Disneyland Paris is an amazing place, with several hotels, two parks, and more. This guide covers what you need to know before heading to Disneyland Paris, along with some general travel tips for heading to Europe. It contains the most up-to-date information and advice, updated following our fall visit to Disneyland Paris. This was after the completion of many of the refurbishments to “Reinvent the Magic” ahead of Disneyland Paris’ 25th Anniversary–more on all of that below.
Whether you are planning a trip to Europe and are considering a day at Disneyland Paris since it’s one of the most popular tourist destination in Europe, or if you’re a huge Disney fan who is planning an international trip solely (or mostly) for Disneyland Paris, this guide has you covered. We will cover everything from hotels to dining and beyond, starting with perhaps the biggest question for anyone with a flexible travel schedule: is 2017 a good year to visit Disneyland Paris?
April 22, 2017 Update: We just returned from our trip to Disneyland Paris for the 25th Anniversary Grand Celebration. It was a spectacular time! The park is looking fantastic following the large scale refurbishments (most of which are now complete), and it’s great to experience so much back in its original splendor. Unfortunately, the new entertainment is a bit of a mixed bag, but it’s still worth seeing. In the coming weeks, we’ll have a trip report and several other posts about Disneyland Paris. Suffice to say, after experiencing the 25th Anniversary, we highly recommend a visit to Disneyland Paris this year…
Now, a bit of a primer about Disneyland Paris. This refers to both the entire resort and the castle park, which is also known as Parc Disneyland and Disneyland. Confusing, we know. The entire resort consists of 7 official Disney-themed hotels, several partner hotels, the Disney Village entertainment and shopping district, and the two parks: Parc Disneyland and the Walt Disney Studios Park.
Disneyland Paris is unquestionably a place that Disney fans should visit, probably for multiple days. In our conversations, there are generally two schools of thought with regard to Disneyland Paris, and why people don’t go. The first group doesn’t go because it would mean forfeiting a trip to Walt Disney World. We’ve previously implored this group of people to visit Disneyland Resort in California in our Disneyland Trip Planning Guide, and many who have made the trek to California have reported it exceeding their expectations.
Disneyland Paris (the entire resort) is similar to Disneyland Resort in that it is not nearly as large as Walt Disney World. There simply is not as much to do at Disneyland Resort Paris as there is in Walt Disney World, so it’s a tough sell as a bona fide vacation destination in itself. The upside is that Parc Disneyland in the Paris Resort is an absolutely amazing park, much like the original Disneyland, and a park that many Disney fans could spend days exploring.
In fact, in my recent Disney Theme Park Rankings post, Parc Disneyland was #5, ahead of popular parks like Disney California Adventure and Epcot, and it mostly scored so high because of its beauty. Before I get ahead of myself gushing over Disneyland Paris’ beauty, let’s cover the question of to go in 2017…
Should You Visit Disneyland Paris in 2017?
The threshold question for a lot of people is whether 2017 is a good time to go. The answer is an unequivocal and emphatic YES. The Disneyland Paris 25th Anniversary are now underway, with a lot of special entertainment. That includes a new nighttime spectacular called Disney Illuminations, a new daytime parade called Disney Stars on Parade, two new stage shows, refreshed attractions, and more.
Part of that “and more” is a dramatic refresh to the entire resort, which is now (mostly) finished with a massive refurbishment project that led into its 25th anniversary in 2017. This is so massive it even has an official title, called the “Experience Enhancement Plan” (EEP) with Disneyland Paris’ website providing official updates on the attraction closures associated with the EEP.
Frankly, this has been a long time coming. For as beautifully designed as a park as Disneyland Paris is, it should be criminal that maintenance and upkeep have been allowed to lapse in the past the way that they have. (Although perhaps I’m particularly sensitive to this, as burnt out popcorn lights were a big problem and as a photographer those are huge pet peeves!) I would say that Disneyland Paris has already turned a corner in terms of maintenance and refreshing the park (or “Reinventing the Magic” as is the goal of the Experience Enhancement Plan).
With that said, not only have attractions and areas of the park received some TLC, but the park will be looking brand, spankin’ new come April 2017. In addition to looking the best it has in a while as of Spring 2017, this new entertainment and other offerings for Disneyland Paris’ 25th Anniversary is a nice bonus.
