Although very suited to families with children, it is not childish: Efteling provides more that enough to do for any age category for at least an entire day.
Originally Efteling catered towards children with a fairy tale theme, nowadays Efteling appeals to young and old with its cultural, romantic and nostalgic theme and its variety of amusement rides. In over fifty years, Efteling has evolved from a general nature park with playground and unique Fairy Tale Forest, into a full-size theme park along the lines of Disneyland.
Efteling is famous for its great attention to detail, the green atmosphere and excellent dark rides. With four million visitors annually, it's in the top of European theme parks right after the Disney parks in France and Europa Park in Germany.
The base for the park as it is now was created in 1950. Artist Anton Pieck and inventor Peter Reijnders set out to create a quality fairy tale forest. Pieck's remarkable, nostalgic style combined with Reijnders' ingenuity and the use of "real" materials created an enchanting forest that immediately profiled Efteling as a national attraction upon its opening in 1952. The style set by Pieck has been the base for many developments after that, setting the park apart.
The most important milestones in its development :
- 1933: A catholic complex of sporting facilities is founded.
- 1952: The park opens its Fairy Tale Forest, which instantly becomes a tourist hit; this is considered the start of the current Efteling.
- 1978: The Haunted Castle is the first "large scale" attraction.
- 1980: Efteling starts to build thrill-rides (rollercoasters and the like) to appeal to a larger audience.
- 1987: Efteling returns to its roots with building large attractions but always themed around the (broad) fairy tales and myths theme; continues until today.
- 1999: Start of Winter Efteling. The goal is to be open year round.
- 2004: Efteling actively works on expansion with more lodging and facilities, a theatre with musical productions and a golf course.
- 2010: The Efteling gets opened year-round from April 1 and onwards. The park is from now opened everyday in November–March.
The opening is 365 days a year. The park opens at 10 am (march-November) or 11 am (November-march). Closing time was 21:00 in July and August, but has been 20:00 since 2011 for unclear reasons. Closing time in July/August is 24:00 on Saturdays. 18:00 is the closing time in the rest of the year, with exceptions in some winter weekends and Christmas Holiday: 20:00. There's also a Winter Efteling that opens between November and march, see the web site for exact details.
Efteling is reachable in the following ways:
- By car: the park has good parking space for around €10 per day. The park is signposted from the nearby highways.
- By train: special buses depart from 's Hertogenbosch and Tilburg railway stations at least hourly in the mornings. There's special tickets for up to three people traveling together.
- By bike: Efteling provides a guarded bicycle parking for €1 per day. The surroundings are nice green routes, a bike ride to Efteling is recommended if you're staying in the neighbourhood!
The entrance fee is €38 off-season and €40 in the summer (as of 2018). Discounts are available for tickets bought through their website or at resellers like all Albert Heijn supermarkets. Such prepaid tickets can save you a queue at the entrance on busy days. There's also a combination train+bus+entrance ticket, which is a good deal, but this can only be ordered from the NS website in advance. Children 0-2 are free of charge.
Once inside, all attractions and shows are free (except for the Game Gallery).
Dogs are not allowed in but there's a kennel at the entrance building.
Once inside the park, everything can be done on foot. It's about 65 ha big, that's around 20% larger than Disneyland Paris. Wheelchairs are available for free, and carts to take kids around kan be rented for €3.
The park is divided into four realms: Fairy Realm (Marerijk), Travel Realm (Reizenrijk), Rough Realm (Ruigrijk) and Alternative Realm (Anderrijk).
There's a (real) Steam Train that services one station in the Marerijk and one in the Ruigrijk and provides a scenic tour around the park.
A division between see and do is not entirely clear for a theme park, but attractions will be considered under do.
The park itself is set in a real forest, and that shows: there's a lot of green to see, and the small army of gardeners bring in large quantities of flowers each season. There's also a collection of tame animals like peacocks, ducks, geese and other birds.
Also to see are the shows and wandering entertainment. During the summer there's a free show in the Efteling Theatre multiple times a day. Besides that, the park features lots of smaller shows which change by the season, and wandering theatrical entertainment. For an up-to-date list, be sure to catch the information leaflet when entering.
A remarkable figure around the park is Holle Bolle Gijs (see image below), a sturdy character similar to Humpty Dumpty, who is insatisfiable in his hunger for paper. He keeps on asking "Paper Here", and thanks visitors that feed him their waste.
Mostly in winter, a yearly changing large-scale musical production is set in the Efteling Theatre.
Below are the most important attractions in the park; either because of popularity or because of notability. They are divided by realm.
Fairy Realm (Marerijk)
This is where it all started with the fairy tale forest and playground. This is also the place where the style of founder Anton Pieck can best be observed.
- 1 Dreamflight (Droomvlucht). The most popular in the park and a must-do. You embark on a flying journey through the wonderful world of fairies, pixies and trolls in a beautiful surrounding. A real feel-good attraction.
- 2 Fairy Tale Forest (Sprookjesbos). A must-do. Take your time for a two-hour walk through this part of the forest, and be surprised at the next scene around every corner, such as the castle of the Sleeping Beauty, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, the Flying Fakir and the Girl with the Matchsticks.
