TOP 15 Best Aquariums in the UK

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I was born in the UK, and I’ve spent lots of my life in the region.

Where I’m from, we’ve got loads of great museums, zoos, historical sights and other places to visit.

But here’s something you probably don’t know: we also have some of the world’s best aquariums, packed with lots of colorful critters from around the planet. Most UK aquariums also have innovative and exciting attractions and events, so they’re great to visit if you have kids (or if you are one).

So in this article, I’ve brought you the 15 best aquariums in the UK. I’ve included places in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, so you can visit a UK aquarium no matter which part of the region you’re exploring.

Here they are: the best aquariums in the UK

The Best Aquariums in England

1. SEA LIFE Brighton

Jellyfish at the Brighton Sea Life Centre
Jellyfish at the Brighton Sea Life Centre

The oldest aquarium in the world, this place first opened in 1872, and it’s been serving up fish-sized slices of fun ever since.

One of the highlights here is the glass bottom boat experience. During this immersive adventure, you glide over fish, turtles, octopi and loads more, while you gawp at them all through glass.

The other big attraction at SEA LIFE Brighton is the day and night ocean experience, the first of its type in the UK. In it, you watch the ocean transition from day to night, seeing colorful coral, bio-florescent animals, and loads of more kooky creatures.

The aquarium also has a walk-through rainforest area, featuring frogs, turtles, tortoises, piranhas, and some of the biggest snakes in the world.

And on top of all that, you get sharks, rays, jellyfish and plenty more!

  • Address: SEA LIFE Brighton, Marine Parade, Brighton, BN2 1TB
  • Entrance Fees: Prices start at £21.50 for adults, and £17.50 for kids. Under-3s go free
  • Parking Fees: The nearest car parks are between £1.20 and £4.30 per hour

2. The Deep, Hull

The Deep, Hull
The Deep, Hull

The Deep is particularly great because it’s primarily a conservation facility, dedicated to preserving and promoting loads of sea life and ocean animals. Since opening in 2002, it’s amassed a huge reputation for being one of the best aquariums in the UK.

There are more than 3500 creatures on display here, made up of more than 300 species.

They have the only Green sawfish in the world, a colony of Gentoo penguins, and loads of other rare creatures. The aquarium also has bugs, forests, sea turtles, and daily dive shows. For variety and innovation, this place is excellent.

The most famous attraction in the aquarium is their viewing tunnel. The deepest in Europe, it measures in at 10 meters, and even has an elevator running through it. In this viewing tunnel, you can feast your eager eyes on sharks, stingrays and plenty more.

  • Address: The Deep, Tower Street, Hull, HU1 4DP
  • Entrance Fees: £16.50 for adults, and £13.00 for kids. Under-3s go free
  • Parking Fees: £3 for 6 hours

3. The National Marine Aquarium, Plymouth

Anemones and Coral at the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth
Anemones and Coral at the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth

Also known as NMA, Plymouth’s National Marine Aquarium is the UK’s largest aquarium. It has 2.5 million liters of water, brimming with over 4,000 animals

One of the highlights here is the Great Barrier Reef exhibition, an excellent recreation of… well, the Great Barrier Reef. With 650,000 liters of water, it’s one of the best sea life exhibitions in the UK. It’s definitely the most colorful.

The Atlantic Ocean tank at NMA is the deepest in the UK, and features tiger sharks, nurse sharks, lemon sharks, zebra sharks, barracuda and loads more.

The National Marine Aquarium also has excellent exhibitions related to local sea life and conservation—and it’s home to the Ocean Conservation Trust, a famous charity. So if you want to learn about local UK sea life, the NMA is a great place to do it!

  • Address: National Marine Aquarium, Rope Walk, Coxside, Plymouth, PL4 0LF
  • Entrance Fees: Standard tickets are £22 for adults, and £11 for kids. Under-3s are free
  • Parking Fees: £4.50 for 3 hours at the nearby Sutton Harbour car park

4. Bristol Aquarium

Underwater World in Bristol Aquarium
Underwater world in Bristol Aquarium

The only UK aquarium with a botanical garden, the so-called Urban Jungle here is home to loads of plants, trees and wacky flora. With its own little microclimate, there are even bananas growing in it, perfect if you want a speedy snack.

The botanical garden also houses a Mighty Amazon pool, home to catfish, stingrays, giant pacu, turtles and plenty more. It’s an excellent recreation of the Amazon River—if you like themed displays, this is one of the best in the UK.

