Conquering Efteling: A Guide to The Fantasy Theme Park
Efteling is a fantasy theme park resort located between Brussels and Amsterdam in The Netherlands. It opened in 1952 as a nature park with a fairy tale forest. It has grown into the largest theme park in The Netherlands and is now one of the oldest theme parks in the world. Focused on elements of fantasy including myth’s, fairy tales and legends, Efteling has become one of the true gems in the theme park world and shares many values with Disney parks.
When To Visit And How Long To Stay
Efteling is open year around. In terms of weather, it can get cold during the winter months and possibly even snow. The summer is quite mild and the sun can stay out after 10PM. Year around the possibility of rain is fairly high.
If low crowds are a priority, visit on a weekday in the offseason. However expect rides to be down for refurbishment and entertainment to be cut. If you want all rides and entertainment offerings, visit on a busier day like a weekend. A good indication on how busy they expect the place to be is looking at the hours of operation. A slow day will see the park close as early as 6PM, while a really busy day will close as late as midnight. A summer Saturday can have crowds as big as Disneyland Paris. Very quiet days may only see a few hundred people walk through the gates.
For most people 1 day is enough to cover everything in the park. If it is a really busy day or you would like to go on attractions multiple times, 2 days will keep you occupied.
Money and Tickets
The Netherlands uses the Euro. Payments can be made by cash or major credit card. One thing to keep in mind for international visitors is many places throughout Europe including the Netherlands uses 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 of Efteling if you do not have a chip and pin card. ATM’s are located inside the park including one that is themed as a treasure chest.
Ticket prices are inexpensive if you are used to Disney parks. An entrance ticket is roughly half that of Disneyland Paris. There is a discount for ordering online in advance. You may also order tickets through their free app. Ticket options include paying extra to enter the park 30 minutes early and enjoy select attractions with little to no wait.
The official language of the Netherlands is Dutch and most ride announcements will be verbalized in Dutch. The Netherlands is known for having people able to speak multiple languages and Efteling is no exception. Name tags will have flags indicating the languages each employee can speak. English commonly spoken among the staff and you should have no issue communicating with employees if you only speak English. Attractions and shows are visual mediums and rarely do not you not know what is going on if you do not understand Dutch.
Getting To Efteling
Efteling is located in the city of Kaatsheuvel, Netherlands. The nearest large city is Tilburg. By car the park is located off highway A59 or A58 depending on which direction you are coming from. By car, transit time is a little over an hour from Amsterdam or Antwerp Belgium.
Arriving by public transportation is not difficult but it does require a combination of train and bus and a little planning. If you need to use a high speed train you can save money by buying in advance. Local train tickets can be bought on site with no reservation. Bus tickets can be bought from the driver as you board.
From Amsterdam Central you have multiple options. You can take the train to s-Hertogenbosch requiring 1 transfer and then the 300 bus to Efteling.
You can also take the train to Tilburg requiring 1 transfer and then transfer to the 300 bus.
You will save about 20-30 minutes by going through s-Hertogenbosch and will take close to 2 hours.
From Brussels or Antwerp:
If you are traveling from Brussels, take the intercity train to Antwerpen Central. From Antwerpen Central take the train to Tilburg requiring 1 transfer and then take the 300 bus to Efteling. Total transit time is a little under 2 hours.
Take the high speed train to Antwerp. Transfer to the intercity train to Tilburg requiring 1 transfer and then the 300 bus to Efteling. Total transit time is about 3.5 hours.
From Dusseldorf Germany:
Take the intercity train to either Tilburg or s-Hertogenbosch requiring 1 transfer and then take the 300 bus to Efteling. Total transit time is roughly 3 hours either way.
Public transportation in the Netherlands is easy, clean and relatively affordable. For more information on train travel in Europe see b-europe.com. You can plan your trip within The Netherlands by using this link.
Efteling consists of a theme park, 3 hotel resorts, a performance theatre, and an 18 hole golf course. The Efteling Theatre is connected to the theme park but is not part of it. The theatre hosts musicals along with local events. While most theme park resorts have added additional gates to increase your stay, Efteling is attempting to extend your stay through activities not related to the theme park itself. The theatre, resorts, and golf course offer plenty of encouragement to keep families in the area over multiple days.
On site accommodations include the Efteling Hotel, Efteling Village Bosrijk and Efteling Village Loonsche Land. The latter two are apartment or home type settings within a themed village which include plenty of activities to keep you occupied when you are not in the park. They can accommodate larger groups and can be quite affordable on a per person basis if you have a group. Small families or individuals will not find a bargain onsite. Affordable accommodations can be found in nearby Tilburg or s-Hertogenbosch.
At a little under 500 acres, Efteling is a spacious park with many paths to get immersed in. The park entrance is the iconic House of the 5 Senses. After entering you take a left and down the main promenade into the Efetling brink which serves as the main hub. From there you head off into the various lands or what they call realms. The park has four themed realms; Marerijk (Fairy), Reizenrijk (Travel), Ruigrijk (Adventure), and Anderrijk (Alternative).