Our past two visits have occurred in the midst of the Experience Enhancement Plan, and we’ve been unable to do a number of attractions due to the refurbishments. In last year’s version of this post, we recommended people held off visiting Disneyland Paris until April 2017 as a result. Now, we are seeing all of the hard work and refurbishments pay off, and Disneyland Paris is sparkling as a result. (The tagline for the 25th Anniversary is “It’s Time to Sparkle!” which is fitting.)
Beyond that, you have the Second Annual Disneyland Paris Half Marathon, new-ish shows that debuted last year, and an injection of Star Wars as Disney realizes it’s a panacea for all that cures ailing parks (see Disney’s Hollywood Studios).
Disneyland Paris and the resort as a whole are just stunning places. The design and attention to detail are seriously great, and I would rate Disneyland Paris as the most beautiful Disney theme park I’ve experienced. While the overall resort is not as nice as the US resorts or Tokyo Disney Resort, it is a great experience. The other upside is that Paris itself is only a 30 minute train ride from Disneyland Paris, and is a place every human should experience. The city of Paris also serves as justification for those who balk at a trip to Disneyland Paris for the second reason: cost.
Then there’s cost. A trip to Europe is certainly expensive, but 2017 is another year of affordable travel to France (and some other parts of Europe) due to both the struggling Euro and recent, very unfortunate world events that have depressed the travel sector in Paris. I think we can all agree that these awful, reprehensible events have occurred. Much like post-9/11 United States, they have had a reverberating effect throughout life in Paris, and have had a devastating impact on the travel and tourism sector. Consequently, costs are lower now than they have been in a long time.
Between the lower costs and Disneyland Paris’ 25th Anniversary, it’s the perfect time to travel to France. In fact, we’re so excited about 2017 at Disneyland Paris that its our top pick for Disney destinations. If you’ve wanted to go to France but have put off the trip until someday, now is the time to go!
As for traveling to Europe in general, we highly recommend it! During our Fall 2016 trip, we visited multiple locations in Europe, including the Normandy and Loire Valley regions of France, Switzerland, Austria, and Germany. While we love Disney–and Disneyland Paris–many of these other real-world locations were the highlights of our trip. You can read more about the places we visited in our Europe Fall 2016 Trip Report.
Europe is an amazing place (or places, rather) that leaves an indelible mark on a person, and a trip that’s worth saving to experience. There’s so much beyond the parks at Disneyland Paris Resort, and truly something for everyone. From history to modern culture to shady red light districts (because we’re so sure Disney fans are into that sort of thing! 😉 ), there’s truly something for everyone.
If this has you tempted to travel to Europe to see Disneyland Paris and other lasting cultural experiences, or if you were already planning a visit and want more info and tips, let’s start planning! (All links open in new tabs, so feel free to click away and head down the rabbit hole!)
How Many Days?
Based upon the foregoing, when planning a trip to Disneyland Paris, you should not just plan a quick trip to see Disneyland Resort Paris, but should also plan on visiting at least Paris and possibly another European city. On our first trip, we flew into Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris, then spent equal amounts of time in Disneyland Paris and Paris, before taking the Eurostar to London and then flying out of London’s Heathrow airport.
How long should you visit Europe? “As many days as you can.” That probably seems like a glib answer, but there is so much culture that you could spend a lifetime in Europe and never run out of things to do. I would love to spend a summer simply exploring Paris. The reality of things is that vacation time is finite, and travel is costly, so most people probably are looking at maybe a week or so on the vacation. My strong advice would be to try and stretch the trip to at least 10 days even if that requires saving money and vacation time a bit longer.
How much time you’ll want to spend on each leg of your trip is largely a personal question. If you aren’t a Disney fan and are just going for the sake of your kids or because it’s on your list of highlights near Paris, my recommendation would probably be to just go for 1 day, spending it entirely at Parc Disneyland, experiencing some of the best attractions, and enjoying the ambiance.
If you are a Disney fan, I’d recommend 3 days at Disneyland Paris. On our first trip, we spent 3 days at Disneyland Paris, and I felt that was the perfect amount of time for a serious Disney fan. There’s a lot to explore in Parc Disneyland, and the park is incredibly detailed, so planning on allocating 2 or 2.5 days for that park is advisable.
Conversely, most people would be able to accomplish the Walt Disney Studios park in half a day or a day. While there is an assortment of enjoyable attractions there, the park was thrown together on the cheap in a haphazard way, offering little in the way of details or areas to be explored. We spent a little over three hours in the park and felt that was enough. I wouldn’t downright encourage anyone not to experience this park (if you travel all the way over there, you might as well step foot in it to see what it’s all about for yourself), but it’s not going to be the highlight of anyone’s trip. That said, if you only have one day to experience Disneyland Paris, skip the Studios and just do the Disneyland park.
