Remember the first time you saw a picture of an octopus? The sea monster with eight legs that is both terrifying and fascinating at the same time. Or maybe you were flabbergasted by that prickly-looking Pufferfish? I've always felt the underwater world is a magical place of beauty and surprise so I'm a big fan of aquariums. They're a great place to watch sea creatures and ideal if you're looking for things to do in France. My kids love to discover new things and they're in their element amongst all the unusual species.
We've rounded up some of the best aquariums in Europe so when you hop over the channel on Eurotunnel le Shuttle you can call in to one during your holiday.
Nausicaa, Boulogne-sur-Mer, France
Our favourite aquarium is Nausicaa, and with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle it's only a 30 minute drive from Calais, which makes it perfect for a day out with the kids. My kids love to pretend they're in an exotic paradise by gazing at colourful fish and coral in the Tropical Lagoon. They especially enjoyed the Island Stories exhibition, which explains the unique marine life, which grows around small island states isolated in the Ocean.
We loved watching the bigger fish, and we even spotted a Wobbegong shark, which we learned lays low to allow its prey to approach before swallowing it whole! After admiring the bigger fish, the kids couldn't wait to head over to stingray pool.
Nausicaa is open every day from 9:30am until 6:30pm, but during the summer holidays it's open until 7:30pm. Tickets for adults are €18.30 and kids are €11.95, but we managed to save some money by booking online in advance.
La Rochelle Aquarium, France
Perched on the Atlantic coastline of France, La Rochelle is a port city with the sea at the heart of its activity. With the community's knowledge of creatures of the deep it's no wonder the city built such an impressive aquarium. Sixty-five huge tanks offer you windows into the ocean including a sea turtle section. La Rochelle aquarium has been working for several years rescuing, caring for and releasing sea turtles back to their natural environment.
Whatever you do, don't miss a walk through the 360° tunnel surrounded by a thousand jelly fish - we think it beats your average walk through the park. It's easy to reach by car, just head towards the train station and follow the signs.
During the summer holidays it's open from 9am-11pm, so plenty of time for you and your kids to watch the turtles and enjoy the aquarium. For adults it only costs €15 and for children aged 3-17years it's €11.50. If your little one is 3 years old or younger then they get to enter free!
L'Oceanogràfic, Valencia, Spain
Enter the futuristic City of Arts and Sciences complex in Valencia and you'll discover several marine ecosystems in Europe's largest aquarium - making it one of the top things to do in Europe.
Sea creatures from the Mediterranean, the Arctic, the Antarctic and tropical sea all live here, within a volume of water equivalent to 15 Olympic swimming pools. Spot the Beluga (white whale) and walruses of the Arctic in the igloo-shaped dome or watch the antics of penguins in the Antarctic zone. You and your kids can also look out for the giant spider crabs, sea horses and colourful fish in the many tanks. Walking the 30-metre 'Oceans' tunnel will bring you face-to-face with a rays, sawfish and sharks without getting your feet wet. Even the restaurant is underwater so you can enjoy your lunch while 10,000 fish swim beside you behind clear glass. And, you can always pick up a cuddly memento in the aquarium shop on the way out.
We recommend you take a look at the Oceanografic website for more details, as opening times change frequently according to the different seasons. Tickets for children are €21 and adults are €27.90.
Great for a day out
My kids love wildlife and anything to do with sharks, so aquariums like these are perfect for days out during a holiday, or even for when we just want to get away for the day. If you know other suggestions for the best aquariums in Europe list, let us know!