Visiting London as a family is quite an adventure; even well-traveled kids can get worn out by all the walking and spend all their souvenir money on the first day – there’s just that much fun to be had! The best way to manage this is with a reasonable London itinerary that doesn’t run everyone ragged and a healthy cadence of visits to family-friendly London attractions.
The SEA LIFE London Aquarium is one of those experiences you’ll see recommended on lots of lists for things to do with kids in London… but is it actually worth it? I’ve visited with my family and wanted to share my experience, so I put together this SEA LIFE London Aquarium review to help you decide.
Conveniently located and reasonably priced (among London attractions, anyway), the SEA LIFE London Aquarium gives visitors the chance to see – and even interact – with marine critters you might not otherwise get to, even at other London attractions (like the Zoo). If you’re visiting London from somewhere that doesn’t have an aquarium, it could be a great idea for your London trip… but I’m getting ahead of myself!
Read on to learn about the basics of visiting SEA LIFE London as well as my own experience, what my kids and I saw, and whether I think the aquarium is worth it. I hope this helps you narrow down all the great choices for how you and your family will spend your time in London!
Basics of Visiting the SEA LIFE London Aquarium
Before jumping into my own SEA LIFE London Aquarium review, it’s important to cover a few logistics for visiting. Stick with me – this is essential to help you have a better visit if you decide if the SEA LIFE aquarium is worth it in your London itinerary.
Location & Transport
To kick off this SEA LIFE London Aquarium Review, let’s take a look at where in the capital the attraction is and how you can get there. The good news is that you’ll probably be in this area of London at least once during your visit, so it’s certainly convenient!
The SEA LIFE London Aquarium is located in the old County Hall building, on the south bank of the Thames, in the center of the city. You can easily find it as it is right next door to the London Eye – and it’s a beautiful building in its own right.
As for transportation, the nearest Tube stations are Waterloo (Bakerloo/Jubilee/Northern/Waterloo & City), Westminster (Circle/District/Jubilee), Embankment (Bakerloo/Circle/District/Northern) and Charing Cross (Bakerloo/Northern), all of which are within a 10-minute walk. There are some buses in the area too, though it’s probably faster to hop off the bus a few stops away and walk, as traffic in the area and on Westminster Bridge in the area is never great.
Hours, Admission & Tickets
During the school year, the aquarium is open Monday to Friday from 10am to 6pm and on weekends from 9:30am to 7pm; during the summer, the aquarium is open every day from 9:30am to 7pm.
A little note of advice here – during the winter months, the penguins go to sleep earlier, so if you visit later in the afternoon, the Polar Adventure zone may be dark, and you probably won’t get to see the cute little guys which may affect your SEA LIFE London Aquarium experience.
Standard online adult tickets are £26 and children £23. They are more expensive if you buy them on the day, and it is worth noting that you can get deals on tickets if you buy them for multiple attractions in the area, so it is well worth checking out any promotions.
Food Options & Facilities
There isn’t anywhere to buy food within the attraction except for a vending machine that sells small/light snacks and drinks. There isn’t anywhere to picnic either, so it’s best to eat before or after your visit. But, since the aquarium is right on the Southbank, there are tons of restaurants within easy walking distance.
In terms of other facilities, there are toilets on each level, all of which include baby-change facilities. The aquarium is fully also accessible for disabled visitors, and assistance dogs are very welcome.
Gift Shop & Souvenirs
There is a gift shop at the end of the attraction where you can purchase souvenirs as mementos from your visit. It is packed full of marine-orientated merchandise, educational books and puzzles, and much more, with items to suit most budgets.
My Experience at the SEA LIFE London Aquarium
Photos courtesy of Domenico Convertini via Flickr
Now let’s get into my SEA LIFE London Aquarium review, where I tell you all about my specific experience at this top London attraction – and hopefully, answer any questions you may have to help you decide if it’s worth it during your London trip.
The aquarium really doesn’t look very big from the outside, but that first impression is deceptive – it’s bigger than it looks once you go in.
Upon entry, I followed the signs that led us the correct way around the attraction. As you would expect, there are lots of tanks filled with weird and wonderful marine creatures. Each tank is accompanied by a fact file of interesting information, which my children found fun and fascinating to read.
As well as all the different species of fish, I also saw penguins, octopuses, and turtles all going about their daily business. The penguin enclosure features a dome that you can pop your heads into, which gave me and my kids the perfect view of these adorable creatures and their habitat. A couple of the more adventurous and curious penguins waddled over to investigate us. One of my favorite bits was walking over the glass floor that has the shark tank directly below.
There are some VIP experiences that you can book at the aquarium. You might be feeling brave and decide to snorkel with the resident sharks, or perhaps you would prefer to join the keepers and help feed the cheeky penguins. If I return I will definitely book one of these experiences, to take the visit to a whole new level.
SEA LIFE London Aquarium Review: Final Thoughts
To conclude my SEA LIFE London Aquarium review I’m going to answer the most important question: is SEA LIFE London Aquarium worth it?
Well, here are a few thoughts on whether I think you should add it to your London itinerary or not.
The SEA LIFE London Aquarium is a fun and educational way to spend a couple of hours, particularly if you are in the vicinity and visiting the other local attractions. Also, SEA LIFE is committed to its conservation work around the globe, which is dedicated to helping to save marine life and coral reefs. This means your visit and any possible donations go toward this worthy cause.
All that said, if you have visited any of the other SEA LIFE Aquariums or similar attractions, then this one is not much different. In fact, it is probably one of the least engaging that I have been to – if I am honest. It was a little tired in places and could perhaps do with a bit of spruce up.
I hope all that helps: if you or one of your kids loves these kinds of attractions, it’s worth it; if you’ve had experiences like this before, you might pass it up for another great option among the many things to do with kids in London.
Have any other questions about my SEA LIFE London Aquarium review or whether to visit it during your London trip? Let me know in the comments below!