The history of Efteling

Did you know that Efteling started as a sports park, that the paper gobbler 'Holle Bolle Gijs' only appeared in the theme park in 1959 and that dive coaster Baron 1898 was opened in 2015? Here you can read everything you want to know about the history of Efteling.

1933: the birth of an idea

In 1933, Chaplain Rietra and Pastor De Klijn conceive a plan to install a sports park to the South of Kaatsheuvel. With this idea, the basis for Efteling was born. Two years later, on 19 May 1935, R.K. Sport and Wandelpark opens, with a main football pitch, two training pitches and a playing field. One year later a playground is installed next to the sports park, with among others a steam carousel, a high slide, a cable way and a real pony ride. During the following years the sports park continues to expand for the important exhibition De Schoen (The Shoe) in 1949. 

1950: Efteling Nature Park Foundation

In 1950, the Efteling Naturepark Foundation is established with two main aims. The first aim is to stimulate the physical development and recreational activities of the inhabitants of the Loon op Zand municipality. The second aim centres around the important role of attracting the tourists. In order to proceed with the development of Efteling Nature Park Foundation, Chairman and major of the municipality, Reinier van der Heijden, employs Mr. Peeters Weem as first director. On 11 May 1951, the former sports park is expanded with a pond, parking areas, sports fields, a tea house and new playground equipment. In doing this, Efteling Nature Park Foundation welcomes 50,000 visitors through the gates to visit 65 hectares (160 acres) of nature.  

In order to attract more visitors in the future, a 'three-dimensional Fairytale Forest with plenty of movement’ is developed in cooperation with the filmmaker Peter Reijnders. He persuades artist and illustrator, Anton Pieck, to design the Fairytale Forest. Anton Pieck makes around 1,500 sketches and drawings for the Fairytale Forest whilstPeter Reijnders is responsible for bringing the fairytales to life through technology. In this way, Mayor Van der Heijden, Anton Pieck and Peter Reijnders became the founders of Efteling.

1952: opening Fairytale Forest

In 1952, The Efteling Naturepark Foundation opened a wonderful place full of fairytales, sagas and legends. Familiar, but also new stories that invite to discover and experience. Stories that provide comfort and - perhaps more importantly - also connection. These original fairytalesare: Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, The Frog Prince, The Magic Clock, The Chinese Nightingale, The Naughty Princess, The Six Servants, The Gnome Village, Mother Holle and Wee Walter Messenger. The opening of the Fairytale Forest brings 222,941 visitors to Efteling; costing each guest80 cents in Dutch Guilder (€ 0.36/0.31 GBP) for an entry ticket. 

During the following years, the park is extended to include a café-restaurant, a swimming pool, a lake for rowing and canoeing, and some new inhabitants of the Fairytale Forest, such as the sleeping cook and the sentinel at Sleeping Beauty and Hansel and Gretel. In 1953, the new attraction, Red Shoes, brings 411,671 visitors to Efteling. Only three years later, with the opening of the steam carousel in 1956, the number of visitors to Efteling increases to 700,000.

1959: Paper gobbler 'Holle Bolle Gijs'

The friendly glutton 'Holle Bolle Gijs' appears in 1959. Gijs, the paper devouring bin, becomes famous worldwide. A short time later Little Red Riding Hood and The Indian Water Lilies also take up residence in the Fairytale Forest. The first steam train Stoomtrein with locomotive Aagje runs along the 'Miniature steam train track no. 1’ through the park from 1969. In 1971 visitors can visit the Diorama, a three dimensional 'Pieckerian' miniature world.

1972: international award

In 1972 Efteling is awarded the Pomme d’Or, its first important international award, for its format, originality and recreational function. In a wing of the steam carousel building, the public can see performances in the Victorian Theatre. The next year The Wolf and the Seven Kids become the new inhabitants of the Fairytale Forest and in 1974 steam locomotive Moortje takes to the rails. 

1978: more than just a Fairytale Forest

The park wants to be more than just the Fairytale Forest. The Spookslot Haunted House opens it creaking, heavy doors in 1978. The record number of 1,449,078 visitors is registered, and the 25 millionth visitor since the establishment of Efteling is welcomed to the park. The steel Python roller coaster is a resounding success from the first day 1981. The forty little boats of the Gondoletta are launched, and in the Game Gallery, visitors can play all sorts of games. The following year, excitement is increased even further with the arrival of the swinging ship Halve Maen. From 1983, more than 2,000,000 visitors try to keep their clothes dry in the Piraña river rapids ride.

