If you’re visiting Disneyland Paris, you probably fall into one of 6 categories:
- You’re a Disney-file and won’t let a visit to Paris go without visiting the magical land of Mouse. Perhaps you even crossed the pond just to go.
- You’re 7. Or have a child who’s 7, who’s been bombarded with ads for Disneyland Paris and has bombarded you with requests to go to Disneyland Paris until you finally capitulated. Your jaw already hurts from trying to convince yourself and others it’s going to be a great family holiday.
- You’re an adrenalin junkie and love amusement parks. Disneyland Paris is the biggest park (parks?) in Europe.
- It’s a hen’s weekend, but this is not what you had in mind when you suggested Paris.
- You live in Australia or New Zealand and have never been this close to anything Disney. You’re finally checking it off your bucket list (along with 52 other things while touring Europe)
- You’re French and Disneyland Paris is the closest amusement park. You may even have annual passes.
If you’re a category 1 or 6, this post is not for you. You’re a Disney expert and already know everything there is to know about visiting Disneyland Paris (and all the other Disney parks).
For everyone else planning a visit to Disneyland Paris: strap yourself in. Keep your hands, arms, feet, and legs inside the vehicle. Here’s what you need to know before you go.
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Visiting the Disney Parks in Paris
In April 1992, Eurodisney opened without the expected warm welcome. Locals protested the sale of land to Disney. French trade unions refused to accept Disney’s contracting practices. The Disney Corporation took on the Sisyphean task of seeking to accommodate European culture: there is no one European culture. By 1995, the project caused near bankruptcy and was quickly rebranded as Disneyland Paris.
Things have improved. Disneyland Paris is now the most popular theme park in Europe (by number of visitors).
Disney operates two parks, as well as a village and various hotels at Coupvray, around 45 km from the centre of Paris.
Last weekend, we visited Disneyland Paris. Our visit coincided with the 30th Anniversary celebrations of the park and we were excited to see what they would do. Apart from some new signage, themed vehicles and new character outfits, there was little to denote the event. And no merchandise is available yet. We looked.
If you’re going to France and wondering whether to include a day in Disneyland Paris, do. If you’re visiting Disneyland Paris specifically, and aren’t sure when to go, you might want to wait until 2023/2024, especially if an Avengers or Frozen fan has been bombarding you with requests to go.
Visiting Disneyland Park
I’ve visited Disneyland Paris numerous times but have only ever otherwise been to the original Disneyland in Anaheim, California. Disneyland Paris is a more carefully planned version of Disneyland Anaheim, with fewer rides.
Currently, the park is fresh from its winter repaint. Some attractions, such as the “It’s a Small World” ride and the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse are closed for renovations. The overall feel is dated.
The centrepiece of the park is still Sleeping Beauty’s castle. On a continent where castles are normal (one of which even inspired the Walt Disney castle), it is simply an iconic orientation point in the park and a backdrop for the “Illuminations” and fireworks.
Beware of the dragon!
The rides are the same as those in Anaheim too. The most recent ride is the misplaced Buzz Lightyear’s Laser Blast. The other Toy Story-themed rides are at Disney Studios.
There have been almost no additions since 2000 (and few since the park opened).
- The Pirates of the Caribbean films were so successful, the ride had a minor facelift to add Captain Jack Sparrow.
- Discoveryland (in the US: Tomorrowland) got a hint of Star Wars. Star Tours was updated. Space Mountain was renamed Hyperspace Mountain with a few banners and pictures of X-Wing fighters. And there’s a Star Wars-themed shop. It’s not clear what will happen once the new Star Wars area opens at Disney Studios.
Discoveryland still channels pure Jules Verne – très français. If you’re anticipating Galaxy’s Edge, you will be sorely disappointed.
Adrenalin junkies will probably be disappointed by Disneyland Paris. While the park does have some high-speed coasters, they do not have many compared to other parks (such as Gardaland).
The unsurpassed beauty of the park is the theming and the way it has been carefully put together with a focus on design and details.
The highlights are the parades and fireworks. Little has changed on the fireworks since we were last there in 2018. The “Illumination” was cute but brief.
