Tootlafrance.ie takes a look at two of the most important and well-known theme parks that are both located about 40km from central Paris.
One of them is the famous Disneyland Paris. It started its life as Eurodisney and provoked a lot of bemused comments about how such a brash American creation was ever going to do well in a country that often gives the impression of treating brash Americana like something they were trying to scrape off the sole of their shoe. It’s not true, of course. Everyone likes a bit of fun and generally people don’t care where it comes from as long as it’s fun.The other one is Parc Astérix. It is a theme park dedicated to the famous Gaul and hero of the comic-strip series that spawned a number of animated and live-action films. Comic-book stuff (or BD/Bandes Dessinées) is huge in France. It’s huge in a way that’s not possible for Irish people to even begin to comprehend unless they spend some time in a comic book shop in France or Belgium or perhaps spend some time perusing the average French teenager’s home; which is generally stuffed with collections of series’ after series’ of BD books. Apart from Tintin (which is a Belgian creation), the only series to make an impact on these shores is The Adventures of Astérix the Gaul.
Parc Astérix is a huge park covering some 40ha, but Disneyland has two parks in one, covering a total of 81ha, making it exactly twice the size.
Parc Astérix receives about 1.7 million visitors per year and most are French, with foreigners making up just 20% of the visitor numbers.
In contrast, Disneyland is the biggest tourist attraction in Europe with some 16 million visitors annually, 60% of whom are foreign.
Disneyland wins it hands down. There is no comparison with the creative craziness of the likes of Space Mountain or the old-fashioned magic of the Peter Pan ride.
Parc Astérix is no slouch for the fun rides too. The “Tonnerre de Zeus” is one of the high-octane signature rides in the park. The trip to the village is a great experience for fans and there are many other rides in the 6 worlds of the parc
Ease of Access
If you have your car, Parc Astérix wins for me. It’s clearly signposted and has a large car park in the traditional style close to the parc entrance. If you don’t have a car, there is a very good transport system that will bring you to the door without any difficulty, so that’s hard to fault too. If you’re coming from Charles de Gaulle airport, you can take a combination of the RER train to central Paris and then the shuttle out to the parc. You are confined to the times of the shuttle, however. There are 12 per day, with the first leaving at 08:45 and the last returning at 18:30. The departure point is the Louvre Museum and it costs €20 with under-three’s travelling for free.
Accommodation & Food
Disneyland is fantastic for accommodation, but only if you’re in one of the big hotels close to the park. They’re expensive but come with US-standard facilities. Again, the volume of people makes it feel more like a factory than a fun-factory; a feeling you’ll definitely get with one of the less expensive hotels.
Food in both is excellent, with Astérix Park having betting value, particular in the eateries in the parks themselves. Parc Astérix doesn’t have the range of hotels that Disneyland has (100 rooms instead of 5,800), but its main hotel (Hotel des 3 Hiboux) is a lovely stay – a timber structure in the middle of a little forest that’s a very short walk from the main gates.
Parc Astérix is good but it’s not great. It’s geared up mostly to a French audience. Also, if you’re not a fan of Astérix or if none of your party are, then the enjoyment of it is diminished.
Disneyland is a more sophisticated operation but in order to pay for the massive infrastructure, they’re obliged to invite too many people through their doors. Everything is an enormous queue in high season or at weekends, when you might be lucky to try three of the attractions in a whole day.
I come down marginally in favour of Parc Astérix. It’s an enjoyable day or two with plenty of fun rides and experiences to enjoy. Disneyland is so huge that it can all feel like too much forced jollity and the queues are a major factor that almost counterbalance the brilliance of the rides and shows.