For many people, a trip to Disneyland Paris is their first exposure to an international park. For others, their first exposure to a Disney park. Either way, there are a lot of things that can save you time and money, or improve the quality of your vacation. Here are 101 random tips based upon our experiences in visiting Disneyland Paris.
With Disneyland Paris, it’s almost as important to know what not to do as it is what to do. Our goal with these Disneyland Paris tips is making sure everyone has a good time. You get hungry at 7 p.m. and expect to find a convenient place to eat? You’re gonna have a bad time. You expect bubbly ‘have a magical day’ encounters with Cast Members? You’re gonna have a bad time. You head to Walt Disney Studios Park after visiting Parc Disneyland expecting a similarly-themed masterpiece? You’re gonna have a bad time.
This list could go on and on. While this may seem like it’s in jest, it really is not. We think that one of the main reasons Disneyland Paris is so divisive is because a lot of guests go in with expectations created via experiences at Walt Disney World, and Disneyland Paris is totally different than that. In our estimation, it’s not different in a worse way, rather different in a way that requires adjusting expectations…
By the way, if you have some good tips–particularly from a French, British, or other European perspective–be sure to add them to the comments. We’re approaching this as Americans, so our experiences might very well differ from other Disneyland Paris regulars.
With that said, let’s dig into our 101 best Disneyland Paris tips…
If you’re booking a vacation package, comparison shop pricing on the U.S., U.K., German, and other European versions of the Disneyland Paris sites. Disney (controversially) offers different pricing and promos to different regions, so you could get a better deal by booking through a different version of the site.
While all counter service restaurants offer set menus including an entree, side(s), and drink, you can save money by purchasing entrees alone. Although only listed on some menu boards, a la carte entrees are available at nearly all restaurants (and are more frequently listed on the printed menus distributed to guests).
The Half and Full Board Meal Packages can offer savings on dining at Disneyland Paris if you choose pricier restaurants (such as Auberge de Cendrillon, Bistrot Chez Remy, and California Grill). Here’s a good run-down on what’s included with the various packages.
Due to a relatively new French law, restaurants cannot offer refills on sugary drinks. Even prior to this law, few restaurants at Disneyland Paris offered refills, but now even the Coke Freestyle machines being added at places like Five Guys will only fill one cup.
Staying on-site at a Disneyland Paris hotel adds to the experience, but the hotels are inexplicably expensive for their quality. We recommend staying off-site in nearby Val d’Europe (the RER train stop before Disneyland Paris).
Our top pick for off-site hotels in Val d’Europe is Hipark Serris, a budget apartment-style hotel, which is actually within walking distance (~15 minutes) of the parks.
Many restaurants in Disneyland Paris close at or around 5 p.m., making dinner lines for popular locations very long. Waits of 30-45 minutes just to order are not uncommon. If you’re not a senior, we recommend holding off on dinner until after the park closes in Disney Village (Earl of Sandwich, Five Guys, and even McDonald’s are suitable options).
If you’re caffeine addicts like us, we recommend bringing your own “fix” in light of the above law. We’ve used packets from Starbucks and Trader Joe’s in the past, and liked both. Sarah ordered these Mount Hagen Organic Instant Regular Coffee sticks before our last trip and we found them to be a cost-effective and strong option. Highly recommended!
Do a split stay: one hotel near Disneyland Paris for that portion of your trip, and one hotel in downtown Paris for that portion of your trip. It will take almost an hour to get to Disneyland Paris from the city center (and vice-a-versa) by the RER line; commuting back and forth is not practical.
Purchase a Disneyland Paris Annual Pass. If you’re visiting for 4 days, it makes sense from a cost perspective. Even on a 3 day trip, it can make sense due to the discounts and perks.
Buy your child a character dress in the park, not before your visit. I know this is contra our advice in other posts, but that applies to the U.S. parks where princess dresses are pricey but cheaply made. The ones in Disneyland Paris are similarly expensive, but beautiful. Sarah would love to buy one of these dresses “for safekeeping” until we have kids. I’m not even kidding.
Most attractions are not open for morning Extra Magic Hours, and the ones that are can develop long waits by the second hour of EMH. We recommend starting with Peter Pan’s Flight and doing that a couple of times.
