The European Thrill-Filled Theme Park With Vibrant Views That Inspired Walt Disney

Depending on who you ask, the magic of Disney parks didn't start in Anaheim, California — it started in Copenhagen, Denmark. Before designing the first Disneyland, Walt Disney looked to the Danish theme park Tivoli Gardens for inspiration. He visited the famous park, making careful observations and taking notes, and eventually turned those ideas into the Disney parks we know and love today.

Tivoli Gardens' history extends much further back than the days of Walt Disney. The Copenhagen landmark opened in 1843, making it one of the oldest amusement parks in the world. It began as an exotic garden in the middle of the city and quickly added entertainment, such as the Tivoli Boys Guard crew and pantomimes. Rollercoasters, a concert hall, seasonal events, and other attractions soon followed.

Like Disney parks, Tivoli's charm goes far beyond its rides. The lush green gardens, vibrant scenery, and colorful lights after dusk give the park an enchanting ambiance guests of all ages can appreciate. You'll even find design inspiration from around the world, similar to the structures found in Disney World's EPCOT. One of the main attractions at Tivoli is its Japanese pagoda, which doubles as a gourmet restaurant.

Tivoli Gardens is filled with fun and fantastical attractions

Once you step inside the gates of Tivoli Gardens, you are immersed in an oasis of greenery, with splashes of color and the sounds of live music playing in the distance. Just sitting and taking it all in would be worth the cost of admission. Thankfully, there's even more to see and do. Enter the Tivoli Aquarium and try to spot the fish, sharks, octopi, and more than 100 other aquatic species housed inside. Once you're done, check out the Orangery, a two-story structure with a greenhouse and an open balcony.

Tivoli has a nostalgic, carnival-esque atmosphere wherever you look. To really feel like you've gone back in time, head to the Alley, a recreation of old Danish market streets. More interested in Asian flair? Make a stop at the aforementioned Japanese pagoda, as well as the Chinese-inspired bamboo forest.

Of course, the rides at Tivoli Gardens are also a major attraction, though they aren't as iconic as those found in Disney parks. Classic rides such as a Ferris wheel, bumper cars, and carousels are nestled between thrilling coasters and towering swings. To experience the rush, be sure to purchase a Ride Pass on top of the basic entrance ticket.

When to visit the Copenhagen destination

Tivoli Gardens is a must-visit place for Disney fans, and it's a great way to experience delightful Danish nostalgia. The park is situated in the heart of the city, just next to Copenhagen Central Station, so it's easy to fit into a day of sightseeing and checking out Copenhagen's stunning waterfront canal. However, it may be best to visit in the mid to late afternoon when many of Tivoli's live performances are scheduled. If you want to see the gardens in neon, consider sticking around until nighttime when the lights come on. Depending on the day, you can stay in the park as late as 11 p.m. or midnight.

Note that Tivoli Gardens isn't open 365 days a year. There are three main seasons of operation, namely summer, Halloween, and Christmas, with closures in between. Remember to check if Tivoli is open before your trip, and keep in mind that seasonal events (such as the annual Christmas celebrations) could influence the decor, scheduled programs, and crowdedness at the gardens. The magic is ubiquitous. Who knows, it might just inspire you to develop your own iconic theme park.