Skeletons, skulls and visiting the King Richard III Visitor Centre in Leicester

posted in: Blog, UK | 43
Standing by the statue of Richard III, between the Cathedral and Visitor Centre
Peeping out from behind the statue of Richard III, between the Cathedral and Visitor Centre

The city of Leicester may not seem the most obvious destination for a family visit, but that’s where you’d be wrong. True, it isn’t the most beautiful place we’ve ever been to, but if you’re looking for stuff to entertain the children, aesthetics don’t matter that much. And there’s certainly a lot to do.

We spent just two days in this bustling city, and enjoyed ourselves tremendously, despite the rain. Robert has already written about our visit to the National Space Centre, which we would highly recommend for a day out, and we also had great fun at a theme park called Twin Lakes, which had some excellent rides and a very scary maze (I clung onto Brian for most of this). We didn’t have time to visit Conkers, with its climbing and outdoor activities, but it sounded like great fun too. This was because, having had rides and space, I wanted a bit of my favourite subject, history.

Leicester suddenly became the focus of worldwide attention back in 2012 when the body of Richard III, the former King of England made infamous through Shakespeare, was found, in a local car park. Confirmation that it was Richard, who died aged 32, was announced to the world in February 2013, after DNA testing. He was known to have been killed at the Battle of Bosworth, but it was thought that his bones had been thrown into the river nearby. That was clearly wrong…

Now the city has a Richard III visitor centre, positioned on the site of a former school, and complete with the area where you can see how the body was found. Just across the way you can visit a rather beautiful small Cathedral where this former King was reinterred in March. We did both.

The centre starts downstairs with a video. I enjoyed this, but think that if you did know any of the history of the Wars of the Roses, you might find it a bit confusing (young children may find this in particular). It was not that helpful to have a timeline on the floor, as not only was this right where you would also stand to watch the video, but also where people who weren’t interested in the film would walk over and onto the next bit. I’m sure it sounded like a great idea when the centre was in the planning stages, but it was not particularly effective.

After this, we walked through into the rest of the “Dynasty” section which was all about the historical side of Richard – how he came to power and his reign. We liked this a lot as it had good explanation, interactivity and was pitched so that those who did know some of the background could enjoy it as much as those who didn’t.

Reconstructing Richard' III's face
Reconstructing Richard’s face

The upstairs is different, but rather wonderful. Firstly there is a timeline all about actors and those in the creative world (from Johnny Rotten to Kevin Spacey) who have played or been influenced by Richard. And then there is the story of his discovery, plus reconstructions of his face (and explanations of how this was done) and a replica of his skeleton.

There are also some short videos – featuring all the major players in the Richard III dig. Unfortunately, some of these had sound which dipped constantly, so you caught some words and missed others. It would be great if this was fixed as the interviews were fascinating. It would also be good if they had subtitles as there are no headphones, and it’s quite noisy up there anyway (there didn’t seem to be any option for foreign subtitles either).

Reconstruction of the skeleton of Richard' III as found at the Richard III visitor centre
This is how the skeleton was found

The most wonderful part of our visit was seeing the original car park! This may not sound impressive, but it has been done beautifully with a hologram of the skeleton, positioned as it was found, lighting up under a glass floor. It was amazing to see this – and to see that Richard did indeed have a real curve of the spine. Sometimes propaganda does contain some truths!

Standing outside the Richard III Visitor centre, Leicester
Standing outside

We left the centre to go to the Cathedral and would definitely recommend this to round off your visit. The tomb is beautiful and our whole visit helped us learn a lot, as well as made us think.

The tomb of Richard III, as seen at Leicester Cathedral
The tomb of Richard III

The Centre is situated in centre of Leicester which is pedestrianised and easy to get about. There are lots of shops and restaurants nearby.

The Richard III visitor centre is open every day from 10am to 4pm and until 5pm at weekends. It costs £7.95 per adult, and £4.75 for children aged up to 15. A family ticket for two adults and two children is £21.50. Leicester Cathedral is free and has services throughout the week. It is open to visitors from 10 till 5pm every day except Sunday, when it is only open to see the tomb from 12.30 to 2.30pm.

Read more about Richard III and his story through our visit to Fotheringhay, where he was born.

Read about our visit to the Space Centre in Leicester


43 Responses

  1. Bri

    This would be such a fun & educational things to do with my mother since she loves everything history.

  2. Elayne

    What a historic and interesting place to visit. The recreating of his face looks kinda spooky, and of course my boys would love it!

  3. Terri Ramsey Beavers

    Oh wow this needs to be on my bucket list because I love all things history related. I’d love to visit here and learn all about Richard III. It would be an interesting outing for sure.

  4. mummy m's memories

    WOW! I must admit I couldn’t imagine taking my girls to a place like this, (aged 6 and 3) but I find the skeleton very amazing with that curved spine! WOW!

  5. Rhian

    Sounds like a lovely place to take a trip, i’ve actually never been to Leicester so maybe I should make a trip there! x

  6. Roma

    I remember they made a huge fuss when they discovered his body. TBH, I think they pricing structure is a bit steep though!

    • Sarah Ebner

      I’m not sure – just over £20 for a family of four seems quite good to us, especially as it’s something you can’t see elsewhere.

  7. Alli Smith

    I love how they recreated the spot where the remains of Richard III were found and used a hologram of the skeleton. My family would enjoy this very much and my husband loves history, so he would be over the moon to visit this place.

  8. Lisa

    This would be such a fascinating trip. I love the story of the War of the Roses and always thought it was so interesting that they never knew what happened to King Richard’s body (until recently).

  9. Astrid

    I know way too little about UK history. I had never even heard of Richard III, but it’s way cool that his body was found in Leicester in 2012 and you were able to learn about him at your visit. It sucks that the video was confusing though and the timeline was on the floor.

    • Sarah Ebner

      Richard III was the king killed by Henry Tudor, who went onto become Henry VII and the father of Henry VIII! He is also the subject of a very famous Shakespeare play (which is brilliant!)

  10. Angelic Sinova

    I’m a bit of a history buff so I would LOVE to visit this! This definitely sounds like a fun and educational place the whole family can enjoy <3

  11. Polarbelle

    wow….that’s really something!! A car park is where cars are parked? Like what we call a parking lot or parking garage in America? To think a King was underneath the concrete!!! And what a big nose he had, lol.

  12. Michele

    If I ever get “across the pond” I definitely want to go and see all this. History does fascinate me. I could probably spend hours just reading and looking and thinking!

  13. Rachel

    The whole story was absolutely fascinating when it started in the news and even now, seeing all the reconstruction it is amazing x

  14. Chantal

    Looks like a great trip, not to mention a great learning experience for the whole family! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  15. Sonya Cisco

    I Adore visiting places like this – will def put in a visit when I am in the area – sadly we are too far away for a day trip!

  16. Charly Dove

    What a fascinating place to visit, sounds like you had a great time too. I’ve not been to Leicester for many years now, it would be great to have a nose around if we’re over that way 🙂

  17. Ting at My Travel Monkey

    I would love to come here. So fascinating to discover more about Richard III and more importantly his legacy, history and best of all where he was found. That’s brilliant they put a hologram of the body! I’ve never really explored Leicester proper… might be a reason to now!

  18. UK Family Fun

    This sounds like our sort of day out – I know my husband in particular would love to visit. I like the sound of the timeline featuring different actors and roles that have been inspired by Richard III – Very interesting! #TravelTales

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