NEDERLANDS // ENGLISH
There are Swedish roller coasters with seven inversions, two launches and awesome airtime.
Sweden is also the right place if you’d like to ride the first RMC east of the Atlantic.
And coaster density is pretty high in some Swedish cities.
It’s clear why Sweden has become one of Europe’s premier amusement park destinations. The country’s total coaster count isn’t that extraordinary, but the overall quality is high and Scandinavian hospitality is a treat anyway. That’s why Sweden became my favourite place in Europe and I try to visit regularly. In 2018, we opt for a double city trip to Stockholm and Göteborg. And of course, we include a day trip to Scandinavia’s most famous zoo. Our travels start in the Swedish capital, where Tivoli Gröna Lund is one of the must-do tourist sights. This tiny amusement park lies on the island of Djurgården, which is dedicated to culture and entertainment. Locals as well as tourists come here to enjoy museums, concerts and coaster thrills. Let’s talk about those coasters!
Gröna Lund is everything but huge and that’s the understatement of the year. It’s one big happy mess of intertwined roller coasters and narrow pathways. The park even features small piers and pontoons to benefit from its unique location to the fullest. Does someone remember that Roller Coaster Tycoon scenario called Micro Park? Well, I actually wouldn’t be surprised if the park’s aspirant designers need to play this game during their job interview. Gröna Lund utilizes every square centimeter and they’ve put some flat rides in the attic, which enables them to use the ground floor for a souvenir shop or restaurant. Creativity is the key, amusement park awesomeness is the result.
If you ever plan to visit Gröna Lund, I’d recommend taking a ferry to get there. The park’s skyline is even more stunning from the water and the boat actually docks right next to the entrance. After leaving the ferry, it only takes a few seconds to get to the ticket booths. Scandinavian parks tend to be rather expensive compared to the rest of Europe and that isn’t any different at Gröna Lund. Despite its rather low admission fee, a full-option wristband package costs approximately 50 euros per person. With this pricing, the park is just as expensive as top destinations like Europa-Park, Phantasialand and PortAventura. Luckily, Gröna Lund will remain open until 11.00 PM and we’re definitely planning to stay as late as possible.
It’s 10.30 in the morning when we walk through the gates. At this time, only a small part (mostly dedicated to children) of the park is operating. That may sound boring when you’re visiting Gröna Lund for a thrilling day, but it allows me to complete my coaster-bingo. The park features two kiddie coasters, including a small Zierer Tivoli which I’ve ridden during my previous visit. However, I never got the chance to visit the neighbouring Tuff-Tuff Tåget. Well… let’s be honest: I did get that chance, but I felt too ashamed to wait 30 minutes between a bunch of toddlers. There isn’t any queue this morning, so this clearly is the ideal time to ride. Tuff-Tuff Tåget treats us with insane speeds (8 km/h to be precise), incredible heights (two-and-a-half meters, according to the Roller Coaster Database) and the last credit I needed for my Gröna Lund bingo. Yay.
Spinning coffee cups, flying elephants and a pocket-sized free fall tower; it doesn’t get more exciting in this area of the park. Luckily, the rest of Gröna Lund opens at 11 o’clock. During my last few visits, I noticed that one particular ride gets long queues during the day: Kvasten. That’s why we make this Vekoma family coaster our first priority this morning. Kvasten’s main issue is the capacity, which is rather low. There’s only one train for 20 passengers, which is obviously insufficient for a ride this popular. Kvasten is a fine inverted coaster with a good lay-out and a smooth ride experience, so basically everyone wants to ride it. A second train would be greatly appreciated, but that’s not possible due to the lack of an extra brake section. This is unfortunate, but that doesn’t change the fact that Kvasten is a great attraction. My advice: plan your ride as early/late as possible or just deal with the slow-moving queue.
Kvasten is fun, but it’s not the most sensational ride in the universe. Luckily, you’ll find considerably more thrill right next door and that thrill is called Twister. This wooden coaster was built at the waterfront and it’s fringed by a stunning wooden walkway. Twister sure is a beauty, but is the actual experience as interesting as the ride’s looks? At first sight, you may expect it to be a tame family coaster. Twister is only 15 metres high and the track length of 470 metres isn’t impressive either. However, Twister is surprisingly more intense than some bigger and taller woodies. It’s a very fast ride, the airtime is intense and it comprises some very forceful curves. What makes Twister even more exciting, is its cramped location and a few near-misses with neighbouring rides. So don’t judge this thing on its size alone; it’s actually one of Europe’s finest wooden coasters.
