However unlikely it may seem, London is in fact home to some superb wildlife parks, zoos and farms which all offer outstanding experiences and exceptional days out for the whole family.
Visiting a zoo in London gives you the chance to encounter wildlife from all over the world, whilst a trip to the farm will create the perfect opportunity to enjoy the tranquil atmosphere and connect with nature within the city and to explore the life of farm animals.
Some of the best animal attractions in London include wildlife reserves, safari parks, marshlands, aquariums, city farms and butterfly walks, so to help you choose where to get started in your search for the best inner city animal sanctuary, we have rounded up some of the most exciting ones here.
ZSL London Zoo
Get up close to some of the animal kingdom’s most famous creatures at the ZSL London Zoo in Regent’s Park. The zoo’s 36 acres of beautifully landscaped grounds are home to 760 different animal species such as tigers, lions, gorillas, penguins, giraffes and bats.
There is also a children’s zoo with a Touch Zone with chickens, goats and sheep that the little ones will be delighted with. And what with the Butterfly Paradise and the Aquarium as well, this is sure to be a number one day out in London for the kids.
Battersea Park Zoo
From farm animals to flamingos, the Battersea Park Children’s Zoo is a smaller yet delightful zoo which is home to otters, monkeys, reptiles and many other amazing creatures.
This efficiently maintained zoo is located in a lovely area and you can get there from Sloane Square Tube Station. Look out for the entrance near the Peace Pagoda.
A charming little zoo run by a dedicated team, Hanwell Zoo is another place to meet a variety of animals such as lemurs, capybaras, meerkats, love birds and many more. Who would have thought that London is home to such animal attractions!
SEA LIFE London Aquarium
In the heart of London, come face to face with sharks and other types of deadly fish at the Sea Life London Aquarium, which also houses a glass tunnel walkway which will make you feel immersed in a tropical ocean filled with zebra sharks and stingrays. Look out for the cute, little clown fish and seahorses too. It is beyond doubt the best place to marvel at the marine world in London.
If you want to pick up some local honey, see a cow milking demo or even observe blacksmiths at work, the London’s city farms are the place to be.
London has over sixteen city farms and in these beautiful spots of nature, which are such a contrast to the capital’s urban environment, there are all sorts of amazing animals to be seen and even fed and petted. You can also buy fresh produce from the farm shops and take part in educational workshops too.
As London's City Farms are situated in eye-catching surroundings, many farms also offer venue hire services so you can host your special event in a calm and natural atmosphere.
1. Mudchute Park and Farm
Why not head to the Mudchute City Farm in the Isle of Dogs for a close encounter with some adorable farm animals. At 32 acres, Mudchute is one of London’s largest city farms and this rural areas looks surreal in contrast to the towering buildings of Canary Wharf in the background.
The farm also has a thriving Equestrian Centre and a riding school with a fantastically floodlit arena for riding in all sorts of weather.
2. Newham City Farm
There is much to do in the London Borough of Newham and the Newham City Farm is a perfect place to take the kids for a chance to see some amazing farm animals. Children can take part in activities, the schedule can be found on the website, and some animals such as the horses can even be fed.
The farm opened in 1977 and now provides a natural living space for a variety of birds, cows, sheep, goats, alpacas and horses. With their focus on rare breeds, it is best to check out their website before visiting to find out more about the range of animals they have, you may even spot a llama or a wallaby there. What is really amazing about this farm is that it is one of London’s largest and longest established. Entry is completely free, although the farm does appreciate donations.
3. Freightliners City Farm
If you are looking for somewhere fun to take the kids during the school holidays, why not take a trip to the Freightliners City Farm in Islington. Home to rare breeds of pigs and newly hatched chicks, this working farm has a large assortment of animals and the children are bound to adore the newborn lambs!
The farm was founded in 1972 when the animals were kept in railway goods vans on the wasteland behind King’s Cross Station, hence the name. The farm has now moved on and now runs an Adopt an Animal Scheme as well as a gardening club, a vegetarian café and farm shop which offers fresh produce and honey sourced locally from their five beehives.
4. Deen City Farm
At the five acre Deen City Farm, on the outskirts of South Wimbledon, you can see all sorts of animals from chickens, ducks, goats and horses to alpacas and snow white peacocks.
At this farm there are lots of events to look out for and the children will love taking part in the Young Farmers Club where they can have a go at feeding, grooming and cleaning out the animals homes for a real taste of farm life. They also run an Own a Pony Club and a Discovery Club which are all highly educational.
5. Hackney City Farm
Initially used to grow fresh produce in the 1800s, the Hackney City Farm is now the abode of calves, pigs and sheep. The cafe there has an area for eating outdoors and a menu that the kids will love. Look out for the butterfly house too which hosts a stunning variety of rhopalocera - the scientific term for butterflies!
The farm also runs a vegetable box collection scheme for the locals and practical courses on low-impact living. Not only that, they also work with a charity to run therapeutic yoga classes for refugees and and asylum-seeking women living in London.
6. Kentish Town City Farm
The 4.5 acres that make up the Kentish Town City Farm are simply brimming with vitality and liveliness. The farm has an organic garden, a variety of farmyard animals and an active breeding program. A trip to the farm is a great way to take a step back to nature and learn about taking care of livestock, horses and poultry.
The farm also runs workshops for children up to fourteen years old and after school clubs for cookery and even pottery too. Pony rides and riding lessons are also available.
