Where to find the best aquariums in Europe?

If there is one activity that families usually like doing together is a visit to the aquarium. Whether you are on a holiday city break or need to keep the kids busy during the weekend, aquariums have attracted parents and their children for over a century.

In fact, the oldest aquarium in the world that is still functioning today is Sea Life Brighton. It was indeed open to the public for the first time in 1872 after 3 years of construction.

Typically, visiting an aquarium is a safe bet for an indoor attraction that will certainly trigger some positive attention with children. They will probably share with you their favourite marine animals and point out these colourful tropical fishes too. They might even remember them as featuring actors in the Disney movie Nemo.

Most of the time, aquarium operators aim at educating the new generations regarding the environment and how precious our ocean waters are. So this type of attraction is highly educational and important for the decades to come.

So, let’s deep dive into the 10 best aquariums to visit with your kids in Europe.

1. Nausicaá – Boulogne-sur-Mer (France)

best aquarium in Europe to visit with kids
Source: Nausicaa

Nausicaá is a popular aquarium and marine centre located in Boulogne-Sur-Mer, in the North of France not too far from Calais. . It is one of the largest and most contemporary aquariums in Europe, offering a wide range of exhibits and activities related to marine life and the world’s oceans.

Nausicaá’ s main attraction is the “Giant Tank” a massive, 10-meter-deep aquarium that holds several million litres of water. Here, you can observe a variety of marine species, including sharks, rays, and large pelagic fish, in a habitat that closely resembles the open ocean.

You will also visit the Tropical Lagoon, a section featuring a colourful coral reef ecosystem with vibrant fish, corals, and other tropical marine life. It’s designed to replicate the warm, tropical waters of the world’s oceans.

Another area worth seeing is the Tropical Forest, which combines terrestrial and aquatic exhibits to showcase the interconnectedness of rainforests and the oceans. You can see freshwater fish, turtles, and other animals that inhabit rainforest streams.

Nausicaá also has a dedicated space for seabirds, where you can observe various species of seabirds up close.

The aquarium houses a colony of penguins, and you can watch them both above and below water as they swim gracefully.

Nausicaá places a strong emphasis on education and conservation. Throughout the facility, you’ll find interactive exhibits and educational displays that provide information about marine life.

The aquatic centre includes a cinema where you can watch marine-themed documentaries and educational films.

Finally, Nausicaá has on-site dining options like Bistrôt Côté Plage where you can enjoy a meal within the Nausicaá attraction. 

⏰ Expected Visit Duration: 4 to 5 hours

📍Boulevard Sainte-Beuve, 62200 Boulogne-sur-Mer, France


2. Oceanographic Museum of Monaco – Monaco (Monaco)

a top aquarium to visit in Monaco in Europe
Source: GetYourGuide

The Oceanographic Museum of Monaco, also known as the Musée Océanographique de Monaco, is a renowned marine science and oceanography museum located in the principality of Monaco. It was founded by Prince Albert I of Monaco in 1910 and is situated on a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.

The museum features a variety of aquariums that showcase marine life from the Mediterranean Sea and other oceanic regions. You can see a wide range of fish species, coral reefs, and even some sharks and rays.

The Turtle Island exhibit is home to sea turtles, including loggerhead and green turtles. Visitors can learn about these endangered creatures and the conservation efforts to protect them.

The Oceanographic Museum has a large shark tank where you can observe different species of sharks, including the impressive blacktip reef shark and sand tiger shark.

Family visitors can touch and learn about various marine creatures found in the Mediterranean, such as sea cucumbers, starfish, and hermit crabs.

In addition, the museum houses a massive skeleton of a fin whale in its courtyard. This striking exhibit highlights the sheer size and anatomy of these majestic marine mammals.

Something not to miss is Jacques-Yves Cousteau’s Workshop that includes a reconstruction of the famous oceanographer Jacques-Yves Cousteau’s workshop, allowing visitors to explore his pioneering work and equipment.

Finally, the museum’s location on a cliff offers breathtaking panoramic views of the Mediterranean Sea and Monaco’s coastline. Visitors can enjoy these scenic vistas from various vantage points throughout the museum.

Regarding catering options, there is a terrace with a café where you can relax, enjoy refreshments, and take a break in the stunning views of the Mediterranean.

