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9 Reasons Why Disneyland Paris Is Better Than Disney World — And 3 Reasons It’s Worse

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Michael Y. Park
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Michael Y. Park


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Michael Y. Park is a journalist living in New York City. He’s traveled through Afghanistan disguised as a Hazara Shi’ite, slept with polar bears on the Canadian tundra, picnicked with the king and que...
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Being a parent can be tough. Being a parent taking your kid to a Disney park can be even tougher. And being a parent taking your kid to a Disney park in a country where you don’t really speak the language?

Actually, that turned out to be pretty easy, and it made me a Disneyland Paris convert.

After a trip this spring to Disneyland Paris with my family, I came away thinking it was, in many ways, my favorite Disney park of all. Here’s why I liked Disneyland Paris better than Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando — and why I didn’t.

Why Disneyland Paris Is Better

1. You Can Skip Premier Access — More School Breaks Mean Shorter Waits

Perhaps as a way to introduce them early to the national devotion to the work-life balance, French schoolchildren get a lot of vacation by law — about 2 weeks every 2 months (don’t get too jealous: French kids also have some of the longest school days and a shorter summer break). Add to that a national education system that rotates school vacation schedules by region, and you’ve spread out the masses of screaming, sugar-fueled youngsters all around the calendar instead of concentrating them all in a single week each season (looking at you, Thanksgiving week at Disney World).

Because the French tend to see Disneyland Paris as a short trip (a long weekend or even a day trip) rather than a weeklong extravaganza, they tend to hit it during their regular school breaks instead of saving it for major calendar events they’d rather spend at home with family, like Christmas or Easter (both weeks in which Disney World is totally swamped with visitors).

What does this mean for you? Fewer crowds, less jostling, less jockeying for lines, and far less overall stress. When our French friends, who go to Disneyland Paris every year, told us they’d never had to wait in line for a ride for over 30 minutes, we — who’d witnessed a 6-hour estimated wait for Hollywood Studios’ Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance climb to over 6 hours in Orlando —  scoffed.

Disneyland Paris Main Street night
This was about as crowded as we saw Main Street get, a little before closing.

But they were absolutely right. At Disney World, we counted ourselves lucky to get to do 6 or 7 rides in a day, including 1 or maybe 2 popular ones. At Disneyland Paris in late April, we did twice that, easily, including all the popular ones we’d wanted to try. The waits for most rides were well under 30 minutes. There was no need to write out a ride priority list, map out the shortest routes between attractions, or skip breakfast for the rope drop.

And we never shelled out for Premier Access, the Disneyland Paris version of Disney World’s Lightning Lane. There was no need for it.

Hot Tip:

Don’t fret about paying for Premier Access. You probably won’t need to skip the line, and we never saw anyone bother with it at the parks.

2. It’s Easier To Get To

Navigating the Paris Metro system as an outsider is a mess, from the zones to the simultaneous rail systems (the Paris Metro, for zones 1 to 3, and the Réseau Express Régional, or RER, for zones 1 to 5, both managed by the Régie autonome des transports parisiens, or RATP), confusing or nonexistent explanations, too-few machines, machines that always seem to break down, and so on.

But Disneyland Paris is about as easy to reach as can be, whether from Paris or the Disney hotels.

Disneyland Paris Mickey wand horizontal
It’s easy to reach Disneyland Park, the French version of the Magic Kingdom.

From any station that connects to the RER A in Paris (in zone 1, that’s from Charles de Gaulle-Etoile — not the airport! — to Nation), simply hop on the RER to the end of the line at Marne-la-Vallée–Chessy. Just make sure that’s the terminus of the train you get on, not Boissy-Saint-Léger — the trains to Disney all have “Q” names on the front, such as QUDO, QIKY, QBIK, or QAHA.

