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Celebrating Halloween at the London Dungeon

Back home, Halloween is a pretty big holiday for us. We decorate and carve pumpkins, and dress up and go to parties. This being our first year in London, though, I really wasn’t sure what kind of celebrating to expect. As it turns out, we’ve got a great group of kids getting together tomorrow to go trick-or-treating in Chiswick, but up until a couple weeks ago we had no plans, so we took it on ourselves to find something spooky to do in October. After doing a google search for “spooky London”, it appears the entire city has been haunted at some point or another. (Even the pubs aren’t excluded from a random poltergeist attack!) But the recommendation I kept seeing everywhere had me thinking we might really enjoy celebrating Halloween at the London Dungeon.

The London Dungeon: A Cheeky London Sight Perfect For Halloween

The London Dungeon: A Cheeky London Sight Perfect For Halloween

Normally, this sort of attraction is not the kind I make a point to see. It is extremely popular with tourists. And if the long lines outside don’t give you pause, then the ticket prices inside surely will. Entrance for adults is £25 and a child’s ticket will set you back £19. If I hadn’t found a discount voucher making all three of our tickets half price, we probably would not have gone. Even with the discount, the London Dungeon cost much more than we usually spend on entertainment, but with our Halloween plans hanging in the balance, I made an exception so I could ensure we at least did something scary for the holiday.

The London Dungeon: A Cheeky London Sight Perfect For Halloween

After one failed attempt the weekend before (a 3+ hour wait was not going to happen), we figured out that the best time to visit for the shortest wait on a weekend was around 4PM. When we arrived, some of the actors were performing outside the entrance and a man was walking around with a giant rat for visitors to pet. (No, thank you!) We joined the queue outside and noticed right away that the London Dungeon attracts some rather interesting people. When I say interesting, I mean the sort of folks you see walking towards you on the sidewalk and you cross to the other side of the street to avoid passing in close proximity to them. (Don’t get me wrong – I like weird, but some of these people took it to a whole other level.)

The London Dungeon: A Cheeky London Sight Perfect For Halloween

After waiting outside for an hour, we made our entrance into the dungeons. Once inside, you take an awkward photo with the other people in your party and then stand in another long line to purchase tickets. (I can’t stress this enough – look for coupons first. They’re everywhere. We got ours from a Kit-Kat wrapper.) At least while you’re waiting in the queue for tickets, there are quite a few “scary”, sometimes downright cheesy, distractions. The scariest of these were the live roaches which instantly activated my gag reflex. After you’ve bought your tickets, the real “experience” begins.

The London Dungeon: A Cheeky London Sight Perfect For Halloween

The purpose of the London Dungeon is to take visitors through 1,000 years of London’s spooky history using a team of actors and elaborate sets to recreate events such as the Black Plague and Jack the Ripper. The actors were all quite good, especially considering how exhausting it must be to repeat the same lines over and over again everyday. Their exaggerated 1800’s-style English accents, so different than what I’m used to hearing in London today, were so terrible-sounding that I actually started to like them.

And the sets, although not realistic-looking, were on par with some of the nicer Disney attractions we’ve been to. Unfortunately, photography of the actors and sets was not permitted inside the London Dungeon, or as the actors say in character – no flashy boxes allowed! You’ll have to take my word for it since there aren’t any pictures, but the best part about this attraction is just how things look.

The London Dungeon: A Cheeky London Sight Perfect For Halloween

The London Dungeon is, to use a British term, far more cheeky than scary. Between all of the sexual innuendos that you’d have to be under the age of ten to miss and the scenes where visitors were pulled into the acts, I found myself laughing during this experience more often than screaming. In fact, the only time I ever felt even a little frightened was when we were in complete darkness for a few minutes on the Sweeney Todd set.

I had the most fun on the rides and walking through some of the transitions in between sets. There is a boat ride towards the beginning on the dungeon, but beware, you will get wet. Irritatingly, I kept finding myself in the wrong place at the wrong time, getting sprayed with water a total of three times on our visit. Most of the transitions between sets, you’ll just be walking through regular tunnels, but occasionally they get pretty fun. When we went through the swirly tunnel, I was convinced I was about to turn upside down, even though I don’t think we actually moved at all. And the maze of mirrors during the Jack the Ripper scene was totally trippy. I had to reach out and physically touch the mirrors to make sure they were there.

