10 spectacular amusement parks in Europe

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Disneyland Paris, France

Happy Birthday! In 2017 Disneyland Paris celebrates its 25th anniversary. The park is known for bringing to life the fantasy characters and worlds of Disney films - first and foremost, Minnie and Mickey Mouse. Every year, some 15 million visitors stream through the castle gates. The park itself is vast. Its nearly 2,000 hectares equal about one fifth the total area of Paris!

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Europa-Park in Rust, Germany

The Europa-Park outside Freiburg in September 2016 won the international award for best amusement park in the world. Germany's biggest amusement park boasts over 100 attractions in 14 European-themed areas. The big star among the roller coasters is the Blue Fire. It makes the sprint from zero to 100 k/h (62 mi/h) in just two and a half seconds.

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Viennese Prater, Austria

In a green pocket of land in the middle of Vienna you can find the oldest amusement park in the world, the Wurstelprater. A model for many parks that followed, last year it was celebrating its 250th anniversary. Over four million visitors flock to the fair's stages and rides every year. One highlight is the 65-meter-high Ferris wheel, one of Vienna's most famous landmarks.

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Gardaland in Castelnuovo del Garda, Italy

Gardaland is a fantasy world designed in loving detail around a magic tree. This is the lair of the park mascot, the dragon Prezzemolo (English: parsley). Every year, around 2.75 million people are drawn to the park on Lake Garda to enjoy its more than forty attractions, divided into four areas: Adrenaline, Adventure, Fantasy and Show.

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PortAventura in Salou, Spain

Spain's largest amusement park, PortAventura, south of Barcelona, also has a range of areas, each with its own theme, among them Mediterrània and Polynesia. The park is highly popular with both tourists and local residents, clocking up to some 3.5 million annual visitors. In 2007, it opened one of Europe's fastest roller coasters, the Furius Baco, with a maximum speed of 135 k/h (83 mi/h).

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Zoomarine Algarve in Guia, Portugal

Most of the rolling and looping at Zoomarine in Guia, Portugal, is done by marine mammals: dolphins, seals, harbor seals and sea lions perform all kinds of stunts in a variety of shows. The park-resident parrots also take to the stage. Visiting land-bound hominids can test out aquatic habitats in the wave pool and on water slides.

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Alton Towers in Farley, Britain

This amusement park is tucked a bit out of the way, north of Birmingham, England. Alton Towers takes its name from a ruined Gothic castle that forms its centerpiece. Inside, park-goers find the Hex ride, challenging them to attempt to break an old spell. Among the different areas is a botanical garden commanding an excellent view of the complex.

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Efteling in Kaatsheuvel, the Netherlands

Efteling is all about fairy tales and their denizens: trolls, elves and dragons. They inhabit over thirty attractions, including a 3D cinema, a water coaster and a fairy-tale forest. The newest is the Baron 1898 roller coaster. Its passengers become players in a story: friends of a wealthy baron who has struck gold in an old coal mine. They accompany him down into the bowels of the Earth.

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Legoland in Billund, Denmark

Legoland in Billund, Denmark, is constructed of Lego blocks of every shape and color -some 60 million of them. The park was opened in 1968 just a few kilometers from the actual Lego factory as the first of currently ten Legolands around the world. This one also features rides, but the main attraction remains the miniature houses, ships and cars all made of Lego blocks.

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Liseberg in Gothenburg, Sweden

In the middle of Gothenburg, Sweden, is Scandinavia's biggest amusement park, Liseberg. Around three million visitors come here every year. Among the highlights are the free-fall tower AtmosFear, which drops its brave passengers 90 Meters straight down. A bit easier on the nerves is the Ferris wheel, which also treats passengers to a panoramic view of Sweden's second-largest city.

Fans of amusement parks have a smorgasbord to choose from in Europe. Here are ten tips for parks that deserve a place at the very top of anyone's list.