10 Best Zoos & Aquariums in the UK

Updated On October 7, 2023

Upon hearing about the UK, many outside of Europe envision London as the place to go.

However, the United Kingdom is comprised of more than just England.

Also included as part of a united kingdom of countries is Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

Across all the land, there are about 67 million residents that call these countries home. 

Today, we’re going to dive deeper into what keeps these citizens and global visitors entertained.

So, without further ado, let’s learn more about the best zoos and aquariums throughout the UK. 

10 Best Zoos & Aquariums in the UK

1. London Zoo

Located in Regent’s Park sits the oldest zoo in England.

However, the accolades don’t stop there. 

London Zoo is also the world’s oldest scientific zoo.

In fact, it wasn’t originally meant to show off the animals.

They just wanted to use the park to be able to watch and study the behaviors and more.

Of course, it wouldn’t take long before the public wanted to get an up-close and personal look. 

Today, the park encompasses 36 acres and houses over 20,000 animals. 

To see for yourself, drop by London Zoo any day from 10 am through 4 pm. 

It takes at least three hours to really get a good look at everything they have to offer.

2. National Marine Aquarium

The country’s oldest ocean city, Plymouth, houses the largest aquarium in all of the UK. 

The National Marine Aquarium isn’t just for the fish.

This is also an educational facility that is used for professional and novice learners alike.

By the time you leave, marine life and its important placement in the world will be impressed upon you.

The aquarium staff is also devoted to ocean conservation.

Overall, there are 4,000 animals that call NMA home. 

To see that much variety, set aside at least three hours to find your new favorite fish.

That includes the species of sharks available.

Take in the massive amount of aquatic life every day from 10 am until 5 pm. 

3. National Sea Life Centre

In Birmingham, there are 60 displays of both salt and freshwater aquatic life. 

What can you expect to see?

Perhaps the most popular ocean dwellers are sharks, giant turtles, stingrays, and a litany of tropical fish.

Of course, the list is just getting started.

Before leaving, it’s imperative to walk through the 360° Ocean Tunnel. 

It’s essentially like momentarily being in Aquaman, where you’re surrounded by all kinds of ocean life.

This is the only tunnel of its kind in the UK.

Hours may vary at the National Sea Life Centre, but you can typically expect to drop by daily from 10 am to 4 pm. 

It takes about two hours to walk through but the best way to make the most of it is to stay around for a lecture.

4. Whipsnade Zoo

There’s more to Whipsnade Zoo than meets the eye.

Along with housing animals for browsers, visitors can also go on a safari ride. 

Don’t expect to see lions, though.

The last two were euthanized in the first week of 2022 due to old age.

On a positive note, there are plenty of other fur friends to see.

Look out for giraffes, lynxes, penguins, wolverines, hyenas, tigers, cheetahs, zebras, elephants, and more. 

Take a walk on the wild side daily from 10 am through 4 pm. 

Since there are over 600 acres that make up the zoo, there’s a regular bus running to shuffle attendees across the way.

That makes spending the recommended half day at the park much easier.

5. Belfast Zoo

One of the most visited attractions in Northern Ireland, Belfast Zoo sees over 300,000 people coming in through the gates each year.

It was 1934 when the doors opened and the public hasn’t looked back.

Now, there are 1,200 animals here from 150 species.

Although, elephants can’t be counted among them.

Due to their high intelligence and extra needs, the zoo has phased them out.

That’s okay, there is a wide assortment of mammals, reptiles, birds, invertebrates, and amphibians.

Another fun thing about Belfast Zoo is the list of events.

Throughout the year, the staff comes up with creative ways to entice visitors for specialty days.

Stop by daily from 10 am to 4 pm. 

6. Sea Life Brighton

It took three years to bring the world’s oldest aquarium to fruition.

Doors opened in 1872 and Brighton Aquarium, now Sea Life Brighton has been going ever since. 

In the 21st century, there are 5,000 animals who live here.

The largest tank on the property is 110,000 gallons.

Swimming around inside are sharks, turtles, octopuses, jellyfish, stingrays, seahorses, and big fish.

That’s not to mention other fun things like a coral reef, rockpool creatures, and rainforest species.

Have your heart set on a particular genre?

The aquarium zones are split up so visitors can easily navigate their experience.

Zones such as rainforest adventures and glass bottom boats are as exciting as they sound.

Spend the day tracking fish.

The aquarium opening hours vary but they do close daily at 4 pm. 

7. Chester Zoo

One of the largest zoos in the UK, Chester Zoo has 111 acres under its belt.

Welcoming in the first guests in 1931, the zoo has come a long way. 

