These magical places will make you believe in fairy tales
These magical places will make you believe in fairy tales
The stories we hear in our childhood have a tendency to stay with us throughout our lives. Tales of enchanted forests, talking animals, kind and wicked witches, fairies and other magical creatures have amazed and delighted generations throughout time. In several enchanted corners of Europe, the fantastical world of the fairy tale has been lovingly brought to life by grown-ups who remember what it was like to be a child with a head full of dreams. From slick commercial theme parks to woodland paths lovingly tended by volunteers, here are a few places you just might find have been sprinkled with a fine coating of fairy dust.
Copenhagen: Tivoli Gardens, a theme park and garden in the heart of the Danish capital, has been delighting visitors of all ages since its founding in 1843. Its exotic buildings based on the architecture of distant lands, immaculate gardens and ponds look particularly magical at twilight, when the park is lit up by thousands of colored lights. Attractions range from the nostalgic and sweet to downright scary. “The Flying Trunk” is a kid-friendly ride passing by 32 scenes from the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen. Admission is charged.
Not all fairy tales were written hundreds of years ago. The two outdoor adventure parks named BeWILDerwood are based on a series of children’s books still being penned by local author Tom Blofeld. His tales of Boggles, Twiggles and Crocklebogs serve as the inspiration to two recently opened attractions, one in Hoveton, Norwich and the other in Whitchurch, Cheshire. The whole family can enjoy adventure in a world of treehouses, super slides, giant swings and zip wires, as well as activities such as storytelling and creative craft sessions. Tiny tots will enjoy Toddlewood and Tiptoe Valley. Admission fees are charged.
Bad Berleburg: The Märchenspur fairy tale trail is a circular trail leading through landscapes reminiscent of the tales of the Brothers Grimm. Certified as a Premium Walking Trail by the German Hiking Institute, the four-mile trail passes through a historical Old Town, alongside the magnificent Berleburg Castle and its pretty grounds and into the forest. In place of figures or sculptures, the settings feature quotes from fairy tales, allowing imaginations to run wild. A quiz accompanies six of the trail’s stations, and when all six questions have been answered correctly and the flyer duly stamped, the local tourist information office gives out a reward. Admission is free.
Bingen: This town by the Rhine and not far from Wiesbaden is backed by high hills, steep valleys and a deep dark forest. For a walking path the kids won’t soon forget, set out along the Steckeschlääferklamm. Through a pretty gorge, the route is less than a mile long, but impresses with more than 60 images of whimsical, mischievous and downright scary characters carved into the trunks of living trees. Some are easy to spot, others you’ll have to look harder for to discover. Little footbridges of the kind you might expect baby goats to be hiding under adds yet more charm to the trail. Admission is free.
Burgschwalbach: Less than an hour’s drive north of Wiesbaden is found a Märchenwald forest made up of a Hansel and Gretel house, miniature castle, adventure playground, pirate ship and other small attractions. Admission is free.
Hamelin: The Pied Piper of Hamelin is based on the medieval legend of how a town plagued by rats hired a piper to rid them of the vermin. When the town refused to pay the bill, the piper used the powers of his magic pipe to lead the town’s children away, never to be seen again. The small city in which numerous historical records make reference to this mysterious event is proud of its connection to the tale and has several landmarks alluding to the rats and piper. At noon on Sundays, visitors can enjoy a free performance of The Pied Piper Open-Air Play, in which the roles of rats, piper, evil mayor and townspeople are performed by amateur actors in historical costumes. Following the half-hour-long play, the Piper parades the spectators through the Old Town. The Hamelin City Museum also dedicates much of its space to the dark tale.
Höchst: The Odenwald, a forest north of Heidelberg, is the setting for a Fairy Tale Trail meandering through the Obrunnbach valley. Alongside a babbling stream, an assortment of miniature dwellings to include a swan castle, mouse tower, a church, mill, half-timbered house and assorted animal figures enchants visitors young and old. Admission is free.