The entire aquarium is massively varied, with more than 40 naturally-themed displays, featuring rays, piranhas, pufferfish, seahorses, seven species of shark, a giant octopus, and plenty more.

Again, there’s a section dedicated to local sea life, so you can learn all about the fish and fauna of the UK.

  • Address: Bristol Aquarium, Anchor Rd, Bristol, BS1 5TT
  • Entrance Fees: Standard tickets are £17.50 for people aged 13+, and £11.25 for people aged 3-12. Under-3s are free
  • Parking Fees: The nearest car park is £13.50 for 2-4 hours

5. National SEA LIFE Centre, Birmingham

Gentoo Penguin Swimming at Birmingham Sea Life Centre
Gentoo Penguin Swimming at Birmingham Sea Life Centre

In case you haven’t already realized, the SEA LIFE centers are a chain of excellent aquariums throughout the UK. So you’ll be seeing a few of them on this list!

The second one we’ve featured so far, the Birmingham branch has the UK’s only 360-degree observation tunnel. In this tunnel (as you’ve probably worked out for yourself), the floor, ceiling and walls are all made of glass, so you can see fish, sharks, turtles and rays from every angle. It’s like being in the sea without getting wet.

This aquarium also has the UK’s only sea otters, and a mega-popular clownfish kingdom. Other habitats include a jellyfish collection, a seahorse collection, a ray collection and an octopus hideout. And on top of all that, they have a Gentoo penguin colony, with an excellent underwater viewing platform.

  • Address: National SEA LIFE Center, 11 Brindley Place, The Water’s Edge, Birmingham, B1 2HL
  • Entrance Fees: Standard tickets are £22.95 for all over-3s. Under-3s are free
  • Parking Fees: The nearest car park is £6 for 3 hours

6. Blue Planet Aquarium, Cheshire

A Lizard Resting on a Branch at the Blue Planet Aquarium, Cheshire
A Lizard Resting on a Branch at the Blue Planet Aquarium, Cheshire

Close to Liverpool, and home to Europe’s largest collection of sharks, this place is most famous for its diving with sharks experiences. During these submersive sessions, both adults and children can don scuba gear, jump into tanks, and make some toothy friends.

Another popular attraction at Blue Planet Aquarium is the Flooded Forest, which recreates stretches of the Amazon River. It houses piranhas, electric eels, and loads more weird and wacky creatures. The aquarium also has rock pools, Caiman Crocodiles, a frog zone, a Coral Cave, huge Dalmatian Pelicans, and plenty more.

The largest aquarium in north west England, there’s plenty of stuff to enjoy.

Cheshire is also home to one of the best zoos in the UK (Cheshire Zoo, unsurprisingly). While you’re in the area, you should absolutely visit.

  • Address: Blue Planet Aquarium, Longlooms Road, Cheshire Oaks, Cheshire, CH65 9LF
  • Entrance Fees: £20.45 for people aged 13+, and £14.50 for people aged 3-12. Toddlers go free
  • Parking Fees: £2.75 for your entire stay

7. SEA LIFE London

Sharks and Manta Rays at the Sea Life Aquarium in London
Sharks and Manta Rays at the Sea Life Aquarium in London

SEA LIFE London isn’t as big as most other aquariums on our list. But if you’re in London, it’s definitely worth a visit—and it packs a huge amount into its relatively diminutive proportions.

One of the best kid-friendly attractions in the city, the place offers more than 500 species over 14 themed zones. Some highlights are the UK’s largest jellyfish experience, the UK’s largest living coral reef, and a popular penguin colony.

The Rainforest Adventure is also great. It includes insects, crocodiles, tarantulas, ants, and the UK’s biggest collection of piranhas.

If you’re traveling in London with kids, this place is incredible. An entire visit only takes around 90 minutes, giving you plenty of time to explore the area. It’s located right next to loads more excitement, including NAMCO Funscape, London Dungeons, the London Eye, and a lovely riverside area.

If you’re visiting more than one attraction in the area, consider buying a multi-attraction ticket to save some money. And to be even more thrifty (and avoid loads of hassle), come here without a car.

  • Address: SEA LIFE London, Riverside Building, County Hall, Westminster Bridge Rd, London, SE1 7PB
  • Entrance Fees: Standard tickets are £30 for adults, and £27 for kids. Free for under-3s
  • Parking Fees: The nearest car park is (ridiculously!) £25.50 for 3 hours

8. Tynemouth Aquarium

Again, this aquarium is smaller than most others on our list. But if you’re in the far north of England, near Newcastle, it’s the best aquarium in the region.

