Symbolica: 35 million euro down the drain

This summer the Efteling opened their most expensive ride they have ever built in their history. Symbolica is a trackless dark ride and was announced with high regards. But can it live up to the expectations? We were keen to found that out ourselves.

With a price of 35 million euro, Efteling has never paid more for a new ride. Needless to say the expectations for this ride were very high. Symbolica was meant to open in 2012 under the name ‘Hartenhof’, when the Efteling celebrated their 60th birthday. But the project was postponed multiple times. Until they changed the project to Symbolica, with a new transport system and a new designed castle exterior. They started construction in January 2016 and it opened in July 2017. We visited the Efteling in September curious to discover the Efteling’s new dark ride.

Symbolica is located not far away from the entrance, so it wasn’t a surprise to see a queue of more than an hour when we arrived around noon. It was quite a crowded day but compared to other queues, Symbolica’s queue was almost double as long in time as most other rides. And it stayed like that the whole day. For those who don’t feel like waiting that long, like us, Symbolica has a single rides line! The single riders queue seems quite a bit shorter but keep in mind the queues goes on inside after a preshow.

But still, we won quite some time by choosing the single riders line. One thing you can’t do when you chose taking the single riders line is chosing the tour you’ll be taking. Symbolica has three different tours: the ‘schattentour’ (treasure tour), the ‘muziektour’ (music tour) & the ‘heldentour’ (heroes’ tour). You can chose which tour you want to do before you enter the station. When you take the normal queue of course, you can’t chose when you use the single riders’ line. By including three different tours in one dark ride, Efteling wanted to add an interactive element in the ride. It’s also a guarantee the visitor has to do the ride at least thrice if they want to experience the whole ride. When visiting the park on crowded days, visitors will have to come back another day to experience another tour unless they want to queue the whole day at Symbolica.

If you didn’t do Symbolica yet and want to keep the ride a surprise, I recommend to stop reading here and jump to the last two paragraphs if you’re interested in my opinion about Symbolica. Spoiler alert!

There’s a preshow before going to the station. You are welcomed by lackey OJ Punctual. You’re going on an audience with king Pardulfius and the lackey explains some rules you have to take into account. Until Pardoes, the jester who’s the mascot of the Efteling, appears and takes you for a visit to the castle. This scene was pretty good and the ending part where the stairs with the lackey on split to make way for the path to the station is quite impressive. Seeing this, Symbolica takes a good start.

Remember the tours you could chose from? Those will come in effect later in the ride. When you entered your vehicle you will get first three scenes which you’ll always get to see first despite the tour you’ve chosen. The first one is the observatory where you’ll see a wizard called Almar. It’s a pretty nice decor to start the ride with.

Afterwards you go to the panorama lounge.  People who have already visited the Efteling and rode Droomvlucht (another dark ride) will probably recognize where this panorama lounge is based on. It is a beautiful scene in Symbolica but it doesn’t feel original. It feels like the designers of Symbolica copy pasted a piece of Droomvlucht. A bit of a shame here. The third scene you’ll experience before actually starting your chosen tour is the botanicum. This scene is decorated as botanic garden in a greenhouse. This is my favorite part of the ride. The botanicum is decorated very well and there’s a large whale swimming outside the greenhouse. Suddenly the glass of the greenhouse collapses and water is flowing in.

Now, you start your chosen tour. And from this moment, you don’t really get to see any scenes anymore. The ride now shows off some moving props. That’s basically it for the rest of the ride. You are about to see some metal harnesses that are shaking, some books that are being pushed out of a bookcase, moving paintings… It could be cool stuff if those things were part of a scene but if those moving props are the only thing you are seeing against a blank wall, than it just gets lame.

End of spoiler alert. You can open your eyes again.

We were disappointed by Symbolica. Maybe our expectations were too high?! The price tag of 35 million euro isn’t small and it creates expectations, but we just expected a good dark ride. Efteling has proven before they can pull that off, Droomvlucht and Fata Morgana are the proof of that. But Symbolica didn’t succeed to beat them. Droomvlucht and Fata Morgana are still must-do rides for me when visiting the Efteling. Symbolica isn’t. I would do it again if there’s almost no queue for it, but otherwise it’s a ride I’d skip in order to ride more interesting rides.

Symbolica marks a huge missed chance for the Dutch park. Dark rides aren’t built that often anymore and so fans were excited for Symbolica. But Symbolica doesn’t tell a story, it feels like they ran out of money halfway and just finished the ride with some props they had left. Well, at least Symbolica isn’t the worst dark ride in the Efteling. That honor still goes to Carnaval Festival…

Post Author: Frederik