This has changed to some degree now that the Walt Disney Studios Park has opened the new La Place de Rémy mini-land, which is like a “Streets of Paris” area based upon Ratatouille, and contains the popular new Ratatouille: L’Aventure Totalement Toquée de Rémy trackless dark ride, a new restaurant called Bistrot Chez Rémy, and a new gift shop. I had the chance to visit recently after the opening of La Place de Rémy, and I was seriously impressed with the land as a whole.
The dark ride didn’t quite live up to expectations based on other recent Disney additions elsewhere like Mystic Manor in Hong Kong Disneyland, but the restaurant far exceeded expectations, and the mini-land is gorgeous. I’m not ready to call it a game-changer for the much-maligned park, but it certainly justifies spending more time there. If your interest is piqued in this area, check out my Ratatouille: L’Aventure Totalement Toquée de Rémy Review and Bistrot Chez Rémy Review.
In addition to time for exploring Parc Disneyland and the Walt Disney Studios Park, if you’re a Disney fan, you will want to set aside a bit of time to explore the hotels and Disney Village, too. The hotels are pretty cool, whereas Disney Village is a mostly dated, sad take on Downtown Disney.
Depending upon your level of interest and stamina, seeing these areas can probably be accomplished after the parks close, depending upon what time the parks close. During my visits, even on busier days, the latest the parks closed was 10 pm; many nights the parks closed as early as 7 pm. Most Parisians eat late dinners, so hotel restaurants are frequently open until 11 pm or 12 am (with the bars and lounges open even later), giving us ample time to enjoy the hotels after our days at the park were complete. During the summer months, the parks may be open until 11 pm or midnight, so you may have to find another time to visit the hotels and Disney Village.
Once you’ve determined how many days to visit Disneyland Paris, you need to decide whether a vacation package is for you. These work a lot like vacation packages at other Disney Parks in that they can contain a hotel, park tickets, and meal plan, or just a hotel stay.
Many of the best discounts for Disneyland Paris bundle these components together. In fact, to save money on a hotel, you almost always have to purchase park tickets from Disneyland Paris (unless you have an Annual Pass). Sometimes, the discount will be for a percentage off the room, sometimes it will include free a Half Board or Full Board Meal Package (more on this below), sometimes it’ll include free park tickets, and sometimes it will include free nights.
For example, current Disneyland Paris promotions include 30% off a room plus free Half Board dining and buy 2 nights get 2 nights free at a hotel. (Both promos include park tickets.) Alternatively, there are hotel discounts available for Annual Passholders of up to 40% off. All of these discounts are pretty representative of what’s generally offered.
What further complicates matters is that different versions of the Disneyland Paris website (e.g. the United Kingdom version, Belgium version, Germany version, etc.) offer different prices for the exact same promotion. I recently priced out a December stay at Newport Bay Club, and the trip was ~$120 more expensive on the U.S. site than the U.K. site. Since you can book via any of these sites, regardless of where you live, it’s best to comparison shop among the different versions of the site, and book where it’s cheapest.
This can all be pretty challenging if you’re a newbie, particularly given the language barriers and default currencies on the various Disneyland Paris sites. As such, we highly recommend using an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner who is knowledgeable about Disneyland Paris for booking your vacation package rather than doing it yourself. (Here’s a vacation planner we recommend.)
If you plan on staying off-site, no vacation planner/travel agent is necessary. Aside from the comparison shopping to get the best price, planning a Disneyland Paris vacation is easy as compared to a Walt Disney World vacation.
I’m going to make the assumption that anyone reading this is flying to Europe from overseas, not a European driving to Disneyland Paris for a day trip (if you’re driving and looking for advice…try Google Maps, I guess?). From Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris there are three main options: TGV, RER, or VEA shuttle. The TGV is the best of these options, and it drops you off right outside Disneyland Paris’ gates. Perfect for on-site guests.
The VEA shuttle is the second-best option, but it stops at a number of hotels (think Disney’s Magical Express). The RER is the worst option, as you have to go from CDG airport to central Paris and switch lines to head back to Marne-la-Vallee. Both CDG and MLV are outside Paris, so doing this essentially means you have to backtrack. However, if you’re buying a RER pass or your hotel is on the RER line, this may be your best option. It’s relatively straightforward, it just takes about an hour to accomplish.
