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The Top 10 Theme Parks in Europe

Image of Daemonen at Tivoli Gardens

Europe is packed with incredible theme parks, from old-fashioned seaside funfairs through to sprawling mega-resorts. There's something on offer for everyone, whether you're a hardcore rollercoaster junkie or a fan of gentler, story-based attractions.

It's impossible to cover the breath of Europe's range of theme parks in a single article, but we'd like to introduce you to some of the most popular. To do that, we've selected the top 10 theme parks in Europe, measured by their performance in the 2010 Theme Entertainment Association attendance report.

10. LEGOLAND Windsor

2012 attendance: 2 million

Apart for that agonising moment when you step on the stuff, everybody loves LEGO. Even today, in a world of video games and tablet computers, LEGO is still a major brand name, and clearly that name draws in the masses. As a child visiting LEGOLAND Windsor in the UK, there was nothing cooler than being surrounded by sky high buildings made of LEGO, and with the range of activities and shows on offer there’s not even a need to go on any rides to have a great day out.

Miniland

Miniland is one of LEGOLAND Windsor's biggest draws.

However, if LEGOLAND Windsor wishes to keep competing at this level, the park needs to start adding some major attractions. There’s no shortage of space in the park, and now it is owned by leading operator Merlin there’s no lack of funding either.

9. Alton Towers

2012 attendance: 2.4 million

There is no doubt that Alton Towers is the UK’s most complete theme park experience; it features a variety of thrill and family rollercoasters and a range of water rides, all buried in beautiful Staffordshire surroundings. Joined to the park are two hotels and a state-of-the-art indoor waterpark. This all combines to establish Alton Towers as the only real destination theme park resort in the UK today.

Nemesis is one of Europe's best roller coasters

The park has a beautifully rich history (and pesky planning restrictions), but it still manages to keep up-to-date with new rides and attractions every few years. It has been blessed with some fantastic coaster designs from Bolliger & Mabillard and John Wardley, specifically the famous inverter, Nemesis, and is still striving to put in more top class rides over the next 10 years.

8. Gardaland

2012 attendance: 2.7 million

Merlin's Italian theme park is perhaps surprisingly more popular than its better-known UK sister parks. Like Alton Towers, Gardaland is set in front of an idyllic backdrop, the beautiful Lake Garda. It, too, has a hotel and also a new SeaLife aquarium.

Gardaland's new Raptor has received rave reviews.

The park is very much family-oriented, but has recently installed some larger attractions, including the new Raptor rollercoaster in 2011. The world's first B&M Wing Rider, it has been received fantastically by the enthusiast community. Gardaland shows an intricate level of theming which, to be honest, is lacking in its sister parks in the UK, and rightfully earns its place as Italy’s leading theme park.

7. Liseberg

2012 attendance: 2.8 million

Liseberg is a park situated in Gothenburg, Sweden. Perched on the top of a hill in the middle of the city, it has a true Scandinavian feel to it. The terrain makes for some great ride moments; the oldest of the rollercoasters is Lisebergbanan, a Zierer-Schwarzkopf mine train, which winds over hills and under other rides. In the last 10 years the park has had a real drive of investments, allowing it to complement its traditional style with an impressive roster. The tiny Intamin accelerator Kanonen, an S&S Screaming Swing and the new AtmosFear drop tower are just some of the selection. The best-known ride is probably Balder, the first Intamin prefabricated wooden rollercoaster, and it is often regarded as the best in the world.

6. PortAventura

2012 attendance: 3.5 million

PortAventura is a colossal resort, and personally my favourite theme park. Despite being located in a fairly industrial part of northern Spain, it manages to fling you into an entirely new world of beauty and magic.