Download the official Disneyland Paris app before your trip. It’s useful not only for wait times, but also restaurant hours, which can be unpredictable at times.
Valuable perks of Disneyland Paris Annual Passes are access to Extra Magic Hours, which is huge if you’re staying off-site. The Infinity Annual Pass also includes VIP reserved seating for Disney Illuminations and the parade, which can be a huge time-saver.
Pack your patience. Disneyland Paris is a melting pot of different European cultures, and due to that plus myriad other factors, “guests behaving badly” seems to be a more pronounced issue at Disneyland Paris than the U.S. parks. Smoking is also much more common in Europe, and you’ll encounter smokers outside of smoking areas with regularity.
Speaking of which, Disneyland Paris is located in France. (Duh, right?) As such, it is an extension of French and European culture, not American culture. If you’re American, go in expecting a culture that’s different from your own. This should be patently obvious, but the most common complaints about Disneyland Paris stem from its underlying culture.
There are plenty of drinking fountains around the parks and restaurants will provide free tap water (upon request); we recommend bringing your own bottle and filling up. (Also great for DIY coffee.)
From Charles de Gaulle airport, take the TGV train instead of the RER or shuttles. The TGV is a 10 minute ride, whereas the RER will require going to downtown Paris and transferring (for a total transit time of over an hour). TGV is more expensive and less frequent, but worth it in terms of convenience.
For a guaranteed clear view of Disney Illuminations, the nighttime spectacular, we highly recommend staking out a spot on the backside of a flower planter in the Central Plaza (hub). This will ensure that no one is standing in front of you, which is important because ‘shoulder kids’ are especially prevalent at Disneyland Paris. Nothing like having your otherwise perfect view ruined at the last minute!
Weekends are the busiest days of the week at Disneyland Paris; in addition to out of town tourists, you have Parisian locals who flock to the parks on their off days.
Pin trading is less popular at Disneyland Paris (or at least that’s our impression), but it’s still a thing there. Read our Disney Pin Trading 101 post for money-saving tips on getting started in this hobby–and how to have fun with it in the parks.
Luggage storage outside of the parks is free for Annual Passholders. This is a great convenience on arrival and departure day (or, if you bring a tripod and don’t want to carry it around all day).
Phantom Manor is the Disneyland Paris twist on Haunted Mansion, and it’s a mix of bizarre and brilliant. Read our Phantom Manor Info & Review post after your first ride on the attraction but before your second for greater appreciation of the attraction.
If you’d prefer to take the RER train to Disneyland Paris (rather than walk), the two off-site hotels we recommend are Relais Spa and Hotel L’Elysée Val d’Europe. With that said, as Val d’Europe is a very new development, you’re unlikely to find a bad or dated hotel in the area. You might also use Airbnb, which often has several properties in this area. Read our Tips for Using Airbnb post for our recommendations for booking an Airbnb for a Disney trip.
If you are celebrating a special occasion, make sure to pick up a button reflecting the celebration at your resort hotel or in the parks from Guest Services.
If you’re doing breakfast without vouchers, our first recommendation would be to pack protein bars or grab groceries and make something yourself. If that doesn’t sound appealing, grab something at McDonald’s or Starbucks in Disney Village on your way into the park. In-park restaurants such as Cafe Hyperion and Cable Car Bake Shop can be very busy with guests redeeming vouchers, and the food is nothing special–better to focus that valuable early morning time on doing attractions before the waits get long!
During summer and other school holidays, Disneyland Paris can be busy. No matter when you visit, consulting our 1-Day Disneyland Paris Itinerary for an efficient strategy is recommended.
While we do not have a 1-Day Itinerary for Walt Disney Studios Park, we recommend rope dropping Crush’s Coaster, and then doing Ratatouille: The Adventure via Single Rider or FastPass. We typically only spend 2-3 hours in the Walt Disney Studios Park per trip (and usually 3 days at Disneyland Paris total).
Near the Val d’Europe RER station, there is a Auchan Supermarket Val d’Europe, with every food you could possibly need. Since many of the hotels in Val d’Europe have kitchens and due to the food quality at Disneyland Paris, this can be a savvy, money-saving spot.
