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Love Lord of The Rings, exploring medieval castles and geeking out at costume parties? Then Elfia Fantasy Fair is a must-do bucket list item!
Did you know that Netherlands’ Elfia Fantasy Fair is the biggest fantasy festival in Europe? Elfia gets over 20,000 visitors that come to show off their costumes, hang out with like-minded friends and make memories. I just visited Elfia this spring and have compiled a thorough guide to this magical event!
The programme is filled with workshops, events, and entertainment – there’s really a lot to explore! Prepare for costume parades, live folk bands, endless shopping, drinking mead and snacking all day long. Feel free to use the contents to jump through the article:
- How to get to Elfia Fantasy Fair
- How much does Elfia cost
- Coming in costume
- What to do at the Fair
- Food and drink at Elfia
- Relax, dance and be merry
How to get to Elfia Fantasy Fair
Elfia is an amazing costumed weekend event that occurs only twice per year, in April and September. You can check the dates of the next fantasy fair on the Elfia website.
The spring Elfia is hosted on the grounds of Castle De Haar, Haarzuilens, one of the most gorgeous Dutch medieval castles and museums. Castle De Haar is situated a mere half an hour away from Utrecht both by public transport or car and it’s the most beautiful setting you could dream up for such a magical event.
Visiting Castle De Haar during Elfia is the best way to get the most unbelievable pictures and roam the grounds with no limits! You can also head inside of the castle which requires a separate ticket of 16 EUR for adults (free entrance for Museum Card users) but since you can do that in costume, you can get some pretty sweet pictures out of it!
The Autumn Edition is hosted in the Castlegardens of Arcen in the Limburg province. It’s way closer to the German border and is a great alternative destination depending on where you’re traveling from and what your itinerary looks like!
To get to Castle De Haar from Utrecht you can catch a train to Veulen and there get on a bus that goes to Kasteel De Haar, Haarzuilens. On the day of the event special buses are running one after another to accommodate the flow of visitors. The bus fare is 2 EUR for a return ticket and can be purchased with cash right at the Veulen bus stop. When in doubt, follow the dressed up people! To set up the best route use the 9292.nl planner that will break it up for you stop by stop!
There is also a bus that goes from the Utrecht Central Station but that one takes a lot of stops in between which extends the travel time to 40 minutes. It’s way easier to just go to Veulen and enjoy a 10-minute bus ride!
How much does Elfia Fantasy Fair cost
Elfia is a 2-day event so you can choose whether to buy a one-day entry ticket or tickets to both days. My last-minute ticket purchased on the morning of the event was 24 EUR for only Sunday entrance. Entrance for both days would be around 50 EUR. Elfia runs special early bird offers but you have to keep an eye out on their website – as far as I’m aware there’s no newsletter so you’ve got to check a couple months in advance to make sure you don’t miss it!
Important: while the entry ticket grants you access to all the glory that is Elfia, there will be additional costs involved! You have to pay for all the food and drink and any workshops that you want to take (although they’re low cost, around 5 EUR per workshop). Plus, all the amazing shops are bound to lure you in and lighten your wallet. So I would set aside 50 EUR per day if you want to feel comfortable and not worry about expenses.
Make sure to bring cash with you as there is an ATM onsite but the queues will be long and there might be commission if the bank isn’t the one you use. All food vendors and shops accept cash so it’s a safe bet and you won’t go wrong there!
Do I have to come to the fantasy fair in full costume?
No, you don’t! While most of the visitors come in costume, you’ll occasionally bump into other ordinarily dressed people. But I would definitely recommend investing in a costume, even if it’s something cheap and simple. I totally get that hauling around a costume when you come from abroad is totally impractical. So don’t worry as merchants sell a lot of costumes on site of the fair. You’ll find corsets, steampunk outfits, band t-shirts, medieval dresses, cloaks and hoods and so much more!
Also, you can come to Elfia with your dog – I’ve seen so many dogs dressed up in costumes as well during the event, it’s crazy! There’s free tap water available at the grounds so your dog should be totally fine.
Meanwhile, if you’re planning your next cosplay, Elfia is the best place to show it off – people are literally coming from all over Europe to showcase their epic costumes.
What to do at Elfia Fantasy Fair
Elfia offers so much to do that one day is definitely not enough to hit all the spots and events because the schedule also overlaps and you have to choose what to see. Make sure to take the programme by the entrance to make the most of your time at the fantasy fair.
The way the fair works is that Elfia is split into different stages where scheduled events take place. Since the territory of the Castle is quite large, sometimes the distance can be 10-15 minutes walking from one stage to the other so factor that in when planning what to see!
