Efteling Johan Wieland

The Efteling Theme Park

The Efteling theme park in Kaatsheuvel in the province of Brabant was opened on May 31st 1952, three years before Disneyland, and is considered one of the oldest theme parks in the world. A combination of technical ingenuity and nostalgic representation of themes from fairy tales and traditional Dutch stories and songs formed the mainstay of the original park. Since then, the Efteling has developed into a complete entertainment resort, including the theme park, a golf course, hotel and theater.

Some interesting facts:

  • Before it was reopened as a theme park, the Efteling was a 'Roman Catholic Sports and Walking Park' containing a children’s playground and teahouse. It was opened in 1935 on the initiative of two priests to engage the Catholic working classes in wholesome recreational activities.
  • One of the designers of the park was illustrator Anton Pieck, renowned for nostalgic depictions in his own instantly recognizable style of life in ‘simpler, happier’ times. His illustrations are often used on Christmas cards and in children’s books and his style is instantly recognizable in the older parts of the Efteling.
  • In 1956 the park purchased an original steam carousel that had toured carnivals since it was built in 1895. The Gavioli fairground organ that plays the music for the carousel is one of only five remaining in the world.
  • The enchanting Indian Water Lillies attraction, opened to celebrate the fifteenth anniversary of the park, is based on a fairy tale written by former Queen Fabiola of Belgium.
  • When the park built the Python rollercoaster in 1981, it was the largest steel rollercoaster in Europe.
  • The Efteling is very Dutch in its homely coziness, which is borne out by the fact that an astounding 94% of the Dutch population have visited the theme park at least once.

For more in-depth coverage of De Efteling, read Issue 22 of Dutch the magazine.

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Original article by: Tom Bijvoet