The Disney Gallery in Disney Village has a variety of beautiful art, including attraction posters on demand. We have purchased a set of 12 posters here (like the calendar sold in the U.S., but without the calendar component) and a matted print of the Phantom Manor poster.
Be sure to pay your respects to the dragon who sleeps under the castle…every single day of your trip!
Disney’s Newport Bay Club Hotel finished a top-to-bottom refurbishment last year that resulted in it receiving an additional star in its rating. While we’ve yet to stay here, based on what we’ve seen, the hotel has improved dramatically, and it would currently be our higher-end pick for an on-site hotel. (We love Sequoia Lodge, but Newport’s updated rooms look nicer.)
During Mickey’s Kiss Goodnight, Mickey Mouse appears on the Main Street U.S.A. Train Station and waves guests goodnight and recites a few lines. This occurs approximately 10 minutes after Disney Illuminations finishes, and recurs sporadically thereafter in about 10-15 minute intervals.
If using Eurostar to/from Disneyland Paris, comparison shop prices out of both the Marne-la-Vallee station (at Disneyland Paris) and Gare du Nord (downtown Paris). When we went from Paris to London, we found prices were better out of Gare du Nord.
Dress nicely. This applies far less to Disneyland Paris than it does the rest of Paris, but is something to note here since you’ll presumably be visiting both. We recommend avoiding athletic wear and skimpy clothing, neither of which are common in France. Even if you “don’t care” how you look, there are two compelling reasons for dressing nicely: you’ll receive better service and won’t be an easy mark for pickpockets. Consult Sarah’s What to Wear to Disney post for ideas of practical and nice-looking options.
Due to the nighttime spectacular, Fantasyland attractions often close early. We recommend doing these early in the morning, ideally during Extra Magic Hours (particularly for Peter Pan’s Flight).
For a good “secret” Disney Illuminations viewing spot, head to the rockwork at the entrance to Discoveryland and choose a spot along the handrail with a clear view of Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant.
Disneyland Paris is known for its rare characters, and meet & greets in these parks are incredibly popular, in general. If characters are a priority, making them a first stop during Extra Magic Hours is a good idea.
Bars and lounges in the Disneyland Paris hotels are typically open late, and many offer exceptional ambiance for a nightcap after the park closes. Consult our Guide to Drinking at Disneyland Paris for specific recommendations.
Since its recent multi-year refurbishment, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad breaks down a lot. On our recent trip, it did not open with the park on multiple locations, leading to gridlock and confusion from rope drop crowds. Due to this, we recommend rope dropping the FastPass kiosk for Big Thunder, and doing so via Adventureland (to bypass the potential gridlock).
Five Guys, located on the “back” side of Disney Village, serves the best counter service burger at Disneyland Paris. Don’t feel too badly about ordering a distinctly American meal in France–counter service food in the parks leaves much to be desired.
Earl of Sandwich in Disney Village is a great dining value, and it serves many more options (like BBQ ribs!) than their U.S. locations. As an added bonus, you can get free WiFi here.
Fantasia Gelati serves excellent Italian ice cream. Our order hack for 2: order a cup with 3 scoops plus 2 crepes. Take two of the scoops out of the cup and put them on top of the crepes, eating the third scoop individually. The Fantasia flavor tastes like a cross between birthday cake and cotton candy, and is exceptional (but not so good on a crepe!).
Walt Disney Studios Park will celebrate ‘Legends of the Force’, a Star Wars event. Some of entertainment for Season of the Force is now available year-round, but some components (like the flagship Star Wars: A Galactic Celebration nighttime spectacular) will only be offered during the limited time celebration.
Walt’s – An American Restaurant is our pick for the must-do table service restaurant if you’re a Disney fan. The food is significantly better since the menu was overhauled, and the interior design (themed to Walt Disney and the lands of Disneyland Paris) is incredible. This setting is now better than Club 33.
Single Rider is available at Hyperspace Mountain, Crush’s Coaster, Ratatouille: L’Aventure Totalement Toqué de Rémy, Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop, and RC Racer.