Find a spot early to get a good view of the Illumination show. It will get very crowded shortly before it starts (even with COVID-19…).
Special mention goes to one of the “security guards” and Peter Pan, who were both really getting into the dancing during the parade.
If you are going to watch the parades, stand on the central round-about in front of Sleeping Beauty’s castle for the best views.
Disneyland Park is Disneyland. It is a wonderful, magical place. But if you have seen Disneyland elsewhere, like Anaheim, don’t expect anything significantly new or ground-breaking. That does not mean to say you will not have fun! Especially if you are 7 or a Disney-file.
Visiting Disney Studios
At the moment, with the exception of the Hollywood Tower, Disney Studios focuses primarily on younger children. The rides are themed around (more recent) Pixar and Disney cartoons. Disney Studios park is also much smaller than Disneyland Park.
A large section of the Disney Studio is currently closed. Two new themed areas are being built behind the scenes: The Avenger’s Campus and Arendale, a Frozen-themed area. In a second stage, a Star Wars-themed area and a 3-hectare lake/theatre will be added (hopefully in 2025). When they are finished, they’ll be fantastic, but probably very busy.
Now the Park is dejected, thrown together with little care or focus as a whole. (Poor) Attempts to integrate the newest ride, the Cars Road Trip, into the park despite its location just makes other sections of the park feel more disjointed and unloved.
Add to the general dejected feel: all three big rides in the park (Ratatouille, Crush’s Coaster, and the Hollywood Tower) were closed for longer periods, plagued by technical issues.
We missed Ratatouille this trip. It was closed most of the first day. When we were waiting in line during the second day (and only had about 5 minutes left until it was our turn), an issue stopped the ride for more than 40 minutes before everyone queuing had to exit the building (and it was time for us to drive home, too).
The Avenger’s Campus is due to open in summer 2022. This may make the Studios more exciting and worth the cost of entry. Conversely, until the hype dies down, it might be somewhere you wish to avoid.
Ditto Arendale. It’s scheduled to open in 2023, but there is no definite opening date yet.
Until then – and perhaps even then – you can easily see Disney Studios in half a day. This might affect your ticket choices.
Visiting Disneyland Paris – FAQs
How big is it?
Initially, Disney planned to build Westcot, the European pendant to Epcot. The frosty initial reception of Eurodisney quickly put a stop to those plans.
Disney still owns the land. Disney Studios and Disney village were added to Disneyland Park in 2002. it’s using some to build the new themed areas at Disney Studios Together, it is larger than Versailles, almost three times larger.
Be prepared to walk lots (more than 15km) and wait in lines. Wear comfortable shoes. Bring a stroller if you’re travelling with a young child (don’t rely on there being some available for hire).
How does it compare to the other parks?
If you’re not visiting Disneyland Paris for the first time, you’ll notice: little has changed. I know it takes time to develop the concepts, designs, etc for new areas or rides. Everything is clean and well maintained, but… tired.
The focus is definitely older films. The newest addition to the parks is the Cars Road Trip (Cars was released 16 years ago!). There are no rides for Merida, Raya and the Last Dragon, Baymax, Zootopia, Coco, Up, the Incredibles or Wall-E: most of the movies Miss M enjoys watching. The only evidence of their existence was some spinning statues for the 30th birthday celebrations and a few characters in the parade.
If you’re going on the Cars Road Trip with a little one who won’t scare easily and will keep their hands, arms, feet and legs inside the vehicle, let them climb in first to be closest to the action.
How much are tickets?
Ticket prices vary (significantly) depending on the season and day. Generally, they’ll be more expensive on the weekend and during school holidays.
The minimum price for an adult for one park for one day is €54. For two parks and two days, the price for an adult is at least €69 per day.
Prices increase to €101/€95 during the French school holidays. Easter (Maundy Thursday to Easter Monday) is even more expensive: €106 per day for adults and €98 for children.
Children aged 4 to 11 require a child’s ticket. Children aged 3 and under can enter for free. Children aged 12 or above pay adult prices.
You must buy your tickets in advance.
When should you go?
Tickets are generally cheapest in winter, and the park is decked out in its holiday finery. However, days and park hours are shorter, and some rides (like Big Thunder Railway) may have to close if the weather is bad.
