From the window of the Eurostar, Futuroscope looks at first glance like some strange board game that has been abandoned there by giants or aliens. In fact, even at second glance you remain convinced that something huge and terrifying might be about to return to collect its forgotten toys.

Rising up above the otherwise flatter-than-flat French countryside, the strange glass and metal architecture of Futuroscope is certainly unique. At the centre of the park, jagged metal prisms thrust up into the sky, surrounded by cubes, spheres and pyramids of various shapes and sizes. To one side, what appears to be a giant pipe organ sprouts up beside an artificial lake and on the other, a 50ft-wide spinning observatory edges its way up and down a giant pole.

Futuroscope’s unusual appearance has not put off the punters. Since opening in 1987, the park has recorded 30 million visits and has become the second most popular tourist attraction in France after Euro Disney. Despite claims in the late ’90s that it was France’s answer to the Millennium Dome”, it is still going strong and is now probably the most famous science and technology theme park in Europe. This means that, in addition to its appearance, it has other key differences from regular theme parks: few actual ‘rides’, largely indoor attractions and an emphasis on scientific and technological themes rather than white-knuckle drama.

Bruno Louvet, an international director for Futuroscope, explains its appeal: The message of Futuroscope is one for the future. Our attractions share an important message with children and adults as they talk about the environment and about the advances of science and technology.”

At the mention of school syllabuses this is beginning to sound a bit too much like hard work, especially when Bruno adds that the park is home to a number of working laboratories and actual research is carried out on site. However, visitors don’t have to go anywhere near a Bunsen burner to have an exciting experience. Many of the attractions are only loosely based around a scientific theme, showcasing some impressive computer and cinematographic technology.

Housed in a giant pipe organ, Voyageurs du Ciel et de la Mer – Travellers by Air and Sea – features two giant IMAX screens, one in front of the theatre and one on the floor, which show seas teeming with whales and dolphins and a sky full of migrating birds.

“This is one of the most popular attractions,” Bruno tells me as I go in. “It’s a lovely film and tells you about Futuroscope’s unique environmental message.” The film certainly is beautiful and I barely mind the slight feeling of vertigo as my feet dangle far above a sea full of sharks.

Opened in June, Star of the Future mixes a Pop Idol-like element of audience participation with an introduction to French cinematic history. Intrigued? So was I, but couldn’t understand a word they were saying. The French-only voiceovers were beginning to pose a problem for our English-speaking group, especially as the headset translators tended to be full of static.

One of the newest attractions in the park, Les Yeux Grands Fermés, or Journey into the Dark, aims to give sighted people an idea of what it’s like to be blind, but we were experiencing a form of deafness as well.

Fortunately, many of the attractions that don’t require language are lots of fun, if slightly bizarre. In a huge drum-shaped building you find Race for Atlantis, where, in giant 3D goggles, you fly through a lunging cartoon world of fish and half-naked men with tridents. In a cinema that resembles a paper towel dispenser there’s another simulator, Dynamic Vienne, where laughing trees take you on a voyage through the French countryside in a runaway car. There are also huge rooms full of video games, where you can play on individual or group consoles, a massive late-night light and water show and the usual snack bars scattered around – though this being France, these ones serve beer.

When I’d finally given up looking for thrills and sat bobbing about in a bumper boat on the artificial lake, I had the perfect view of the strange-looking buildings and realised that, in this alien landscape, not being able to speak the language wasn’t so bad after all.