It’s about a 35-minute ride from central Paris. Once you arrive, send mental thanks to Michael Eisner for convincing the French government to extend the line all the way to Chessy and right up to the parks’ doorstep. If you’re staying at a Disney hotel, each property has a dedicated shuttle service that runs regularly during park hours to a terminal on the other side of the RER station from the parks. It’s less than a 5-minute walk.

Disneyland Paris bus stop
The hotel bus stops are well-marked and easy to find.

The buses are clean, and the rides are quick. If you’ve ever been on a Disney bus in Orlando, you’ll find it all instantly familiar.

Disneyland Paris bus
The shuttle buses look and feel exactly like they do in Orlando.

Driving to Disneyland Paris from the heart of the city also takes about 35 minutes, depending on traffic, of course. The parking is right by the parks, so you don’t have to deal with driving to the lot, waiting for a shuttle, and then getting bused to the park entrance — you can walk straight from your car to security.

The parking lots are long, though, so if you park way in the back, expect a walk of up to 20 minutes. This is a situation where the moving sidewalks come in handy.

Both parks and Disney Village are behind a cursory and quick security screening area — less intense than in Orlando and far less than at an airport. Once you’re in this post-security region, you can head left to Disney Village, straight to Walt Disney Studios, or right to Disneyland Park, the original park that’s basically the French version of the Magic Kingdom.

Disneyland Paris Walt Disney Studios entrance
Go straightish for the entrance to Walt Disney Studios, the French version of Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

At Disney World, on the other hand, transportation is a complicated maze. Though Disney tries to make getting to the parks and from park to park as easy as possible, you still have to take a car or negotiate Disney’s somewhat confusing and sometimes overwhelming network of monorail trains, ferry boats, water taxis, Skyliner gondolas, hotel shuttles, and Minnie Vans.

3. It’s Harder To Get Lost

The parks in France are big but not overwhelming — about 140 acres for Disneyland Park and 62 acres for Walt Disney Studios Park. It helps to keep the general layouts of the parks in mind as you navigate them, as it can get confusing to figure out where you are after you’ve disembarked from a dark ride and emerged back into the bright sun.

Disneyland Paris map
Disneyland Paris in 2024. Image Credit: Disneyland Paris

Disneyland Park is laid out like a 5-pointed snowflake, with guests entering from the bottommost area (Main Street U.S.A.) and the circular garden in front of Sleeping Beauty’s castle acting as the hub from which all the other worlds radiate.

Clockwise from Main Street, U.S.A., the worlds are Frontierland, Adventureland, Fantasyland, and Discoveryland.

Disneyland Paris Frontierland
French people like the Wild West. This Frontierland is a lot busier than the one in Orlando.

Except for Main Street, U.S.A., each of these parks also connects with its neighbor at about the midway point.

Disneyland Paris Adventureland
Adventureland is one of the smaller but more central worlds.

So, for example, if you wanted to go to Discoveryland first, you’d take a right at the central garden. If you then wanted to go from Discoveryland to Adventureland, the shortest route would be to go back out through the Discoveryland world’s main entrance and straight across the central garden to the main entrance of Adventureland. If you ended up in Fantasyland and wanted to go back to Discoveryland, you could either go back via the central garden or take the side route between Fantasyland and Discoveryland.

Disneyland Paris Discoveryland
Discoveryland is one of the more sprawling worlds.

Walt Disney Studios, on the other hand, is more U-shaped. Its 5 lands are the Production Courtyard, the Front Lot, Worlds of Pixar, Toon Studio, and Marvel Avengers Campus.

Disney Studios Paris signpost
Hollywood Towers stands at the corner of Production Courtyard and the new Marvel’s Avenger Campus.

Coming from the main entrance, if you follow the left fork, you go through the Production Courtyard and end up in Marvel’s Avengers Campus.

Disneyland Paris Walt Disney Studios Marvel Avengers campus
This is essentially the end of the left fork, for now.