On our first trip, we used the RER line, and it was fairly easy to do, it just took a lot of time because it essentially required that we back-track to get from CDG airport to Disneyland Paris, both of which are outside of the city. To think of it in terms that might be familiar to an American, it’s like taking a flight from Chicago to Detroit with a layover in St. Louis. On my second trip, I wanted to test another method, so I used the TGV line. Again, the process was very simple, and I was able to head to Terminal 2 and purchase a ticket for the TGV at a kiosk in the airport with a destination of “Marne La Vallee Ches.”
This train only took 10 minutes to get from CDG to Disneyland Paris (it’s literally the first stop). The caveats here are that this train is substantially more expensive (my one-way ticket was ~$30 US for a non-peak time) and there can be over an hour delay between trains. Because of this, and due to flight delays, etc., I do not recommend buying a ticket for this in advance. Check the schedule once you’re through customs, and if it looks like the TGV is going to be a good option timing-wise and cost isn’t an issue, take it.
If you’re coming from somewhere other than CDG airport, consider the Eurostar train, which also drops you off right outside Disneyland Paris’ gates. We traveled the Eurostar (aka the “Chunnel”) and it was an excellent experience. This is a great way to get to Disneyland Paris if you’re primarily visiting another major city in Europe. What’s especially nice is that a Eurostar station is right in MLV. My assumption is that this was built as part of Disney’s agreement to bring a park to Paris…because there’s no other reason why little ‘ole Marne-la-Vallee would have a Eurostar station.
All of this seems complicated and intimidating at first (at least it did to us), but it’s really simple once you understand the basics.
Where to Stay
Disneyland Paris has seven official resorts, with a variety of nearby “off-site” hotels. We have a Disneyland Paris Hotel Comparison post that compares and contrasts the hotels, offering our recommendations on where to stay. We’ll cover some of the same ground below, but if you’re debating which hotel to book, that’s really the post to read.
We stayed in the recently renovated Sequoia Lodge (click here to read our Sequoia Lodge Review) on our first trip. The second time, I stayed in Hotel New York (click here to read our Hotel New York Review). We’ve also spent a fair amount of time in every other hotel, including Disneyland Hotel (the flagship Victorian-themed hotel), Newport Bay Club (similar in nature, but not quality, to the Yacht and Beach Club at Walt Disney World), Hotel Cheyenne (themed to be the ‘streets’ of a Western town), and Hotel Santa Fe (designed with a cold, Southwestern pueblo style). If you were schooled by Count von Count, you probably noticed that I only mention six of the seven resorts. The last, Davy Crockett Ranch, is a campground located a bit further away that I did not visit.
Assuming you don’t have a car for your visit to France, you’ll have a few ways to get to and from Disneyland Paris: your feet, taxi, RER train, or shuttle. The 6 on-site hotels can each by accessed by walking (or shuttle). Disneyland Hotel is about a one minute walk from the turnstiles, Hotel New York is ~10 minute walk, Sequoia Lodge is ~12 minute walk, Newport Bay Club is ~15 minute walk, with Hotels Cheyenne and Santa Fe a tad above the 15 minute mark.
In terms of pricing, Hotel Cheyenne and Santa Fe are on the low end of the scale, with ascending prices for Sequoia Lodge, Newport Bay Club, Hotel New York, and finally, Disneyland Hotel. Nightly rates range from ~$100/night for Hotel Santa Fe to over $1,000/night for Disneyland Hotel.
Average rates for each hotels are all over the place depending upon what kind of discount you can score. For an upcoming trip, I priced out Newport Bay Club with the aforementioned buy 2 nights, get 2 nights promo, and it worked out to be ~$140/night. On our visit last fall, we priced out the exact same hotel, and the best rate we could find was ~$350/night.
These price fluctuations can make booking a Disneyland Paris hotel a bit frustrating. Generally speaking, we far prefer staying on-site rather than off-site. However, we are not paying over $300/night for Newport Bay Club or Sequoia Lodge. Conversely, under $150/night makes those resorts a no-brainer (we’d even be willing to pay around $200/night).
On our first trip to Disneyland Paris, we stayed a night at an off-site hotel at the first stop (Val d’Europe) from Disneyland Resort Paris on the RER A line. Combining the time it took to walk from Disneyland Paris to the RER station (3 minutes), the time it took on the train (5-15 minutes, depending upon the train schedule), and the time it took to walk from the station in Val d’Europe to our hotel (3 minutes), you have about a 25 minute commute, at worst.
