Beautiful and educational: the top 5 zoos of Europe
It is well known that children adore animals, they see them as little friends, they have no fear, they touch and stroke them with no inhibitions (in fact stuffed animals are usually among the first toys they play with and cuddle in bed). It is useless to deny that when animals are still babies they are so cute that even us adults are attracted to them. At any time of the year a trip to the zoo with the family is an enjoyable day out, visiting in the warmer seasons is certainly more pleasant. We have selected five European zoos in five different cities, all full of history and culture with unique attractions, ideal for a quick ‘city-break’ with the whole family: Vienna, Berlin, London, Dublin and Valencia.
The antique Menagerie of the emperor known today as the Schönbrunn Zoo is ultramodern and famous worldwide. Part of the renowned Schönbrunn imperial palace and park, the zoo is one of the cultural and recreational attractions most visited not just in the Austrian capital, once the centre of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but also in the whole of Austria. Founded in 1752, it is now over 250 years old and is the oldest zoo in the world. In 2008-2010 it was voted the best zoo in Europe. Schönbrunn is also a World Heritage Site.
Animals from various continents live together in an area which covers 17 acres. In a well-preserved area dating back to the baroque era, you can meet giant pandas, koala bears, rhinoceros, lions, Amazonian monkeys, elephants, seals, giraffes and the orang-utans’ dwelling in the Orangery. The zoo holds over six hundred animal species, some of which are in serious risk of extinction. With every entrance ticket a contribution is donated to the species protection project run by the Schönbrunn Zoo which is helping the survival of many threatened species.
The zoo is open 365 days a year including holidays so it can be visited at any time and in any season. There are interesting tropical oases that offer a unique climatic experience especially in the winter months: the Aquarium-Terrarium House with its coral reef, the Bird House ‘Vogelhaus’ and the rainforest house that replicates a south-east Asian jungle.
It is possible to visit the zoo on a yellow and green panorama train which allows you to comfortably reach all the main attractions in the Schönbrunn palace gardens and zoo (April – October every day from 10 -18, November – March on demand). In the centre of the park you can visit the amazing Imperial Pavilion built in baroque style dating back to the 18th century which houses a café-restaurant. There is another restaurant in the grounds called ‘Tirolergarten’ where you can enjoy the local alpine food specializing in traditional Austrian dishes.
–> For further details you can refer to the English area of the website by clicking here.
Two zoos reunited just like the city that hosts them. The Tierpark Berlin together with the Zoologischer Garten Berlin, one of the two zoos in the German capital with its 160 acres making it the largest zoo in Europe.
There are 7,500 animals and approximately 1,000 different species, ranging from the Malaysian bear to the giant flying Indian fox, all living in areas similar to their natural habitats. Among the areas to highlight there are the hummingbird and crocodile houses, the tropical pavilion, l’Afrikanum, the snake farm and the Vari-Wald where you can stroll through a forest inhabited by curiously cheeky white, black and red lemurs. The Berlin Tierpark was founded during the separation of the two areas of the city following the Second World War so that both sides of the city could have a zoo. It was inaugurated in 1955 in the Schlosspark (Castle park) in the Friedrichsfelde district which takes its name from the castle built in 1695.
–> Click here for more details on how to plan your visit
The zoo of the British capital, the ZSL London Zoo, is the world’s oldest scientific zoo. It was inaugurated on 27th April 1828 and originally it was intended to be used for the scientific study of animals. In 1847 it was opened to the public. Today it houses a collection of 760 species making it one of the largest wildlife parks in the United Kingdom. Situated on the edge of Regent’s Park, it boasts the oldest reptile house, the Reptile House (1849), where you can see some of the largest and most poisonous reptiles in the world, it also houses the largest penguin beach in the UK. Among the many attractions there are some rare specimen of tigers and the first Philippine crocodile babies to be bred in the UK. Not to be missed are the historical aquarium (1853) and the children’s zoo (1938), Children’s Zoo, an enclosed area where animals are free to move about and children can immerse themselves in the life of the animal kingdom.
The aquarium is divided into three halls: in the first hall it is possible to admire freshwater fish in a natural habitat with rivers and lakes, the second hall displays breath-taking coral reefs and the third hall houses some threatened fish species such as the Mexican ‘Pupfish’ and the Greek ‘Killfish’. The Gorilla Kingdom is the home of the gorillas and monkeys. A natural captivating enclosure that contains many species from the Central African rainforest that are in risk of extinction. The Tiger Territory, a glass enclosure, where you can meet the two Sumatran tigers named Melati and Jae Jae hidden in the Indonesian vegetation. In the birdhouse called the Blackburn Pavilion you can observe beautiful exotic colourful birds as they soar freely in a wonderful tropical habitat. The zoo offers numerous shows and attractions to be seen during your visit. In the Reptile House a famous scene from the Harry Potter saga was filmed.
–> Here you can discover further details on how to get to the zoo and how to plan your day.
Opened in 1831 as a zoological garden it covers 28 acres within the Phoenix Park. Situated in the heart of the city, it is the fourth largest zoo in the world and one of the oldest in Europe. The Dublin Zoo contains more than 600 species, divided into nine areas, with 90 animal species free to circulate in the park, which is the ideal way to observe wild animals and those in risk of extinction. One of these areas is the African Savanna which gives you the ideal chance to enjoy a safari experience in a replicated typical African environment of grassy Savanna plains. Another interesting area is the Asian Forests inspired by the Gir forest of India and the Sumatran forest of Indonesian. It has a river and lake where the tigers can move freely and where you can catch a glimpse of lions and Sulawesi crested macaques.
–> Click here for further information on how to plan you visit.
This is not a traditional zoo, at the Valencia Bioparc, opened in 2008 you won’t see any cages. It is an innovative zoo concept in which the animals are completely free in a replicated natural habitat covering an area of 100,000 square meters inside the Cabecera Park, situated on the bed of the Turia river. The zoo is divided into 4 areas ranging from the Savanna to the equatorial forest, passing through Madagascar and the humid areas, inhabited by at least 1,300 animals. The attraction of this innovative zoo consists in immersing visitors into the animals’ habitat giving them a real ‘full ‘immersion’ experience. Bioparc’s main objective is to promote respect for animals and make the general public aware of the importance of protecting the environment through a commitment to education and the preservation of the animals. Leopards, lemurs, lions, giraffes, gorillas, rhinoceros, hippopotamus, porcupines, ostriches, elephants, … all coexist in this zoological world, which offers memorable experiences and even if you are in Europe it gives the impression of being ‘in Africa’ thanks to the surrounding flora and fauna.
–> Click here for further details on the times and entrance fees.
So now all you have to do is check your calendar and chose the best time for your ‘city-break’ with the whole family!
Photo credits: Valencia – Stefano Monteleone, Vienna – Daniel Zupanc, Londra – ZSL London Zoo, Berlin Zoo