Taking the right fork, on the other hand, leads through Toon Studio and ends in Worlds of Pixar, which is bigger than it looks. If you walk all the way through the “Ratatouille”-themed mock-Parisian square, you eventually reach the best ride of all the parks for weary dads: Cars ROAD TRIP (but more on that later).

Disneyland Paris Walt Disney Studios Toy Story Playland
This is the beginning of the end of the right fork.

Disney World’s Magic Kingdom may look like it has the same easy, radial symmetry of Disneyland Paris on paper, but the waterway between Frontierland and Fantasyland (the one the steamboat chugs around) ruins the wheel-like structure and makes getting between these 2 worlds more of a pain than in Disneyland Paris. In France, Frontierland swaps places with Adventureland on the wheel, so it connects clockwise to Adventureland, which in turn connects to Fantasyland.

4. The Castle’s Actually Worth Visiting

In Disney World, the castle is little more than a landmark for orienting yourself around the park and a concrete tunnel that acts as a shortcut between a couple of the worlds. If you’re lucky, you can have an overpriced meal there with princess interactions. If you’re really lucky, you can stay overnight in the Castle Suite.

In France, of course, seemingly everyone and their grandmother have a chateau, so the Disneyland Paris designers had to go the extra mile, borrowing heavily from one of the most extravagant castles in the world, Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria.

Disneyland Paris castle
Sleeping Beauty’s Castle is based on a real castle.

But they didn’t stop at the facade. The inside has shops that sell Christmas-themed merchandise and tiaras and a walkaround balcony that leads to outside stairs down to Fantasyland.

Disneyland Paris castle second floor interior
The interior of the castle here is much more exciting than the one in Orlando.

But the real prize is in the cavern below the castle — you can climb down the dark stairway almost hidden at the back of the tiara store. It’s the home of the dragon from “Sleeping Beauty,” who mostly snores fitfully by a murky pool in the dark space but sometimes wakes up and releases a fierce gust of smoke. It’s old school, and it’s animatronic, but it’s a delight. Don’t miss it.

Disneyland Paris dragon
That spooky staircase at the back of the tiara store is worth exploring.

5. The Gardens and Mazes Are Amazing

The French are renowned for their gardens, and that carries over to Disneyland Paris to a degree. The hedge maze that is Alice’s Curious Labyrinth is an old-school must-do that’s manageable but still convoluted enough not to feel like a walk in the park. The prize is a view of Fantasyland from the top of the Queen of Hearts’ castle.

Disneyland Paris Alices Curious Labyrinth inside
The hedge maze in Fantasyland is more fun than the one in EPCOT.

Throughout the main park, there are topiaries, picture-perfect flower beds, and creative landscaping that can steal the show. This is unlike at Disney World, where it’s easy to miss the gardeners’ work amid the massive crowds, attractions, and nearly constant events.

Disneyland Paris Fantasyland topiary
Disneyland Paris has world-class gardeners.

6. Plenty of Rest Areas

If you’ve ever been to a Disney park at parenting age, you know that feeling of utter relief when you see a place to sit and rest your feet after hours of hoofing it with overly excited kids, if only for a few minutes. At Disney World, those oases are, more often than not, butt-width stretches of curb or those even rarer shade-covered spots where you can lean against a railing and pretend you’re almost sitting down.

Disneyland Paris quiet place
Rest your weary feet here.

Finding places to take a load off isn’t as much of an issue in Disneyland Paris. There are more “secret,” sedate places to just sit and relax than in Orlando or Anaheim, like partially secluded courtyards in cul-de-sacs. Part of the reason is that the Paris suburbs are more temperate than subtropical Central Florida. Part of the reason is cultural: Europeans like to take their meals outdoors when they can, compared to Americans, who generally prefer to stay indoors in air-conditioned comfort. So, the architects made sure to include more outdoor seating.

When the sun was unbearable, there were plenty of seats in the park’s large movie theater, which was showing episodes of “Star Wars: Young Jedi Adventures” and had indoor concession stands. A lot of French parents escaped into this space in the afternoon, but the auditorium-style seating was big enough that we had our pick of places to settle in.