During our Fall 2016 and Spring 2017 Disneyland Paris trips, we again stayed in Val d’Europe, both times at the Hipark Serris. The room itself was nice and spacious, essentially being a 1-bedroom villa (I believe it’s considered an “extended stay” apartment-kinda thing).
The whole town of Val d’Europe is relatively new, having been masterplanned in conjunction with Disney. It has a Celebration/suburbia vibe to it, but with traditional French stylization. While it doesn’t have the same historical allure of the quaint villages in France, it has its own modern charm and is not too cookie cutter. All of this is to say that the hotels of Val d’Europe are probably solid options if you don’t want to pay the insane prices of Disneyland Paris hotels.
It was an easy walk from our hotel to Disney Village, and I think the total time from door to turnstiles was maybe 20 minutes. The walk was not any worse than what you’d encounter going from Hotel Cheyenne or Hotel Santa Fe.
Generally, these hotels in Val d’Europe can be booked for $75-150/night, which makes them (typically) cheaper than Disneyland Paris on-site hotels. You can also walk from some of the hotels to Disneyland Paris (Hipark Serris is the hotel closest to the parks, for what it’s worth), which is much more convenient than taking the RER, we think.
Another option, particularly if you’re spending time elsewhere in France, is Airbnb…
We have a post that discusses our Tips for Using Airbnb in case you’re unfamiliar with the service. We’ve used it several times in Europe, including a couple of times in Paris. It’s an inexpensive alternative to a hotel, and nice because it also allows you to live like a local, whether that means doing some laundry halfway through your trip or just going to the market to get fresh produce (and cheese…AND WINE!) to prepare you own meals.
Other than that, the biggest upside is price. You can find sometimes find deals on hotels in Val d’Europe, but deals on nice accommodations are less common in Paris (proper) or other cities. The value proposition of renting your own apartment or flat is significantly greater than booking a hotel. (Plus, you can use Sarah’s sign-up link for a $35 credit your first time using Airbnb!)
We’ve had some really great Airbnb experiences all around the world, and wouldn’t hesitate to use it again near Disneyland Paris, or anywhere in Europe, for that matter.
Off-Site v. On-Site?
For us, the Disney on-site hotel experience isn’t just about the room. All things considered, the Disney hotels we’ve stayed in at Disneyland Paris are nicer overall than the off-site hotels. Aside from price, the one upside to the Val d’Europe hotels is getting more spacious suites and multi-room villas.
Beyond being immersed in the Disney bubble, there are some perks to staying on-site at Disneyland Paris. The big ones are being within walking distance of the parks, Extra Magic Hours, taking advantage of the Full or Half Board Meal Plans, and exclusive character meets.
By far, the biggest of these is the Extra Magic Hour perk. Guests staying in the Disney-owned hotels are able to enter the parks 2 hours before the general public to experience select attractions every morning. The first hour of Extra Magic Hours is generally pretty dead–it’s easy to get totally empty photos of Main Street, and you can experience attractions like Peter Pan’s Flight with minimal waits.
If you do decide to stay on-site, my unscientific recommendations for hotels would be: Hotel Cheyenne (value), Sequoia Lodge (moderate), or Disneyland Hotel (deluxe). Hotel Cheyenne had a fun feel to it and no pretenses of being artfully designed, likely making it a hotel kids (boys especially) would enjoy. Sequoia Lodge recently underwent an extensive refurbishment and looks excellent; its theming is reminiscent of Wilderness Lodge at Walt Disney World, except with Frank Lloyd Wright inspiration oddly found throughout the architecture.
Hotel Santa Fe received a top to bottom refurbishment a few years ago and now has a Cars theming in the rooms and in some common areas around the resort. I had the chance to visit this hotel recently, and it has improved dramatically, although my recommendation would still be Hotel Cheyenne for anyone except those with small children who are Cars fans.
Hotel Cheyenne is in the midst of a similar refurbishment, and some its rooms have had Toy Story theming added to them. There’s more work to be done, but these are mostly minor improvements to an already solid (we think) resort.
Newport Bay Club just finished a multi-year top to bottom refurbishment, and it was looking fantastic when we visited it during our Spring 2017 trip. While this hotel is pricey, I wouldn’t hesitate to book Newport Bay. In fact, it’s the hotel we are strongly considering for our next trip.