April to mid-May and late September to November are good for visiting Disneyland Paris. There are a few public holidays in May (1 May, with Ascension and Whit Monday changing date depending on Easter), as well as school holidays in April-May and October-November which can affect the prices and hotel availability.
June, July and August can be quite hot, muggy and unpleasant in Paris. Parks are fuller because it’s school holidays throughout Europe and ticket prices reach their peak. If you can, avoid visiting Disneyland Paris during summer.
What about COVID?
Not to mention the elephant in the room (No, not Dumbo. We didn’t go on the Dumbo ride because the wait was too long for our mood), but various measures still apply to prevent the spread of COVID-19. These change regularly, so make sure you check the national and corporate requirements before visiting Disneyland Paris.
During our visit, we had to show proof of our vaccinated or recovered status each day. This gave us wrist bands to show at various checkpoints. Children under 11 did not need a wristband, but Miss M wanted one and was happy to prove her vaccinated status to get one.
French COVID measures have since been lifted. However, Disney may still impose such measures for the safety of its guests (like it does bag checks).
Face masks are no longer mandatory at the parks. Many cast members were still wearing one, especially those involved in food service. Around 15% of guests still wore face masks (we did while queuing).
Do you need a plan of attack?
Disney World is huge and Disneyland California is so crowded that you need a plan of attack to make the most of a trip to both parks. Generally, at Disneyland Paris, you can wing it.
Of course, that does not mean you shouldn’t make a few reservations and bookings. Have an idea of which rides you want to go on/which rides your group cannot go on (you can save your favourites in the Disneyland Paris App). And have some snacks in your bag. And a water bottle because the water fountains are currently not in use.
What’s a Magic Pass?
Magic Passes are simply magic.
Get rid of all the pieces of paper and put it all on one card (per person). The Magic Pass is your park entry and the keycard to your room, all in one handy (credit card sized) card. It also records any upgrades you booked, such as breakfast.
It works with the Disneyland app, which you can use to make reservations, book Premier Access, etc. It has any reservations you’ve made saved on it. Peter had booked a birthday cake for me, and it was programmed on our Magic Pass.
I don’t know what happens if you lose it…
A Disney birthday cake
If you’ve booked a birthday cake, you can have it at any restaurant you wish. It does not have to be the restaurant attached to your hotel. We had reservations for the Silver Spur Steakhouse and all Peter had to do was mention the cake when we got there.
The cast members at our restaurant assumed it was Miss M’s birthday. Picture 6 cast members singing “Happy Birthday,” and ceremonially presenting her with the cake, while she’s squirming in her seat and pointing to me in an attempt to tell them their mistake.
FYI: It was a chocolate mousse cake with pears, in a dome shape with large chocolate ears. Miss M gobbled the ears greedily. It easily fed 8 people and was much too much for us.
Note to Disney: Cake size options would significantly reduce waste….
Is Premier Access worth it?
While we’re on the topic of rides (or “attractions” as they are known in Disney-esque), the Premier Access is NOT worth it.
Disney changed the FastPass structure (now called Premier Access) and I understand the criticism. When you get to the park, you can book Premier Access. It’s subject to availability, and the cost depends on the ride.
Yes, you have to pay extra for it. For each ride. When we were there, it cost up to €18 for some rides – per person! I don’t know about you, but an additional €54 is too much to pay just for three people to go on one ride a little quicker.
Oh, and you can’t see what the price will be until you are in the park on the day.
Many rides also have a single rider option. You can use this option if there’s a ride you want to go on, but your child cannot (doesn’t meet the height requirements or the ride is unsuitable). It’s much quicker and cheaper than Premier Access but is not available on all rides.
Is there a language barrier?
Don’t forget: visiting Disneyland Paris is still visiting France. While Disney is great at advertising in most of Europe, at the parks, everything is in French and normally English.
Cast members speak French and normally English (not always fluently). They may speak additional languages, but don’t expect it.
For most things, this was not a problem. I speak enough French to get by (after living in Brussels, I should) and Peter and Miss M could ask for things in English.
Some of the rides did lose a little effect when they were all or mostly in French. Star Tours, for example, is not the same when Yoda and C3-PO have a conversation only in French. Que la force soit avec toi.
