Matt N's Ode To Europa Park: A Review from my First Ever Visit
For those of you that don't know, I recently returned from my first ever visit to Europa Park in Germany. I wrote a trip report series which can be viewed in earlier entries in this blog.
Now I know that I did a brief summary of my thoughts on Europa Park at the end of my recent trip report series. However... now I've been back for a couple of days, I'm finding myself wanting to say a lot more than I said in that summary. It feels like I hardly scratched the surface of what I wanted to say about Europa in the closing summary of this trip report series. I apologise if this comes across a tad random or soppy, but I wanted to talk about Europa in more depth and talk about what I thought of it and why I fell in love with it, as both a way to inform the Europa regulars on here that having now been, I get it, as well as to reassure anyone who hasn't visited and is possibly a little sceptical as to whether Europa will be for them.
So; Europa Park. Where do I begin?
To say that I've wanted to visit Europa for a while would be an understatement; ever since I livestreamed the GTAs back in 2014, when I was only 11 years old, and saw Europa Park get awarded the award for "World's Best Theme Park", I thought to myself "I need to go there". And then I read TowersStreet/EuropaStreet, where all the members absolutely waxed lyrical about Europa even back in 2015 or whenever I started lurking around there, my excitement intensified, and Europa Park became the first big bucket list place I felt like I needed to visit. I'll be honest, I did not know a huge amount about the park at this point, but I knew that everyone loved it, which was all the incentive I needed.
I would always say to my parents about Europa Park, and their response was always "we'll take you when you're 18". Seeing as I was probably no older than 12/13 at the time, this seemed a very long way off. And when I finally turned 18 in July 2021, COVID had happened, meaning that the much mooted 18th birthday trip to Europa Park was unable to happen. I did get a nice trip to Legoland Windsor and Paultons Park, though, so every cloud has a silver lining, I guess!
So it's safe to say that my first trip was a very long time coming. However, my parents did stick to their word, and finally ended up booking our trip for April 2022. The excitement began.
However, I'll digress that after the trip was booked, my skepticism and trepidation began to grow. I'd often heard Europa compared to Disney (I like the Disney parks, don't get me wrong, but I never really fell in love with them), and I'd heard a number of reviewers say that EP was "mediocre" and "massively overhyped", particularly through the lens of thrills (I am personally quite thrill-centred when reviewing theme parks, although they're admittedly not the be all and end all for me). So I had very high expectations, but also a degree of trepidation. I was thinking "Will it really be as good as they all say? Will I even like it that much?".
So, did EP live up to its insane hype, and were my years of wanting to visit worth it? Most definitely. I had phenomenally high expectations and hopes, and somehow, there was not one single thing about Europa Park that disappointed me. It truly is absolutely exceptional, in my opinion, and there are numerous reasons why.
Let's start with one of the principle elements of any theme park; the rides! Europa Park's ride selection delivered and then some, in my view. Of all the theme parks I've been to, I honestly think Europa Park has the most well-rounded ride selection. By my reckoning, it has at least one really excellent ride in each category of coasters, dark rides and water rides, with a plethora of others accompanying it, and that's without even getting onto the array of other wonderfully random attractions; Europa has you covered whatever your taste in rides is and however high your appetite for thrills is!
Yes, the park isn't the most thrilling theme park on earth, with drop towers, huge RMCs and nuts launch coasters rammed around every corner, but I think the thrill coasters that EP has are plenty satisfying enough to quench any coaster lover's thirst for thrills; I'm reasonably thrill-centred, and they were certainly more than enough to leave me feeling fulfilled! I know that none of Europa's thrill coasters are especially intense per se, but what they are is extremely fun and rerideable. And as someone who values fun and rerideability in a coaster more than out-and-out intensity, that suited me down to the ground! Silver Star, my favourite coaster at EP, is truly euphoric and absolutely breathtaking, in my view; an epically fun and intensely rerideable coaster with phenomenal airtime, and it shot straight into my #2 spot! Wodan, a close second for me, is also truly exceptional; it's absolutely demented, packed with airtime, and is so much fun, in my opinion! And Blue Fire is also a really excellent ride; with how I've been referring to it as "a distant third among Europa's big 3", you'd be forgiven for thinking that I didn't think much to it, but that couldn't be further from the truth. BF is great fun, in my opinion, with some lovely hangtime, a punchy launch, and a smooth ride experience, and that last inversion is absolutely amazing! When a ride like Blue Fire is being relegated to "distant third" status, I know that a park's thrill credentials are delivering for me, and I was slightly stunned at how one park can have two coasters as phenomenal as Silver Star and Wodan (both in my top 3!)!
Even pushing aside Europa's big 3 thrill coasters; many of Europa's plethora of sideline coasters are really great fun, and will put a smile on your face whether you're a young child, a teenager or a grandparent! And the park also has some really big hits, with truly universal appeal, in terms of dark rides and water rides as well; Piraten in Batavia is a truly spectacular dark ride (my favourite outside of Florida, and I like it a fair bit more than the original POTC at Magic Kingdom), and Voletarium is also a really solid, well-done dark ride as well. And I thought Fjord-Rafting was a really strong water ride too (I'd probably say it's my favourite water ride outside of Florida). Not to mention that for every big-ticket ride, there are about 5 smaller ones; in my opinion, one of the wonders of Europa Park is how many smaller sideline attractions there are. And in many cases, I don't think relegating them to "sideline attraction" status does them justice at all, because EP still weave a lot of magic and care into them; many of the smaller dark rides, for instance, are really quite fun in their own right, and even though some admittedly aren't as strong as others, in my view, something about stumbling across that type of attraction is really quite wonderful, and their presence makes EP's lineup so expansive, and you're never, ever short of things to do! I spent 3 full days at Europa, and there are still plenty of attractions I didn't experience and plenty of nooks and crannies I didn't even set foot in; it's truly massive!