If you do get stuck eating dinner at Disneyland Paris, our recommendation is Cowboy Cookout BBQ. It’s one of the counter service restaurants that is usually open later, and with much shorter lines (and better food) than other locations.
Queue up for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad ~5 minutes before park closing for a perfect ending to the day. Not only will you experience Disneyland Paris’ best attraction with minimal wait, but you’ll do so with the fireworks from Disney Illuminations exploding overhead.
If you’re into characters, book the Sunday Brunch at Inventions in Disneyland Hotel. The food is good, the setting and view are delightful, and random (and sometimes rare) characters appear at the meal.
Agrabah Cafe Restaurant is an excellent buffet, and exquisitely-themed. In terms of value, it is the best dining option at Disneyland Paris.
During the height of summer tourist season (July and August, typically), a stage show called “The Forest of Enchantment”is performed in the Chaparral Theater. This is the only time of year this show can be seen, currently.
Guided tours of both parks are available in French, English, and Spanish. These delve into the history, details, hidden secrets, architecture, etc., of the parks. There is an additional charge for these tours and they do not include priority access to attractions. Visit City Hall in Disneyland Paris or Studio Services in Walt Disney Studios Park for tour times and availability during your visit.
Shops on Main Street are open up to an hour after the park closes. Do your shopping once you can’t do rides.
Dole Whips have a reputation that precedes them, and are now available at Disneyland Paris. We think the hype level has gotten a tad too high for this snack, but people seem to love them, so…
The Fantasyland Disneyland Railroad Station tends to have the shortest wait times; oddly, this is an attraction that can see pretty lengthy waits on even moderately busy days.
Hotel New York closed completely for a year-plus refurbishment in early 2019. This is for good reason, and the hotel will reopen at some point in late 2020 with an ‘Art of Marvel’ overlay.
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril is nothing like the Disneyland Indiana Jones attraction; the Paris Indiana Jones attraction is a bare-bones coaster that is very forgettable
Figaro is a Cat. (But unfortunately, there’s no sign indicating as much at Disneyland Paris. Big “fail,” Imagineers.)
We’re hard on the Walt Disney Studios Park, but Mickey and the Magician is one of the best Disney stage shows anywhere. Save this for when the weather isn’t so good–you might even end up doing it more than once!
Colonel Hathi’s Pizza Outpost used to be the Explorer’s Club, and there are a lot of cool remnants of this past incarnation of the restaurant throughout the seating area.
The best viewing location for Disney Stars on Parade is along the curve of the sidewalk in the Central Plaza just outside of Frontierland. This will give you a direct view of the floats coming towards you with the castle in the background (perfect for photos!).
There’s a volcano at Hotel Santa Fe. It’s not nearly as cool as it might sound, but it’s the kind of thing that is worth the walk from one of the nearby resorts to see/photograph.
Space Mountain is much more intense in Paris and includes inversions; the soon-to-open Hyperspace Mountain should be a smoother experience, but still more intense.
A variety of restaurants at Disneyland Paris serve foie gras, which is a common (and controversial) French delicacy.
July 14 is Bastille Day in France, and Disneyland Paris offers a special fireworks show at park closing each year on this date in celebration. Crowds are heavy, but if videos are any indication, it’s worth it.
Alice’s Curious Labyrinth is worth doing for the view alone from the top of Queen of Hearts Castle alone, which offers a stunning view of Fantasyland and Sleeping Beauty Castle, particularly at sunset. On days that aren’t busy, you can enter the maze through the exit for direct access to the castle lookout.
You will need a chipped credit card at Disneyland Paris. Chip and pin credit cards are the standard in Europe, but chip and signature cards (the new standard in the United States) also work.
Don’t miss the Nautilus, Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant Walk-through, Le Passage Enchanté d’Aladdin, Adventure Isle, or the Swiss Family Treehouse. These are all walkthroughs, but all are excellent.
Take some time to explore both Main Street Arcades; these exist for practical purposes (shielding guests from rain or snow), but they have beautiful details that make them worth exploring.
While Cast Members at Disneyland Paris are pretty forgiving of guests who do not speak French, a good practice (throughout France!) is to begin any conversation in French by saying, “Je ne parle pas français. Parlez–vous anglais?” (“I do not speak French. Do you speak English?”) You will typically receive a warmer reception simply by using these easy-to-memorize lines.