⏰ Expected Visit Duration: 2 to 3 hours

📍Avenue Saint-Martin, 98000 Monaco


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3. Aquarium de Paris – Paris (France)

a great aquarium in the centre of Paris - best aquariums Europe
Source: Aquarium Paris

The Aquarium de Paris is a great aquarium located in the heart of Paris, near the Trocadéro and the Eiffel Tower. While it may not be as extensive as some larger aquariums, it still offers a variety of marine life and attractions to see and enjoy.

The aquarium features a collection of fish and marine species from different regions of the world. You can see a variety of colourful tropical fish, including clownfish, angelfish, and seahorses.

Like many aquariums, the Aquarium de Paris has a tunnel that allows you to walk through an underwater tank filled with sharks and other large fish. It provides a unique perspective on these impressive creatures.

Interactive touch pools allow visitors, especially children, to have a hands-on experience with some marine creatures, such as Koi carps.

One of the unique exhibits at Aquarium de Paris is the Médusarium© where you can observe over 50 species of jellyfish spread in 24 different tanks. With the dark lights, this incredible section of the aquarium is simply magical.

Throughout the aquarium, you’ll find informative displays and panels that offer insights into marine biology, conservation, and the challenges facing the world’s oceans.

There is a small playground area designed for children to enjoy, making it a family-friendly attraction.

Aquarium de Paris has a gift shop where you can purchase marine-themed souvenirs.

The Aquarium de Paris is not as large as some of the world’s renowned aquariums, but it can still be a pleasant and educational experience.

⏰ Expected Visit Duration: up to 2 hours

📍5 Avenue Albert de Mun, 75016 Paris, France


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4.Lisbon Oceanarium – Lisbon (Portugal)

a great aquarium to visit with family in Lisbon
Source: Lisbon Oceanarium

The Lisbon Oceanarium, also known as Oceanário de Lisboa, is one of the largest and most impressive aquariums in Europe. It’s a top tourist attraction in Lisbon, offering a diverse range of marine life and exhibits.

The highlight of the Oceanarium is its massive central tank, which holds about 5 million litres of seawater. Inside this tank, you’ll find a variety of ocean ecosystems, including large fish, sharks, rays, and other marine creatures. The tank’s design aims to replicate the open ocean, providing a unique underwater viewing experience.

The Oceanarium is indeed divided into different habitat zones, each representing a specific marine environment. These zones include the North Atlantic Rocky Coast, the Antarctic Coastal Habitat, and the Indian Ocean Coral Reef. You can explore a wide range of species and ecosystems from around the world.

The Lisbon aquarium attraction is also home to a colony of cute and charismatic penguins. You can watch them both above and below water as they swim and play.

There is also an exhibit featuring playful sea otters, offering a chance to observe these endearing marine mammals up close.

As you would expect for a modern marine life museum, the Oceanarium has a strong emphasis on education and conservation, and it offers educational programs and workshops for visitors of all ages. It’s a great place to learn about the importance of marine conservation and sustainability.

Finally, an underwater tunnel allows you to walk through the central tank, providing a 360-degree view of the marine life swimming above and around you. It’s a captivating experience and a favourite among visitors.

⏰ Expected Visit Duration: 2 to 3 hours

📍Esplanada Dom Carlos I s/nº, 1990-005 Lisboa, Portugal


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5. Aquarium of Genoa – Genoa (Italy)

a big aquarium to explore in Genoa in Europe
Source: GetYourGuide

The Aquarium of Genoa, or Acquario di Genova, is the largest aquarium in Italy and a popular tourist attraction located in Genoa, Italy. It offers a wide variety of aquatic exhibits and educational experiences.

This marine aqua centre is situated in the historic Porto Antico (Old Port) area of Genoa, offering scenic views of the harbour and the Mediterranean Sea.

The aquarium boasts a diverse collection of marine life from different parts of the world with over 12,000 hosted animals. You can see a wide range of fish species, including colourful tropical fish, sharks, rays, and other marine creatures.

Surprisingly, the Genoa Aquarium has four open-air tank where you can observe the life of bottlenose dolphins. Watching these smart marine creatures is just mesmerizing and I am sure you will try taking as many photos as possible too.

You can observe penguins in their habitat, which includes both land and water areas. It’s a favourite among visitors, especially children.

