SEA LIFE London Aquarium

Attractions, Zoos and aquariums South Bank
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 3 out of 5 stars
(41user reviews)
34 Love It
Save it
SEA LIFE London Aquarium
1/4
Crab (Michelle Grant / Time Out)
2/4
Michelle Grant / Time Out
Visitor enjoying the fish (Michelle Grant / Time Out)
3/4
Michelle Grant / Time Out
 (© Sea Life London Aquarium)
4/4
© Sea Life London Aquarium

Walk through, over and under colourful aquatic worlds from the tropical to the Arctic at one of London’s busiest attractions

It’s hard to imagine, when you’re standing outside County Hall, that you’re going to find sharks and penguins inside what used to be a boring old council building. But give them their dues – Sea Life has created a pretty impressive aquatic wonderland right here in Zone One, and within easy reach of Waterloo and London Bridge stations.

You can go at your own pace, but Sea Life London Aquarium follows a set route, so you won’t miss anything. Start with a walk over the glass window that peeks down to the Pacific waters display. This section is called Shark Walk – the clue’s in the name. You then come to the ‘Atlantic Depths’ – with its sand eels and octopus – and the ‘Tidal Reach’ collection of creatures from British waters. You have to feel for the jellyfish and pipefish here. Life in our seas and rivers just doesn’t seem as exciting as the colourful exotica you get when you move through to the Ray Lagoon and the fabulous purple tangs, triggerfish and stripy snapper of the Dive Discovery tropical waters.

Along with rockpool displays of brightly coloured anemones and the gliding green sea turtles that swoop past overhead as you walk through the Ocean Tunnel, there’s a chance to get down deep with the sharks as you peer into the Pacific Wreck gallery and see if you can find Nemo among the clownfish in the Coral Reef zone.

There is a lot to take in here, especially if you visit off peak, when the crowds aren’t too bad. The route continues with a display dedicated to seahorses and an area that reflects the humid setting of the rainforest, where you’ll see piranhas, a Cuban crocodile and poison dart frogs. Nothing causes a stir quite like a meal time, so check the website for the many different feeding sessions, which are hosted daily during visitor hours, and time your trip so you catch the ones you want to see most.

There's also a new permanent exhibition, 'Ocean Invaders', in which you'll also be able to learn more about the weird, wonderful and wobbly world of jellyfish. Visitors can discover the most dangerous species and even create their own digital jellyfish. Sea Life also carries out research and conservation work, and the Thames Walk experience (opened in summer 2015) reveals some of the insights into life in the waters that flow just outside the aquarium, and the work done to make them a cleaner environment in which fish can thrive. The Breed Rescue Project display invites budding marine biologists of all ages to find out more.

Tickets can be purchased on their own or as parts of packages that include other London attractions. Group tickets and annual passes are also available, as well as very cool looking VIP behind the scenes tours, granting you access to areas of the aquarium usually closed to the public, and a snorkeling with sharks experience which more or less does what it says on the tin.  

By: Laura Lee Davies

Posted:

Venue name: SEA LIFE London Aquarium
Contact:
Address: County Hall
Riverside Building
Westminster Bridge Rd
London
SE1 7PB
Opening hours: Open Mon–Fri 10am–7pm (last entry 6pm); Sat–Sun 9am–7pm (last entry 6pm). Closed Dec 25. The aquarium opens for longer hours during school holidays, check website for details
Transport: Tube: Westminster or Waterloo
Price: From (adv online) £19.50, £14.50 under-16s, free under-threes. Tickets on the door will cost more
Do you own this business?
To improve this listing email: feedback@timeout.com

Average User Rating

3 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:4
  • 4 star:11
  • 3 star:16
  • 2 star:1
  • 1 star:9
LiveReviews|41
2 people listening
MissLDN
Tastemaker

I went to see the new "Ocean Invaders" exhibit, but was more excited to finally see the shark tank. I am usually not a big fan of animals in captivity, but on the other hand I was curious to see the set up of Sea Life for some time.


My feelings have been twofold: it's amazing to get a close look at sea creatures I have not seen before and on the other hand I thought some of the exhibits did not seem to fit. There were some information screens by the tanks, but not as much as I hoped for (maybe replace them with touchscreen ones and more interactive screens).


