London — a tranquil oasis of unspoiled nature, where animals frolic in golden meadows and roam across vast open plains, coexisting in perfect harmony with people…
Okay, so the UK capital might be more concrete jungle than Narnia, with the greater metropolitan area containing 9 million people and what feels like 12 billion cars. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t lots of spots to chill out and see cute, beautiful animals in London.
So if you’ve had your fill of shopping and people-watching and crave some creature comforts, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. From the tail-wagging domestic to the roaring wild, here are some of the best animal attractions in London.
1. Play with dogs at Battersea Dogs and Cats Home
We all know that one person who reacts to seeing dogs the same way most people react to seeing A-list celebrities. Symptoms include: running off mid-conversation, squealing hysterically in public, and approaching complete strangers to demand an unsolicited personal audience with their pet.
Maybe that person is you. If so, you can forgo that sad, awkward moment where the pet owner in question shuffles sheepishly away with their doggo in tow and leaves you momentarily heartbroken. (How dare they!)
Cheer up! A better solution to sate your canine affinity is to pay a visit to Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, an animal rescue centre in Battersea, South West London. Here you can meet hundreds of furry friends, who are looking for a home.
You don’t have to be planning an adoption in order to visit this excellent facility. You can simply drop in and make some pawesome pals for the afternoon. You’d be barking mad not to!
Address: 4 Battersea Park Road, London, SW8 4AA
Opening Hours: Daily 10.30 am – 4 pm
2. Embrace your inner cat lady at Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium
If you’re a dyed-in-the-fur cat person, make sure you slink on over to Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium and prepare yourself for one of the single-coolest cafe experiences in the world.
The UK’s first, and thus longest-running cat cafe, is a cat-lover’s wonderland. No, really! Lady Dinah’s isn’t simply a cafe with an inhouse rodent-control squad; it also comes fully kitted out with some truly quirky decor, themed on Lewis Caroll’s Alice in Wonderland.
An enchanted woodland aesthetic complete with tophat-shaped sleeping perches, mini rope-bridges, oversized playing cards, clocks, and twinkly lights makes for quite the rabbit hole of magical atmosphere, and clearly, the perfect tea party location.
The quirky ambiance is completed by a clowder of around 16 prowling kitties, who are the stars of the show. All in all, it’s the cat’s whiskers!
Address: 152-154, Bethnal Green Rd, London E2 6DG, United Kingdom
Price: £15 for 90 minutes (does not include food or drinks)
Opening Hours: Daily 10 am–6 pm
Age restriction: 12 years and older, no babies or toddlers allowed
3. Visit adorable animals in London’s city farms
London is more famous for its high-street shopping, royal palaces, and giant Ferris wheels than its farmyards, but if you know where to look, you could have a very different experience of the Big Smoke than most postcards would suggest.
There are a number of peaceful city farms tucked away in between the busy burroughs and historic landmarks, with Hackney City Farm, Kentish Town City Farm, Stepney City Farm, Spitalfields City Farm, and Vauxhall City Farm just to name a few. Most of them are free to enter or based on small donations, so it’s the ideal way to hang out with animals in London.
In the hustle-bustle rush of this fast-paced capital city, it’s a pleasant reminder to think that you are never too far away from any number of adorable baby chicks, alpacas, donkeys, ponies, bunnies, wooly sheep, fussy geese, wiggly piggies, and plucky ducklings.
I repeat, wiggly piggies and plucky ducklings!
Price: Free/donation based
Opening hours: Various
4. Step into the wild at London Wetland Centre
Collies, tabby cats, and goats, oh my! It doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, does it? Animal shelters, cat cafes, and city farms are wonderful in their own right, but if you’re looking to see some slightly less tame animals attractions in London, you’re in luck – it’s a jungle out there.
Located in bucolic Barnes, London Wetland Centre is a 100-acre sprawl of marshy wilderness formed from four former reservoirs tucked into the Thames. It’s a bird watcher’s paradise, home to a variety of wildfowl, some of which are not found anywhere else in the UK.
Depending on the season, some of the feathered friends you can hope to see here include Eurasian bitterns, northern pintails, ring-necked parakeets, Eurasian sparrowhawks, sand martins, kingfishers, and great crested grebes. There are also grass snakes to be found slithering about in the rushes here, and common lizards who have an understandably concerned air about them!
Address: WWT London, Queen Elizabeth’s Walk, Barnes, London, SW13 9WT
Price: Adult – £13.00, Child – £7.90, Senior/Student – £11.04
Opening Hours: Summer (March 1st – October 31st) 9.30 am to 5.30 pm (last admission 4.30 pm).
