When Disneyland Paris first opened in 1992, it was the only thing to be found for miles around.
The resort opened with one theme park, seven themed hotels, an entertainment shopping district, and a golf course.
Although the park and the hotels were great, you were limited in what was available to keep you entertained for more than one or two days, unless you took the 20 mile train journey into Paris.
Over the years, the original park has expanded with new attractions, a second theme park has opened, cinemas and restaurants have been added to Disney Village, and four new hotels are under construction. All these are well-known expansions to the Disneyland Paris Resort, but nearby is another Disney initiative that is often overlooked by visitors.
Three years ago, Disney, in collaboration with a French property developer, opened a large out-of-town shopping and entertainment district called Val d'Europe. Although the designs for the center were not produced by the Disney team, they were approved by Disney before construction could begin.
Val d'Europe is built on Disney property, and is in fact very close to the new Walt Disney Studio Park. It has its own railway station connecting to the French RER network, making it accessible from both Paris and the Disneyland Resort. If you look at the map above, the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster building can be seen in grid reference E1. The station is in grid reference C4, and Val d'Europe itself fills most of grid references D4 and E4.
As you leave the station, you enter Val d'Europe at the eastern end of the site, with all the shops and restaurants in a large L-shaped layout to the west.
From the station, you enter Val d'Europe through the Passage de la Gare.
Inside, you find the usual collection of French, European, and some American chain stores. There is also a large Auchon supermarket.
As you reach the center of the mall, you enter the entertainment part of the complex. Here, you find fast food, full-service restaurants, and bars.
Also in the entertainment area is the Sea Life Centre, a very nice aquarium with an interesting collection of exhibits, including a shark tunnel.
As you continue through the center, you exit the main covered part and enter the outdoor shopping village area. This area is based on the American outlet-mall concept, with shops selling reduced-price designer goods.
Unfortunately they do not allow photographs to be taken.
As you would expect Disney has a store in the center. Although it is not a large store, it does have a different design and name from those found in the rest of Europe.
Located near to the railway station is a small but very bright and clean Rendez.vous Disney, where you find the usual merchandise available in Disney stores around the world.
Rendez.vous Disney is one of the nicest Disney shops I have seen. Goods are really well-presented, it's not overstocked, and there are some interesting details, such as the four projector clocks showing the current time in every Disney theme park around the world.
If you are visiting the Disneyland Paris Resort for a few days and need to do some vacation shopping, make sure to visit Val d'Europe. It's only two minutes away on the RER train, or five minutes by Disneyland Paris Resort Buses. On a cold and wet winter day, you can easily spend a few warm and dry hours here.