1984: expansion of attractions

In the meantime, the park is much more than just a sports park and a Fairytale Forest. Throughout 1984, extensive building work is going on for the new large attractions such as Carnaval Festival, Polka Marina pirates' carousel and Oude Tuffer classic car ride. The year after that the Bobsleigh run opens, and so does Fata Morgana dark ride, 'the Forbidden City' in 1986. In that year the Russian space exhibition 'Interkosmos' gives visitors the opportunity to see genuine moon sand. From 1987, more than 300,000 tulip bulbs form a sea of flowers of over 12 acres, and visitors can look out over Efteling from the new Pagode, the flying Thai temple, from a height of 148 feet. Later Monsieur Cannibale and the Laaf People also take up abode in Efteling. From 1989 on, Pardoes is the charming new host of Efteling. In 1991 the wooden roller coaster Pegasus opens, in line with the theme of the year: 'The Fifties'. In July and August the Grand Efteling Summer Circus is a unique attraction. Efteling welcomes its 50 millionth visitor.

1992: 40th anniversary and opening of the Efteling Hotel

Efteling turns 40 years old in 1992, and celebrates with an exhibition and a display about Anton Pieck. The Efteling Hotel is also officially opened. During the summer the park offers the Summer Ice Show: an temporary ice rink of 358 square yards. The park receives the Applause Award. The next year the Droomvlucht dark ride opens its doors to its fairy-like world.

1995: Efteling Golf Park

The eighteen holes of the Efteling Golf Park are officially opened. For the youngest visitors the park opens the Kleuterhof children's Playground and the Avonturen Doolhof adventure maze. Anton Pieck's 100th birthday results in the first fairytale writing competition in primary schools in the Netherlands and Flanders: the Efteling Anton Pieck Prize.

1996: The House of the five Senses

The spectacular and characteristic entrance to Efteling, The House of the five Senses, becomes the new entry gate. Villa Volta madhouse is also opened. In the Efteling Theatre, an enchanting own production is treading the boards: the Fairytale Show. For the first time the Seven Miles Summer takes place in Efteling and the 60 millionth visitor is festively welcomed. In 1998 the indoor roller coaster Vogel Rok is opened, and the Fairytale Forest is expanded during the following years with, among others, The Giant & Tom Thumb, Rumpelstiltskin and Snow White's wicked stepmother's castle.

1999: division into four realms

In 1999 a start is made with the division of the park into four realms: the enchanting Marerijk, the adventurous Reizenrijk, the exciting Ruigrijk and the mystical Anderrijk. The Winter Efteling takes place for the first time. The next year, Pardijntje, the girlfriend of host Pardoes, greets visitors for the first time. From 2001 the Efteling Theatre starts to become a major attraction with international stars in the spectacular ‘Efteling on Ice’ show, which is performed throughout the season. For this production Efteling receives a Big E-award. From then on the shows and musicals are unstoppable. In the course of the year Rapunzel is given a place in the Fairytale Forest.

2002: 50th anniversary

In 2002 Efteling celebrates its 50th anniversary with the attraction PandaDroom 3D film and the new Efteling Theatre, in which The Wonderful Efteling Show with magician Hans Klok is performed. Other activities are a jubilee exhibition, a documentary and the book ‘Efteling, Chronicle of a fairytale’ which charts 50 years of Efteling history. 
Two years later the new Efteling Museum is opened, and The Little Match Girl makes her entry into the Fairytale Forest as the 25th fairytale. 

2005: 200th birthday of Hans Christian Andersen

Hans Christian Andersen's 200th birthday is celebrated all over the world. In Efteling, the Danish fairytale writer takes centre stage during the whole of 2005. The Efteling Hotel opens a suite which is dedicated to the famous Dane and in the Efteling Museum there is an exhibition about the Efteling fairytales by Andersen. This exhibition is followed the next year by the new exhibition '25 years of fast attractions in the park'. Also, the animation series 'Fairytale Tree´is broadcast on Dutch and Belgian television. 

2007: De Vliegende Hollander water coaster

For the 55th anniversary of Efteling the spectacular new attraction De Vliegende Hollander water coaster is opened. On 21 July 2008, Efteling launches its own radio station, Efteling Radio. In September, the first scenes are shot of the new television series TiTaTovenaar, and the first stone of Efteling Bosrijk is laid. One year later Cinderella moves into her house in the Fairytale Forest, and Paper gobbler 'Holle Bolle Gijs' celebrates his 50th birthday with a temporary exhibition in the Efteling Museum. 

2009: Holiday Village Efteling Bosrijk

At the end of 2009, the first guests stay overnight at Holiday Village Efteling Bosrijk, a holiday village with houses in the middle of nature. With the opening of the holiday village, Efteling became an ideal short-break destination, including a multiple days park visit. At around the same time, Station de Oost is opened in the Ruigrijk. From 2010, the gates of the theme park remain open all year round. In summer, the new wooden dual-track roller coaster Joris en de Draak opens, and the Fairytale Tree starts telling fairytales in the Fairytale-Forest. The next year, Efteling presents the mysterious town and park show Raveleijn. Later on, in 2013 and 2014, Holiday Village Efteling Bosrijk won the award ‘best holiday village of The Netherlands’, awarded by Bungalowspecials, based on the reviews of holiday makers.