But my favorite “secret” rest area wasn’t actually a space, it was a ride that never had a line when we went (and we went a lot). The Cars ROAD TRIP ride in Walt Disney Studios is the perfect ride for keeping your kids stimulated while you rest your feet. Plus, it has actual explosions and fire.

Disneyland Paris Walt Disney Studios Cars Road Trip
My favorite place to rest in Disneyland Paris.

7. It’s a Feast of Nostalgia

If you’re taking your kids to a Disney park now, it’s likely you went as a kid with your own parents or guardians. Inevitably, you find yourself thinking about what’s changed and what’s the same. The Pirates of the Caribbean ride is pretty much the exact same ride mechanically but with unmistakable changes to problematic scenes (who’s in the barrel and why, for example).

At Disneyland Paris, you don’t get Tom Sawyer Island, but you do get a dramatic extension of the Pirates of the Caribbean theme with a ship and a skull-shaped island with a cave network and elevated lookout. It’s not exactly like what it was discovering the Pirates of the Caribbean ride in Disney World as a 5-year-old back in the day. It’s even better, as if your childhood imagination were let loose in physical form instead of simply ending in a gift shop at the end of the ride.

Disneyland Paris pirate ship skull island
Improving upon the Pirates of the Caribbean ride.

The Nautilus, a beloved Disney World attraction based on Jules Verne’s “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,” may have closed down permanently in 1994, but the idea lives on in Disneyland Paris. It’s not a true submersible, like the old Disney World ride, which actually went underwater for 20 minutes, but it’s nice to see a nod to a steampunk Disney park classic in Paris.

Disneyland Paris Nautilus
Not a ride, but still cool.

8. The Kids (And Parents) Are Better-Behaved Than in U.S. Parks

For me, what’s consistently the least fun part about Disney World is the behavior of a small but unavoidable number of the other guests. And I’m not talking about the kids.

No, the worst by far are the parents who can’t keep their cool with the annoyances that come with any amusement park: lines, kids acting up, weather, noise, crowds of strangers, an overabundance of stimuli, the constant hawking of merchandise, nails-on-a-chalkboard characters voices, etc. At Disney World, these red-faced, out-of-control parents and grandparents are a constant sight, screaming at their kids, at each other, at staff, and at complete strangers.

Though this sort of behavior isn’t excusable, it’s somewhat understandable: A Disney World trip is, for most families, a once-in-a-lifetime vacation that they’ve spent a considerable amount of money and time to arrange. For it to be anything less than perfect can be frustrating, and, unfortunately, some parents take their disappointment out on their kids when they’re acting less than grateful.

At Disneyland Paris, we never saw a single parent raise so much as raise their voice to a child. The only time guests openly expressed frustration was with the subpar service at the ice cream store (more on that below), in a tone that was downright civil by Central Floridian theme park standards.

Disneyland Paris castle Maleficent statue
No evil stepmothers or stepfathers at Disneyland Paris!

But, like I’ve said, Disneyland Paris is a long weekend trip for many European visitors, not a bucket-list vacation they had to save up years for. The stakes are lower, so the tempers are cooler.

9. Set Menus Are the Norm, and No One Expects a Tip

If you eat at a Disneyland Paris restaurant, most of them follow the local preference for a prix fixe (set lunch), which makes for a more satisfying experience. Lunch is typically the biggest meal of the day in France for many, not dinner.

As I’ll explain below, we avoided eating in the parks but did have a prix fixe lunch in Disney Village, the shopping area inside security but separate from the parks (think a miniature Disney Springs).

We were seated immediately with no reservations at Brasserie Rosalie. The restaurant overlooks the artificial lake and tethered hot air balloon by the new Disney’s Hotel New York – The Art of Marvel, which is actually a name a group of hospitality professionals thought was a reasonable name for a building. Someone has to stop these hotel-naming madmen.