7. Lee Valley Park Farms
Take a break from London’s concrete jungle and reconnect with nature at the Lee Valley Park Farms. There is so much to do at the two farms here, Hayes Hill and Holyfield Hall, such as meeting as well as feeding a charming variety of farmyard animals as well as exotic birds and birds of prey.
The farmyard adventure playground is really fun for children and there is a Dino Dig where they can try out their archaeological skills and a zoned splash play area too for when the weather is nice.
8. Hounslow Urban Farm
The 29 acre Hounslow Urban Farm makes a great day with the kids. Along with the expected animal encounters of goats, cows, pigs, ducks, geese as well as chipmunks, alpacas and rheas, they also have great play facilities which include an indoor bouncy castle and an outdoor play area.
9. Spitalfields City Farm
Just a stone's throw from the hustle and bustle of Brick Lane and Shoreditch, you will find the urban retreat that is the Spitalfields City Farm. The farm is 1.3 acres in size and houses many animal residents along with an aviary for exotic birds that are a pleasure to observe. You can enjoy picking your own vegetables at the farm or attending their free cookery classes, oh and they have an annual goat race too!
10. Vauxhall City Farm
Get ready to meet all the farmyard classics and more at the Vauxhall City Farm, which although is a compact 1.5 acre working farm, it still manages to take care of a range of over 80 animals. The children are bound to enjoy the ecology garden which has a wormery, a stag beetle nursery and a bog! Look out for the workshops, training classes and demonstrations that the farm regularly holds too.
11. Stepney City Farm
Take your family on a trip back to nature at the 4.2 acre Stepney City Farm which has been around since 1979. Everyone is welcome to this rural oasis that can be found in the heart of Tower Hamlets and the farm is free to visit. As with many of London's city farms, they too have a farm cafe, a plant shop where you can buy fresh produce and educational projects for schools and young people.
Stepney City Farm also hires out venues for children's parties and location shoots.
12. Surrey Docks Farm
At 2.2 acres in size with flourishing gardens and excellently maintained grounds, the Surrey Docks Farm is a sanctuary for organically reared animals including lots of happy goats, sheep, cattle, geese, turkeys and even donkeys. It is a great experience to learn about farming and the production of honey and beeswax in the educational workshops that this farm has to offer.
You can easily access this farm by taking the Thames Path walk by the riverside or even a Thames Clipper boat ride.
13. The Woodlands Farm Trust
Visit the 89 acre Woodlands Farm Trust in Shooters Hill to observe a wealth of wildlife, flowers and of course, woodland, hence the name. Annual events include barn dancing and sparrow spotting as well as themed walks and shelter building.
14. Crystal Palace Park Farm
You can reach Crystal Palace by the London Overground to visit the well-run Crystal Palace Park Farm. Along with a reptile room and small animals that can be handled by visitors during the afternoons, you will also get the chance to see some Shetland ponies, alpacas, goats and kunekune pigs.
15. Belmont Children's Farm
The fairly new Belmont Children's Farm in Mill Hill houses an incredible range of animals that includes all the farmyard creatures you would expect to see as well as some others, such as storks, alpacas, snowy owls and wallabies. They also have a cafe where you can treat yourself to a waffle after all that walking!
16. Brooks Farm
Brooks Farm is delightful little place for inner city kids to get close to nature and make some furry friends. Take a stroll and soak up the atmosphere while observing some of Leyton's resident ponies, donkeys, sheep, goats, hens and bunnies.
It is fairly surprising just how much London has to offer in terms of green spaces and nature reserves. The animal sightings of city life doesn't just have to be limited to the odd fox rummaging through rubbish on a Friday night or the neighbour's cat taking refuge behind your wheelie bin. There really are plenty of tranquil oases here where you can enjoy the quacking of ducks, the croaking of frogs, fresh farm produce and amazing picnic spots. In fact, once you are done touring the zoos, aquariums and city farms, there is still plenty more to see!
WWT London Wetland Centre
Discover the more tranquil side of the city and explore the stunning walkways of the London Wetland Centre, this 105 acre nature reserve has lakes and pools, it truly is the countryside within London. You can also enjoy bird spotting here for rare species as well as the rest of the wildlife which includes otters.
The Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park
Check out the two lakes at the Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park which are surrounded by marshland and home to all sorts of birds and pond invertebrates. The little ones will love to see the frogs, toads, newts and dragon flies which this nature spot attracts.
If you are still left wanting more from the animal attractions of the British capital, then head to Richmond Park, a national nature reserve with a population of 630 deer that are free to roam in the park. Observing the deer is an absolute delight, but should always be done from a fair distance as they are living in their natural habitat, unlike a zoo which has boundaries.
Wellgate Community Farm
The Wellgate Community Farm in Romford is free to enter and a nice little place to take the kids for a picnic and to see the animals during the school holidays. However do take some spare change as there are pots for charitable donations and you can also purchase a little bit for food for the animals too.
Hainault Forest Country Park
The Hainault Forest Country Park is made up of over 300 acres of enchanting woodlands that are home to an interesting ecosystem of amphibians, hoverflies, butterflies as well as an exciting array of mini-beasts that you would hope to find in the forest. It's the perfect place for a summer picnic and there is a small farm with a selection of animals that the children will adore.
You may also want to venture out a little beyond London for places like Colchester Zoo and Paradise Wildlife Park, both of which are not too far away and often a popular destination for trips by London schools.
You can get to the main Colchester train station within an hour from Liverpool Street and then take a short taxi or bus ride to the actual zoo from there.