Hotel New York is awful. It’s refurbishment is so badly needed that it will actually be closing completely for 15 months in 2018 for a top to bottom redo. In the meantime, avoid Hotel New York at all costs.
Finally, Disneyland Hotel is beautiful and its location and views can’t be beat. I think it could stand a slight refresh, but it’s still a beautiful hotel. I’d only recommend this hotel to those who view money as no issue. Anyone else is better suited by Sequoia Lodge (my top pick for the intersection of value and quality) or Hotel Cheyenne.
If you’re thinking about booking a Disneyland Paris vacation package, you should know about the various Meal Plans the on-site hotels offer. These are sometimes bundled into packages for “free” or available as an add-on.
This is somewhat like the Disney Dining Plan at Walt Disney World, except it uses pre-paid physical vouchers. Disneyland Paris offers Full and Half Board Meal Plans: the Half Board plan includes 1 meal voucher for lunch or dinner, plus a breakfast voucher. The Full Board plan includes 2 meal vouches for lunch and dinner, plus a breakfast voucher.
There are four different tiers to each of these Meal Plans available, escalating in price and what’s included. At the lowest end of the spectrum is the Hotel plan, which includes breakfast and dinner at your hotel only. Standard gives you a choice of 5+ buffet restaurants. Plus provides access to 15+ buffet and table service restaurants. Premium is available at almost every table service restaurant in Disneyland Paris, including character meals and Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.
DLP Guide has a great Disneyland Paris Meal Plan pages that breaks everything down, along with pricing and which restaurants are included. If all of this confuses you, don’t fret: you’re not alone. It doesn’t help that Disneyland Paris recently revised its breakfast system, resulting in (for now) two different types of plans being available.
The bottom line with these Meal Plans is that they can be a really good value if you do a little research and book expensive restaurants. For example, even though the Premium Plan is $100+ per person, per night, doing daily meals at places like California Grill and Auberge de Cendrillon could amount to a daily value of over $150. Same goes for the lower tiers.
On the other hand, if you choose an expensive plan and end up doing mostly counter service meals, there’s the potential for losing a lot of money each day on the Disneyland Paris Meal Plans.
Our ultimate take is that the Meal Plans are a good option if dining is an important part of your trip and you plan to do your research ahead of time to determine where to eat (and make reservations ~60 days in advance).
If dining isn’t so important or you don’t intend upon doing the research, skip the Disneyland Paris Meals. There’s one big reason for this…
The reason is that a lot of the food at Disneyland Paris is not very good. Given its location in a culinary hotbed like France, you’d expect Disneyland Paris to have some sterling dining options. Unfortunately, expectations here don’t comport with reality. Restaurants at Disneyland Paris are not that good and are not that “French.” The good news is that dining has improved since we first started visiting Disneyland Paris.
Before that first visit, we had heard from several friends prior to our first trip that we shouldn’t have high expectations for the restaurants, because most aren’t that good. After lackluster meals at Walt’s – An American Restaurant (click here to read our Walt’s Review) and Blue Lagoon, we cancelled plans to try similarly nice restaurants such as Inventions (we did end up eating two enjoyable breakfasts here) and California Grill.
We’ve since tried out many other restaurants at Disneyland Paris, some good, some really bad. The general trend is towards improvement, which is definitely reassuring. For reviews of individual restaurants, read our Disneyland Paris Restaurant Reviews. We also have a Guide to Drinking at Disneyland Paris for those who want to go out after the parks close!
If you want to avoid disappointment, we’d recommend approaching dining at Disneyland Paris from the perspective of experiencing restaurants with cool themes. Our Top 10 Themed Restaurants at Disneyland Paris post should help with this.
This is how we have approached dining there, and it has worked pretty well. The two restaurants at which we ate the first time, Walt’s and Blue Lagoon, were beautiful, and worth the experience, even considering the food. Walt’s has a similar feel to Club 33 at Disneyland, and Blue Lagoon overlooks the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction, much like Blue Bayou at Disneyland.
On my second visit to Disneyland Paris, I had much better experiences with dining in terms of food quality. Counter Service meals were mostly good, with a couple of exceptions. It’s about what you’d expect from average counter service restaurants at Walt Disney World or Disneyland. In general, the options are not adventurous, but rather, are stereotypical theme park foods. Lots of pizza, burgers, salads, and fried foods.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as portion sizes are large and prices are not out of line (by normal Disney standards). In addition, the design of many of these restaurants is truly impressive. Toad Hall features more detail than all of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at Disneyland, and serves some pretty good fish & chips, too.
