Winter Efteling: Uncommercial magic, without the mouse!

We have visited, and loved, Disneyland Paris at Christmas. But Winter Efteling at Christmas is a whole different ball game! Whilst Efteling is a commercial endeavour (they’re a theme park, their whole job is to make money) there are fewer gift shops, fewer ‘add-ons’, and no real pressure to spend money when you’re inside the park. Instead there is the same nostalgic fairy tale stories that were there when I first visited the park 30 years ago, incredibly modern rollercoasters, and a world of winter magic.

Winter Efteling: The Facts

  • We visited from 24th – 27th December. This is a special Christmas package, which is a subset of Winter Efteling. (They are now taking bookings for Christmas 2021).
  • We stayed in the  Bosrijk park, which is the closest holiday cottage village to the park, and is also the only village with a swimming pool (the boys love to swim!)
  • The Christmas package includes a luxury breakfast delivery to your cottage for each day of your stay, and this included so much delicious fresh food we didn’t once eat it all.
  • The Christmas package also includes park entry for every day of your stay, including your arrival and departure days.
  • You can add on a Christmas dinner package as an extra: we did this but it was the only thing we regretted during our whole stay!

How We Got There

We travelled from Harwich to the Hook of Holland via Stena Line ferries. We chose to take the overnight ferry going out, so that we would arrive early in the morning in time to enjoy a full day in the park. This ferry departs at 11pm each evening, but you can check in from 8.15pm and board the ferry at 9pm. We did this and had the boys tucked up in bed before the ship even started moving: I try to do the same when we make this journey, because then I can sleep my way through all my motion sickness! We woke up in the morning thanks to the ship-wide wake up call and had just enough time for croissants, a play, and a walk to the outside deck to see the sea before it was time to head to the car.

Coming back we were on a late afternoon sailing, but we still paid extra to have a cabin so that the boys could rest, nap, and watch the tv in their own private space. On day time crossings you can book and pay for these as you board the ferry, rather than in advance, so you don’t have to decide before you travel if this will be the right option for you. We split our time between the cabin and exploring the ship: there is a small kids play area (with a small amount of soft play equipment, a couple of wall mounted games, and on some sailings an entertainer), a cinema, a duty-free shop and a couple of restaurants where the food is much better than you would expect! The time passed surprisingly quickly. (Disclaimer: I had a nap!)

Our Winter Efteling Experience

Winter Efteling has all of the magic of Efteling but with added winter wonderland feels: it’s important to note that the focus is on winter here, not on Christmas, so you won’t find Santa but you will find huge fire pits dotted around the park, where you can stop to warm your hands, enjoy the firelight and even toast marshmallows.

Other wintery touches that we loved was the purpose-built Winter Efteling tent where you could enjoy indoor/outdoor ice skating, try tubing down a man-made slope, or just enjoy a mug of hot chocolate whilst listening to the band. There was also a traditional German (or perhaps Dutch?) Christmas market with all of the delicious foods and entertainment that accompanies that, and of course Christmas trees dotted all around the park too. The cross country ski experience is a year-round offering at Efteling, but that also had a really lovely feel at this time of year.

Add to that the abundance of snow frosted pine trees, and you have the recipe for a perfect, but not too over the top, Christmas. It was just magical!

The Rides and Attractions

If you’re looking for roller coaster reviews then sadly, you’ve come to the wrong place! Our kids are small enough that the focus was on a more gentle kind of fun – and those fun rides for kids are in abundance here. In fact, despite the fact that we enjoyed 4 full park days, and the queue levels were fairly low, we still didn’t ride all of them!

We rode traditional carousels and swing boats. Ubiquitous tea cups were dressed up to look like cannibals’ cauldrons. Sky rides showed us the view of the whole park, and boat rides let us see it in a new light by water. Jokie’s journey around the world was a firm favourite ride (in fact Jokie is a hit in our house, and we scour YouTube to watch his series: the fact it’s in Dutch is used as a learning tool rather than a deterrent!)

For me, the highlight was seeing my children enjoy the fairytale forest just as much as I did when I was the same age. It was a magical place where we spent quality time as a family, and I hope in 30 years time my boys will say the same thing! The talking tree was my favourite part of the park all those years ago, and so he will always hold a special place in my heart!

Finally, if you only see one show during your time at Efteling, please let it be Raveleijn! I don’t want to include too many spoilers, but there are knights, horses, dragons, and a visual spectacle that (if your kids are anything like mine) will be reenacted over and over again when you get home!

Top Tip: This theme park is huge! Download the Efteling app to help you get around- this will also show you ride times, show times, and everything else you need to make your visit go smoothly.

Efteling: The Food

There are so many food options in Efteling that you’ll be spoilt for choice! We ate breakfast in our cottage every day, as it was included in our package. We also had dinner in our cottage most evenings: sometimes takeaway from the on-site Italian restaurant (the pizzas are highly recommended) and sometimes snacks that we cooked in our own fully equipped kitchen. There are 16 different dining options available on site. The places we did eat in the park are outlined below:

  • La Place. If you’ve spend any time in Holland you’ll already know (and love) La Pace! it’s a chain restaurant, but all of the food is freshly cooked and prepared on site. It’s self-service and the quality is very high. It’s not fancy but it is good!
  • Oliebollen cart. Just as you enter the park, directly in front of you and to the right of the La Place restaurant, is an old fashioned and incredibly ornate oliebollen cart. Oliebollen translates from Dutch to mean ‘oily balls’ and that is exactly what they are; oily donuts served hot and covered liberally with powdered sugar. Yum!
  • Polles Keuken pancake restaurant. If you only eat in one Efteling restaurant this is the one! Putting to one side that the pancakes are delicious (mine was served with a laden wooden spoon full of hot nutella) the atmosphere is excellent. The whole roof of the restaurant features a moving/animatronic pancake flipping machine and its incredibly fun to see!

The Verdict

Would we go again? The answer is a resounding yes! In fact, we’re hoping to go back with my parents (who also joined us on our last trip) this Christmas, is the Coronavirus rules allow. Winter Efteling is magical, and as an added bonus it’s also incredible affordable.

During lockdown we have played ‘pretend Efteling’ so many times: eating crepes, pretending to ride the rollercoasters via Youtube, and meeting Jokie in teddybear form. It’s a place that kids just won’t forget.

Right now the Christmas (24th-27th December) package price for a family of four staying in the Efteling Village Bosrijk accomodation, in a 6 person village house is € 1,401. This price includes accomodation, daily breakfast deliveries and four days of Efteling park tickets. It doesn’t include transportation. You can see the full Christmas offering and prices here.

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