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Five of the best Christmas theme-park experiences in Europe

Wrap up warm for festive thrill rides, sparkling trees, skating and Santa Claus at some of Europe’s top theme parks.

Santa Claus prepares for Christmas at Copenhagen's Tivoli Gardens, which features ballet, light projections and a forest merry-go-round.

Photograph by Tivoli
Published 17 Dec 2021, 23:00 GMT

1. Parc Asterix, France

The theme park dedicated to everyone’s favourite Gaul hosts a firmly Gallic Christmas celebration from 18 December to 2 January. Just north of Paris, the park’s attractions are based on the themes in Rene Goscinny and Albert Uderzo’s Asterix books — so there’s the Roman Empire, Ancient Greece, Egypt, the Vikings and, of course, Gaul. It’s decorated for the festive season, with snow-covered trees and an outdoor Christmas market where stalls sell tartiflette and traditional French Christmas treats. There’s ice skating, sledging and special Christmas shows, including a circus, a magic performance and fireworks. Visitors can immerse themselves fully by staying in one of the three on-site hotels: pretty Les Quais de Lutèce is a ‘village’ set up around a replica of the banks of the Seine in Roman-era Paris, when it was known as Lutetia; woodland-themed Le Trois Hiboux is set in a forest, with lots of outdoor space to explore; while La Cité Suspendue is supposedly a long-forgotten hanging city — the remains of an ancient Celtic civilisation that worshipped trees. 

Parc Asterix, just outside Paris, offers the chance to have a go at winter sports such as sledging and ice skating as well as meeting the recalcitrant Gaul.

Photograph by Park Asterix

2. Efteling, Netherlands

Always a good choice for a fairytale trip, fantastical Dutch theme park Efteling is forever bursting with things to delight the entire family. Winter here involves a magical mix of thousands of twinkling lights, artificial snow, Christmas trees and bonfires at each of the squares. There are plenty of wintry snacks and hot drinks on sale, a proper ice rink, cross-country skiing and an ice palace (complete with slide), as well as special winter shows. All the usual rides and attractions are open, too. The winter celebrations run from 15 November to 6 February. 

3. Legoland, England

For fans of the legendary brick, this is the festive playground to visit. More than 25 of the rides, as well as shows and attractions, are open at Legoland Windsor Resort during its Legoland at Christmas event, which runs from 27 November to 3 January. There’s the usual festive magic scattered around the park — trees, snow and plenty of pretty lights — with special Lego touches. Little ones can meet Father Christmas in his log cabin and receive a special Lego gift; Santa also rides around the park in his magical sleigh to entertain the crowds. Looking for more? There are Lego Make and Take activities, a Duplo puppet pantomime and the special Holiday Harbour light show to enjoy, as well as Lego Friends carol singing and an elf post office where kids can send their letter to the big man. 

Meet Father Christmas in brick form at Windsor's Legoland at Christmas event before seeing the real thing on his magical sleigh riding around the park.

Photograph by Legoland Windsor

4. Europa-Park, Germany

Germany’s largest theme park’s Winter Magic season, from 27 November to 9 January, features 3,000 Christmas trees, 10,000 baubles and 6,000 fairy lights. If those numbers aren’t enough to impress, there’s a circus, ice show, ice rink and children’s ski school, 45 huge light figures, fire pits and more. While there are thrills available on the park’s rides, including a 180ft-high big wheel, those looking for traditional festive touches will be pleased with the wooden carousel and Alpine nativity scene. 

The Indian Pavilion at Tivoli Gardens in Denmark, decorated for Christmas.

Photograph by Tivoli

5. Tivoli Gardens, Denmark

Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens offers a fairytale Christmas adventure to visitors from 19 November to 2 January. Plenty of Christmas trees and sparkling lights will make the cold winter darkness in the Danish capital seem magical and cosy, with snow-clad stalls offering winter treats and the Tivoli Youth Guard playing festive tunes all around the iconic gardens. With light projections, Santa’s grotto in the Pantomime Theatre, The Snow Queen Christmas ballet at the Tivoli Concert Hall and Elf Train and Forest Merry-Go-Round rides for little ones, it promises to be a lovely experience for the whole family.

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