Does your child like to wander off? Normally, Miss M knows to find a Mummy and ask for help. This is more difficult when most park visitors are French. This time, she knew to find someone in a uniform or costume who would speak English. We worried the multiple uniforms would make finding someone difficult.
What about the Meet & Greets?
The language barrier did not affect the Meet & Greets.
We only met two characters while we were there because the lines were quite long.
Darth Vader “spoke” fluent English. The cast member was so quick with his pre-recorded statements they may not have been pre-recorded.
We also met Baloo from the Jungle Book. He (I assume from the height) was having fun and making everyone feel special, all without any language.
I always thought Lilo & Stitch was not popular. Then I saw the line-up for the Stitch Meet & Greet…
The characters will also sign autographs. If your child has an autograph book, don’t forget to bring it!
Is it a slice of France?
Even though so much is in French, Disney does not capitalise on being in France. Ratatouille is our favourite attraction, but it is the only one that seems at home in France.
The Aristocats and the Hunchback of Notre Dame are both set in Paris. Apart from some limited merchandise, neither film was represented in either park. It’s a missed opportunity.
Beauty and the Beast is also set in France. Originally, Disney planned to have a B&B themed attraction, but plans were put on ice when the park nearly went bankrupt.
The plot in Fantasyland where the ride was supposed to be is still vacant. Perhaps if the new Beauty and the Beast “attraction” at Japan Disney is a hit, something similar may open at Disneyland Paris to capitalise on the location…
Don’t bother looking for Ladybug/Marionette and Cat Noir when visiting Disneyland Paris. You won’t find them anywhere. Instead, do your own tour of Marionette’s Paris.
Want to check out some more Disney sites in France?
- Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris: This is the setting of the Hunchback of Notre Dame, complete with gargoyles. Unfortunately, the Cathedral has been closed to visitors since April 2019 when a fire destroyed much of it. It’s scheduled to reopen in 2024. The Cathedral also has a cameo in Cars 2.
- The rooftops of Paris: Go high in Paris and visit the rooftop of the Gallerie Lafayette (for free) or Printemps (a restaurant), or look down on them from above at Tour Montparnasse or the Eiffel Tower to get an Aristocats view.
- Musée des Egouts de Paris: Get lost in the underbelly of Paris like Remi in Ratatouille. Visit the sewer museum near Pont d’Alma, the banks of the Seine, the Pont d’Arcole and even the ratcatchers on Rue des Halles.
Outside of Paris
- Mont Saint Michel (Normandy): The iconic island monastery is the inspiration for Rapunzel’s parents’ castle in Tangled
- The Alsace Region: With small regional towns full of timber-framed houses, the Alsace region near Strasbourg is the setting for Beauty and the Beast. Our favourites are Colmar and Riquewihr.
- Chateau de Chambord (Loire Valley): With 440 rooms, 282 fireplaces and 84 stairs, the “ominous” and “impressive” Chateau is one of the most recognisable castles in the world and was the inspiration for the Beast’s castle in Beauty and the Beast.
How long do you need to spend?
It depends on your reason for going.
- If you’re a Disney-file, you’re going to want 2 to 3 days to really take in the park. There are only 4 rides that are unique to Paris:
- The Mysteries of the Nautilus, based on Captain Nemo’s submarine from Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
- Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril, a themed roller coaster.
- The Dragon’s Lair, complete with an animatronic dragon hiding below Sleeping Beauty’s castle.
- Alice’s Curious Labyrinth, a hedge maze with the Queen’s castle in the middle.
- If you’re visiting Disneyland Paris with young children, you can either take a day tour from Paris and cram in as much as possible or split the time over two days and two parks and take things a little slower.
- If you’re an adrenalin junkie, you can probably squeeze all your rides in one day, but you will want to see both parks. Until the Avenger’s Campus opens, your six priorities should be:
- Big Thunder Mountain
- Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril
- Star Tours
- Hyperspace Mountain
- Crush’s Coaster
- The Hollywood Tower
- If it’s a hen’s weekend, it will depend on how much time you want to spend at the park and how much time you want dining, drinking, even having afternoon tea at the Hotel New York.