The staff was really nice and helpful and their knowledge really impressive. We had a nice chat with some of them. The "Ocean Invaders" exhibit was great and I learned a lot about jelly fish.


I am not sure if I would go back - it might be fun as a family trip, but due to its location I think you have to try to avoid the busy times.


All in all it was a fun evening and I'm glad that I finally managed to catch a glimpse of the sharks. 

Mazzie Cee
tastemaker

Sea Life London Aquarium is a pretty cool aquarium and I’ve been to quite a few around Europe. The shark tank is breathtaking with a variety of species to see. There are a number of walk ways where you can see fish swim under your feet and over your head. The penguins are especially cute and I could stare at them for ages. The new Ocean Invaders – jellyfish exhibition is fascinating and presents them beautifully. The staff know their stuff and it was interesting to learn about the Cassiopea (upside down jellyfish) and the cute little polyps.It’s a great place for adults and kids to learn something new about the ocean. Recommended.

Annabel-Zoe
Tastemaker

I’ve been to this aquarium a few times, including one heaving Saturday with a toddler and a baby. I would recommend that you do not go on a weekend day, the crowds are unpleasant and really highlight that the aquarium hasn’t got a huge amount of space and is a little run down in parts. However, I really enjoyed the recently launched jellyfish exhibition, ‘Ocean Invaders’, probably the most interesting exhibition and worth a visit! 

evanschris
Tastemaker

I came here mainly for the new Jellyfish 'Ocean Invaders' exhibit but got to see quite a bit of the rest of the aquarium too. Having lived in Plymouth with the UK's largest and National marine aquarium, I was disappointed by the size of this aquarium, and overall most exhibits were depressing - in particular the penguins who had barely any space and no natural light. 


The Jellyfish exhibit was alright, they had workers there who were incredibly knowledgeable and was really interesting to talk to them. I think the thing that most disappointed me about this was that it is a brand new exhibit but it already feels a little outdated. The tech felt a bit old, I understand much of it is angled towards kids, but the interactive game was really boring, and much of the tech just felt out of place and not very interactive. To be honest my favourite piece of tech there was a very small colour picker which changed the light colour inside one of the small jellyfish tanks and you could set the jellyfish to be any colour you wanted.

Sara A
tastemaker

My first visit to Sea Life was to see the grand opening of the new jellyfish exhibition so I didn’t get to see everything that they have to offer but I did get enough of a sneak peak into some of the other exhibits including the shark tank, which let’s face it, that’s what we all want to see! Some of the teeth on those sharks are absolutely terrifying.


My feelings about places like this are always mixed. On the one hand, I have such an intense fascination in being able to see all these creatures up close in all their glorious beauty. But on the other hand it’s quite cruel to see creatures that would usually be roaming free in the oceans cooped up in such small spaces with kids banging on the glass. I wouldn’t mind so much if it was a case of rehabilitating animals or some sort of breeding programme for endangered species but I didn’t see any signs of that. The saddest were the penguins, in such an enclosed space, they really did look quite miserable.


Putting my ethical concerns to one side, the jellyfish exhibition was both fascinating and informative. I could honestly spend all evening just watch the jellyfish elegantly float up and down in their tank with the changing colours of their tanks. It was incredibly peaceful and relaxing. I was surprised that despite the number of jellyfish in this exhibit, they were all very similar looking. There are so many different types and colours of jellyfish out there I wonder why they didn’t go for a bit more variety.

Parklife
tastemaker

We came here primarily for the 'Ocean Invaders' exhibit. We managed to explore facts about various types of jelly fish including the upside down variety. There was a child friendly interactive game which aims to teach participants about the ecology of jelly fish. The aquarium guides were extremely enthusiastic and knowledgeable. 


However, the rest of the aquarium was dingy and uninviting. It was a lot smaller than I imagined it to be. Only the sharks, turtles and sting rays were worth watching in the tank containing the 'whale skeleton'. The penguin enclosure was not a great sight. The penguins are probably most active during the day rather than in the early evening when we visited.  

retroashlat
tastemakerTastemaker

I'm not much of an aquarium fan, to be honest. After watching Blackfish, the idea of animals in captivity - sea creatures or otherwise - turned me off going to any of these types of attractions. But as I was given press tix to check out the new Jellyfish exhibit, and since I have heard nothing but glowing review of this place, I grabbed a friend and thought I'd check it out. 