Dragon Khan adds to PortAventura's fantastic landscape

The park itself is a real trek to get around; it’s very large indeed, and the focus is very much on scenery and landscaping rather than ride after ride. In fact, the park only really features 4 large thrill rides and just a few more family rides. But this is not a problem at all - you'll enjoy every second on and around the attractions. Despite the legendary roughness of some coasters (Stampida’s not that bad, Baco is) every ride has a "re-rideabilty factor", and even after a long stay you’ll want to try everything again. With the rumoured B&M hypercoaster for 2012, PortAventura could be on the rise.

5. Tivoli Gardens

2012 attendance: 4 million

Like Liseberg, Tivoli Gardens is set in an inner city, in this case in Copenhagen. It is the second oldest amusement park in the world, and the history is certainly a factor in attracting guests. It’s a tourist attraction for anyone in the city even if they have no desire to experience the rides. Rutsjebanen is one of the oldest roller coasters in the world, and even has a brake man on board the train. The only large coaster is Daemonen, one of the smallest B&Ms around, but it still packs a punch in its compact layout. The Gardens are also home to concert halls and the area has the feel of a stately home. Tivoli was in fact a major inspiration for the Disney parks; Walt Disney loved its relaxed charm.

4. Efteling

2012 attendance: 4.2 million

This Dutch park is renowned for its intense level of theming and friendly staff. It has a Disney–like methodology, employing its own creative engineers to invent and design rides, and as a result is home to attractions which are far more than off-the-shelf rides. The landscaping and architecture are both stunning, but there are surprisingly few rides. The new for 2010 wooden racing coaster, Joris en de Draak, is certainly a step in the right direction in terms of this, and it is rumoured that we may be seeing more investments of this kind in the not-too-distant future.

3. Europa Park

2012 attendance: 4.6 million

So Europa Park deservedly holds the title of ‘Most popular European park without the Disney name in front of it.’ The park is owned and run by Mack, the ride manufacturer, and no expense is spared, anywhere. The whole ethos is very similar to that of Efteling, the park's operators try their hardest to satisfy guests with the staff, the theming and the overall experience. Where Europa Park takes a step ahead of the rest is in the rides; it always insists that they cater to families, and therefore none of their rides will have over-the-shoulder restraints.

Blue Fire at Europa Park has been hailed as one of the finest launched coasters

Silver Star, a B&M hypercoaster and Europe’s tallest rollercoaster, is the biggest attraction, and Blue Fire is a new launch coaster, built by Mack, which many believe is the best launched attraction in the world. Europa Park has a winning formula with its rides; they never fail to deliver comfort and thrills. Next year the park is to install a long awaited wooden roller coaster, Mythos, which could well make it complete.

2. Walt Disney Studios

2012 attendance: 4.8 million

Toy Story Playland

Toy Story Playland is the most recent addition to Walt Disney Studios

The Disneyland Resort Paris' second theme park often gets a bad name, perhaps unfairly. Many feel that the park was planned poorly and is home to a weak selection of attractions. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. Truth be told it doesn’t have quite the level of immersion as Disneyland Park, or the American counterparts, but its ride line-up certainly rivals Disney's Hollywood Studios in Florida. Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Crush’s Coaster (a Maurer spinner), the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and the new RC Racer (a halfpipe) provide thrills for all the family and the level of recent investment is impressive. A Ratatouille-themed dark ride will open in 2014, and will strengthen the park further.

1. Disneyland Paris

2012 attendance: 11.2 million

It’s a no brainer really, isn’t it? Europe’s most famous theme park comes in with a whopping 10.5 million guests in 2010, more than double the amount the adjoined Walt Disney Studios park received last year. Like the Studios, the main park has had its share of bad press, but it is still one of the world's best. It shares rides with many of the other Disney installations across the globe, but in many cases this is just in name. The rides in Paris are noticeably larger and more thrill-oriented than in, say, California’s version.

Sleeping Beauty Castle

Still number one: Disneyland Paris is Europe's most popular theme park.

