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The best zoos in Europe to visit + why

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(Last updated on: 04/05/2021)

The best zoos in Europe are well worth a visit, especially if you are a big fan of animals or if you are travelling with children. Whilst there are some zoos that have attracted negative attention in recent years due to poor animal welfare, many zoos are in fact good. If you are planning to visit a zoo I strongly urge you to do your research before you visit to make sure that you are visiting an ethical zoo. In the meantime, I will tell you which are the best zoos in Europe to visit and why…

What makes a good zoo?

You can find out more about what makes a good zoo in this post all about the best zoos in the world. Essentially, good zoos provide a positive experience for animals and guests – they enrich lives, spread joy and care deeply about different species and the environment. Good zoos will tick off all (or most) of the items on this list:

  • Progressive conservation projects 
  • Solid animal welfare statistics and practises 
  • Large enclosures
  • Regular feeding times
  • High standards of cleanliness
  • Activities to stimulate the animals’ minds and enrich their lives
  • Consistent and good veterinary care
  • Accreditation from relevant organisations
  • Constantly improving standards
  • Educational activities for visitors 

There are good zoos around the world, but when it comes to the best zoos in Europe here’s the cream of the crop!

The best zoos in Europe

There are almost 800 zoos in Europe, ranging in size and reputation.  Below you’ll find three of the very best zoos in Europe, located in the Czech Republic, England and Austria respectively. All have incredibly good reviews. This is in terms of both visitor experience and animal care.

All of the zoos below tick off all of the points on the above list of factors that make for a great zoo; they take care of their animals, work hard in terms of conservation and research, and provide fantastic experiences for visitors. Each of these cities are great for a holiday or weekend break, and visiting their zoos is something that should definitely be on your travel bucket list.

All of these zoos are accredited by the EAZA – the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria. The aim to ‘facilitate cooperation within the European zoo and aquarium community towards the education, research and conservation’. They believe zoos can:

  • Provide funding and manpower to in situ conservation projects aimed at protecting animal populations and their habitats
  • Maintain viable populations of animals in human care to ensure their survival over the long term
  • Educate visitors about animals and their habitats and providing them with the knowledge and opportunities they need to live sustainably as part of nature
  • Research all aspects of animal biology to improve our understanding of animals and how they live and interact

#1 Prague Zoo

Prague is the capital of the Czech Republic, and it is famous for the Charles Bridge, its links to communism and the amazing cheap beer. There is an astronomical clock, a sex museum, many museums and one of the best zoos in the Europe! Prague Zoo opened 1931 with this goal: “to advance the study or zoology, protect wildlife, and educate the public”.

Covering 140 acres, the zoo is home to 5,000 animals of around 676 species. There is plenty to see here! 132 of the species at Prague Zoo are classed as threatened, and the zoo has seen much success in terms of breeding and scientific research. They were the first to artificially breed a polar bear and an Andean condor – their conservation efforts have always been admirable. Prague Zoo has also been instrumental in the brilliant effort towards saving the Przewalski’s Horse.

The zoo has a unique rugged landscape, making it a pleasure for animals and visitors alike. You can see the city in the distance as you walk around and admire the animals – guests get more of a sense of what life in the wild might be like for many of these amazing species. With well-cared-for animals and various kids activities, it is no surprise that Prague Zoo is classed as one of the best zoos in Europe. It also isn’t too expensiv. Adult tickets are just 250 CZK, which is the equivalent of around £8.33 GBP or $11.62 USD. You can even bring your dog with you when visiting!