SO COOL. First off, the jellyfish dancers (not sure if that was just for the press evening or if they are going to be a permanent fixture) added a cool ethereal quality to the proceedings - though I wasn't sure if we were supposed to interact with them or not. As we walked through the building (or at least the parts that weren't closed at the time), we passed through a clear tunnel with tons of fish and sea life directly above us. A turtle had perched just to the side, almost waving at people as they walked by. Epic.


Through the aquarium some more to find clown fish, penguins (my fave), sharks and stingrays (I had a revelation that they were the birds of the sea, I know), until we finally got to the jellyfish.


WOW. Some of them were so tiny! And yet, so deadly as well! It was awe-inspiring to watch them contract and release as each fibre of their tentacles and bells pulsed slowly through the water. And who knew there were so many species?! The staff on hand were really helpful, explaining different types and their features, as well as the geographical locations in which we might find a particular species.


I think it's worth checking out, though I'm not so sure about the price... maybe if you could get a deal or something. Just judging by the size and scope of the building, I'm not sure that it's as big as it should be... in spite of my earlier musings about captive animals.

kayleighar
tastemaker

The new jellyfish exhibition helps to dispel the popular belief that these sea creatures are horrifying beasties which deliver darts of fatal venom from their all encompassing stinging tentacles. The exhibition is informative, interactive and fascinating, allowing visitors to learn about different species, their environment, their habits and life cycle. Facts and educational videos feature throughout and the aquarium staff are incredibly knowledgeable about these unusual ocean dwellers. Tanks are filled with the pulsating jellies drifting in and out of sight, with neon lights illuminating their translucent form. They’re mesmerising, hypnotic and therapeutic to watch, or eerie, ghostly and sinister, depending on your viewpoint.

Alex PD
tastemaker

The new jellyfish exhibition is a fantastic addition to an already great attraction. Knowing little to nothing about jellyfish before, I loved learning more with the fantastic staff on hand to answer all the questions I didn't even know I needed to know! There are a bunch of different types on show, and they're all exhibited beautifully.

Jojuj
Tastemaker

Come on, jellyfish are amazing. They're such bizarre ethereal creatures, like storybook inventions. And this exhibition has plenty of varieties, including organisms no larger than a sticky note and upside-down jellyfish that remain so largely dormant that algae grow on top of them. It's occasionally depressing to see the confined environments these sea creatures are in, but that's a feature of all zoos and aquariums.

Tracey S
tastemaker

It was my first visit to sea life aquarium and I went to see the new ocean invaders jellyfish exhibition.

The aquarium itself is really big, although it does seem a bit run down and dingy. There is a nice range of sea life to see and my favourites were the penguins, although they didn't seem quite as enthusiastic about seeing us! There were loads of jellyfish and the baby ones were really cute. As well as looking at the fish there was an interactive area that seemed to be popular with the youngsters. A great day out but if you have a big family it could get very expensive and not sure it would be worth the cost!

VanessaK
tastemaker

I've been to the aquarium my first time to see the recent jellyfish exhibit. All in all I was bit disappointed. The aquarium doesn't reflect the size and vibe of London at all. There were not that many fish, yes, you can see the shark, few other species and the new jellyfish. It's two different types of jellyfish and that's it. I can see how kinds can still enjoy this, but it's not worth going more than once.

Kishma S
Tastemaker

The new jellyfish exhibit at the aquarium is to gives it a new lease of life. The aquarium is a little worn around the edges but contains some pretty good features like the glass walkway, huge sharks in floor to ceiling ranks and a stingray pool. 