The rides, the shows – it all leads up to the end where you have been tried for crimes you didn’t commit and are sentenced to a hanging. You go on one last ride, a mini version of sorts of the Tower of Terror, as you are “hanged”. The whole experience, from the time you enter the London Dungeon to the end, is around 90 minutes long. (I have to admit, even though this wasn’t my favorite thing ever, the time did seem to go by much faster than that.)

The London Dungeon: A Cheeky London Sight Perfect For Halloween

Did I have a good time? I’d say good enough. Would I have done this if I weren’t looking for something Halloween-ish to do? Probably not. Between the rides, continuously being sprayed with water, the goofy scripts, and people jumping out at you  – it’s all very theme park, haunted house-like. And I have a ‘been there-done that’ attitude about those sorts of things. But if you’re between the ages of 12 and 25, or you’re just really into haunted houses, you’ll absolutely love it. Lexie had a blast and said she never felt scared, but parents with younger children might need to be more cautious.

The London Dungeon is conveniently located right next to the London Eye and the Sea Life Aquarium in London’s South Bank area. Online tickets can be purchased ahead of time with a small discount, but require booking for a specific day and time. Half-price entrance vouchers, like the one we used, cannot be redeemed online. Happy Halloween!

The London Dungeon: Website
Address: County Hall, Westminster Bridge Road, London SE1 7PB

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The London Dungeon: A Cheeky London Sight Perfect For Halloween

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  • Emmymom
    November 4, 2013 at 7:51 PM

    Good you were able to find something to do, but too bad it wasn’t all you were hoping for.

  • Miwa
    November 1, 2013 at 12:03 AM

    What a perfect outing for Halloween! Very touristy, but that can be interesting now and then :)

  • kayleigh maryon
    October 31, 2013 at 7:46 PM

    This looks like it could be a lot of fun but only a do once kind of thing.

  • Kari Holtkamp
    October 31, 2013 at 3:28 PM

    At least you got something Halloweeny in:) In Kansas City, they turned old abandoned warehouses downtown into haunted houses. We used to go when we were younger, but now it does just seem over the top. There was a guy always running around with a rat there, too:) Must be the thing to do:)

  • Sara Louise
    October 31, 2013 at 9:39 AM

    At first I thought this was going to be really scary (I’m a wimp and can’t handle scary) but since you said it was more cheeky, I could probably handle it :)
    Have you been to Madame Toussad’s yet? The Chamber of Horrors there is definitely scary!

  • Quyen Nguyen
    October 30, 2013 at 11:33 PM

    What a perfect place to celebrate Halloween! Great spooky and historic atmosphere!

  • Sammy @ Days Like This
    October 30, 2013 at 10:53 PM

    I have been thinking of doing this – it is probably something I would actually like. Not too keen on waiting in a massive line and paying an arm and a leg though. Thanks for the tip on looking out for coupons! Also, was the giant rat real!?

    • Sarah Shumate
      October 31, 2013 at 10:47 AM

      I bet if you went on a weekday or week night it wouldn’t be nearly as crowded. We just had to go on a weekend because Cory couldn’t get off work early enough to get there before it closed.

      The giant rat was totally real! And the guy let the rat crawl up onto his back. It was gross.

      • Sammy @ Days Like This
        October 31, 2013 at 12:42 PM

        WOW! I can’t believe the rat was real. I would have freaked out. I hate rats!

  • Gina
    October 30, 2013 at 7:56 PM

    Happy Halloween Sarah! My daughter and her girlfriends went to the London Dungeon when they were visiting this summer. Their review was very similar to yours. They enjoyed it but I don’t think they were that into the whole haunted house/scary stuff thing. They had 2 for 1 vouchers and they were thankful they did not pay full price. Madame Tussauds was more up their alley – ha! Loved reading your thoughts about it! :)
    Looking forward to finally meeting you on Nov. 9th!!! Exciting!!!!