I’m from the area, so I used to visit this place all the time when I was little. And don’t tell anyone, but I’ve also visited loads of times as an adult.

Anyway, some of the highlights here are seals, tortoises, rays, clownfish, lionfish, and much more. My favorite part is the otters, who are ridiculously cute. Other popular attractions include the feeding sessions, the rock pool sessions, and the seal shows.

When you’re done here, make sure you explore the local area. The beaches in Tynemouth (and nearby Cullercoats and Whitley Bay) are brilliant—and they’re right beside lots of the best beaches in Northumberland!

I’m from the area, so I might be biased, but this is one of the most beautiful regions in the UK.

  • Address: Tynemouth Aquarium, Grand Parade, Tynemouth, North Shields, NE30 4JF
  • Entrance Fees: £14.50 for people aged 13+, and £10.25 for people aged 3-12. Free for under-3s
  • Parking Fees: The nearest car park is £3 for a full day

The Best Aquariums in Scotland

9. Deep Sea World, Fife

A great pick if you’re visiting Edinburgh, this aquarium is just north-west of Scotland’s capital.

One of the most popular attractions here is Malawi Lake, which recreates the murky depths of a sprawling African lake (the 9th largest in the world!). The exhibition has more than 700 types of cichlids, small African fish.

Other exhibitions at Deep Sea World include a frog temple, a swamp, a tropic area, and an Amazon exhibition. The aquarium also offers shark dives, seals, sand tiger sharks, and plenty more. This is absolutely one of the best aquariums in Scotland.

Most aquariums have those ubiquitous walk-through underwater tunnels. But the one here is the main highlight of the entire aquarium: it measures in at a hefty 112 meters, making it one of the longest in the world.

  • Address: Deep Sea World, Battery Quarry, Forthside Terrace, North Queensferry, KY11 1JR
  • Entrance Fees: £16.20 for people aged 13+, and £11.50 for people aged 3-12. Free for under-3s
  • Parking Fees: Free

10. Macduff Marine Aquarium, Aberdeenshire

Overlooking the shores of Scotland’s biggest bay, Macduff Marine Aquarium is relatively remote, and it’s in a beautiful part of the world.

The place is massively unique, as it focuses exclusively on local marine life. They have exhibitions focusing on the sea floor, the coast and the rivers that lead into the area. But the most unusual attraction here is the Kelp Reef exhibition. It’s the only one of its type in the UK, and features all the unusual fish and vertebrates that live in the region’s hospitable seaweeds.

Some of the most popular animals here include cod, butterfish, sea bream, sole, flounder, crabs, baby sharks and skates. The aquarium also hosts daily talks and feedings.

If you’re interested in local marine life, you’ll probably think this is the best aquarium in the UK. It’s small, but you’ll fall in love with it.

Oh, and while you’re here, make sure you stick around and explore the local area!

  • Address: Macduff Marine Aquarium, 11 High Shore, Macduff, AB44 1SL
  • Entrance Fees: £7.90 for adults, £4.75 for kids aged 5-15, £3.15 for kids aged 3-4, and free for under-3s
  • Parking Fees: Free

11. St. Andrews Aquarium

Unsurprisingly located near St. Andrews, this aquarium is a little smaller than most others we’ve featured, but it’s lovely. Family-owned and family-run, it’s a charming little place to visit—and it’s the only family-run aquarium in Scotland!

It has more than 100 fish species, along with seals, penguins, crocodiles, octopi, meerkats and a black tip reef shark. The most popular animals here are probably the marmosets, cheeky little monkeys who love jumping around. Yeah, they’re not fish—but who cares, they’re cute.

St Andrews Aquarium also has excellent penguin feeding experiences, spiders, scorpions, loads of colorful frogs, sharks, rays, reptiles, and dwarf crocodiles. Some of the most popular experiences here are the reptile handling sessions. So it might be small, but there’s plenty to do!

  • Address: St. Andrews Aquarium, The Scores, St Andrews, KY16 9AS
  • Entrance Fees: £12 for adults, £10 for kids, and free for under-3s
  • Parking Fees: The nearest car park is £3.80 for a full day

The Best Aquariums in Wales

12. Anglesey Sea Zoo

Anglesey Sea Zoo focuses solely on British marine life and British marine habitats, so it’s a great place to learn about all the little creatures and critters that live in the region.