The jellyfish exhibition is cool and modern with interactive portions to engage children. It's probably best received by scholarships age children but can still be enjoyed by preschool children (and much older of course)

ML Kupfer
tastemaker

I was in the Aquarium for the first time to see the new Ocean Invaders exhibition, which is all about jellyfish. The exhibit in and of itself was super cool and the staff members were very knowledgeable, shared fascinating facts about jellyfish, and--very important-- didn't make me feel like a moron for making ignorant jellyfish questions (which unfortunately can't be said about experts in every London museum). The jellyfish themselves are quite a sight to behold. They are fascinating and somewhat magical creatures (I got some benign dementor vibes?) and the way the exhibit is laid out really allows you to appreciate them in full splendor. 


The aquarium itself has some pros and cons. The shark tank is incredible and you can really see sharks up close, something I never thought I would have an interest in doing but I was quite taken by them when I finally did for the first time here. There's also a lot of interactive bits for kids that I think I would have enjoyed as a kid myself. Unfortunately though, the aquarium does feel a bit rundown and has literally no open air spaces or even windows, so there's an element of claustrophobia to it,  at times like walking through a basement that just happens to house some pretty incredible sea creatures. 


Ultimately, there were a lot of hands on deck (including jellyfish dancers in AMAZING costumes) at the first night of the Jellyfish exhibit to make sure everything went smoothly and this made the experience feel really special, but I'm certain you won't need all the bells and whistles to appreciate this awesome exhibit and enjoy yourself at the aquarium. 

Ros A
Tastemaker

My review of the aquarium is based largely on the jellyfish exhibit which we were there to see. I really enjoyed seeing these wiggly wonders and they were lit beautifully so you could really see them well. I also got to learn some facts about jellyfish that I never knew before and the display was educational and interesting. 


This was my first visit to the London aquarium and I enjoyed it - we were there for a special event where there were fewer people than on a normal day as well as dancers and prosecco. All of the elements made it rather special! I enjoyed having a wander and the big tanks including the sharks were cool to see too. Watch out for 'Boris' the turtle. You'll know him when you see him. 



Sam B
tastemaker

I've always tended to avoid 'touristy' places, but I ventured into the Aquarium on a lates / after hours event. Without the usual screaming kids and tour groups, it was a joy. I was surprised at the size of the place, given its central location, with lots of fascinating sea life to discover. 


The shark tank is brilliant (amazing photo opportunities!) and the rays provide hours of entertainment. But the new jellyfish exhibit, Ocean Invaders, is something else. Modern, intriguing and interactive, it shows the real beauty of these amazing creatures. 


If you want to visit, try to go outside of peak times (if there is such a thing as off-peak here) as you will be able to meander through the depths at your own pace and really marvel at the wonderful creatures. 



Sosh_uk
Tastemaker

Wow!

The new space invaders aka the jelly fish exhibition was out of the world. It's amazing to see them from Babies to being fully grown.

The staff on site were very knowledgeable and answered all our questions! What ever age, you will enjoy this, there is interactive games for the kids and lots of useful info regards jellyfish for the adults.

It's my first time at the aquarium and the shark tank, penguins and now jelly fish were all pretty cool and I can wait to go back and take my nephew.

Top tip

Don't forget to take a jelly fish or shark fish selfie

Mei M
Tastemaker

London aquarium is not famous, and I have to say now I know why :/ it's a bit run down, tanks are dim and you can't see really well what's inside, there's not much really. The penguin area is depressing, you can see those poor little ones need more space :( 


I liked the big tank with sharks and other big fishes, they seemed to have enough space although I still felt sorry for them. 


The new Sea Invaders exhibition is really cool though! They did a great job with jellies and it's fun and entertaining, kids will love it! There is also a cool game in which you are a jellyfish and need to create the perfect conditions to grow and live. Tanks have very cool lights which make  jellies look like dreamy creatures from another world. The experts working there are all very passionate and they will tell you loads of things!

Luisa G
Tastemaker

The new jellyfish exhibition was good - the staff are very knowledgeable, and it's a pleasure speaking to them. We were lucky enough to speak to Beth, one of the conservationists, whose knowledge was unbelievable. 


It would've been great to see some bigger jellyfish, but at the same time I'm pleased that the larger ones are in their natural habitat. I did feel a bit sorry for the penguins - I definitely felt like they didn't have enough space to really live a happy, snow-filled life. 