In 2012, Europa-Park seemed very proud about the fact that Wodan intertwined with two other big attractions. I guess people at Gröna Lund weren’t impressed, because that’s nothing more than ordinary here in Stockholm. For example: while riding Twister, you can give high-fives to passengers of the wild mouse, Kvasten and coaster classic Jetline. What’s even more amazing is the fact that Twister was mostly built on top of a dark ride. Talking about a compact park, right? That dark ride is known as Blå Tåget and it’s a modern-day reconstruction of a good old ghost train. The attraction consists of simple scenes, but most scare effects are elaborate and the ride lasts surprisingly long. It’s definitely no theming masterpiece like Disney’s Haunted Mansion, but I enjoyed Blå Tåget a lot. However, don’t confuse this dark ride with the nearby House of Nightmares. This is a horror maze with live actors, while Blå Tåget is a family-friendly experience.
Space is precious at Gröna Lund. That’s why this park offers a lot of flat rides with a limited footprint. Gröna Lund features an old-fashioned flying carpet, a wave swinger and an octopus with a simply stunning location. However, the park’s most popular flat ride appears to be a break-dance which is called Pop-Expressen. You will certainly recognize this attraction from funfairs, where it’s often characterized by loud music and lots of lighting. Some kind of open-air club, actually. Unfortunately, similar rides in amusement parks tend to be a lot less interesting. Ride programmes are often boring and there’s usually no show making at all. Gröna Lund proved that it’s perfectly possible to create an attractive theme park version, though. Just put the ride in a dark building, add some disco spotlights and play a well-known pop song during every single ride. That’s how you create a great flat ride which always attracts big crowds.
Gröna Lund is clearly visible for big parts of Stockholm. That’s mainly due to the park’s adoration for tower rides. Gröna Lund is the proud owner of four towers: Katapulten, Fritt Fall, Eclipse and Ikaros. Katapulten is a regular S&S Space Shot and Fritt Fall is an Intamin free fall tower which includes a normal and a tilting, floorless version. Personally, I don’t like these types of rides, so we just skip them today. However, we do ride the other tower attractions and we start with Eclipse. This Star Flyer is approximately 120 metres tall and looks very impressive. The same is true for the ride experience. Although it’s definitely not a big thrill, Eclipse offers some amazing views over the Swedish capital and Gröna Lund. Make sure to take a look at the park’s iconic coaster knot for above. You’ll notice that there are many kilometres of track on a very tiny piece of land. It actually looks like there isn’t any space left, but that isn’t entirely true. In fact, Gröna Lund will be adding a B&M inverted coaster to this chaotic madness soon. Crazy, right?
July 2018 will be remembered as one of the hottest and driest months ever in Europe. Even in Scandinavia, which is generally known for its cooler summers, temperatures often exceed 30°C during our stay. Of course I’m not complaining about that; it adds an extra summer feeling to our holiday. However, these conditions do make clear that Gröna Lund lacks a water ride, unless you’d like to define Kärlekstunneln as one. This is some kind of miniature dark ride which makes use of tiny logs. Most scenes seem to be self-made with cheap materials, so there’s no reason to put this ride on your bucket list. This Tunnel of Love may offer some private time with your partner, though.
No water rides for us, so we just need to cope with the heat. And it gets even more sweaty while I’m queueing for Ikaros… Because wow, this thing looks frightening to me. As I mentioned before, free fall towers aren’t exactly my cup of tea. Ikaros, however, looks so extremely crazy that I really want to try it. Ikaros’ main gimmick is the seat, which is tilted forward 90 degrees just before the drop. Passengers plunge down with their faces towards the ground and that sure looks terrifying. Luckily there’s hardly any line, so I don’t get the chance to change my mind. And you know what? Ikaros instantly becomes one of my favourite rides at Gröna Lund. This type of free fall towers is a lot more enjoyable than those regular sit-down versions. This seating position actually makes it feel like you’re riding a very tall B&M dive machine. And since I adore those vertical drop coasters, I automatically adore Ikaros. I would eventually ride this tower ride six times and every ride was just as fantastic as the first one. If this is how Icarus felt when he burned his wings to the sun, this guy’s life wasn’t that bad after all.
