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Best Theme Parks in Europe: Weird and Wonderful Adventure Parks

From cartoons to stand up comedy, us human beings have a silly side at all ages! Nowhere is this clearer than at the heart of a theme park. Theme parks or “amusement parks” bring out the children in all of us. It is a testament to our inner toddler that there are a whopping 300 of these parks dotted around Europe, which attract over 150 million people a year. Some of the best theme parks in Europe are the wackiest ones. Let's dive in and explore what these adventure lands are all about, and then check out the very weirdest and wackiest adventure parks in Europe! Here's a handy list in case you're in a hurry to get on that ride. And, scroll down to the bottom and you can see them all on a map!

1. Phantasialand, Germany 

2. Efteling, Netherlands

3. Le Puy du Fou, France

4. BonBon-Land, Denmark

5. Tivoli Gardens, Denmark

6. Liseberg, Sweden

7. Tayto Park, Ireland

8. Parc Astérix, France

9. Tibidabo, Spain


What are theme parks anyway?


Hear the word “theme park” and what springs to mind? Very likely Disneyland in Paris; ticket touts dressed as Yogi Bear and anaconda queues of hyperactive children bearing trees of candyfloss (cotton candy) like weapons. If you are a weary veteran of one of Europe's most popular amusement parks, the word may fill you memories of claustrophobia from being crushed by a crowd of 9-year-old girls surging into the Sleeping Beauty Castle, or slight nausea from living on fried chips and cheese for three days in a row.

It’s all in the name. “Theme” Park: we flock in enthusiastic crowds to see miniature cities, replicas of Wild West towns or lands populated by talking animals. Some of the best theme parks in Europe are centered on one theme. Take for example, Parc Asterix in France for fans of the famous cartoon series or Europa Park in Germany which is a dwarfed model of the continent.

Are we trying to escape reality? Or maybe all of us, adults and children, just fancy a bit of separation from our stomachs on a rollercoaster ride, or some cheap thrills on a spooky ghost train.


The Weird and Wonderful Adventure Parks


Here is your guide to the weird and wonderful theme parks around Europe. Forget the shiny new rides and attractions, the hyperactive children and python queues. Save Disneyland Paris for the big screen and instead check out these quirky and weird theme parks hidden around Europe.

Disclaimer: if you opened up this article because you’re a digital thrill seeker on the hunt for the amusement parks in Europe with the fastest roller coasters, this is for you. Head to Ferrari Land in Portaventura in the Tarragona Province of Spain (a short train ride from Barcelona).

If you're an adrenalin junkie, then Red Force is the drug for you! This rollercoaster is the fastest in Europe, it's over 300 foot tall and accelerates from 0 to 112 mph in just five seconds! Do book ahead because the queues are epic. But hey, it is the fastest in Europe!

Ticket to PortAventura Park and Ferrari Land


From

€55.00


Ever dreamed of doing a Mexican wave as you watch Gladiators fight in the Colosseum? Or maybe you'd prefer to get a chairlift to a world of elves, fairies, and trolls? For fantasy lovers, thrill seekers and children inside and out, there will be a theme park below for you!


1. Phantasialand, Germany



Germany's second-biggest amusement park, Phantasialand attracts over 1.75 million visitors a year. It has something for everyone: rollercoasters and stomach spinners, arcades and water rides. Think of it as Germany's answer to Disneyland! What makes it weird and wonderful you ask? The reason Phantasialand made the cut for one of the best theme parks in Europe is for its strange themes. This park is six worlds in one: Berlin, China Town, Deep in Africa, Fantasy, Mexico and Mystery. Wonderful, right?

My personal favourite was the Black Mamba rollercoaster. No ordinary ride, it rattles at high speed through the Congolese jungle! (Well, not really, but it fooled me!).

WINNER: All-rounder family friendly.

2. Efteling, Netherlands



This unique, fantastical world is so niche it even has its own subreddit! (The internet resource for the weird and wacky). Efteling is like nowhere else on earth. The fairytale land is located in the heart of the Netherlands, south of Rotterdam. For those within the park, however, it is the middle earth of Lord of the Rings, beyond the Wall from Game of Thrones and through the wardrobe to Narnia. If you're a Game of Thrones fan, it's worth a trip to Spain to check out some of the most incredible filming locations of the famous series.

The rides and attractions at Efteling are based on ancient legends, fairy tales, and mythology. The best yet, the park is set in a lush forest deep in the Netherlands. Magic truly comes to life!

Climb aboard a trackless dark ride to visit the palace of Symbolica. A dark and strange world Lewis Carrol could have written. Or go for a wander in the Magical Forest but watch out for the trolls!

WINNER: Most fantastical


3. Le Puy du Fou, France



Have you ever wished you could step into a time machine? We've found one, it's called Le Puy du Fou! This historic park in the heart of the Vendée region of Western France is precisely this. An opportunity to step back in time and relive the pages of history books.

The weirdest thing about Le Puy du Fou is that this is an adventure park with no rides! Instead, history comes alive through medieval reenactments, gladiator battles, Vikings and chariot races. The special effects are flawless and the stunt actors second to none. Not only is this one of the best theme parks in Europe, but this park is also twice winner of the “World's Best Park”.