Animals at Prague Zoo – one of the best zoos in Europe

Here is a handful of the animals you can see at Prague Zoo…

  • Humboldt’s Penguins
  • Great Indian Hornbils
  • Western Lowland Gorillas
  • Polar Bears
  • Galápagos Tortoises 
  • Red River Hogs
  • Przewalski’s Horses

There are so many more, and Prague Zoo is a great place to add to your itinerary if you’re planning a trip to this wonderful European capital city. Prague is an amazing budget-friendly city break destination, popular with stag parties but also with those who have a keen interest in history, culture, art and more.

best zoos in europe

#2 Chester Zoo

The UK is home to a few zoos, including one of the best zoos in Europe: Chester Zoo in the North West of England. The zoo opened in 1931, and is now home to over 35,000 animals. It covers 126 acres, and has more land outside of the zoo itself where they grow food for all the herbivores in their care. As a registered charity they receive no government funding and rely on donations, ticket fees and merchandise sales to run the zoo. 

The zoo has a fantastic approach to conservation. They aim to combine people, places, policy and populations. With a team that spans six global locations, their mission is constantly evolving based on the current needs of the planet and the animals that call it home. They are always working on different projects, including pioneering new (and better) breeding technologies as well as researching animal endemics. Chester Zoo has a brilliant sustainability pledge in place too, which you will see evidence of when visiting. It is great in terms of sustainable tourism, something that is important to many people! 

Chester Zoo is a great day out: educational and fun with so much to see and do. It is often called one of the best zoos in Europe, and rightly so. Each exhibit has plenty of information about the animals, and there are various chances to learn in a proper educational setting too. The grounds are just stunning – and there is brilliant theming and decor throughout especially in the Islands exhibit. Kids LOVE this zoo also. It isn’t massively expensive, either: £24.55 for an adult ticket or £19.55 for a child’s ticket, with discounts for students and seniors. Zoos in Europe tend to be much more affordable than zoos in the US, for example.

Animals you can see at Chester Zoo – one of the best zoos in Europe

There are so many animals at Chester Zoo. Here’s just some of them…

  • African Painted Dogs
  • Ecuador Amazon Parrots
  • Crowned Lemurs
  • Meerkats
  • Komodo Dragons
  • Spider Monkeys
  • Eastern Bongos
  • Red Ruffed Lemurs
  • Two-toed Sloths

…and there’s so many more to keep an eye out for!

#3 Vienna Zoo

When it comes to European cities, Vienna is one the more expensive side. It is a beautiful city with a huge cathedral, many classical music links, a wealth of artwork (including Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss) and so much more. You could spend a week here and still not see everything the city has to offer. But one thing you need to make sure you fit into your itinerary is Vienna Zoo, also know as Schönbrunn Zoo.

best zoos in europe

It is one of the best zoos in Europe and actually the oldest zoo in the world, built on a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can travel across continents within the walls of the zoo itself, and there are over 700 species living here. There are many educational opportunities at Vienna Zoo, with plenty of teaching and research happening here. This was the first zoo to breed an elephant in captivity, back in 1906, and they’ve even been able to breed pandas at Schönbrunn. Their conservation and breeding efforts have often been successful, and their research is incredibly progressive.

It’s not just the animals that make this one of the best zoos in Europe. The setting is beautiful: 18th century buildings, clean and tidy spaces and large enclosures for the creatures that call it home. You’ll be able to see the original imperial breakfast pavilion, which brings the wow-factor to Vienna Zoo. There are many activities for children to get involved with, and the animals are well taken care of here. Tickets are just €22 for adults, and €11 for children making it one of the most affordable things to do in Vienna, especially for everything you get for your money.

Some animals at Vienna Zoo: one of the best zoos in Europe

Here are some of the best animals you can see at Vienna Zoo!

  • Giant Pandas
  • African Elephants 
  • Polar Bears
  • Cheetahs
  • Spectacled Bears
  • Bison
  • Deer Goat Antelopes
  • Indian Giant Bats
  • Carinthian Sheep
  • Long-eared Hedgehogs
  • Queensland Koalas
  • Southern Pygmy Mongoose

There are many more animals to see at the zoo, and you’ll have a wonderful time waking around the exhibits and choosing your favourite!

The best zoos in Europe

There you have it- the best zoos in Europe. If you liked this article, you may also be interested in:

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