- If you’re from the Antipodes, you probably want two days in the parks. That’s assuming you also want to visit the Mona Lisa, the Eiffel Tower and the sewers (with Remi and his friends) while you’re so close to Paris.
- If you’re French and you have annual passes, you can go for as long as you want. Again and again.
Staying at Disneyland Paris
This time, we had the opportunity to stay at one of the Disney hotels: the Newport Bay Club.
Our choice was based mostly on price and availability. The new (refurbished) Hotel New York (The Art of Marvel) was much too expensive for our budget and the budget-friendly Davy Crocket Ranch is not open in winter. We also did not necessarily need an overly themed hotel (I like Cars and Toy Story, but a Cars or western-themed room borders on kitsch).
The Newport Bay Club was exactly as I expected. Very clean, a little overly security conscious (with bag x-rays on entry), and dated. It has an early 1990s Martha’s Vineyard (à la Martha Stewart) vibe, with a large dash of mouse ears. Apparently, the hotel and all others will receive an update before the Paris 2024 Olympics. It’s necessary.
The rooms are not large, though are large by Paris or New York standards. They are well thought out with space for bags without feeling too crowded. However, we are not Antipodeans lugging around huge suitcases from our month-long European vacation…
I assume most rooms are family rooms, with space for two adults and two children. Ours had a connecting door, so more children could be in the adjoining room.
Other things to consider when selecting your hotel:
- Staying at the hotel means free parking. Parking otherwise currently costs €30 per day.
- The hotel runs a shuttle bus to the train station to make getting there easy without a car. Coincidently, the bus to the station is also the shuttle bus that takes guests to the parks: you still have to walk through the village to either park.
- The walk from the hotel to the parks takes about 10 minutes on the way there and about double that with tired little legs on the way back. Bring a stroller.
- Guests of the Disney hotels get free early access to both parks for one hour each day. This is a great time to go on some of the more popular rides before long queues develop, though not all rides are open early.
- If you’re visiting Disneyland Paris with adults – such as a hen’s party – you might prefer the Hotel New York. It seems to have the best facilities (pool, sauna, gym) and the best bar.
- Don’t worry about the other facilities when booking your accommodation. The Newport Bay Club has an indoor pool. Others have pools, indoor and outdoor playgrounds and even pony rides. Seriously, you will be so tired after a day visiting Disneyland Paris, you will not use them unless you are staying for multiple nights.
Book well in advance and look for discounts. If you can, go during the week, rather than on weekends or in school holidays when prices for both accommodation and park entry are significantly higher.
Disney will suggest you use their hotels as a base to see Paris. Unless you’re only planning to go into Paris once, or don’t mind paying extra for convenience, it will normally be better for your budget to stay in or just outside of Paris.
We’ve stayed in significantly cheaper accommodation in Noissy-le-Grand and other stops on the RER line between Paris and Disneyland. Most hotels have (small!) family rooms and are not far from the train station. Be aware: you don’t want to hang around the stations, especially at night.
However, it might be easier to find a hotel that can accommodate a larger family at Disneyland than it will be in Paris.
If you’re planning on staying at a local hotel not directly related to Disney, book early too. Make sure you factor parking (at the parks and the hotel) and transport costs, and the early entry benefit into account in your price calculations.
Booking.com has a good range of hotels.
Eating at Disneyland Paris
We made the mistake of not booking breakfast with our hotel (face-palm moment).
We had mistakenly assumed there would be several breakfast options at the parks. We were going to go on a few rides, then find some pastries and a coffee, or something similar.
Options are very limited. Especially if you, like me, don’t think that hamburgers, hotdogs, or cookies are suitable for breakfast.
After trying a potato waffle (with a smoky bacon sauce that hung around much longer than we’d like), we found some crepes.
Numerous tents had been set up near the Ratatouille attraction, like a mini-Christmas market. They sold traditional French dishes, such as tartiflette and crêpes. Unfortunately, I don’t think the stands are permanent. But the crêpes were good.
I don’t think we were the only family who expected better breakfast options. The stores selling coffee had long lines mid-morning…
Book well in advance and book breakfast with your hotel. As soon as you have paid for your accommodation, reserve your timeslot for breakfast. The popular times are booked out months in advance.