Bee
tastemaker

The 3 stars are for the overall experience, dragged down by the sad penguins deprived of outdoor space or sky! There is always a feeling of guilt seeing wild animals in tanks/enclosures and it is my belief that this will one day be a thing of the past. However, as a keen scuba diver it is such a treat to relive memories of swimming close to these amazing creatures and learning even more about marine life so we can cherish and protect it's future and that's why I think it's great to see children mesmerised while learning, and in awe of nature. I would give 5 stars to the NEW JELLY FISH EXHIBIT! and if the aquarium keeps up this type of refurbishment and continues with educational installations then they will get my vote.

Karolina Muczacza
tastemaker

Generally, I am not a huge fan of Aquariums and Zoos, but as my friends came to London and got me a ticket so I gave it a shot. And I have to say, it was actually a lovely experience. 

The best part was seeing Gentoo penguins - absolutely amazing. I spent almost an hour watching them being fed. The shark tank is also pretty impressive. I would recommend the place for adult and kids. What I really liked, were info boards about overfishing and encouraging sustainable seafood. Kepp it up See Life London! 

Michael S

WORST AQUARIUM EVER VISITED ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD. ALSO TOTALLY NOT KIDS FRIENDLY.

It all started with a family weekend plan to keep our daughter entertained and do something different. This is my view of the facilities and the overall experience as a parent with a 19 month old child. 


The main entrance is hardly buggy friendly as only equipped with stairs. The only way to use the non-stair entrance is to purchase the priority entrance pass, which costs extra!


Secondly, about a quarter of the attractions were closed due to renovation work being carried out. Yet, the full admission price was charged. Also no mention of the work being carried at the ticket desk.


Thirdly, the aquarium was extremely crowded causing long queues at almost every stop.


Forth, hardly any bathrooms and only ONE baby changing room. Amazing.


Last, but not least, the penguins are kept in an enclosure which I can only guess is meant to simulate their natural habitat the Antarctic, amongst other places. Although, it reminds one more of a mental institution with a lack of fresh air/wind, sky etc. The penguins appeared lifeless and not happy at all. London Zoo is doing a much better job at keeping penguins outside, with a large outdoor pool and lots of interaction with nature.


Overall, the facility is run down and lacks everything a world class aquarium in a city such as London SHOULD offer to its visitors.


So if you are considering a family-day out which involves long queues, horrendously high ticket fees, unfriendly staff, a crowded aquarium where you have to force yourself to the front to get your kid to see anything and by default have a strong bladder to overcome the lack of bathroom facilities and baby changing rooms then you should visit.


Otherwise, stay away!

Kirsty E
Tastemaker

As Sea Life centres go, this is probably the best one I have been to. I must say I am surprised to see so many negative reviews. The place is huge! We found it to be an interesting layout with plenty of space for all different species of sea creatures. Even the start is exciting as you walk across a glass floor above the water.

The Shark tank is unbelievable! Such a massive area for some massive beasts! Great opportunity for some interesting photos. The walk through tunnel is good too and my personal favourites are the penguins. Such funny animals.

Definitely worth a visit although I can see why the steep price tag would put people off. Make sure you take advantage of the many 2 for 1 or discount vouchers available.

J S

The tiny penguin prison is the most depressing sight. No natural light, with penguins slipping about on a fibreglass ice berg. I don't understand how it's allowed. Go to London Zoo instead - large animal enclosures wirh penguins on a naturalistic beach.

elladacas
tastemaker

*sigh*

I don't know what to say. My family and I came here for an after hours experience,so technically it should've been better than the day time where screaming children and noisy students impede on ones enjoyment. That was not the case. This is not a good aquarium at all I'm afraid. Hardly any exotic fish and what was there was so mundane I'm sure I could've found them in mY local pond. We didn't get to see the penguins which is the highlight of this place. One saving grace! The shark tank! You can take some really great pictures there... but that's it in my opinion

Anaelle
Tastemaker

Fancy a tour down the aquarium? Don’t! It’s not worth the ridiculous price.


Sure the shark tunnel is cool and the animals are great (especially the rays – who knew they could be so funny?), but the place itself gives such a sad experience it needs to be avoided at all costs. Situated in a dark basement, it feels quite grim. The place is too old and tiny to be enjoyable for you or comfortable for the animals. Plus, with numerous photo booths and souvenir stands, it’s so salesy, it kills the ambiance.