Let's now talk about Europa's theming. I was unsure how well themed Europa would be, as they don't have the same types of budgets as the big duo of Disney & Universal, so I have to admit that I was stunned at how beautiful Europa is. Some of the vistas are absolutely stunning, and the general standard of theming and presentation at Europa is absolutely impeccable, in my opinion! Every crevice of Europa Park is packed with charm and detail; even many of the sideline attractions have stunningly detailed queue lines and great theming! For my money, Europa's general standard of theming is easily on par with the big 2; while they never hit quite the same highs as Disney & Universal in terms of raw scale and detail of themed vistas, I'd argue that the park is very consistent, and is easily on par with, if not more strongly themed than, a surprising proportion of Disney & Universal stuff. I also found that the themes really resonated with me; perhaps controversially, I've always liked the world style of theming, and I really enjoyed World Showcase at Epcot. When I left Epcot in April 2019, my thought was "World Showcase was great! If you removed Future World from the equation, gave each country a bit more depth and added considerably more rides, I think you'd have a truly epic park!". And as I was walking around Europa Park, I realised; 3 years ago, I was essentially describing Europa when describing the Epcot of my dreams. Theming-wise, I think the park is easily on par with World Showcase, and when you have countries with far greater depth and the amazing ride selection that Europa has, then I think 2019 Matt N was right; it did make a truly epic park!
Another thing that makes Europa great in my opinion is the atmosphere. I'm not someone who likes busy places, so with Europa being a 6 million a year theme park, I was unsure if I'd find it too crowded for me, but I found Europa to have a consistently relaxing and wonderfully pleasant atmosphere throughout, which made the park absolutely wonderful to be in, in my opinion; I never once felt uncomfortable within Europa Park! Adding onto this point, I found the whole place to have a wonderfully warm feeling about it throughout that I can't quite place my finger on; it almost reminded me in many ways of somewhere like Paultons Park, and I found it very heartwarming! I don't know quite what causes it, but the place feels very warm, special and magical throughout; "magic" is a cliched term within theme parkery by now, but I genuinely felt a very true sense of magic within Europa, and even setting foot in the place put a huge smile on my face; it's just so nice to be in!
I somehow haven't even mentioned the efficiency yet. My word; they don't mess around, do they? On the whole, Europa is a phenomenally well oiled machine, and that's perhaps most evident when you set foot into their coaster stations. It feels like you hardly have time to blink between sitting down and the train being dispatched; the hosts are literally running up and down the platforms, in some cases, and queues move phenomenally fast as a result. I attempted dispatch timing, and my results ended up being very unreliable, as you're never stood still long enough to get a good reading! With very limited levels of Fastrack compared to the average theme park also being added into the equation, queues that look massive do not take long at all; me and my mum rode Silver Star one day when the queue was bursting out of the Mercedes-Benz Hall and through the outdoor switchbacks, and we guesstimated that this queue would ordinarily be in the ballpark of an hour. It only took 15 minutes. Talk about efficient!
Before I ramble too much (as I'm conscious that I've already rambled quite a bit), I'll just conclude by saying that the key thing I love about Europa is that it is a true chameleon of a theme park. More so than anywhere else I've ever visited, it is well and truly shape-shifting; it can be whatever you want it to be at a given point in time. You want to endlessly reride coasters? You can do that! You want to discover dark rides and go on a world-class journey of immersion? You can do that! You want to just relax and take in pleasant, well-themed surroundings? You can do that! You want to eat & drink from various different outlets? You can do that! Europa Park just says "yes" to absolutely everything and delivers upon whatever your demand is extraordinarily well; you can spend a day focusing on just about anything at Europa Park, and every day will be equally fulfilling! Most theme parks I've been to seem to hone in on either thrills or immersion, but Europa Park is a wonderful cocktail of both, and I truly love that. I find it absolutely amazing how I can go from repeat riding 2 coasters in my top 3 to experiencing wonderfully themed dark rides to just strolling along taking in pleasant, well-themed surroundings all in the same park; that is no mean feat, but Europa somehow pulls it off!
So the big question is; after all the hype and obscenely high ratings, is Europa my favourite theme park I've ever visited? I can answer that rather decisively; yes. Of what I've visited, Europa Park is my favourite theme park in the world. Don't get me wrong, Islands of Adventure in Orlando, my previous favourite, is an absolutely phenomenal theme park, with an amazing ride lineup and exceptional theming making for a truly impeccable theme park experience that never stops giving and always feels well and truly magical, but Europa just nails every single aspect of theme parking, and is just so expansive and wonderful and consistently high quality in thrills, theming and everything else in between that it's absolutely unrivalled within the sphere of theme parks I've been to, in my opinion. I may have only visited once, but I got it and I felt the magic right from the off; it is a truly stunning theme park, and one I've truly fallen in love with. I can't wait for my next visit!