Seven of the best theme parks in Europe for families
Disneyland will always have its magic, but don’t miss these other thrilling, family-friendly theme parks, too, home to much-loved rides and plenty of new experiences.
1. Parc Astérix, near Paris
A great alternative or addition to Disneyland Paris, the park was inspired by the René Goscinny comic strips about the rivalry between the Gauls and Romans, but also features zones inspired by Ancient Greek and Egyptian cultures, plus themed on-site hotels. Next spring will see the launch of a new zone, Toutatis!, with a double-record-breaking roller coaster, while the popular wooden ride Tonnerre 2 Zeus has had a complete renovation.
2. Moominworld, Finland
On the island of Kailo next to the old town of Naantali, in southwest Finland, this charming, summer-only theme park celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2022, with a raft of new attractions including Hattifatteners’ Cave, housing some of the electrically charged mushroom-like creatures, Too-Ticky’s Fishing in Snork’s Park of Inventions, and Café Pappa’s Hat, a cafe serving Moomintroll’s favourite waffles.
3. Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen
Set in the heart of the Danish capital, the third-oldest theme park in the world (dating to 1843) has rides and attractions for all ages, including a roller coaster that does three full loops, and the Villa Vendetta haunted house for over-12s, which launched in 2021. But there are also gorgeous hanging gardens, a bamboo forest, water fountains and The Alley, based on an old Danish market town and combining vintage fairground finds with old-fashioned shops selling pretzels and other snacks. It’s particularly beautiful at Christmas, but is open year-round.
4. Liseberg, Gothenburg
This classic theme park in the centre of the Swedish city celebrates its 100th birthday in 2023. This year already saw the opening of a retro-theme area, Luna Park, with the rotating Tempus ride and the interactive Turbo motorbike-and-sidecar carousel; next year they’ll be joined by the boomerang roller coaster, Luna. Schedule your visit for 2023 and you’ll also be among the first to experience the new on-site Grand Curiosa Hotel, booking from this autumn, with stylish, fantasy-inspired decor.
5. Europa-Park Resort, Germany
Located in the country’s southwest, and the second-most popular theme park in Europe after Disneyland Paris, Germany’s largest theme park has it all: the Rulantica water park, YULLBE with its unique VR experiences, six themed hotels, campsites and a spa. There’ll be a new big-dipper roller coaster from next year, while perennial favourites include Grimm’s Enchanted Forest with its forest cinema, fairytale rides and animatronic displays, and Minimoys Kingdom, including the inverted-spinning dark-ride roller coaster. There are also themed areas inspired by various European countries, including Iceland, Spain, Switzerland and, from 2023, Croatia.
6. Gardaland Resort, Italy
Combining an amusement park, Legoland water park, aquarium and three themed hotels with a brilliant setting by Lake Garda, this is Italy’s top theme park. New in 2022 has been the world’s first Jumanji-themed ride (a multi-motion dark ride taking visitors in 4x4-styled vehicles on a mission into the jungle), along with Jumanji-themed rooms in Gardaland Hotel. Smaller visitors, however, will want to head straight for Peppa Pig Land.
7. PortAventura World, Spain
This is another of Europe’s top-level resort parks, bringing together three thrilling parks: PortAventura Park, with its six international-themed zones of attractions for all ages; Ferrari Land, home to rides dedicated to the Italian motor racing team, and the Caribbean-inspired Caribe Aquatic Park. Many of its rides are or have been record-breakers, including Red Force, the tallest and fastest roller coaster in Europe. There are also six great hotels, including three Wild West-themed stays and one styled as a fishing village. PortAventura is easily reached from Barcelona, including by train to its own station.
Published in the November 2022 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)
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