A claim to fame for Chester Zoo lies in its research.

This is the first zoo in the UK to breed Asian elephants in captivity. 

The most popular, named Jubilee, lived on at the facility for the next 26 years until his passing.

In addition to the elephants, there are 21,000 animals from 500 species at Chester Zoo.

With as many as two million annual visitors, it would be best to arrive early and stay until closing time. 

Head on out to Chester Zoo any day from 10 am through 4 pm. 

8. Weymouth Sea Life Adventure Park

Without going to the arctic, where can you expect to find an area dedicated to penguins?

At Weymouth Sea Life Adventure Park, you can!

Penguin Island sustains two species, Humboldt and Fairy penguins. 

Sea Life happens to be the only place in Europe you can get a good glimpse at the latter.

Ready to come in from the cold?

Sea Life also has a Night and Day Ocean Experience, Caribbean Cove, Seal Harbour, Rockpool, Shipwreck, Rainforest, Harbourside, Tropical Lagoon, Turtle Sanctuary, Otters, and more.

There’s also a sensory garden, mini golf, and plenty of places to get a bite to eat. 

Weymouth Park is ready for visitors daily from 11 am until 4 pm. 

9. Blue Planet Aquarium

Queen Elizabeth II gave this place her stamp of approval in 1998 by being present to open it herself. 

At that point in time, it was the largest aquarium in the UK.

It’s still pretty hefty.

There are 4,000 animals on the grounds and a 1.1 million gallon tank.

Blue Planet Aquarium is open from 10 am to 5 pm. 

If the group is just walking through, set aside three hours to get a glimpse at all the aquatic life.

However, be sure to check the events page and activities schedule.

For example, there’s a diving show that lasts almost half an hour. 

10. Longleat Safari & Adventure Park

The number one safari park in the UK has been inviting the public in since 1966. 

When it opened, it was the first drive-through safari outside of Africa. 

There are 500 animals on 9,000 acres at Longleat Safari.

If you go through in a car with exterior accessories, prepare for possible damage.

According to staff, the monkey population is interested in cars and not shy about them.

Sometimes their enthusiasm comes on a bit too strong.

They might take too much of a liking to things like spoilers, tags, and parking sensors. 

Come for a drive any day from 10 am until 5 pm.

10 Best Zoos & Aquariums in the UK – Summary Table

Zoos & AquariumsAddress
London ZooOuter Cir, London NW1 4RY, UK
National Marine AquariumRope Walk, Coxside, Plymouth PL4 0LF, UK
National Sea Life CentreThe Water's Edge, Eleven Brindley Place, Birmingham B1 2HL, UK
Whipsnade ZooWhipsnade, Dunstable LU6 2LF, UK
Belfast ZooAntrim Rd, Belfast BT36 7PN, UK
Sea Life BrightonMarine Parade, Brighton BN2 1TB, UK
 Chester ZooMoston Rd, Upton, Chester CH2 1EU, UK
Weymouth Sea Life Adventure ParkLodmoor Country Park, Weymouth DT4 7SX, UK
Blue Planet AquariumLonglooms Rd CH65 9LF, UK
Longleat Safari & Adventure ParkWarminster BA12 7NW, UK

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Frequently Asked Questions

What's the biggest zoo in the UK?

Whipsnade Zoo happened to win that award.

Just north of London in Whipsnade is a 600-acre estate dedicated to tons of animals to look at and adore.

Not only is it a park devoted to animals, but there’s also a safari.

It’s also one of the two facilities like it that are owned by a charity devoted to the conservation of wildlife.

What's the oldest zoo in London?

In late April of 1828, London invested in a zoo that would not only house animals but also act as a place of research for them.

That plan became London Zoo.

It was brought to life by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, the founder of Singapore.

This is the same zoo that housed a popular bear named Winnie in the early 1900s.

She was the inspiration for the popular children’s book Winnie the Pooh.

What's the top tourist attraction in the UK?

For many reasons, the Tower of London reigns supreme when it comes to must-see places.

This UNESCO World Heritage Site brings in over three million interested parties a year.

There’s just something about a building that has seen so many transitions throughout its 1,000-year presence.

Not least of which are all those imprisoned in the tower before their execution, such as Anne Boleyn.

What's the oldest zoo in Europe?

Schönbrunn Zoo was opened in Vienna, Austria during the summer of 1752 and remains operational today.

A facility with that long of a working legacy turned out to be a good contender to be recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Each year, as many as two million zoo enthusiasts find themselves in Vienna to see a menagerie of animals as well as walk through history.

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