Efteling has some truly standout attractions with many of them being Disney level quality. Rides will clock in shorter than a comparable attraction at Disney, but the level of theming is often among the best anywhere. Here are some of the highlights.
The Marerijk or Fairy Realm
- Droomvlucht or Dream Flight Quite simply one of the best family friendly dark rides in the world. Encounter fairies, elves, and trolls in this absolute must do attraction.
- Villa Volta The first modern mad house. A topsy turvy adventure where it is hard to know up from down and left from right. Don’t let the unassuming facade fool you. This ride packs a punch.
- Sprookjesbos A walk through fairy tale forest, similar to if the Storybook canals at Disneyland. Interact with various fairy tales such as Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, Hansel and Gretel and many more. You could easily spend hours in this one attraction alone.
- Symbolica The parks newest ride and the most expensive attraction it has ever built. The interactive trackless dark ride promises to take visitors on a magical journey with surprises around every corner.
- The realm also has a carousel and a steam train among other small scale attractions.
The Ruigrijk or Adventure Realm
- Baron 1898 An industrial mining themed dive coaster. It’s not the biggest or the fastest, but lots of fun.
- De Vliegende Hollander or The Flying Dutchman It begins as a spooky dark ride that suddenly catapults you outdoors for a coaster element with a splashdown ending.
- Joris en de Draak A run of the mill wooden racing coaster… with a fire breathing dragon in the middle of it. Among the most popular rides in the park.
- Python The most thrilling coaster in the park going upside down 4 times. It’s a pure adrenaline rush with little theming.
The Anderrijk or Alternative Realm
- Fata Morgana Can best be described as Pirates of the Caribbean if it were themed to Aladdin. Over 100 audio animatronics tell the story of 1001 nights as you visit Arabia. A must see and you rarely encounter a wait.
- Bobbaan If you ever wanted to ride in a bobsled here is your chance. Take a run down a realistic bobsled run in a ride that runs with no track.
- Spookslot A haunted house show that is a nice little respite from constant rides.
- Pirana A nicely themed water raft ride for when you want to cool off.
The Reizenrijk or Travel Realm
- Vogel Rok Space Mountain if you were flying in the claws of a giant bird instead of through space. The indoor pitch black roller coaster is high speed, has many twists and turns, all while “roking” out to some on board music.
- Gondoletta An outdoor 20 minute boat ride where you can relax and take in the beauty of the park.
- Pagode A slowly rotating Thai temple that takes you close to 150 feet in the air. Take in 360 degree views of the park and the surrounding scenic Netherlands countryside.
- Carnaval Festival If you have ever thought it was a good idea to have a ride like It’s a Small World, but themed to a carnival, then is for you. If that repulses you then be sure to skip it.
Shows and Entertainment
Efteling has two standout shows. Raveleijn is a daytime spectacular that is best described as Medieval Times, minus the food, and much better. The show sells out most days. You can obtain tickets ahead of time outside the theater through a ticket vending machine and works much like Disney’s Fast Pass.
The other main show is the end of day spectacular Aquanura. Instead of calling it a nighttime show, you have to call it an end of day show as many times it is performed during daylight hours. During certain portions of the year it is day time when the park closes due to shorter hours and/or the summer months when it doesn’t get dark until very late. The show was designed by the same people responsible for the fountains of Bellagio and is somewhat similar with the addition of color to the fountains. Disney fans may refer to it as world of Color with a techno beat as the soundtrack in one of the versions is from DJ Tiesto.
There are various other smaller scale shows located throughout the park such as story time in the fairy tale forest or wandering characters or bands. Many of the smaller scale entertainment choices are only available on busier days.
Food and Shopping
The best part of eating at Efetling is the theming. The food above average for a theme park, but the theming in the restaurants is top notch. For those who do want the full Medieval Times type experience you can watch Raveleijn after eating at the medieval themed Wapen van Raveleijn. Pancakes are famous in the Netherlands and Polles Keuken is a wonderful place for a meal to enjoy them. There are plenty of self service and snack locations throughout the park and most of them are heavily themed.
There are plenty of shops with park memorabilia. It appears most of the merchandise is aimed at children. Regardless of whether you intend to buy anything or not it is worth walking around as the shops are themed.
As with any theme park it is best to arrive early and take advantage of short waits early in the day. The priorities should be the new Symbolica which is conveniently located near the front entrance. The next most popular ride is Baron 1898. After those 2 it is best to pick a direction and begin making the loop around the park. Be sure to grab a free ticket for Raveleijn ahead of time as it sells out. Otherwise, taking it easy and enjoying the ambience is one of the charms of the park.
If you are staying on site, the hotels are within walking distance for a midday break. If you are staying off site, it takes a lot of time to leave and return as the resort is fairly isolated.
- Be sure to download the free Efteling app.
- Hours vary drastically from day to day and season to season. It could close at 6PM on slow days or midnight on busy days.
- For a little more money you can enter the park 30 minutes before official opening and enjoy some rides with no wait times. The extra ticket also includes food and can be a good value on a busy day if your time is limited.
- There are various WiFi hotspots throughout the park and in the resorts.