- Land van Laaf. A funny village where the Laafs originate.
- 3 Anton Pieck Square. A nostalgic Dutch square, with classic merry-go-rounds, and the Efteling museum.
- 4 Villa Volta. In this so-called mad house, you join goat rider Hugo in his house. Suddenly, what you thought was up is now down. Can be scary.
- Carousselpaleis. Discover a 100 year old steam caroussel, a train diorama and a water organ.
- Steam Train. This real steam train takes you around the park.
Travel Realm (Reizenrijk)
- Vogel Rok: indoor coaster (lightly) themed around Sindbad the Sailor; make a ride through the dark with Bird Roc. Height restriction: 1.20m.
- Carnaval Festival: a ride along different countries celebrating, similar to Disney's It's A Small World.
- Pagode: this flying temple gives excellent views of the park and its green surroundings.
- Other attractions: 'teacups' ride (Monsieur Cannibale), boat ride, trains, infant playground.
Adventure Realm (Ruigrijk)
- Python: the first and still biggest rollercoaster in Efteling, with four loops. This was the largest rollercoaster on the European mainland. Height restriction: 1.20m
- Joris en de Draak (George and the Dragon): modern wooden racing coaster based on the legend of Saint George. Two trains, based on the elements fire and water, race each other to defeat the Dragon in the swamp. Height restriction: 1.20m, except when in the middle accompanied by a taller person: 1.10m.
- De Vliegende Hollander (The Flying Dutchman): combination of walkthrough, dark ride, coaster and water splash. Height restriction: 1.20m.
- Baron 1898 (opening on July 1st, 2015): A dive coaster with a 37.5-meters, almost vertical dive, with a gold mine-theme, telling the story of Gustave Hooghmoed. Height restriction: 1.40m.
- Other attractions: swinging ship, merry-go-round, oldtimer cars, game gallery.
Alternative Realm (Anderrijk)
- Fata Morgana is a must-do: travel through an Arabic world like in the stories of 1001 nights: from a busy market to the pasha on his throne. A lot of details, excellent audio-animatronics.
- Piraña, a surprising river rapids ride.
- The Haunted Castle is not really scary anymore – even if its atmosphere arouses a sweet uneasy feeling... – but still beautifully made : every ten minutes, the visitor can see a large gothic scene come to "life" at the hour of midnight.
- Pandadroom (Pandavision): a 3D cinema reminding us to care for mother Earth.
- Other attractions: bobsled ride, rowing boats.
All in all there's more than enough for at least an entire day of fun.
Spread around the park are merchandising stores which sell items related to the attractions as well as general convenience items.
At the Anton Pieck square, there's also three historic vending machines: a chicken, a goose and a little blacksmith. When a coin is inserted, they shortly come to life and produce some kind of small toy – it's a surprise what it will be.
Unfortunately, exquisite food is not Efteling's strong point. The park excels in snack food though, with lots of places to buy fries or pizza. Try the typical Dutch fries with Mayonnaise at the Smulpaap in Marerijk. Also available are the Dutch "snack wall" vending machines that give you a warm snack when money is inserted.
Apart from snacks, there's two self-service restaurants: Witte Paard (white horse) in Marerijk and De Ballonvaarder in Reizenrijk. Next to the latter is also a waited restaurant Welkom, and one in the theatre near the entrance. There serve relatively simple dishes and special children's menus.
Recommended is Het Poffertje across the Caroussel palace. Here you can eat authentic Dutch poffertjes—very small pancakes served with butter and sugar.
In contrast to many other theme parks, bringing your own food is perfectly allowed. Although smoking is allowed in open air, tobacco is not sold inside the park.
Of course there's lots of places to buy a cola or a coffee. The restaurants also sell beer and wine. Want to hang around after closing time? Try the bar of the Efteling Hotel.
- Efteling Hotel is a four star hotel just outside the park. It's equipped with both regular rooms and specially themed suites. It offers packages for rooms with park entrance. More information [dead link]
- Efteling also has his own bungalow park, named Bosrijk. There are 2 types of houses: a 'Boshuys' (Woodland Cottage), located near woodland, dunes or alongside water, and a 'Dorpshuys' (Village Cottage), located on a village square. Each house can sleep 6 or 8 people. There are also 2 types of apartments, 'Poorthuysappartementen' (Gate House apartments), located at the entrance of the Bosrijk park (in the same building as the facilities), and 'Landhuysappartementen' (Manor House apartments), located at a Manor House at the other side of the Bosrijk park. Each apartment can sleap 4 people. More information [dead link]
- There's a budget Formula 1 hotel in Waalwijk, about 2 km away.
- The village of Kaatsheuvel has some smaller hotels. Nearby cities Den Bosch and Tilburg have lots of facilities.
- There are several camp sites close to Efteling, raging from simple with a few tents to full holiday paradises.
- On its web site, Efteling has an overview of nearby facilities under the name of Efteling Dream Days.
On a small distance from the Efteling there's the historic city of 's-Hertogenbosch which can be combined with a trip to the Efteling easily.