Another attraction worth exploring is the “Biosphere,” which is a large glass sphere housing a tropical rainforest ecosystem. You can explore this lush environment and observe free-flying birds, reptiles, and various plant species. An extra ticket is needed to visit this incredible exhibition.

There is a modern café called Tender Cafè where you can enjoy a meal or a snack during your visit at the Acquario di Genova. Otherwise, you can head to the Gusto a bordo restaurant and taste a local pasta dish. Don’t forget to visit the gift shop to bring some souvenirs home.

⏰ Expected Visit Duration: 3 to 4 hours

📍Ponte Spinola, 16128 Genova GE, Italy


6. Barcelona Aquarium – Barcelona (Spain)

a beautiful aquarium to visit in Barcelona with kids
Source: GetYourGuide

The Barcelona Aquarium, known as L’Aquàrium de Barcelona, is a popular marine attraction located in the Port Vell area of Barcelona, Spain. It’s one of the largest and most visited aquariums in Europe, offering a wide range of marine life exhibits and educational experiences.

Mediterranean Aquarium is the first exhibit you encounter, showcasing the diverse marine life found in the Mediterranean Sea. It features various species of fish including sharks and other creatures native to the region. There are 16 tanks dedicated in this section of the aquarium

A transparent tunnel allows you to walk through the tank and get up close to these majestic creatures.

Another section of the attraction is Planeta Aqua where families can observe different kinds of rays in a 20,000 litres water open tank. There are also recreated tropical areas with turtles or iguanas that you can admire in their habitat.

Don’t hesitate to stop by the Explore! Children area where your kids will find over 50 hands on activities.

Last but not least, the operator behind this aquarium organises sleepover sessions near the shark tanks. Check out the future dates for these sessions reserved for children aged between 8 and 12 years old.

⏰ Expected Visit Duration: up to 2 hours

📍del Port Vell, Moll d’Espanya, s/n, 08039 Barcelona, Spain


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7. SEA LIFE London – London (England)

SEA LIFE London is among the best aquariums to see in Europe
Source: Merlin Entertainments

SEA LIFE London is a popular family friendly attraction located in the heart of London near Westminster and Big Ben. It is part of the SEA LIFE chain of aquariums owned by Merlin Entertainments.

SEA LIFE London is home to a diverse collection of marine species from around the world spread on 14 themed areas over 3 different floors. Family visitors can observe over 500 animal species including rays, seahorses, sharks, jellyfish, and other aquatic creatures.

The aquarium features an impressive Ocean Tunnel, which is a transparent glass tunnel that allows you to walk through a giant tank filled with ocean life. You can observe sharks, rays, and other fish swimming all around you, providing a unique and immersive experience.

Throughout the aquarium, you’ll find interactive displays and educational exhibits that provide insights into marine biology, conservation, and the importance of protecting ocean environments.

Last but not least, you will a colony of penguins at the Polar Adventure section where lights can be low dimmed during wintertime so the creatures can enjoy some progressive night’s sleep.

⏰ Expected Visit Duration: up to 2 hours

📍Riverside Building, County Hall, Westminster Bridge Rd, London SE1 7PB


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8. Palma Aquarium – Palma de Majorca (Spain)

Source: Palma Aquarium

Palma Aquarium is located in the picturesque city of Palma in the Balearic island of Majorca. The sea life attraction is a captivating marine oasis that beckons visitors to explore the mysteries of the deep blue.

Opened in 2007, this extraordinary aquarium, renowned for its commitment to marine education and conservation, offers an enchanting journey through the world’s oceans, making it a must-visit destination for families.

One of the defining features of Palma Aquarium is its exceptional “Big Blue” tank, a colossal aquatic realm that mirrors the depths of the open sea. Here, visitors can traverse a transparent tunnel, immersing themselves in a mesmerising aquatic ballet featuring graceful rays, majestic sharks, and an array of pelagic wonders. The experience is nothing short of awe-inspiring.

Palma Aquarium’s dedication to marine conservation shines through in its various exhibits, which showcase Mediterranean and tropical marine life. You can marvel at the vibrant hues of tropical fish, witness the delicate dance of jellyfish, and even interact with starfish and sea cucumbers in the touch pools.

If you are interested in corals, you’re in luck with Palma Aquarium as it hosts one of the biggest coral exhibitions in Europe. In fact, you can spot over 70 species of corals of which most of them are born on-site.