Ikaros is an addictive ride and the same goes for its neighbour Jetline. In 1988, Zierer and Schwarzkopf worked together to produce this clear blue work of art. The result is a machine which somehow resembles those classic Schwarzkopf roller coasters on German funfairs. Thanks to its curved lift hill and the very compact lay-out, Jetline looks very similar to Alpina Bahn. However, the ride experience is a lot more thrilling here in Stockholm. The first drop creates a surprisingly high speed, which is maintained throughout the entire ride. Furthermore, Jetline is characterised by intense curves, smoothness and a ridiculously high capacity. By the way… the best moment lies just after the first brake section, where the train plunges down in a nearly vertical helix. Despite its age, Jetline remains a remarkable roller coaster. The only strange thing about Jetline, is that blast of hot air in the last curve. That really wouldn’t be necessary during a 33°C day, but thanks anyway.
With temperatures this high, amusement parks often get quieter than usual. This is true in Belgium, the Netherlands and apparently in Sweden as well. Although lots of people are wandering through Gröna Lund today, lines are short. Jetline is a walk-on all day long, the wait for Twister remains under 15 minutes and even Vilda Musen has a fairly short queue. That’s special; these Gerstlauer family roller coasters aren’t usually known as high capacity rides. However, they are known as fun machines and that isn’t any different here at Gröna Lund. Vilda Musen (that literally means Wild Mouse, by the way) is a coaster with some unexpected manoeuvres and forceful curves. The best thing about Vilda Musen is the fact that there are lots of near-misses. This coaster was built between the Jetline structure, so there are a few close encounters with those Zierer trains. The most spectacular near-miss situation is the one with Katapulten, though. If timing is right, this ride’s passengers fly by at a very short distance. These are the things which make Vilda Musen a rather unique experience.
A quick stop at Lustiga Huset should be planned whenever you’re at Gröna Lund. Even if you’re not into antique fun houses, you will notice that this version is big and elaborately themed. Most local visitors seem to love it and wait times are often considerable. If you’re not willing to conquer the queue, you may want to take a seat on the square right in front of this fun house. That will give some perfect views of the attraction’s moving staircase and believe me: that’s fun. Some people really have no clue about what they’re doing.
Some things will remain a mystery forever. For example: what was Intamin thinking while designing their ZacSpin model? I never really liked the actual experience. It’s intense and it’s fun to look at, but it’s also very short and rather uncomfortable. That’s why Insane certainly isn’t my favourite ride at Gröna Lund. Today, we don’t get the chance to ride it anyway. Insane suffers from technical difficulties during the afternoon and remains closed for the remainder of the day. I’m not sure whether that’s a bad thing or not.
No Insane for us, but we gladly visit the other (and better) coasters again. We fill our day at Gröna Lund with awesome extra rides on Twister, Jetline, Vilda Musen and Kvasten. Even Pop-Expressen and Ikaros deserve to be revisited, which is perfectly possible thanks to low crowds. I’m not sure what it is, but I always get some kind of ecstatic feeling when I’m at Gröna Lund. Despite its ridiculously small size, this park delivers pure amusement park awesomeness. The park is impeccably clean, the location is amazing, staff members are very friendly (just like anywhere in Scandinavia) and Gröna Lund has some top notch food and beverage offerings. We had a delicious pizza for lunch and our dinner took place in an atmospheric German Biergarten. Each aspect of Gröna Lund has been refined with such intelligence that visitors truly get a world-class experience. I’m absolutely convinced that this is one of Europe’s finest amusement parks. That’s why I rank Gröna Lund higher than places like PortAventura, Alton Towers, Phantasialand and even Disneyland Paris. The upcoming B&M coaster will certainly add some extra brilliance, so I hope to come back as soon as it’s operational.
It’s nearly 11 PM, the sun’s starting to set (in Scandinavia, summer days seem to last forever) and Gröna Lund will close its gates soon. At the time we board the ferry to our hotel, we’re surrounded by lots of happy people. I guess they all had a great day. Some point at the park’s sexy skyline, some share their thrilling Ikaros experience and others carry a gigantic chocolate bar they won at a lottery stall. Apparently I’m not the only person who loves this place. It’s always a little sad to say goodbye, but there’s some good news as well: Gröna Lund was just the start of our holiday. Later this week, we’ll be travelling to Liseberg and its legendary Helix. But first, we’re planning a day trip to Scandinavia’s largest zoo. Accompanied by two Dutch coaster enthusiasts, we’re going to watch some animals at Kolmårdens Djurpark. And the park’s most interesting animal is…
To be continued