Ludwigsburg: Blühendes Barock refers to the magical gardens surrounding the Ludwigsburg Palace, which plays host to an annual pumpkin festival. Amongst the ancient trees and flower beds is an entire section of the park dedicated to fairy tales, the Fairy Tale Garden. Young visitors will enjoy peeking into the house where the Big Bad Wolf, clad in Grandma’s clothing, lies in wait for Little Red Riding Hood or watching Rapunzel’s braid descend from the tower. As not all of the tales which inspired the some 40 themed installations will be familiar to all visitors, the park’s website provides a quick recap of the fairy tales—reading them out loud in advance would be a great way to build anticipation toward a visit. Admission fees are charged.
Oberammergau: This idyllic Alpine town is known for its Lüftmalerei, the pretty painted facades adorning the houses. Many of the images here make reference to well-known fairy tales, among them a building that served as a home for children orphaned after WWI, painted with images from Hansel and Gretel. Other characters to spot include the animals from the Town Musicians of Bremen and Little Red Riding Hood. For more things to see and do in Oberammergau, check out the blog titled Tripping with Gunjan.
Odenthal: The Märchenwald Altenberg found just northeast of Cologne brings to life the scenes from 18 fairy tales, including Rapunzel, Puss in Boots, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty and others more familiar to German families. A playground and friendly goats waiting to be fed adds to the vintage charm of this hidden corner.
Rust: Germany’s largest theme park is best known for its adrenaline rides, but little ones can have their day in the sun here too. Within Europa-Park nestles Grimm's Fairy Tale Forest, where Sleeping Beauty’s castle and Rapunzel’s braid are just some of the references kids will recognize instantly. Towers, enchanted trees and hidden characters ensure the park’s youngest visitors leave as happy as their big brothers and sisters. Admission is charged.
Schongau: The Märchenwald fairy tale forest offers 12 installations based on the tales of the Brothers Grimm. With the press of a button, puppets within the tiny homes are brought to life. Between the stations goats, ponies, donkeys, bunnies and guinea pigs make their homes; many of these can be fed. The park can also be explored aboard a miniature train. Admission is charged.
Collodi: A visit to Pinocchio Park ensures a trip to Tuscany delights even the tiniest of tourists. Opened in 1956, the park’s route winds past sculptures depicting the events told in the book, a labyrinth, puppet theater, tiny ropes course and numerous other attractions. A highlight is the giant whale children can crawl inside and walk upon. Admission is charged.
Kaatsheuvel: The fairy tale-themed Efteling is the country’s largest theme park and the third-most visited park of its kind in Europe. Having opened back in 1952, Efteling has been delighting families for generations. Fables, folklore, ancient myths and fairy tales are the inspiration for its numerous attractions. While some rides are gentle and nostalgic, older kids in need of speed will be satisfied by its faster attractions, including six roller coasters. Admission fees are charged.
Valkenburg aan de Geul: The Sprookjesbos theme park offers rides, playgrounds and indoor attractions of greatest appeal to the very young. Things to discover here include a former quarry, 7D cinema, pirate ship, swing ride and carousel. The fairy tale forest offers wooden structures for climbing and jumping. Some visitor reviews suggest the park is in a rather dilapidated condition; a few find this actually adds to its charm. Admission fees are charged.
Zeewolde: The Hans & Grietje Pancake House promises a dining experience like no other. Moving tables, bewitched floors, upside-down rooms and magical machines make any meal here an adventure. Once they’ve had their fill of pancakes, kids can slide down to the basement, where a world of adventure awaits, as long as they don’t disturb the sleeping witch. Outside bouncy castles and trampolines are found. Reservations are highly recommended; admission is free.
Subscribe to our Stripes Europe newsletter and receive amazing travel stories, great event info, helpful PCS tips, interesting lifestyle articles and more directly in your inbox!
Follow us on social media!