One thing to mention so that you don’t get too excited while planning specific places to eat is that Disneyland Paris often closes some of its restaurants depending upon crowds. This can be very frustrating for planning purposes, and playing the “what’s open today?” game while in the park is equally frustrating, as the signs up indicating which restaurants are open differ from spot to spot, so you often don’t know what is open until you walk up to a particular restaurant.
In terms of portions, the only portion size that will be smaller in Disneyland Paris is soda. There are no free refills in any restaurant (this is typical of Europe) and soda sizes in general are much smaller. So, if you’re a Coke addict, a trip to Disneyland Paris might prove costly!
Although not as good as what you’ll find in the city of Paris, Disneyland Paris snacks are solid. We highly recommend the Cable Car Bake Shop on Main Street. Not just for its sweets, but also because it’s a beautifully designed, intimate location.
If you find yourself not enjoying the food at Disneyland Paris, one option is to eat exclusively at Earl of Sandwich, McDonald’s, or Five Guys in Disney Village. All of these restaurants are pretty comparable to their U.S. counterparts. Earl of Sandwich is our favorite pick; it serves most of the same sandwiches as the Earl of Sandwich locations in the United States, is reasonably priced, and is arguably the best counter service restaurant on property. Normally, we’d advise against this sort of thing.
I mean, would you go to Paris and then eat at McDonald’s? Hopefully not. The difference here is that, unlike Paris, Disneyland Paris is not a world renowned culinary location. Give the in-park food a chance, but Earl of Sandwich (and other chains in the Disney Village) is a good fall-back option. Earl of Sandwich and McDonald’s also have free WiFi, which could alone be a compelling reason to eat there.
Our over-arching recommendation for those with finite travel budgets would be to save your money for dining in the city of Paris and eat on the cheap in Disneyland Paris. You may want to give at least one table service meal a try before adopting this strategy, though.
What To Do
I’m not looking to turn this page into a mini-guidebook on Disneyland Paris, so I’m going to spare you (and more importantly, me) an exhaustive look at each park ticket option and specific details about each attraction you should experience in Disneyland Paris.
Suffice to say, we have tips for buying Disneyland Paris tickets in our Disneyland Paris Ticket Tips & Info post, which covers where to find discount park tickets, and the pros & cons of getting an Annual Pass versus buying single day tickets (it’s a closer call than you might think!). If you’re staying on-site at a Disneyland Paris Resort hotel, though, there’s a good chance your package will include park tickets.
Then there’s the attractions. Chances are you’ve visited a Disney theme park some time in your life, and you have an idea of what attractions are worth experiencing. The biggest differences in Disneyland Paris are park design, layout, and level of detail. Many of the attractions are very similar in general nature to their US counterparts.
If you’re interested in developing a strategy for attractions or figuring out which to do and which to skip, check out our Disneyland Paris Attractions Guide and our Walt Disney Studios Park Attractions Guide. These guides have ratings for every attraction in Parc Disneyland and WDSP, and our recommendations for doing them.
Additionally, we have a 1-Day Disneyland Paris Park Itinerary that provides a step-by-step look at our “perfect” day in the park. If your time is limited and you want to hit the things that we enjoy most, there’s your plan. Hopefully, you have a bit more time, though…
In general, Disneyland Paris excels because it offers a lot to explore and excellent execution on theme. A die-hard Disney fan will notice “substantial” (to us) differences in many attractions from the US versions of the same, making every attraction a worthwhile experience. A casual guest will probably find that many attractions are “exactly the same” as their US counterparts.
Regardless of where you fall in that spectrum, you will enjoy the details and design if you slow down to enjoy them. That’s what we strongly recommend doing, and that’s how we believe Disneyland Paris is best enjoyed. Spend some time in the shops on Main Street, wander through the restaurants, and look for clues about the backstory.
If you’re considering visiting at Christmas, read our separate Disneyland Paris Christmas Guide. Christmas is an excellent time to visit Disneyland Paris for some additional seasonal entertainment, and for the beautiful decorations all around the park. Plus, you cannot beat the feel of the City of Paris during the holiday months.
What to Pack
The items on our Unique Disney Packing List will be helpful in any of the Disney theme parks. Specific to Paris, one thing you will need is a voltage converter. We highly recommend this BESTEK Portable Travel Converter with multiple outlets. You can find cheaper ones, but they will be larger, heavier, and take up valuable real estate in your suitcase.
