car. However I thought most of the other rides are fairly tame and not as good as the rides on offer in PortAventura, so we opted to skip it on this occasion.

review of portaventura

Where to stay:

Salou, Cambrils and La Pineda are nearby holiday resorts offering a wide range of self catering and hotel accommodation. We stayed in the lively resort of Salou in Camping La Siesta for two nights and also in one of the PortAventura hotels for two nights.

Camping La Siesta is a four star family resort that offers high quality bungalows and mobile homes. There is a day and evening entertainment program and a great pool area with slides for children of all ages. This is a great option if you are looking for a lively resort but within easy access to PortAventura.

Read My family holiday in Salou.

review of portaventura

If you want unlimited access to the park and plan on visiting at night time, then you should consider staying in one of the PortAventura hotels. You can come and go as often as you like throughout your stay. We were staying at the Gold River hotel and we loved it. The wild west theme was a huge hit with the kids and the rooms were very spacious and well equipped.

We were staying on a half board basis and we were able to dine in the a la carte restaurant which was great. They have a dine around system, where you can dine in any of the restaurants in the park or the a la carte options in the hotels. There may be a small supplement to pay, depending on what you choose but in our case it was minimal.

review of portaventura

TOP TIP: If staying in one of the PortAventura hotels, check that your booking automatically includes access to the other parks. In our case it didn’t and we had to pay an additional €75 to enter the Caribe Aquatic Park (and that was with a 30% discount for staying at the hotel).

If you are staying in one of the hotels or apartments in Salou or surrounding areas, I would definitely recommend pre purchasing your tickets, it is much cheaper than buying them at the gate and you get a better choice of ticket options. Make sure you read my blog post on the best tickets to buy for PortAventura before you book.


I hope you enjoyed my review of PortAventura and it will help you plan a trip there soon.



The Travel Expert

Pin It on Pinterest