Jack the Ripper, the plague, torture and executions… London’s had its fair share of turbulent times. And nowhere brings the capital’s horrible history to life in more grisly detail than The London Dungeon. Although it’s just a tourist attraction and not an actual dungeon, you’ll find a trip here is both educational and entertaining - like a museum with no boring bits. Forget sitting down, you’ll be on your feet for pretty much all of this 110-minute walkthrough, which uses actors, special effects, amazing sets and interactive shows to make history vividly real. Even the smells of the time have been recreated in full, stinky detail. Combine all this with two heart-stopping rides and you get one educational attraction the kids will actually be glad to go to.
We’ve listed the main ways to get there below, but to save yourself the schlep across London, rest assured that there are Premier Inn hotels near Southbank just waiting to get your city break off to the best start.
Step through the entrance into the dark, dingy ‘alleyway’ beyond and you’ll feel like The London Dungeon has been here for centuries. Yet this extraordinary attraction has only been a feature of the city’s tourist trail since 1974. It was initially designed as a museum of macabre history, but over the years has transformed into the actor-led, interactive experience we know today. It also had the kudos of including London’s first ever indoor water ride.
After scaring the bejesus out of people for 40 years in its previous home, under the railway arches on Tooley Street in London Bridge, the dungeon moved to the County Hall building in 2013, next to the London Eye on the Southbank. The new Dungeon is just as scary and humorous as ever, but has been given an update that makes it even more of an immersive experience.
You’ll find The London Dungeon right next to the SEA LIFE Aquarium in the County Hall building on Southbank.
All the London sightseeing buses pick up and drop off at Southbank. It’s also served local buses. Choose any bus that stops at Waterloo or Westminster Bridge Road for easy access to County Hall.
Tube and train
The London Dungeon is a five-minute walk from Waterloo Tube station, which is on the Northern, Jubilee and Bakerloo Lines. London Waterloo mainline station is also just a five-minute walk away.
If you’re driving, use the postcode SE1 7PB for your satnav. There’s no car park at the attraction, but the Q-Park Westminster is close by and offers discounts if booked in advance.
Why not arrive in style by taking a river bus to The London Dungeon? Operated by MBNA Thames Clipper, there’s a stop almost at the attraction’s doorstep - you just get off at the London Eye Pier.
The London Dungeon is very popular and if you don’t buy tickets in advance, you’ll probably have to queue. It’s far better to book tickets in advance, and if you do you’ll get a 30% discount on the door price. If you have braved the queue, you won’t have much sitting-down time once inside - you’ll be stood up or walking for most of the 110-minutes.
The London Dungeon is quite scary, so not recommended for children under 12 (or wimpy adults).
The Drop Dead ride has a height restriction of 1.4m and is not recommended for people with back problems or heart conditions.
The London Dungeon opens every day except Christmas Day. It opens on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday from 10am to 4pm, on Thursday from 11am to 5pm and on Friday from 10am to 4pm. At the weekends, the attraction opens at 10am and closes at 6pm.
There’s no gift shop, and toilets are only available at the start and end of the tour. Eating and drinking are not allowed on the tour, but your ticket does include a drink at The Tavern.
Choose from beer, a gin cocktail or a traditional lemonade.
There is step-free access to the entrance, but you’ll have to ask a member of staff to escort you. Once inside, there are lifts and level pathways, but some uneven floors which can move as part of the show, so apply your brake whenever you’re stationary!
Are you brave enough to face 110 minutes of London’s darkest past? Because when we say dark, we mean dark - lots of areas are virtually pitch black, a trick that will play havoc with your mind and increases the sense that something’s just round the corner, ready to jump out at you.
But no matter how much you prepare yourself, there will be some horrible surprises as you wander through Whitechapel slums, plague-ravaged houses and horrible torture chambers. There are 19 themed rooms, plus two thrilling underground rides and they’re all included in your ticket. Here’s our pick of the highlights…
Feel the wrath of Henry VIII (played by a 3D projection of Brian Blessed in full, booming voice) as you join Anne Boleyn on her last ride up the Thames to be executed. The fog, darkness and choppy waters are disorientating, and you will get wet.
History at its most explosive! Take a trip underneath the Houses of Parliament to find out what really went on that night on November 5th, 1605. Just try not to look at the fuse next to all the gunpowder… hmmm, wonder what might happen next?
Walk into the Ten Bells pub where Jack the Ripper's victims once drank and let the landlady tell you the story of London’s most famous serial killer. Warning: this could be the night he strikes again so hold on tight to someone’s hand when the lights go out!
Your heart (and stomach) will be in your mouth on this terrifying vertical drop ride into total darkness.The final part of the attraction takes you to Newgate Prison in 1783 where long drop hanging is used for the first time to execute people. Not for the fainthearted!
If the spooky Tavern pub has left you thirsty (and hungry) for more, where are the best places to go to eat and drink? You’re in luck, because Southbank has lots of family-friendly options with Giraffe, Wahaca and Las Iguanas all a stroll away at the Southbank Centre.
If it’s a quick bite you’re after, try the Great British Fish and Chips restaurant - it couldn’t be much closer to the London Dungeon as it’s also in the County Hall building. It’s packed full of tourists eager for traditional British cuisine, but service is fast so you won’t have to wait long. Either sit inside for great riverside views, or take your fried delights away to enjoy them outdoors while you savour the full Southbank experience.
The London Eye, the SEA LIFE Aquarium, Big Ben… If you’re visiting The London Dungeon, you can’t help but notice all the other amazing things there are to do in the historic Southbank area. And if you made a weekend of it, you’d have time to do it all. Luckily, there’s a Premier Inn Hotel near Southbank, ready and waiting to get your London sightseeing break off to a great start.