  • Nicole
    October 30, 2013 at 3:35 PM

    Sounds perfect for kids! The live cockroaches though, you’re right: GAG! Still sounds like a great outing for the family. I’m sure there’s something more scary out there though! Sure hope you take pictures of Lexie’s costume and the trick-or-treating!

    • Sarah Shumate
      October 31, 2013 at 10:34 AM

      Of course I will! She’s going as a hippie this year! I wasn’t sure where to buy Halloween costumes around town, so we just worked with what we already had at home! I’m hoping the trick-or-treating still happens – we’re expecting rain tonight! :o(

  • Jo
    October 30, 2013 at 1:48 PM

    When we do things like this which I don’t love but the kids do then I think, well at least they liked it. So I’m glad Lexi liked it.

  • Stacie Stamper
    October 30, 2013 at 12:59 PM

    I have cobwebs in my basement that you could tour for free….of course, travelling to NC will be a requirement!

  • Keith Wynn
    October 30, 2013 at 12:02 PM

    I love that cobwebbed bookshelf. Awesomeness!!

  • Robert Hill
    October 30, 2013 at 4:55 PM

    Haha I love your description of the rather ‘interesting’ people, that made me laugh. I’m not surprised you found the experience to be just like a haunted house you’d find in a theme park. I’ve heard about this before and know that it’s very much aimed at tourists, so I assumed that would be the case. Although I’m sure younger children would love it. They’d probably much prefer to find it interesting and amusing, rather than actually just be terrified throughout – no doubt that would all end in tears. So it’s probably a good thing it wasn’t too scary.

    • Sarah Shumate
      October 31, 2013 at 10:45 AM

      It was totally worth it for Lexie to have a good time. We are always dragging her around to see cathedrals and other things geared more towards history-lovers than kids, so it was time we did something completely mindless.

      I’m glad you got a laugh out of that. I spent the time waiting in line avoiding making eye contact with anyone. It was a very awkward hour.

      • Robert Hill
        October 31, 2013 at 4:11 PM

        Haha I know exactly how that wait in line must have felt! It happens surprisingly often in London. I usually take out my mobile and pretend to be busy sending a text, which works great until you look up to see if they’ve moved on and you catch their eye contact again… this usually happens about 3 times. So awkward! lol

  • Katrin
    October 30, 2013 at 3:44 PM

    Love that bookshelf! :) I think there is something similar in Amsterdam, isn’t it? We thought about going there but the line was so long that we went somewhere else. And yeah, the ticket prices are pretty high! Thanks so much for sharing!

    • Sarah Shumate
      October 31, 2013 at 10:37 AM

      There is one in Amsterdam! We saw it while we were there, but knew there was one in London if we ever wanted to try it out. Each city’s Dungeons are a little bit different since they are supposed to cover their own scary history. But in the end, if you’ve seen one, you’ve likely seen them all.

  • Dannielle @ Chicadeedee
    October 30, 2013 at 3:23 PM

    I’ve been to the York Dungeon a couple different times and loved it, but I think it’s much smaller than the London one. The actors really make it though, the first time we went I didn’t think it was as good, but the second time, even though I knew what to expect, was so much fun.

    • Sarah Shumate
      October 31, 2013 at 10:34 AM

      I think they do have them in a few other cities! The one in London used to be much smaller, too, but when they moved to their new location by the London Eye, they made it much bigger.

      • Dannielle @ Chicadeedee
        October 31, 2013 at 12:12 PM

        yeah the one in Edinburgh is meant to be the scariest/creepiest I heard. I had assumed they were all the same but I guess they have to work with their spaces too.

  • Jenn
    October 30, 2013 at 2:55 PM

    Sounds interesting. I am a big baby and afraid of the dark so I don’t know if I would have liked that Sweeny Todd thing much

    • Sarah Shumate
      October 31, 2013 at 10:33 AM

      I don’t really like the dark either! I was paranoid that when the lights came back on that someone would be standing in front of me waiting to scare the bejeezus out of me!

      • Jenn
        October 31, 2013 at 10:08 PM

        That would be me. I would be so paranoid about random people jumping out!