Friday 29 December 2017


I Love Holland: Efteling

When UK friends plan a trip to the Netherlands they often don't look beyond Amsterdam. However, one of the places I always recommend as one of the very best things to do when crossing the North Sea – and so must be a part of my I Love Holland series – is fairy tale theme park Efteling. Less Alton Towers and more Disneyland, this intricately designed and imaginative destination is 65 years old this year, making it one of the oldest theme parks in the world and so a big nostalgia fest for us Dutch people. Its beautiful design by famous artist Anton Pieck is as impressive today as it was in the 1950s, and what used to be 'just' a forest filled with displays and figures from famous fairy tales has been expanded into a fully fledged theme park with tons of rides for different ages and impressive shows – making it the perfect day out for all ages.

As soon as you approach the park you feel like you're entering a different world, the Efteling's iconic entrance marking the start of the imaginative adventure hidden beyond the entry gates. Characters from famous fables and folklore welcome you – in our case a delightfully witty Puss in Boots alongside the park's own prince and princess – as you pour over the map to decide your first destination. The park is conveniently split into five realms (Marerijk, Reizenrijk, Ruigrijk, Anderrijk and Fantasierijk), each with their own distinct feel and matching rides.

The most iconic part of the Efteling is, of course, still its fairy tale forest. Part of Marerijk, I highly recommend heading that way first (weather permitting, as this is the only part of the park fully exposed to the elements) and follow the trail alongside famous characters such as Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, Pinocchio and many, many more to fully immerse yourself in the imaginative and nostalgic world of Anton Pieck. Even after all these years the figures still look beautiful – they're clearly well taken care off – and the subtle touches of snow and ice on the displays added for the seasonal Winter Efteling, added a cosy touch matching the season.

Because of the fairy tale forest, Marerijk is the largest part of the Efteling and it also encompasses rides such as Droomvlucht (which literally translates to 'dream flight' and allows visitors to enter the world of the elves and trolls) and Villa Volta (a crazy mad house where it seems that the house spins around you), alongside rides for youngsters such as a playground and steam train. This is also the most nostalgic of the areas in the park with Diorama (a miniature world), the Efteling Museum (an exhibit about its history) and old-fashioned carousels. The entrance to the rides are very accessible to overseas visitors as the welcome and explanation for each are said in multiple languages, usually Dutch, English, German and French (in addition to the park map and other displays also showing in these languages).

I won't detail each and every one of the rides because a) we'll be here for a while, and b) it'd spoil the surprise, but I do want to highlight a few more of my favourites to show the diversity that's available to visitors. First of all, classic rides to visit are Carnival Festival (think Disney's It's a Small World with an equally catchy tune) and Fata Morgana (think Pirates of the Caribbean). What I love especially about the latter, and this is evident in other rides too such as Droomvlucht, is not only the amount of detail that has gone into the beautiful designs but into the whole experience. There's even a distinct smell when you journey through these worlds that alongside their delightful scores will linger long after leaving the ride.

If you're more into roller-coasters then there is a whole realm designed especially for you: Ruigrijk, which translates to 'rough realm'. Or do you want a break from all the wandering and queuing (having said that, we visited on a Tuesday mid-December and the longest we had to queue for anything was 10 minutes and that was only the once, we could walk straight through for mostly everything else which was amazing), why not not have a relaxing sit-down to watch 3D film PandaDroom (aka panda dream), a dazzling exploration of nature?

And I haven't even mentioned the stunning shows yet! We went to both the Raveleijn Park Show, which transports visitors to medieval times in an action adventure story packed with awe-inspiring stunts on horses as well as being a fire and water sensation (headsets are available in English to follow the story if you don't speak Dutch) and Aquanura, a spectacular light and music show that takes place on the large lake at the entrance of the park; a wildly impressive closure to the day.

It currently being the special Winter Efteling, not only are there beautiful trails of light along the park and snow adorning the attractions but you can also do some ice skating or even langlaufing, while enjoying wintery food and drink of course. And the entertainers too were fully decked out in seasonal gear to really get the cosy atmosphere across. Speaking of which, the staff was AMAZING when we visited! I'm sure people who work in theme parks always have to be friendly, but they were next level lovely and really made an already wonderful day even more memorable. Thanks, guys!

The Efteling is currently open from 11am to 8pm (these are seasonal opening hours, so be sure to check their website for up-to-date info when visiting another time of year) and tickets are €35.50pp when bought online.

🎵 Listening to: Sam Smith – Too Good At Goodbyes
🔹 Mood: Nostalgic


  1. I'm so pleased you've done this post - I've always wanted to go to Efteling, but thought it was meant to be aimed at small children!

    1. You're very welcome, Sheila1 I have visited as a child many times but definitely recommend it for adults too. Think the intricacy of a Disneyland park but less Mickey Mouse and more fairy tales and folklore :)

  2. Wow it looks unbelievable! So quaint and definitely like a fairytale x


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