If you love bloody battles or yearn for your time machine, then head to Le Puy du Fou.

That's even the park slogan: "L'Histoire n'attend que vous" (History is waiting for you).  What are you waiting for?

WINNER: Historic

4. BonBon-Land, Denmark



Hands down the weirdest park in Europe! Where else could you ride Henry the Dog, the rollercoaster that is propelled by its own farts? (and sails over a sea of plastic dog poop below). Toddlers and toilet humour fans will be in heaven in the Bonbon-Land, Denmark’s wacky wonderland.

Bonbon-Land is a 34 acre land of farting, defecating and puking animals. Imagine all your Disneyland classics, coming home from a heavy night out! For kids who love potty jokes and adults who like scatological humour, this is the park for you! When it comes to weird theme parks, BonBon-Land takes the biccy!

Keep your tongue firmly in your cheek.

WINNER: Whackiest


5. Tivoli Gardens, Denmark



The second oldest amusement park in the world, Tivoli Gardens opened in 1848, in Denmark’s capital city Copenhagen. Like many of the oldest theme parks, this began as a “pleasure garden”. King Christian VIII commissioned this green space to be a place of respite and amusement for city-dwellers. Then, people were amused by gentle walks among flower beds; now we need to plummet from hundreds of feet high to feel satisfied!

Wacky? Not so much. How did it make it onto this list of the weird and wonderful best theme parks in Europe you ask? The eclectic mix of old and new, rambling wooden rollercoasters with shiny restaurants make this a quirky and eery place.

WINNER: Oldest

6. Liseberg, Sweden



Theme parks mean greasy food, tinny music and crowds right? Not at Liseberg Park in Sweden. This unique funfair in Gothenburg, western Sweden has more festival vibes and is renowned for its fabulous fresh food. The park was recently awarded two Michelin stars for its cuisine! This family-friendly place truly has something for everyone. Meet Balder, the best wooden roller coaster in the world, and Atmosfear, Europe's largest free-fall ride.

For those who prefer to keep their guts in one place, there is a packed concert programme with tons of great music on offer for this coming summer. Liseberg plans to become Gothenburg's prime spot for live music, with two pretty sweet open top bars.

Not so weird, but class A nosh, fun rides plus great music? Pretty wonderful!

WINNER: Food and atmosphere

7. Tayto Park, Ireland



Ireland’s only theme park is all about potatoes. Yes, you read that right! Potato rides, an enormous topiary sculpture of a potato, and you can even tour the potato factory and see where the magic happens! Spud-tacular.

This friendly and laidback amusement park is themed on Mr.Tayto, Ireland’s most popular brand of potato crisps. More than just a brand, Taytos crisps form part of Irish DNA. An integral part of the cultural heritage of Ireland, Tayto is right up there after James Joyce and Arthur Guinness.

The best part of this wacky Potato-land amusement park is that it’s cheap as chips!

WINNER: Chip and cheerful

8. Parc Astérix, France



Forget about Disneyland, if you’re looking for a fun park in France head to Parc Astérix! This park is centred on the famous French cartoon “Astérix and Obelix”, the goofy and loveable duo from the village in Gaul fighting off the mighty Roman army.

Fans of the cartoon series love the park. It is also a great day out for the whole family, and you can soak up the history of the Gaul empire while hopping on and off thrill rides!

Be warned though: this comical adventure park is certainly not as polished as its better known Disney twin. It's old-fashioned in more ways than the decor: smoking in public areas is ignored, and the shows are offered in French only.

Who wants to spin around in a teacup when you could get comfy in a cauldron!

WINNER: Quaintest

9. Tibidabo, Barcelona



If you’re “backpacking across Western Europe...hiking in the foothills of mount Tibidabo”, you’re either trying out Joey’s pickup line from Friends, or you are heading to the Tibidabo Park!

It is no wonder the hit American sitcom chose to reference Tibidabo. This remarkable funfair overlooking the city of Barcelona is considered one of the best theme parks in Europe. For its hair-raising log ride? Or the bloodcurdling ghost-train? Not really! Tibidabo is known and loved for its weird and wonderful rides, breathtaking views over Barcelona and place in history as Europe's third oldest amusement park. Over 25 rides: the red Plane, the Miramirall Hall of Mirrors and the quintessential red plane rollercoaster.

Tibidabo Amusement Park Ticket


From

€28.50


Nestled up high in the green rolling hills of Tibidabo, the Giradabo Ferris Wheel is second to none, and culture fans can also visit the Sagrat Cor Cathedral that looms over the park itself. While the park has had many renovations in recent years, its slightly dilapidated atmosphere gives it that special something and sets it apart from many other European parks.

Even Walt Disney recognized its charm. In 1957 he offered to buy its collection from the Automata Museum, for any price! Yet he was turned down. The collection (which dates from 1880), like Tibidabo Park itself, is priceless.

WINNER: Location

Ready to check out the best weird and wonderful theme parks in Europe? Pop your digital map in your phone and get rollercoasting!

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