Another thing we recommend, particularly if you plan on traveling internationally beyond France, is purchasing a pocket MiFi unit. For years, we rented these when traveling, until we did a bit of research and discovered they’re fairly cheap to purchase. I bought this Huawei 4G LTE Mobile Wifi Hotspot and then purchased a cheap (~$40 Orange Holiday) 10 GB SIM card at a Relay store in Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport when we landed.
If you have an unlocked phone, you can just put the SIM card directly into that, but we prefer the MiFi unit so that we can connect multiple devices. We find this to be a more efficient strategy when traveling internationally.
If you are going to be staying in multiple hotels during your European vacation, we highly recommend packing cubes or compression bags (I prefer the cubes) for organization. You can read more of our “carry-on philosophy” and which types of bags we use here. Seriously, this is really critical if you’re going to spend time on the rails or walking through Europe. So much easier than dragging around a ton of luggage!
When packing, also keep in mind that the climate of Paris is not the same as that of Orlando or Anaheim. Paris has legitimate winters, complete with snow and all. If you’re visiting any time from October through March, you should pack for cooler weather. Our Packing for Disney in Winter Guide is a start, but during the height of winter, you will want really warm clothes for many days.
In general, we would caution against overpacking. This is especially true if you’re doing more in Europe than just Disneyland Paris. You will do a lot of walking, riding the rail, etc., and you really don’t want to be encumbered by excess baggage. Don’t pack things “just in case.” Paris is a world city; you can just about anything you might need there. It’s better to underpack than to overpack in my opinion.
As for visiting other locations in Europe, we recommend consulting a dedicated guide to Europe, such as Rick Steves’ Best of Europe, for planning. For Paris, specifically, we highly recommend Rick Steves’ Paris 2017. We are big fans of his TV show and think he has the best guides on Europe, so wherever you go in Europe, we’d probably recommend picking up one of his guides for that destination.
It should come as no surprise that Europe does not use the US dollar as a currency. We recommend ordering Euros from your bank prior to your trip, or, ideally, having a “chipped” credit card. Withdrawing cash in Europe will likely subject you to fees. If you don’t know whether your credit card is chipped, it’s not.
Chipped credit cards are just being introduced in the US; they really make international travel a breeze because they largely eliminate the need to deal in cash (besides from street vendors and other “older” retailers that don’t accept cash). We used chipped credit cards throughout our trip and just carried a bit of cash that we almost never used. No bank fees and current exchange rates made this preferable for us!
While Disneyland Paris’ website will lead you to believe that smoking is only allowed in designated areas, the reality is that people smoke in every outdoor area. This is something to keep in mind if smoke bothers you.
Wireless internet is available in the hotels and at Starbucks, but it costs money. Wireless internet is free at the Disney Village McDonald’s and Earl of Sandwich.
The toilets at Disneyland Paris are all highly advanced prototype “SMRT-1” devices that feature facial recognition, and will greet you by saying, “How do you do, sir/m’am?” It is customary and appropriate to respond to this by saying, “I’m well, how are you?” It is not considered rude to decline to respond to any of the toilet’s additional conversation.
Just kidding on that last tip…although it is a foreign country, it’s not a foreign universe! If you can navigate the US parks, you’ll be fine in Disneyland Paris!
I know this just begins to scratch the surface of planning for a trip to Disneyland Paris. My goal was to not make it so long that it’s intimidating…and it’s already pretty long. I update this guide on a regular basis (most recently in April 2017) based on changes in Disneyland Paris (and I have a Disneyland Paris Annual Pass burning a hole in my pocket, so I plan on making another return trip soon), so rest assured that the information here is current.
If you need help planning your Disneyland Paris vacation beyond this, we recommend contacting an experienced (no fee), Authorized Disney Vacation Planner, which will also help you find the best deals. Want to see more photos or read about Disneyland Paris in agonizing detail? Check out our “Impressions de Bricker” Disneyland Paris Report, which covers our visit during the inaugural Disneyland Paris Half Marathon, or our Disneyland Paris 20th Anniversary Trip Report, which covers our first visit to Disneyland Paris!
Have you been to Disneyland Paris? What did you think? Planning and trip and have questions? Please leave them in the comments! If you’re a Disneyland Paris “regular” and you have tips of your own, please add them in the comments. I might just borrow them for the guide itself.