Many restaurants are closed at off-peak times. The App seems to be accurate, at least when it comes to making a booking, though it will show options that are not then available. This can make finding somewhere to eat like trying to get through the Glade in Maze Runner.
Most “restaurants” at the Disney parks sell menus. While there are options it can still be difficult for picky eaters.
I saw numerous signs encouraging guests to ask questions if they have any food allergies. I’m not sure how many options there are for those with more unusual or multiple allergies. There are vegan and vegetarian options available at some of the restaurants. You can view the menus online.
Many of the restaurants book out months in advance, especially for the more popular time slots. Book early, especially if you have a picky eater or kids who get grumpy if you don’t stick to a schedule.
Shopping at Disneyland Paris
One word: overwhelming.
Everything has a Disney character on it. And of course, what you want doesn’t exist for the characters you like.
While Disney has stopped the “exit through the giftshop” strategy, there are still shops everywhere. And stands selling all everything that blinks, spins and blows bubbles.
The shop next to Star Tours is best for Star Wars merchandise. Fantasyland is best for costumes. Disney & Co. (on the left hand side in Main Street) was best for stuffed toys. Bixbie Babies (at the top of Main Street next to the rotunda) is great if you are looking for a Disney Christmas ornament to grace your tree.
At Disney Studios, I liked the big shop that took up the right hand side (from the park) of the Legends of Hollywood Studio. It seemed to have a bit of everything, without going too nuts.
As I said before, we didn’t find any special 30th Anniversary goods. Not even a fridge magnet. Yes, we were disappointed.
If you can’t find something in the Park, try the shops at the Disney Village. The hotels have there own shops too, but the range is limited.
And for anyone who is “concerned” about the new “Turning Red” film: large Meilin stuffed red pandas sold out at Disneyland Paris on the opening weekend. We found ours at the Village.
I did find some Wonderland tea at a shop on Main Street. It’s perfect for my Mad Hatter’s afternoon tea. Of course, I had to get some.
Getting to Disneyland Paris
We drove. It gave us greater flexibility than the train and was cheaper for three (despite the significant increase in petrol prices). Don’t forget: the highways around Disneyland are toll roads.
To get to Disneyland from Paris, take the RER A line (red line) to Marne-la-Vallée/Chessy. Most signs will say Disneyland or have little Mickey Mouse ears to help you know you’re on the right line.
A single trip from Paris to the parks currently costs €5 for adults and €2.50 for children under 10 years (€10 and €5 return). The trip takes approximately 1 hour (from Châtelet-Les Halles).
Disney also operates shuttle buses from 4 locations within Paris, as well as airport transfers. See the Disney website for more information.
Enjoy your trip to Disneyland Paris
We hope you can learn from our mistakes and that we answered all your questions (at least we answered the questions we had). If we missed a question, please let us know!
Whether you’re a Disney-file or an adrenalin junkie, you’re visiting for a hen’s weekend or as part of your European odyssey, whether Disneyland Paris is your local amusement park or if you’re finally capitulating to your 7-year old’s constant bombardment: enjoy the magic. You can still find it at Disneyland Paris.
Are you still planning to visit Disneyland Paris?
Top 10 Tips for visiting Disneyland Paris
- Don’t plan to use Disneyland as a base to see Paris – it’s too expensive!
- Go during the week, rather than on weekend, if you can. Accommodation and ticket prices are cheaper, and parks are not as full.
- Book well in advance and use any available discounts to get the best prices.
- Have breakfast at your hotel.
- Make your meal reservations early, too.
- Wear comfortable shoes and be prepared to walk lots and stand in lines a long time.
- If you’re visiting Disneyland Paris with a small child, take a stroller.
- Prepare to spend only half a day at Disney Studios (at least until the Avengers Campus opens and the hype settles down).
- Use single rider over Premier Access, where available. Premier Access prices are ridiculous.
- Prepare your child (and yourself): watch the older Disney films, most recently. Aladdin, Cars, Nemo, Ratatouille and Toy Story (later you can add Frozen and the Avengers to the list).
Bonus tip: Let your inner child enjoy the magic!