Also, you cannot miss the 3D movie about whales that is so popular with kids. The 15 minutes film is projected in the Aquadome and takes you on an immersive experience to learn about the life of whales.

Visit Palma Aquarium and embark on a voyage of discovery, leaving with a deepened appreciation for the beauty and fragility of our planet’s oceans.

⏰ Expected Visit Duration: 3 to 4 hours

📍Carrer de Manuela de los Herreros, 21, 07610 Palma, Illes Balears, Spain


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9. Oceanogràfic València – Valencia (Spain)

oceanografic valencia is one of the most recent aquariums opened in Europe
Source: GetYourGuide

The Oceanogràfic located within the futuristic City of Arts and Sciences complex in Valencia, Spain, is a remarkable marine attraction that transports visitors into the enchanting world of the oceans.

As one of the largest aquariums in Europe, it promises an immersive and educational experience that captivates guests of all ages.

One of the Oceanografic’s most iconic features is its stunning glass tunnels that traverse through colossal tanks, allowing visitors to walk beneath the stunning ballet of marine life. You’ll find yourself surrounded by graceful sharks, playful dolphins, and a myriad of colourful fish, offering an unparalleled perspective on these remarkable creatures.

The complex is divided into thematic areas representing different aquatic ecosystems, from the icy Arctic to the vibrant Mediterranean. Each zone offers an opportunity to explore the diverse marine species that inhabit these regions, fostering an understanding of the delicate balance of our planet’s oceans.

Beyond its breathtaking exhibits, the Oceanografic is committed to marine conservation and research. Visitors can learn about the centre’s efforts to protect endangered species and promote sustainability through informative displays and interactive experiences.

For families, the Oceanografic is an ideal destination, with children’s play areas and entertaining shows featuring dolphins and sea lions.

If you need a place to eat with the kids, there is the submarine restaurant on site called Restaurante Submarino that is worth to try if you enjoy Mediterranean cuisine. This venue is probably one of the best restaurants available on the premises of city aquariums.

Explore the Oceanografic and embark on a journey that celebrates the wonders of the aquatic world while advocating for its preservation.

⏰ Expected Visit Duration: 3 to 4 hours (even more if you plan to visit other attractions like the Imax experience)

📍C/ d’Eduardo Primo Yúfera, 1B, 46013 València, Valencia, Spain


10. SEA LIFE Helsinki – Helsinki (Finland)

Source: SEA LIFE Helsinki

SEA LIFE Helsinki is a captivating underwater world tucked away in the heart of the Finnish capital. Situated at Linnanmäki amusement park, this marine attraction invites visitors to embark on an enthralling voyage through the world’s oceans without leaving the city.

Upon entering SEA LIFE Helsinki, you are immediately immersed in a world teeming with aquatic wonders. The aquarium boasts a diverse collection of marine life from around the globe, showcasing the beauty and biodiversity of our oceans. With its impressive tanks and tunnels, it provides an up-close encounter with majestic sharks, graceful rays, and a kaleidoscope of colourful fish.

One of the highlights is the interactive Discovery Pool area, where visitors of all ages can touch and feel fascinating marine creatures like starfish and sea urchins, forging a deeper connection with the underwater world.

SEA LIFE Helsinki also places a strong emphasis on marine conservation and education. Informative displays and exhibits shed light on the challenges facing our oceans and the urgent need for conservation efforts. The attraction’s dedication to raising awareness about marine protection is both inspiring and educational.

For families, the aquarium offers an enjoyable and educational experience. Children can engage in interactive activities, join guided tours, and marvel at the captivating marine life.

SEA LIFE Helsinki is a hidden gem, offering a window into the world beneath the waves while promoting the importance of preserving our oceans for generations to come. It’s an underwater adventure not to be missed in the vibrant city of Helsinki.

⏰ Expected Visit Duration: up to 2 hours

📍Tivolitie 10, 00510 Helsinki, Finland


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I hope you have found this article interesting if you are a true fanatic about the marine life and the different attractions that celebrate the worlds of oceans and their beautiful animals.

On your next family holiday, have a look at the local aquarium and check whether it is worth seeing so your children can be captivated by this great indoor experience.

Another idea is to buy a cool notepad with different sections with all these European aquariums so your kids can write down their thoughts and stick later their favourite photos during the visit. Maybe they can even get an autograph of one of the staff member working at these aquariums!


best aquariums in europe


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