For a surprisingly reasonable (for a Disney property) €19.50 (about $21) prix fixe (€16, or about $17, for the children’s prix fixe), we got a delicious starter of ravioles du dauphiné (cheese raviolini in a luscious Gruyere gratin).

Disneyland Paris Disney Village Brasserie Rosalie ravioli app
These ravioli in cheese tasted amazing.

That was followed by possibly the biggest slice of quiche Lorraine I’ve ever seen in a restaurant. It was seriously deep, like almost 4 inches, and hearty, with a mesclun salad lightly dressed with a mustard vinaigrette. Other prix fixe lunch mains were mussels (which looked impressive, judging by other tables) and ratatouille.

Disneyland Paris Disney Village Brasserie Rosalie quiche lorraine
You can’t see it from this angle, but this quiche was almost 4 inches high.

Our kindergartener got chicken nuggets because this is still a Disneyland place we’re talking about.

Since he got the main-plus-dessert set lunch, obviously, he got chocolate mousse, which was grainy (something that happens when you overwhip the cream).

Disneyland Paris Disney Village Brasserie Rosalie chocolate mousse
This chocolate mousse was OK but grainy.

Still, for about $20 each and without having to hustle for reservations, we got a satisfying meal at Disneyland Paris by going just a few yards outside the parks.

Remember: You’re not expected to tip here!

Reasons Why Disneyland Paris Isn’t Better Than Disney World

1. Disneyland Paris Is Well-Known in France for Its Food — But Not in a Good Way

Food comes up early in conversations with French parents about Disneyland Paris, and it’s mostly about how to avoid having to eat what they seem to universally agree is the opposite of a culinary vacation. I wouldn’t say that the food is necessarily worse than the food you get at American Disney parks, but the local population definitely seems to notice just how mediocre it is.

Disneyland Paris Plaza Gardens restaurant
The restaurants at Disneyland Paris are hard to get into but not known for their quality.

Don’t make the food the highlight of your stay at Disneyland Paris — keeping your expectations down will go a long way toward avoiding disappointment.

This isn’t to say that it’s easy to get a table anywhere you want in the parks. Even though none of the eateries are going to earn a Michelin star anytime soon, Disney still recommends you make reservations via the Disneyland Paris app as soon as you can. In our case, we waited till a few weeks before our trip to find that tables at all but the least popular restaurants were already sold out.

The most coveted tables are those in Bistrot Chez Rémy, the “Ratatouille”-themed eatery in the miniature Parisian town square that takes up a surprising amount of real estate in the Pixar section of Walt Disney Studios. It’s made to help you feel like you’re a rat-sized diner eating on bottlecap tables or at anchovy-tin booths, and the theming’s on point.

You’re given an almost teasingly clear look at it through a window as you exit Ratatouille: The Adventure ride, which is great fun (and more similar than you’d think to Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance). But a glance is all you’re likely to get: These tables sell out months in advance even though folks are divided on whether Bistrot Chez Rémy’s actually worth all the trouble.

Disneyland Paris Walt Disney Studios Bistro Chez Remy
There was zero chance of us getting a table at the most in-demand restaurant at Disneyland Paris even weeks out.

By the way, the food stalls in the fake French square outside the “Ratatouille” restaurant each serve à la carte specialties from a different region of France and are known to be especially popular. Apparently, these are a favorite among French guests — we saw long lines for most of these stalls.

Disney World isn’t exactly a culinary mecca, either, of course, but it’s the rare person who books an international flight to Central Florida for the cuisine (unless you’re really into oranges, I guess). The food, however, is a major draw for many folks’ once-in-a-lifetime trips to France. If you’re one of those many people looking forward to the restaurants on your Paris trip, it’s better you consider the Disney park days your off days when it comes to culinary exploration.