Hotel Cheyenne has an outdoor fire pit near the Red Garter Saloon and Sequoia Lodge has a fireplace in Redwood Bar & Lounge; both perfect for cooler evenings.
Villages Nature is a new, sustainable tourism endeavor being co-developed by Disney (including involvement from high profile Imagineers, such as Joe Rohde). While we’ve yet to stay there, it looks like a fascinating and unique place to stay during a Disneyland Paris vacation.
Disneyland Paris has the best, working barber shop of any Disney park. The elaborate theming inside is sourced from a barbershop in Chicago.
A variety of unique vehicles run on Main Street, but our pick for the coolest/most unique is the Paddy Wagon. Look for its stop on the right side of Town Square.
The potato wedges at Cowboy Cookout BBQ are the perfect afternoon snack. We highly recommend going at an off-hour, grabbing a side of these, and sitting by the fire pit.
Character breakfast is now held at Plaza Gardens Restaurant; reservations for this should be booked in advance.
Club level at the Disney hotel provides access to an exclusive lounge with refreshments throughout the day, plus a buffet breakfast in the hotel.
Don’t stand in the grass for parades or Disney Illuminations. It doesn’t matter if other guests are doing it–just don’t.
Disneyland Paris has a number of sound effects and conversations among its “inhabitants” throughout the park. Many of these, including a dentist drilling and piano lessons can be heard on Main Street. During the day, crowd sounds can drown them out, but they are easy to hear at night.
Chewing gum is not sold in Disneyland Paris or the Walt Disney Studios Park.
Disneyland Paris is the only castle park that sells beer and wine at counter service restaurants. This was a change made shortly after the park opened to bring it into line with French cultural norms. Public drunkenness is not an issue at Disneyland Paris.
Boot Hill Cemetery outside Phantom Manor contains a number of Easter Eggs and references to Imagineers who worked on the project.
If you’re staying at a Disney hotel, inquire about the character meet & greet schedule in your hotel. These are exclusive experiences for hotel guests, and have shorter lines than the in-park meet & greets.
Hotel Cheyenne now has a Starbucks location. If you need your morning fix and are staying at Hotel Cheyenne or Hotel Santa Fe, this Starbucks location will be more convenient (read: shorter lines) than the Disney Village Starbucks.
Disneyland Paris currently does not have a night parade. Its last night parade was Fantillusion.
For Disney’s Halloween Festival, dozens of friendly ghosts and “pumpkin people” invade Main Street and Frontierland. In addition to these fun photo-op decorations, there is a Halloween parade and a Villains-centric stage show.
Normally, Disneyland Paris celebrates Swing into Spring and Frozen Summer Fun in addition to Halloween and Christmas. However, due to the 25th Anniversary, these celebrations might take a temporary hiatus until 2019. Read more about these seasonal events here.
A greater understanding of the detail and history of Disneyland Paris will give you a greater appreciation for the park. For this, there’s no better book than Disneyland Paris: Sketch to Reality. Unfortunately, that out of print title is seriously expensive. A good alternative is Disneyland Paris: A to Z, which is currently being sold in the park for the 25th Anniversary.This guided tour with Imagineer Tony Baxter is a great video to watch, too.
Policies change…but so do Cast Member interpretations of them. If told something by a Cast Member that does not seem right, be polite, but consider inquiring with a second Cast Member for accuracy.
Okay, so I have to admit that I ran out of steam here towards the end, and had to flesh out the list with a few fun facts and secrets about Disneyland Paris that I find interesting. I’d love to replace some of these with actual tips (a separate “Disneyland Paris Secrets” post would probably be a good idea, since there are way more interesting details I didn’t include here). If you have any useful tips about Disneyland Paris that I’ve missed, please share in the comments and I’ll revise this list with some of them!
What do you think of the tips we’ve shared for best-experiencing Disneyland Paris? Anything with which you disagree? Any of your own tips to add to improve others’ experience in France’s Disney parks? Any questions about these Disneyland Paris tips? Hearing from you is half the fun, so please share your questions and thoughts in the comments!