The ability to stay in one country and then hop over a border for a day trip is something that (as a little islander Brit) still flummoxes me. This is the beauty of Europe and the EU and… well anyway not going into those feelings.
Part of the big sell of Strasbourg for me was that it would mean a return trip to Europa Park. I was there previously in August 2018 and I have been telling anyone who asks that this is the best theme park in the world full stop. Have I been to enough to make this judgement? No, but as a package it just blows everywhere out of the water.
In December, the ways to get there are a bit more limited as we aren’t exactly in the on season. There is the traditional train and express bus route – but it’s a bit of a faff as you need to change trains and that’s not something that you want to be doing too late at night. Thankfully there is a daily coach that stops there as part of a route between Strasbourg and Freiburg – which ended up being perfect.
I think in my post from four years ago, I went into a lot of detail about the things we did on our day. Most of this still stands. Europa Park is just this perfect mix of excellent theming and variety in well made attractions. They are even starting to lean more into their own IP as part of creating an internal universe, which I think is brilliant. If some of their kids books had been in English, I would have been tempted to pick up a copy.
So, what is different between now and over four years ago? For one thing the entire park has been decked out for Christmas and the results are truly stunning. During the day, it is pretty but you wait in anticipation for the sun to set and the lights to go on. And when they did it was a unreal fairyland. Everywhere came alive. The German main streets, Spain and Scandinavian areas were especially magical with all their Christmas lights on. I would have been happy to stay longer and just walked around without getting on rides.
Being the area of the world we are in, there is also a Christmas Market here with a main concentration of stalls in Germany, but other country areas also have their own offerings. Even though lunch was a return trip to the Foodloop where we had some pretty brilliant burgers delivered by rollercoaster, there was a chance to have some actual winter snacks from the market. Namely dampfnudel and a cinnamon sugar covered Baum-striezel. Perfect for an evening before watching the parade.
As for new rides, two have opened since we were last here and one has reopened since it was damaged in a fire back in May 2018. Starting with the new (at least to me) there is the CanCan coaster – which opened very soon after we were here. It’s a bit of a batshit take on Space Mountain where you are randomly bombarded with Paris Ian imagery and then end up in the Moulin Rouge with cancan girls and fireworks – I loved it.
Second is new this year: Josefina’s Magical Imperial Journey. This is a replacement of a ride that was part of the shrinking Adventure Land, and a welcome replacement at that. What was previously a ride through ‘Africa’ in a way that smelt distinctly colonialismy, has become a fairytale boat ride in an expanded Austria area. A good move to remove racist depictions from the park and another expansion of the internal consistency of the park.
That finally brings me to the Pirates of Batavia. I bet if it hadn’t burned to the ground in 2018 it would not be anywhere near as good now. They took their time rebuilding and this current incarnation first had visitors in 2020. In many ways it’s a typical dark ride much like the similar ‘Pirates’ ride in Disney. However, the animatronics are so much better and so much is happening in every scene that second ride was well worth it.
It’s sad to leave Europa Park. It’s one of those rare places where I just have moments of the unmitigated joy that comes from being a child. Whether it’s catching air on Woden, flying through Europe on the Voletarium (which made me cry, again), or watching a T-Rex having a birthday party – Europa Park just speaks to me in ways that few places do.
I will be back in a few years to see what they are going to come up with for their new 19th land: Croatia. Will we have a similar experience today where pretty much all attractions were immediately walk on to ride? Probably not, it was pretty insane today. But I just cannot wait to see what their take on Nikola Tesla will be.
Tomorrow is our last day here and I am writing this having picked up a small dinner from the McDonald’s across the street. My rule still applies of trying to have something unavailable in the UK – so I had their version of the Croque Monsieur and the brand new McQuesadilla that is being trialed in France. I would have both of those again, but I probably won’t as tomorrow will be a final whip around of the Strasbourg markets before heading back to London.