Since we purchased our Merlin passes in the January sale this year (see top tips below for details) we have been regular visitors at London Aquarium. The Terrorists adore it and it is a great activity to combine with a few hours on South Bank (see my previous South Bank post).
We always arrive early. It is worth checking their website for their opening times for your visit. It is usually 10am but in school holidays (and the weekends that fall into them) it is 9am. The time we arrived on a Sunday for 9am in the Christmas holidays we literally had the whole place to ourselves and only met another couple at the final exhibit. It was wonderful – our own private aquarium (well worth the early start!).
Because we go quite regularly we have developed a little routine for our visits (we skip the bits that The Bear declares are ‘not fun’ and head straight for our favourites – beating the hordes so we get them to ourselves). I will outline our must sees here – obviously if your visit is a one off then you probably don’t want to rush any of it and even taking a leisurely pace you should be through in 2 hours.
We start with the glass walkway at the entrance where if you hang out for a few minutes you are pretty much guaranteed to have a shark glide under you – I love this bit for the cries of “I’m standing on the shark Mummy”!
It is worth visiting the toilet at the entrance as it is a bit like Ikea (you realise rationally you can’t be that far from where you started but you can’t for the life of you get back there!). We always take the buggy with us (see baby friendly below) and we skip pretty speedily past the first few exhibits (there are some cool string rays but The Bear doesn’t have much interest in the rest) and head to the sharks and the huge blue fish in the first of the big tanks.
Past this The Terrorists like to get to the walk through tunnel where (if we can beat the crowds) they will happily spend 30 minutes looking through the toddler height hidey holes to find The Bear’s favourite (two giant turtles).
Past this our must sees are seahorses, Nemo, Dorey, the small turtles, the crocodile (who doesn’t do much but still holds The Bear rapt!), the penguins (who are fantastic and will run along and dive in to their water on repeat much to Bollie’s endless delight) and the giant crabs.
The place really is fantastic, you would never believe that outside you are surrounded by some of London’s most classic landmarks, once you are in and buried in the depths of County Hall you could be in the deepest darkest ocean.
By the time we leave we get to walk smugly past the huge queues which snake Southbank and head to quieter activities in the Southbank Centre – the perfect morning (so far this year we have been 4 times!).
Top Tip – take your buggy with you – the buggy room is a huge pain as you have to exit the Aquarium and then fight your way back through the queues to get in to retrieve your buggy. The whole place is accessible by buggy and we tend to park it in the corners as we go along
Time to visit – as above I would say, without a doubt, get there as early as you can and for the ultimate experience be there for their 9am school holiday opening – you won’t regret it. Once in allow 2 – 3 hours to do it comfortably
Highlights – the sharks and turtles for The Bear, the penguins for Bollie and the seahorses for me (they are beautiful and they are the only creature where the male gives birth to the babies – what’s not to like!?)
Getting there –it is a 5-10 minute walk from Waterlooo overground but is well served by all public transport (check out their website) and parking is free on a Sunday on the surrounding roads
Pushchair access – everywhere is accessible with pushchairs as there are lots of ramps and lifts
Price – for us it is completely free (due to our Merlin pass which we purchased in a January sale at a very discounted rate – see Merlin Pass for their latest deals) – I would definitely recommend the pass if you live in London as between The Aquarium, Legoland and Chessington World of Adventures you can really get your money’s worth very easily (we are 3 months in and now averaging £12 a visit to each attraction). The prices are Adults £21.60 and children over 3 £15.90. It is cheaper if you buy your tickets on-line in advance and look out for 2-4-1 vouchers on cereal and chocolate bars or visist http://www.daysoutguide.co.uk/london-aquarium to get discounted entry if you plan to travel by train.
Food and Drink – The Aquarium itself doesn’t have great food options but there is a huge choice a 5 minute walk away by the Southbank Centre. See my South Bank post for more details
Other attractions nearby – The London Eye, The London Dungeons and The Southbank Centre are all less than 5 mins walk. You also get a great view of Big Ben and Parliament from outside
Baby facilities – there is baby change in the toilets but as mentioned above, make sure you go when you see them as they are impossible to find otherwise! There are some at the beginning and then halfway round and at the end
Website – http://www.visitsealife.com/london/