I visited Disneyland Paris last spring. Previously, I had been to Disneyland in California and Disney World in Florida. Disney World is still my favorite, but Disneyland Paris is charming and has some fun attractions that the other parks don’t.
I stayed in the city and took the subway/train by myself to Disneyland. This was the part I was most nervous about, as I don’t speak a word of French, but I found the subway system in Paris relatively easy to navigate by following the lights on the boards in the subway stations. You will want to take or transfer to the RER train and get off at the Marne-la-Vallée/Chessy stop. Helpfully, this is the last stop on the line, and it has a picture of Mickey ears next to it inside the train.
When you get off the train, the entrance to the park is right there. Just follow all the adults with mouse ear headbands and kids in princess costumes and you will have no problem finding it. 🙂
How long should I spend at the parks?
I saw everything I wanted to in both parks with time to spare in less than a day. This surprised me because I usually give a day to each of the parks in America. The Paris parks are smaller; I also didn’t ride very many rides, and waiting in line adds lots of time. If you plan on doing lots of rides, you may not be able to get through both parks in a day.
Walt Disney Studios Park
There are two parks at Disneyland Paris: Walt Disney Studios and Disneyland. Disneyland is the one that you are thinking of when you think about “Disneyland.” Walt Disney Studios has a number of random things, such as rides dedicated to Pixar films, the Tower of Terror, and some vaguely “cinema magic”-type attractions.
One of my favorite things that I did at Walt Disney Studios Park was meet Spider-Man! I’m laughing about it now, but it was such a relief to hear his American accent after a semester of being surrounded by European accents. The little boy that met Spider-Man right before me spoke French, so I assume Spider-Man spoke to him in French, but I’m not sure.
When you meet a character that has a photographer, the photographer will give you a little card that has your photos on it. On the card is also printed all the locations where you can redeem the photos. There are a few locations in each park, usually inside gift shops. Bring the card to one of the PhotoPass counters, and you can select the photos you want to purchase, either digitally or as a print. If you buy digital photos, they will give you a website and a code to use to download them.
PhotoPass can be pricey, so you are always welcome to ask the photographer or character attendant to take pictures on your phone as well.
Bistrot Chez Rémy
Ratatouille is one of my favorite movies, so I was excited to visit the Ratatouille ride and the Bistrot Chez Rémy restaurant at Walt Disney Studios Park. I made reservations for an early lunch a few weeks in advance, though it didn’t seem like a very busy time of day when I was there. The restaurant is decorated to make you feel like you have shrunk down to Remy’s size, with giant bottle caps and paper umbrellas for tables, strands of massive Christmas lights strung along the ceiling, and, of course, a huge copy of Chef Gusteau’s Anyone Can Cook!
Any sit-down Disney restaurant is going to be expensive; I think my three-course meal (salad, main, and dessert) was around €40. So a pretty big splurge. But I couldn’t leave Paris without trying ratatouille, and it was fabulous. So good. I got it with cod and potatoes. It doesn’t look like the fancy dish from the movie, but the taste totally makes up for that.
On the menu, you can select either a two- or three-course option and then choose from the short list of main courses and desserts.
There are a lot more rides at Disneyland than at Walt Disney Studios, which has more space dedicated to animation or cinema-related activities like the Art of Disney Animation exhibit. Kids would enjoy the magic carpets or any of the Pixar rides at Walt Disney Studios. A more thrill-seeking adult than me would enjoy the Rock n’ Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror.
Ratatouille: The Adventure is the only ride I went on at Walt Disney Studios Park. You sit in a (slightly jerky) car and ride through different rooms that represent the scenes from the movie, including Remy’s narrow escapes in the restaurant kitchen. I don’t really like rides, but I had no problem with this one.
Even though the movie is in English, it’s set in Paris, so I was delighted to hear the characters in the ride speaking in French, just as they should. It made the scenes feel more genuine.
Ratatouille had a single-rider line, which meant I filled in a spot in a car with a family I didn’t know. Single-rider lines move a lot more quickly than the regular line, but you do not get to sit with the friends that you came with. In my case, I was traveling by myself, so it was no big deal. Some rides (Ratatouille was not one of them) allow you to get a FastPass, which means you can bypass the line. You have to get a FastPass in advance from a FastPass station and go to the ride at the time assigned on the pass.
The second half of my day was spent at the Disneyland park, which is divided into themed “lands” such as Fantasyland, Adventureland, and Discoveryland.
When you enter Disneyland, you can explore the shops along Main Street, which house lots of Disney clothing, souvenirs, and toys. I especially enjoyed seeing the artwork in Harrington’s Fine China.
A lot of the attractions are similar to what you would find at Disneyland in California, but there are a few that are unique. One of my favorites was the Storybook Land Canal Boats ride, which features little scenes from fairy tales along a river. There is a ride like this in California, but the fairy tales represented in Paris were more interesting, in my opinion, and included some folktales I hadn’t heard of before.
One of my other favorites was exploring Sleeping Beauty’s castle: wandering through the upper floor and seeing the illustrated story of Sleeping Beauty and then going under the castle to view the dragon curled up in the darkness there.
The most magical experience at Disneyland was the afternoon parade, which is performed daily. The characters dancing in the parade and on the floats were so animated and fun to watch. I recommend getting a seat along the curb early, as the parade route fills up quickly. I had to stand on a bench to see much of anything.
I didn’t stay late enough to watch the fireworks at closing time, but those are always a highlight at the parks in the States, so I would recommend staying to watch them if you visit Disneyland Paris.
I planned to eat dinner at the Toad Hall restaurant (Wind in the Willows—the 1995 animated version, not the Disney one—is another of my favorite movies), but it was closed. There was no opening hours sign, and after doing a little online investigation, it seems that the restaurant is open sporadically (possibly seasonally?). Instead of visiting one of the many other standard-amusement-park-fare restaurants throughout the park, I had ice cream from Fantasia Gelati, which was good.
More shopping and affordable dining is available in the outdoor mall area next door to the parks, called Disney Village. If you’ve been to Downtown Disney in California or Disney Springs in Florida, you will recognize the World of Disney store, the Rainforest Cafe, hot air balloon rides, and, best of all, Earl of Sandwich, which has the best sandwiches ever. My homesick heart was so happy to see it.
All in all, Disneyland Paris had a few great highlights. I wouldn’t go again by myself; after visiting multiple Disney parks, I think what often makes them so enjoyable is the company you go with. Disneyland Paris is small and sometimes a little run-down, and the weather (at least when I went in April) wasn’t ideal for spending a day outside at a park. Even so, the food there was good, meeting characters is always a lot of fun, and there are a few rides and attractions you won’t find anywhere else. It’s also cheaper than the parks in the States (and much cheaper to visit if you live in Europe). It was a pleasant place to spend one day.
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