Conquering Disneyland Paris: A Guide to Disney in Europe
It has been said that Disney Parks take on the the identity the city and the country they are in. That is definitely true as Disneyland Paris is the most elegant and beautiful Disney park out there. It is truly a theme park built by theme park nerds for theme park nerds.
Located in Marne-la-Vallée approximately 20 miles outside of Paris, the resort has 2 theme parks along with a hotel and shopping district. It maybe hard to pry yourself away from the city of light, but Disneyland Paris is worth a visit for any theme park fan.
When To Visit And How Long To Stay
Summer in Paris is best categorized by long daylight hours and temperatures in the 70’s. Spring and fall see temperatures in the 50’s and 60’s, while winter is cool with temperatures hovering between 30-40 degrees. Snow is possible in the winter and rain is probable close to every other day throughout the year on average.
Crowds are busiest over the summer, on weekends, and school holidays. Expect long lines over these days. Go on an off season weekday and you will enjoy low wait times. Also of note is that many Paris area museums are closed on Tuesday’s so you see a slight uptick in attendance on Tuesday’s. The best combination of good weather and low crowds is visiting on a shoulder season (spring of fall) weekday that isn’t a European holiday.
Disneyland Paris can be seen in one day but 1 1/2 to 2 days is ideal to see everything. You will have trouble staying occupied with a full day at Walt Disney Studios. The ideal itinerary for the resort would be 1 1/2 days at Disneyland Paris and 1/2 day at Walt Disney Studios. The parks are located next door to each other and so park hopping is easy.
Money and Tickets
France uses the Euro. Payments can be made by cash or major credit card. One thing to keep in mind for some foreigners is many places throughout Europe including the France use a chip and pin credit card system. Few American credit cards have chip and pin capability as they are chip and sign cards. Have extra Euros on hand in case you encounter a chip and pin only credit card system. You should have no trouble paying for a ticket at the front entrance if you do not have a chip and pin card. ATM’s are located inside and outside the resort.
Disneyland Paris employs a dynamic admission ticket pricing system with prices much cheaper during the off season. It is always cheaper to buy in advance online.
The first thing to determine is how many days and whether or not you want to visit both parks on the same day (park hop.) Then look at the calendar for the day you would like to visit and check the price. There are mini, Magic, Super Magic, and Magic Flex tickets available. Magic Flex tickets are the most expensive and allow you to go on any day whether or not you are eligible for a cheaper day or not. The mini ticket is the cheapest option and only valid on off season weekdays. Mini tickets are roughly half the cost of a Magic Flex ticket. If you are going for multiple days, check the price of a 2 day ticket vs buying 2 of the 1 day tickets. It could be cheaper to buy 2 of the 1 day tickets depending on the days you are going. Annual Passes can pay for themselves in as little as 3 days in a year, so look at them for an extended trip or if you are planing multiple visits in one year. For more information on tickets and other budget tips see our article on how to save money at Disneyland Paris.
As an international city Paris is used to having many languages spoken. With there being a large amount of guests from the United Kingdom, English is widely spoken among cast members. All signs will be labeled in English around the resort and park announcements are repeated in several languages including English. Shows are often a mix of French and English.
Getting To Disneyland Paris
Disneyland Paris is located in Marne-la-Vallée, approximately 20 miles from Paris. By car take exit 14 from the A4 or A104 motorway and follow the signs. Parking is free for hotel guests, but day guests must pay to park.
Arriving by public transportation is very easy with a metro station right in front of the park.
From central Paris take the RER A local train to the Marne-la-Vallée — Chessy station. Travel time is between 35-45 minutes depending on the station.
You can take the Eurostar high speed train from St. Pancras in London and be at Disneyland Paris in close to 2.5 hours. The train is direct to Marne-la-Vallée. Be sure to check the schedule because trains do not run everyday.
From the airport:
From Charles de Gaulle the easiest and quickest method is taking the TGV high speed train directly to Marne La Vallee Chessy station. Travel time is only 12 minutes and departs from Terminal 2. Tickets can be bought online in advance or once you arrive. Tickets bought from automated machines must be purchased with a chip and pin credit card.
From Orly by train you will have to take a dedicated train line to the RER B then transfer to the RER A at Chatelet Les Halles and arrive at Marne-la-Vallée — Chessy station.
You may also arrive by Magical shuttle bus from either airport.
Disneyland Paris consists of 2 theme parks, 7 on site hotels, and the Disney Village shopping district. Disney Village has a movie theater along with plenty of shopping and dining. There is also 3 separate 9 hole golf courses on site, tennis courts, fitness centers, and a spa for your enjoyment.
Disneyland Paris has 7 on site hotels. The crown jewel is the Disneyland Hotel located at the entrance of the Disneyland Paris. Other options in crude the western themed Hotel Cheyenne, Disney’s Sequoia Lodge, and Disney’s Hotel New York.
Even by Paris standards on site hotels are very expensive. They do offer packages which help, but for a much better value stay in nearby Val d’Europe. Located one stop away on the RER A line the tiny little village has plenty of fine hotels that offer a great value. There are even within about a 20 minute walking distance if you prefer to not use the train. The primary advantage of staying on site is early entry into the parks. If you are not an early riser, defiantly stay in Val d’Europe for the big savings.
It is easy to think of the train station as the center of the resort. The theme parks are on one side with the resorts and Disney Village are on the other. The theme parks are next door to each other with there being only a 5 minute walk between them.