2012: 60th anniversary

In 2012, the 60th anniversary of Efteling starts with the first New Year's Eve celebrations in Efteling. Pancake restaurant Polles Keuken opens its doors, and on 31 May, the world première of Aquanura takes place, the largest water show in Europe. The Zeven Pleinen Festijn (seven squares feast) takes place for the first time in this year, and the fairytale The Emperor’s New Clothes can be found in the Fairytale Forest.

2014: cooperation with DJ Tiësto

From 1 April 2014, Efteling presents a new Aquanura water show. In cooperation with DJ Tiësto, the Second Efteling Symphony is a fitting successor to the first show dating from 2012. The first whispers about plans for dive coaster Baron 1898 are also heard.

2015: Baron 1898

On 1 July 2015, the free fall roller coaster Baron 1898 and candy shop ‘De Verleiding’ (the temptation) are opened. In Holiday Village Efteling Bosrijk, eight group accommodations are built: the so-called Woodland farms as well as additional Woodland Houses and Village Houses.

2016: A new inhabitant in the Fairytale Forest

Pinocchio makes its entrance in the Fairytale Forest and on the stage of the Efteling Theatre. From September, visitors can watch the Efteling musical De Gelaarsde Kat.

2017: 65th anniversary and looking to the future

On 31 May 2017, Efteling celebrates its 65th anniversary. This jubilee is celebrated with the opening of the new Holiday Village Efteling Loonsche Land and Efteling's biggest and most expensive attraction, Symbolica: Palace of Fantasy. For the first time in its history, Efteling welcomes more than five million visitors.

The following year, Efteling presents the new CARO show at the Efteling Theatre. This visual show, with virtually no spoken text, is in line with the ambition to become an international holiday destination. In September 2018, the plan "De Wereld van de Efteling 2030" is approved by the municipality of Loon op Zand. In this plan, Efteling presents, among other initiatives, its plans for an 8-hectare expansion on the east side of the park. The plan is subject to a lengthy procedure before it can become reality.

In 2019, the Fairytale Forest opens its 30th fairytale. For the first time, visitors can take a boat ride on the back of the Six Swans. In the new 4D film adventure Fabula, Mr Sandman gives life lessons to a grumpy little bear. That same year we say goodbye to the Bobsleigh run and ground is broken on the new family roller coaster Max & Moritz.

2020 & 2021: Major challenges

The COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021 also poses major challenges for the World of Efteling. The theme park has to close its doors temporarily several times. Once the situation allows, only a limited number of guests with a pre-booked time slot are permitted to visit the park. Many adjustments are made in the park and there are strict measures to ensure the safety of staff and visitors. Efteling experiences its worst year ever in 2020.

But there is also positive news. In June 2020, the long-awaited double family roller coaster Max & Moritz opens. Children at least 1 metre in height take a crazy ride with their parents in the 'Max' or 'Moritz' soapboxes. The attraction is inspired by the well-known German cartoon about two rascals who drive their village neighbours to despair with their pranks. In autumn, the latest Aquanura show premieres: Aquanura, Typical Dutch Edition. In this new fountain show, Guus Meeuwis' greatest hits alternate with well-known Efteling melodies. 

As part of a clear focus on the theme park, Efteling Golf Park is transferred to the Hollandsche Golfbaan Exploitatiemaatschappij on 1 January 2021 and subsequently known as 'Golf Park De Loonsche Duynen'.

After a long closure in the winter of 2020/2021, Efteling reopens its doors on 19 May 2021. On our anniversary, children with and without (visible) disabilities can play together to their hearts' content in the inclusive Nest! play forest. The playground equipment is made of natural materials and designed in the theme of the various large attractions in the exciting Ruigrijk. Nest! is a nice addition for the youngest visitors to the theme park, following the removal of the Polka Marina pirates' carousel, and an important next step for Efteling in terms of accessibility. Not much later, guests are introduced to The Saviours of Ruigrijk. This inclusive fairytale, in which children with disabilities play a leading role, was written specially for Efteling by presenter and theatre producer Marc de Hond. The Saviours of Ruigrijk appears as an animated video, a read-aloud and a (tactile) picture book.

In June, Efteling receives final approval for the development plan 'World of Efteling 2030'. This allows the future expansion plans to be implemented as proposed in 2018. Due to the financial impact of COVID-19, attention is focused on activities within the park boundaries for the time being.

Max & Moritzplein is completed on 4 December with the opening of the new Bäckerei Krümel bakery. Visitors can go to this traditional bakery in the morning, afternoon and evening for tray bakes, flat breads and pizzas.