So, trust me, give it a miss.

Tara P
Tastemaker

As aquariums go, this Sea Life centre certainly isn't the best (if you're looking for an awesome UK aquarium, try The Deep in Hull). It's a cramped space, with narrow walkways that make it difficult to see anything if you're there at a busy time. On a normal day, it's overpriced. The exception to this rule are the adults-only lates events, which see far fewer visitors and have a reasonable ticket price (if booked far ahead) that includes a glass of fizz. This was a truly fun evening, where you could take a leisurely stroll, stroke some starfish and sip at your glass of vino. I actually preferred it to the Zoo lates: with fewer guests and less of the 'outdoor drinking' atmosphere, it was much calmer and the guests didn't seem to be impacting negatively on our underwater friends, which was always a concern at the Zoo. In all, there are much better places in London for a family day out, but for those adults looking for an interesting pre-dinner experience, the lates are ace!

Lizzie W
Tastemaker

Recently went on a Friday afternoon to the aquarium lates. At £15 inc a glass of fizz and with no kids allowed i thought it was a really good hour or so to spend before Friday dinner however at the usual price of £30 on a busy weekend - well that's just a rip off and I would rate it 2*. Great for kids but just so over priced.

As it was we didn't get to see the Penguins and the place isn't actually that big but the Sharks were impressive and there were lots of staff around to talk about the fish which was interesting. It was also in collab with Lego so there were tables full of it to play with. 
Would recommend the adults lates - think there is one in September and tickets for the early bird price are reasonably priced.

jeaniekarl
Tastemaker

Along side Waterloo is the enchanting London aquarium where you can see sharks, turtles and penguins oh my. The set out is quite relaxing there are plenty of fun facts to keep the visitor entertained and amused. Having visited other aquariums this one is fairly small in comparison. With all the aquatics and the blue planet life there is something quite hypnotic about it all. There are obligatory cheesy photo opportunities at the beginning that the staff will try their hardest to persuade you to buy. There will lots of events and activities to keep kids amused and offer late evening visits if you prefer to explore during quieter and less chaotic times.

Sarah P

Lots to see but unable to see most of it as they don't limit the number of people in there. Had my son's buggy with me - impossible. Only care about the takings, not about visitor experience. My daughter enjoyed the parts she did manage to see but will not be returning anytime soon. The ones outside of the city are much more user-friendly.

Luke

Very very fun the aquarium is.It has loads of amazing animalls.Its very fun when you get to tuch a star fish and a crab!Plus if you go to the London zoo it is very cold in the winter so you should go to the London aquarium in the winter.

mm

overpriced tourist trap-avoid and go to London zoo instead. shuffle around in tight corridors and end up in the shop of all places, couldn't wait to get out!

Samantha

We went for my housemates 21st birthday, were allowed to touch starfish and anemones also given stickers.

kim

I loved the `rays`.....they were really sweet, not what i imagined, very inquisitive ....Sea horses have to be another firm favourite.....but unfortunatly for larger animals i feel the tanks vast as they are still need to be a lot bigger and I also feel that these wild animals should maybe be left in the wild....to be free , not to be gawped at by 100s people daily......We got a 2-4-1 offer off peak rate so it wasnt too expensive. The penguins looked really `hacked off` standing there with the painted scene of the arctic? in the background......i felt they really should`nt be there!! a member of staff commented that the penguins were the main attraction so no chance of those guys getting their freedom soon then....i really dont know now where i stand in this day & age about Zoos, unless its `vital conservation` and even so species will come and go through the ages as they`ve always done so. ...similar stuff around circus`s...who now have Very few animals as acts......a sign of changing consciousness

Bob

Do yourself a favour, give it a miss and go somewhere else like London Zoo (same price but much more variety and pleasanter) or the Museums (free). This place is overpriced, over-rated and a blight on the landscape. £70 to for a family to queue up for an hour then get shuffled around quickly looking at fish in glass tanks.

Melly

rather expensive, but definitely fascinating, especially the giant sea turtle, the sharks and the underwater tunnel.