Disneyland Park has 5 lands: Main St. USA, Frontierland, Adventureland, Fantasyland, and Discoveryland. Walt Disney Studios has the Front Lot, Production Courtyard, Toon Studio and the Backlot.
Disneyland Paris has the best version of many Disney classic attractions. Here are some of the highlights of both parks.
- Big Thunder Mountain The best version of the many Big Thunder variations out there. The attraction is contained on an island as your out of control mine cart zips around at break neck speed.
- Pirates of the Caribbean The best of the Pirates rides not located in Shanghai. An absolute must do for fans of the ride in the United States.
- Space Mountain The most intense and arguably best version of the Space Mountain’s around the globe. Launch into outer space and go upside down in this classic roller coaster in the dark.
- Phantom Manor A more serious in tone version of the Haunted Mansion. Take a tour of a haunted house with the many ghoulish delights that lurk around every corner. Haunted Mansion fans will not want to miss this unique version.
- Adventure Isle While not a ride, don’t miss this playground full of caves, suspension bridges, and many more places to have fun or just relax.
Walt Disney Studios Park
- Ratatouille: The Adventure Shrink down to rat size in this trackless ride vehicle. A combination of practical effects and screens play out in front of you. Easily the best ride in this park.
- Crush’s Coaster Go for a spin in a turtle shell. The coaster is fun but a little queasy for those prone to motion sickness. Usually commands the longest wait in the park.
- Twilight Zone Tower of Terror The haunted hotel drop tower is a near exact copy of the one in Disney California Adventure before theirs was re-themed to Guardian’s of the Galaxy.
- Rock ’N’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith A clone of the same ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida. A launch coaster in the dark featuring multiple inversions while rocking out to Aerosmith.
Shows and Entertainment
Disneyland Paris has plenty of shows to keep you occupied throughout the day. At Disneyland you have the Disney Stars on daytime Parade with many of your Disney favorites as well as a fire breathing dragon. The Nighttime spectacular Disney Illuminations combines fireworks, video projections, and water fountains, to provide a fitting end to your Disney day.
The Walt Disney Studios park has the standout Mickey and the Magician. Easily the best thing to see or do in this park. Other show include CineMagique showcasing the top moments in cinema and Moteuers…Action! Stunt Show, a car stunt show almost identical to the former for wheeled stunt show at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Both parks have meet and greets with your favorite Disney characters as well as smaller shows.
Food and Shopping
With Paris known for being a food lovers dream, it may come as a surprise that the food at Disneyland Paris has a bad reputation. The food is average to below average in quality and the term seasonal takes on new meaning as restaurants seem to open and close on no apparent regular schedule. If budget is a concern it is recommended to leave the park and eat at Earl of Sandwich or McDonalds in Disney Village.
Walt’s an American Restaurant on Main St is going to be the best meal and the most expensive. Toad Hall, the Cowboy Cookout Barbecue and Lucky Nugget Saloon provide some nice ambiance and a decent meal.
Shopping is pretty much what you would expect from any other Disney Park. They are very much in line with the American parks in terms of variety and style of product available. Shopping on Main St. will be your best bet to find a souvenir.
If you are planning only one day at the parks, I recommend spending it at Disneyland Paris. Fantasyland rides are low capacity and popular and so starting there in the morning will be your best option. From there I would recommend tackling Discoveryland, moving to Frontierland and finally Adventureland. End your day watching Disney Illuminations and heading home for the night.
If you have multiple days do day 1 as mentioned above then begin day 2 at Walt Disney Studios. Hit Crush’s Coaster first as it has the longest wait times, move onto Ratatouille, followed by any other rides you want to do in Toon Studio. Head over to Tower of Terror, Rock ’N’ Roller Coaster and finally take in Mickey and the Magician and possibly Moteurs… Action! Stunt Show. Then head over to Disneyland Paris for the rest of your day.
Be sure to take advantage of FastPass. Kiosks are located at each attraction. Scan your admission ticket to obtain a FastPass return time ticket that allows you to skip to the front of the line. The ticket will show your return time and when you can get another FastPass. Maximize your time by grabbing a FastPass as soon as you are eligible. Below are the FastPass attraction in order of most desirable by park.
- Peter Pan’s Flight
- Big Thunder Mountain
- Space Mountain
- Star Tours
- Indiana Jones
- Buzz Lightyear
Walt Disney Studios
- Ratatouille: The Adventure
- Flying Carpets Over Agrabah
- Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
- Rock ’N’ Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith
- Be sure to download the free Disneyland Paris app for wait times and show schedules.
- Hours vary drastically from day to day and season to season. It could close at 6PM on slow days or 11:00 PM on busy days.
- Make use of Single Rider lines located at Space Mountain, Ratatouille, Crush’s Coaster, RC Racer, and Toy Soldier’s Parachute Drop to save time.
- Be sure to check out the wonderful walk through attractions. Adventure Isle, La Cabane des Robinson, Les Mysteres du Nautilus, Alice’s Curious Labyrinth, Le Passage Enchante d’Aladdin, and the La Taniere du Dragon that lies underneath the castle.
- Wi-Fi is available in every Disney hotel and at Earl of Sandwich, McDonalds, Starbucks, and Buffalo Bills within Disney Village. It is not yet available in the parks.