Disneyland Resort Paris is an amazing place, with several hotels, two parks, and more. This guide will cover 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 for 2015 after my most recent trip to Disneyland Paris over the Christmas season, following the opening of the popular new Ratatouille mini-land at Disneyland Resort Paris. 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.
To start, as touched upon Disneyland Resort Paris (this refers to the entire complex, but the “Resort” is often dropped from the name. Disneyland Paris, the park, is known as both Parc Disneyland and Disneyland Paris, with most official materials dropping “Resort” from the complex’s name recently, also making it Disneyland Paris. Confusing, we know) 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, and many who have made the trek to California have reported it exceeding their expectations.
Disneyland Resort Paris 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.
I would rate Disneyland Paris as the most beautiful Disney theme park I’ve experienced, and 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 Resort Paris for the second reason: cost.
A trip to Europe is certainly expensive, but it’s a potentially once-in-a-lifetime trip that leaves an indelible mark on a person, and a trip that’s worth saving to experience. Even Disney realizes that Paris is a selling point–whereas Walt Disney World does not encourage people to visit other places in Orlando, this year’s official Disneyland Paris trip planning video implores people that “you can’t visit Disneyland Paris without visiting Paris!”
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!
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 at least 3 days at Disneyland Resort Paris. On our first trip, we spent 3 days at Disneyland Resort 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 at the absolute most. 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, I’ll be reviewing Ratatouille: L’Aventure Totalement Toquée de Rémy and Bistrot Chez Rémy soon, so stay tuned for those posts.
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. Depending upon your level of interest and stamina, this 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.
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.
Disneyland Resort Paris has seven official resorts, with a variety of nearby “off-site” hotels. Based on the recommendations of several others, 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 (review to come). We also spent a fair amount of time in Disneyland Hotel (the flagship Victorian-themed hotel), and I spent time exploring Hotel New York (themed to New York City), 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. All of these are approximations based upon my personal walking speed. I didn’t time the walk in anything remotely resembling a scientific manner (we were there for enjoyment, not to be research guinea pigs).
I can’t speak to timing and distances of any other means of transportation to off-site hotels, with one exception. Prior to this leg of the trip, on our first night in France, we actually stayed 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.
Prices of Disneyland Paris on-site hotels widely vary and usually priced as a package that includes breakfast and park tickets. That said, I’d estimate the nightly undiscounted hotel portion of these packages ranging from $200 to $700 per night during our visit. Hotel Cheyenne and Santa Fe are on the low end of this, with ascending prices for Sequoia Lodge, Newport Bay Club, Hotel New York, and finally, Disneyland Hotel.
We booked a last minute $110/night deal on this relatively trendy hotel in Val d’Europe, and I’m sure there are similar days to be had. I can say with complete certainty (without even having seen the rooms in Hotel Cheyenne or Santa Fe) that this off-site hotel was nicer than Hotel Cheyenne or Santa Fe. From the perspective of rooms, I wouldn’t be surprised if it were nicer than standard rooms in every one of the official hotels, actually.
For us, the Disney on-site hotel experience isn’t just about the room, though, and all things considered, at least Disneyland Hotel and Sequoia Lodge were nicer overall than our off-site hotel. Admittedly, the benefits to staying on-site at Disneyland Resort Paris aren’t that great. There’s the breakfast, but you can get breakfast anywhere. There’s the commuting time, but as evidenced above, that can be insignificant at an off-site hotel. That leaves the Extra Magic Hour perk. Guests staying in the Disney-owned hotels are able to enter the parks 1-2 hours before the general public to experience select attractions. During our off-season trip, this perk wasn’t very useful (few attractions were open during this time, often leading to increased wait times), but it could be useful during busier times of the year. The best “reason” for staying on-site is probably the basic desire to stay on-site for whatever reason you have. Be it full immersion, convenience, etc.
There seem to be a fair number of reasonably priced and nice hotels in the burgeoning Val d’Europe area, so if you don’t “need” a Disney hotel, you should check out that area.
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.
Following our first trip, Hotel Santa Fe received a top to bottom refurbishment 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.
Newport Bay Club is currently in the process of a multi-year top to bottom refurbishment that is slated to be completed at some point in 2015. When I saw the hotel on my recent visit, the common areas that had yet to be refurbished were looking very rough. It was easily the worst shape I’ve ever seen a Disney hotel, anywhere. Based on concept art and the common areas that are complete, the future looks bright for this hotel, but I probably would not stay at Newport Bay Club until 2016, or late 2015 if you’re able to confirm that the refurbishment is fully complete.
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 (if you are such a person, this blog is looking for benefactors!!! ;)). Anyone else is better suited by Sequoia Lodge (my top pick for the intersection of value and quality) or Hotel Cheyenne. For what it’s worth, we really like Sequoia Lodge.
Given its location in a culinary hotbed like France, you’d expect Disneyland Resort Paris to have some sterling dining options. Unfortunately, expectations here don’t comport with reality. Restaurants at Disneyland Resort Paris are not that good and are not that “French.” It’s mostly all American cuisine, with a few exceptions.
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.
Normally, we would have been more inclined to give restaurants the benefit of the doubt, realizing two meals is a relatively small sample size, but those two meals were so disappointing and our experiences seemed comparable to (if not worse than) what we had heard from others, so we saved our money and only did Counter Service for the rest of the trip.
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 the Earl of Sandwich in the Disney Village. 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 also has 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.
We have some Disneyland Paris Restaurant Reviews (scroll down to the Paris section in that post) currently up, but should have many more written in the coming months, so stay tuned!
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 attraction you should experience in Disneyland Paris. 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 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.
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. This guide has ratings for every attraction in Parc Disneyland, and our recommendations for doing them.
Here are a few quick notes regarding Disneyland Park attractions that may not be so obvious to a casual guest:
Now the same for the Walt Disney Studios Park:
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.
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. If you’re visiting during the summer, things like Frogg Togg Chilly Pads will also come in handy, as will moisture wicking clothing. It’s easy to get sweaty with all that walking in Disneyland Paris.
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. Perhaps the best advice we can give you is to pack light. Lay out everything you’re planning on taking before you pack it, and determine if you truly need it. Not if it “might come in handy, maybe,” but if you actually will use it. Don’t pack things you won’t use. Paris is a world city; if one of those “might be useful maybe” things is truly needed, you will be able to buy it there. Same goes for toiletries and other small things.
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!
As for visiting other locations in Europe, we recommend consulting a dedicated guide to Europe, such as Rick Steves’ Best of Europe, for planning. We used Rick Steves’ Paris Guide and Rick Steves’ London Guide; 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.
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 January 2015) based on changes in Disneyland Paris (and I have a Disnelyand 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 this planning guide has piqued your curiosity about visiting Disneyland Paris, make sure to check out the official Disneyland Paris website for 50% off packages and other discounts! Visiting Disneyland Paris truly can be as inexpensive as visiting Walt Disney World! Why not try a new Disney park?!
Want to see more photos or read about Disneyland Paris in agonizing detail? Check out our Disneyland Paris Trip Report that covers our first visit to Disneyland Resort 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.