Some of the most interesting attractions here include their lobster hatchery, their seahorse babies (home of their seahorse breeding program!), their invertebrate exhibition and the kelp forest. With more than forty tanks of fun, you also get baby fish, baby crabs, and baby cuttlefish, along with sharks, rays and rock pools.

It’s one of the smaller aquariums on this list, but it’s charming, welcoming, and great for kids. And if you want to learn about local marine life, it’s one of the best aquariums in the UK.

  • Address: Anglesey Sea Zoo, Brynsiencyn, Llanfairpwll, LL61 6TQ
  • Entrance Fees: £8.25 for adults, £7.25 for kids, and free for under-3s
  • Parking Fees: Free

13. Rhyl SeaQuarium

Pretty close to Anglesey Sea Zoo, you could visit both of these on the same day if you love aquariums more than life itself.

Rhyl SeaQuarium features marine life from around the world, over 9 separate zones.

One of the most popular attractions here is the outdoor Seal Cove, where you can watch the aquarium’s seals jumping, splashing, eating and more.

Another excellent (and unusual!) attraction is the Fantastic Phobias exhibition, packed with rats, spiders and loads of other creepy crawlies. The aquarium also has Moon Jellyfish, terrapins, spider crabs, sharks, hermit crabs, eels, starfish, rays, touch pools, feeding demonstrations and plenty more. The biggest aquarium in northern Wales, there’s plenty here to enjoy!

  • Address: Rhyl Seaquarium, E Parade, Rhyl LL18 3AF
  • Entrance Fees: £9.99 for adults, £8.99 for kids, and free for under-3s
  • Parking Fees: The nearest car park is £4.50 for a full day

14. SeaTrust Aquarium, Pembrokeshire

Small, intimate and charming, this place is only open on certain days of the week. And those days and times sometimes change, so make sure you check before you visit!

If you can get in, it’s a small place, but it’s great. Owned by the Sea Trust Wales charity, you can only visit the aquarium on a guided tour, so it’s more about education than pure entertainment. The staff are really knowledgeable and passionate, and the tours are funny, entertaining and engaging. Tours last around 45 minutes, and they focus on the nation’s local sea life.

They have fish, octopi, crabs, lobsters, turtles and plenty more, with a surprising amount of variety.

If you like unique, intimate and educational, you’ll reckon this is one of the best aquariums in the UK.

  • Address: Ocean Lab, The Parrog, Goodwick, SA64 0DE
  • Entrance Fees: £6.50 for adults, £4 for kids, and free for under-2s
  • Parking Fees: Free

The Best Aquariums in Northern Ireland

15. Exploris Aquarium

The only aquarium in Northern Ireland, Exploris is brilliant. Focusing on underwater animals from around the world, you get penguins, reptiles, turtles, otters, sharks, jellyfish, eels, rays, crocodiles, and loads of tropical fish.

One of the most popular attractions here is the shark tank, while the coral reef exhibition is equally great. The rainforest area has lots of reptiles, including crocodiles, geckos and loads more. Exploris also has an excellent on-site seal sanctuary, where you can learn about how the aquarium is helping to preserve and protect seals in the local area.

They also host open pool talks, where you can learn about all the animals. And if your kids like peace and quiet, the aquarium even hosts special quiet sessions!

Exploris Aquarium is pretty close to Belfast, and therefore pretty close to Belfast Zoo. If you want to squeeze two excellent kid-friendly attractions into one day, visit them both!

  • Address: Exploris Aquarium, The Rope Walk, Castle St, Portaferry, BT22 1NZ
  • Entrance Fees: £10.50 for adults, £9 for kids, and free for under-3s
  • Parking Fees: Free

Final Words

There they are—the best aquariums in the UK! They’re all packed with ocean-based adventures and excitement, perfect if you’re looking for kid-friendly attractions.

If you want to know anything else about traveling in the UK, we have loads of articles on our site, including guides on hiking, cycling, currency, tipping, cities and plenty more.

We also have a handy article on all the best zoos and wildlife parks in the UK, and a guide to the most unique and unusual things to do in the north of England (perfect if you’re traveling with kids). Whatever you want to know about traveling in the UK, we have it right here on our site!

Paul McDougal

Paul McDougal

Paul is a handsome and hilarious travel writer and travel journalist from the UK. He’s hiked, hitchhiked and laughed his way through more than fifty countries, and he’s always looking for a new place to call home. Originally from Newcastle, he’s lived all over the UK, spent more than three years in Asia, and most recently lived in Vietnam. Here’s his website.