2. Service Can Be Meh

We didn’t plan to eat in the parks because we knew of their restaurants’ reputation and that it’d be hard to score a seat even if we wanted to. A rare exception was at the Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlour just off Main Street, U.S.A., which had such terrible, slow service that it was the only time I saw park guests lose their cool.

Disneyland Paris differs from the U.S. parks in that it mostly uses full-time employees and not seasonal. The attitude of the workers here was akin to high-schoolers who were forced by their parents to get a job at your local Baskin-Robbins for the summer to replace the iPhone 15 they dropped in the lake while Jet-Skiing. So: bad.

I’m saying the service was lazy, unhelpful, and poor, and that the kids behind the counter spent more time socializing with each other or on social media or texting than tending to the long, growing line of frustrated parents and impatient kids. Plus, who wants to spend 30 minutes waiting for tiny, overpriced scoops of Ben & Jerry’s? (Yes, that’s right, it’s just Ben & Jerry’s.)

Disneyland Paris ice cream
Ben, meet Jerry.

At Disney World, service isn’t always perfect and, on rare occasions, can be downright mean (I’m looking at you, Dole Whip counter person who yelled at us over a simple miscommunication!), but it’s generally cheerier, more proactive, and more Disney in the U.S.

Hot Tip:

If you’re a diehard foodie, look for restaurant experiences outside Disneyland Paris.

3. Smokers Take up a Lot of Space

Disneyland Paris smoking area
A smoker’s paradise compared to the U.S.

The stereotypical movie Frenchman who sucks down tobacco like stinky cheese isn’t totally off: About a quarter of the French are still daily cigarette smokers, more than double the percentage in the U.S. At Disney World, the park’s designated smoking areas are all outside the entrances — the Magic Kingdom’s smoking area, for example, is before you go through the turnstiles and by the bus depot.

At Disneyland Paris, smokers get a generous amount of space inside the parks, sometimes on relatively prime real estate, like on a biggish central “beach” on water near Skull Island. If there are enough groups of try-hard cool Parisian teens in attendance, you and your kids will probably inhale a wee amount of secondhand smoke on the way to ride X, Y, or Z.

Of course, if you’re a smoker, this is a pro, not a con.

Final Thoughts

If you’re used to Disney World, going to Disneyland Paris is like ordering a hamburger and fries in a French bistro: basically the same but also different in mostly good ways that make you appreciate all burgers more.

Disneyland Paris may be a much smaller park than Walt Disney World Resort, at 4,800 acres vs. 30,000 acres, including the hotels, but like comparing a relatively bistro petite prix fixe to a supersized fast-food meal, sometimes less is more.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you see everything in Disneyland Paris in a single day?

Theoretically, you could whizz through everything in both Disneyland Paris parks in 1 day, but you’re better off spending 2 or 3 days there and not rushing it.

Is it easy to get to Disneyland Paris?

Yes, you can drive to Disneyland Paris in under an hour from central Paris or take an RER train there. Both will put you within short walking distance of the entrance — you don’t need to take a shuttle from the parking lot.

Do you need to pass through security at Disneyland Paris?

Yes, you must do a relatively simple security check and walk through a metal detector to enter Disneyland Paris. Once you’ve done that, though, you don’t have to go through any more security checks to get into Disney Village or either of the parks.

What is Premier Access at Disneyland Paris?

It’s the fee-based line-skipping mechanic at Disneyland Paris, similar to Lightning Lane at Disney World. But the lines are so much shorter and faster most days at Disneyland Paris that you probably don’t need to shell out for it.

Are there smoking areas inside the parks at Disneyland Paris?

Yes, there are large, outdoor designated smoking areas in central locations throughout the parks.

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About Michael Y. Park

Michael Y. Park is a journalist living in New York City. He’s traveled through Afghanistan disguised as a Hazara Shi’ite, slept with polar bears on the Canadian tundra, picnicked with the king and queen of Malaysia, tramped around organic farms in Cuba, ridden the world’s longest train through the Sahara, and choked down gasoline clams in North Korea.

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