Big Thunder Mountain is an epic journey round the canyons, topping at over 40mph and nearly 5000ft of track. Space Mountain’s race through space has 3 inversions and a launch, completely unlike the tamer versions elsewhere. Overall the park is very large and open, it is wonderfully landscaped and the parades everyday down Main Street USA are incredible, especially for children. Although it is in need of some new additions,  the park is Europe’s favourite, and will remains so for years to come.

 
There are 20 comments.

i ve been to all of dem and port aventura is de best

I've been to all of them and Port Aventura is the best.

ur nan

* your nan

Europa Park is the Europe's Leading theme park very tidy and friendly recomend to everyone MUCH BETTER THAN DISNEYLAND!

Gardaland and Disneyland are the best !

true dat sista :D

De Efteling, Port Aventura and Disneyland are the best parks in Europe.

Ive only been to disneyland paris and gardaland out of the list. Gardaland in Italy is definately my fave cuz disneyland paris is CRAP compared to Disneyland in Orlando. Take it from me. I went to Disney in Orlando in 2010 and went to all 13 parks. I went to Disneyland Paris in June 2011 and got bored. I went on space mountain 2, 3 times and Big Thunder Mountain 5 times! The Indiana Jones ride was being fixed when i went. If your going to paris and looking for a themepark, do go to disney but also go to Parc Asterix. It was well better and has 6 rollercoasters! including one with 6 loops in a row. I went to Gardaland in July 2011. The best ride was probably Magic Mountain or the Raptor was AMAZING! I also loved Blue Tornado although it scared me at first, after 5 consecutive goes on it, I manned up! I also liked Ramsas and the rollercoaster that was inside magic mountain. it went horizontally 6 times!!! If your going to Lake Garda in Italy and staying near peshceira del Garda, definately go to GARDALAND!!!!

You have no clue what you are talking about. First off, learn to spell and use correct grimmer. Also, there is no Disneyland in Florida, it's disney world. Disney World does not have 13 parks, it has 4 theme parks, 2 water parks, and an entertainment complex.

Grimmer haha

I've been to: Gardaland, Disney Paris, Europapark, Mirabilandia, Legoland DE and 4 parks of Disney World in Florida.
Comparing European parks where I've been Europapark is definitely the best. Several rollercoasters and a lot of attractions for little kids. Good idea to create separate parts for different countries with it's own architecture (esp. Switzerland and Greece are interesting). Second place on my list holds Gardaland. Legoland has much less attractions but fabulous Lego structures!
Disneyland has no really good rollercoaster and in my opinion is far worse than Europapark and Gardaland.

I think THE Efteling is THE best, because it's about amusement. You can de see things there you will not see anywhere else. The buildings, the atractions, the music, the way you walk tru the park it's unbelieveble!!! The best there is!!!!! THE rollarcoaster they have their are just great because they where put into à story. And de Efteling is not about rollarcoasters but being somewhere else!!!!

How can one get them to come open a park in my country????

We are currently looking for hosts in all corners of the world who have boats, apartments, sofas, spare beds, spare rooms, air beds, tree houses, floor space or even castles to rent out. We are looking for holiday crash pads in all areas of Spain, France, the UK, the USA, Germany, France, Portugal and worldwide.

You need to travel much more...

I'm a total dare devil and love big fast rides can anyone recommend the best parks in Europe to suit my need and wants of a total adrenalin rush :) even if it doesn't include theme parks your help would be great thanks :)

Best coaster parks in Europe.

- Europapark, Holidaypark - Germany.
- Portaventura, Warner Park - Spain
- Gardaland, Mirabilandia - Italy
- Thorpepark, Alton towers - Uk
- Park Asterix - France

I see nobody mentions Movie Park Germany. Is it that bad...

I was considering going there since the discounted price (and distance from our place) is doable, but upon reading all these top 10 lists, not one of them mentioning this park I wonder whether I should bother.

So anyway, disney is still king eh:)

I've been to movie park germany recently. It has got the best free fall tower I've ever tried in my whole life. The rest of the attractions are average but there are really lots of them and you won't get bored at all.