Aside from the stages, you also have a lot of re-enactment areas where a lot of different fandoms. There’s Disney Cosplay Meetup spots, Star Wars Stormtrooper area, a Harry Potter camp and much much more. You can spend half a day just walking around and seeing who’s displaying what!
Take the workshops
There are so many workshops to take that you really have to prioritize what sounds most interesting to you! A couple that I have seen around is learning how to shoot a bow like Katniss Everdeen, make your own ax, participate in a drum circle, learn Ceilidh dance or try on an authentic kimono or warrior armor at the Japanese section!
Go on a shopping spree at the fantasy fair
The number of stores at the fair can be overwhelming! Depending on your budget and luggage you might want to set some money aside for shopping. You will find cosplay costumes and weapons, wigs, books, geeky t-shirts from all of the fandoms, mini models, figurines, diaries, clothes, leather goods, elven ears, steampunk accessories, jewelry, decorations, and so much more!
Show off your costume at the parade
The parade is open to the participation of all who register in advance and all the visitors are welcome to watch the competitors in the Cosplay or Original category through both days of the event. The experience is a lot of fun because you never know what will turn up! You can also participate in the Elfia Royals elections where you get to vote for the next Kings and Queens of the fantasy fair. While I missed the voting this time myself, it’s definitely something to watch out for!
Enjoy Elfia’s staged shows and demonstrations
Sit in on a Storytelling Session
Throughout the weekend there will be storytelling sessions where wise travelers will be telling stories on a stage before an expecting crowd. It’s the perfect opportunity to sit and relax, as well as feel like a kid again – don’t we, after all, love it when somebody tells us stories?
Watch Live Action Shows like The Three Musketeers
Check the event schedule to see when the next show is going to happen. They are usually announced in the Recommendations section as they are one of the highlights of the event. This time I got to watch a Three Musketeers show where the beautiful Constance was rescued by D’Artagnan and we all watched the Cardinal’s men get beaten to a pulp by our famous trio!
Find all about Birds of Prey
Obviously, this is no guarantee as it all depends on who comes to the event (a detailed programme is always available when the tickets go live) but I got to watch a flight demonstration of different birds of prey such as owls, hawks, and falcons! It was amazing how close I got to sit plus they even asked a passerby girl with a pony to take a detour so that the pony would not provoke any of the hunting birds!
If you can afford to stay longer, you will no doubt be in time for the evening fire shows and spectacular performances that are left for the most persistent visitors. Just make sure that you can get back easily – take a look at the Elfia website and see what’s the best-planned route to get back using my favorite planner, 9292.nl.
Food and drink at Elfia Fantasy Fair
There is so much variety to enjoy at Elfia! From all the stalls there’s definitely a lot to try and the options cover all the tastes. From beef jerky to vegetarian falafel, the fair has got it all.
Caramelized apples, ham and cheese spreads, sweet baked goods, beef jerky, mushrooms, bottles of mead that you can order by the bottle or the crate! You name it – they’ve got it.
What you do need to keep in mind though is the prices. Drinks are pretty pricey with water or soda costing 3.5-4 EUR per glass. There are however free water stations at the fair so you can bring your own bottle and refill it without breaking the bank.
The prices for food are the same, starting from 4 EUR and higher. Keep in mind that you will be using cash, not cards, which is why you should bring enough with you. Some places like the Crossroads Inn that sells beer asks for a 2 EUR deposit on the cups. Once you bring those back, you get back the money. This is to ensure they get their equipment back in good condition.
There is an ATM at the premises but I would recommend taking money off beforehand at the Utrecht Centraal Station because the queues can be off-putting. Stuff your pockets full of change and off you go!
Once you’ve hit your fantasy fair to-do list, just relax, dance, and be merry!
It can be really exhausting walking around all day, especially in costume underneath a warm sun. So make sure to take a break between all the activities. Thankfully, Elfia really thought it all though! There are stations that offer back and foot massages for the weary travelers which are a godsend.
Also if the weather is warm enough, grab a spot in the park and hold a mini-picnic. Regroup, refresh, and return to the action! Elfia always has live band performances that sing all kind of music. The day started with a Tim Burton show orchestra, continued with pirate music and finished with Celtic songs. You will see a lot of people joining the dancefloor – this is the best place to be carefree!
I really hope you will take the time to explore this fantasy fair for yourself. It’s so nice to be in a place where you just instantly feel accepted and welcome! Everything is thought through and comfortable and I haven’t regretted going even once! Now all I have to do is come up with a cosplay for my next visit. My days of being a spectator are well and truly over…
Would you go to explore Elfia? Tell me in the comments!
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