Winter (November 1st – February 28th) 9.30 am to 4.30 pm (last admission 3.30 pm).
5. Have a stag party at Richmond Park!
Generations of people have grown up with irreversible psychological trauma after reading and/or watching Bambi. While Disney did an admirable job in sanitizing Felix Salten’s heartbreaking novel, the tragic memories of Bambi’s fallen mother remain. If only there were some prancing parades of happy deer around to make us all forget.
Well, it just so happens that London’s Richmond Park has hundreds of wild deer to fawn over. The huge 2,360-acre nature park is the largest of London’s royal parks, and makes for a wonderful day of outdoor adventure, and one of the best animal attractions in London.
With hundreds of deer wandering freely around the parks, you’re almost guaranteed to happen upon a herd of the shy doe-eyed creatures as you explore. It’s best to keep a safe distance though, just in case any of them has seen Bambi. You don’t want to end up on their wall!
Address: Richmond, London
Price: Free (parking costs apply)
Opening Hours: 24 hours pedestrian access, vehicle access 7 am – dusk in summer, 7.30 am – dusk in winter
6. Marvel at deadly creatures in London’s world-famous Zoo
It doesn’t make very much sense from an evolutionary standpoint, but a significant portion of people are fascinated with animals that would, in a heartbeat, trample, gnaw, slash, drown, and generally chew them to death. If this sounds like you, rejoice! London has all the dangerous animals too.
One obvious location you’ll find some really wild animals is, of course, London Zoo. With terrifying Komodo dragons whose mouth-bacteria are deadly enough to kill an elephant, and huge Asian elephants who could easily squish a Komodo dragon, ZSL London Zoo is home to just about everything that can kill you.
Lions, tigers, bears? Check. Crocodiles, snakes, hippos? Check. Wolves? Check. You get the idea! Arachnophobes take note; it’s also home to Europe’s only walkthrough spider exhibit, where you’ll meet all manner of eight-legged freaks, like the black widow, huntsman and giant bird-eating spiders!
London Zoo has been around for more than 200 years, and these days, they’re committed to promoting and funding animal conservation and protection efforts. So buying a ticket is helping to crowd-fund efforts to save some of the world’s most critically endangered species.
Address: Outer Cir, London NW1 4RY, United Kingdom
Price: €26.83 on Tiqets!
Opening Hours: Open 10 am – 4pm October to February, 10 am to 5pm February to March, 10 am to 6 pm March to September.
7. Go on safari at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo
If you prefer your animal encounters even more safari-like, grab your binoculars, brush up on your Attenborough impression, and make your way to ZSL Whipsnade Zoo. The largest conservation park in Europe, this 600-acre nature reserve is home to over 4,000 animals, roaming across a number of huge areas, modelled on real-life habitats and environments.
See the fastest land animals on the planet taking it real slow and chilling out on Cheetah Rock. Drive past real lion prides, African painted dogs, rhinos, giraffes, wolverines, Eurasian lynx, European brown bears, and countless other remarkable species of wild animals.
Whipsnade Zoo also has a wonderful aquarium, complete with mysterious caves and underwater forests, mangroves, and more. So if the life aquatic floats your boat, definitely stop by there and get immersed.
Address: Dunstable, Bedfordshire, LU6 2LF, London
Price: €24.95 on Tiqets!
Opening Hours: 10 am – 4 pm
8. Dive into the world’s marine biodiversity at Sea Life
Speaking of which, if you’re really feeling the call of the ocean, there’s really only one place to go for a proper marine deep-dive: SEA LIFE London. This state-of-the-art aquarium lets you get up close and personal with sharks, dragon fish, piranhas, rays, eels, crocodiles, octopuses, sea turtles, and just about everything in between!
If you’re brave enough, you can tiptoe through an ocean tunnel while sharks swim around – and above – you. There’s also a rainforest zone where you can come face-to-face with the gargantuan Goliath bird-eating spider, just in case you think London Zoo’s spider zone wasn’t enough to haunt your dreams.
Similar to London Zoo, SEA LIFE London is dedicated to protecting the environment and all of its wonderful creatures, and has a number of conservation projects including coral propagation, endangered-species breeding programs, and even re-homing programs for large fish who’ve outgrown their owners’ tanks. Every ticket sold helps these efforts.
Address: County Hall, Westminster Bridge Road, SE1 7PB, London
Price: €26.95 on Tiqets!
Opening Hours: Sunday – Friday 10 am – 6 pm, Saturday 9 am – 7 pm