Finding wildlife isn’t always easy when you travel, especially when those trips are to major world cities. Zoos and animal reserves are a great way to scratch that itch, offering the chance for you to see and learn about animals from all over the world in one place.
It’s not hard to add some time at the local zoo to your next travel itinerary, but there’s no guarantee it will be worth your time. That’s why you should check this guide before your next trip to see if you’ll be near one of the best zoos in the world.
If you’ve ever wondered what is the best zoo in the world, read on, because we’re going to show you the top candidates.
Tiergarten Schönbrunn – Vienna, Austria
Having continuously operated since 1752, the incredible Tiergarten Schönbrunn of Vienna is the oldest zoo in the world. Also known as the Vienna Zoo, this historic institution lives on the beautiful grounds of the ever-popular Schönbrunn Palace. Initially created as the imperial menagerie, Tiergarten Schönbrunn now focuses on conservation and education.
Like its grand surroundings, Tiergarten Schönbrunn still uses several elegant Baroque buildings, making it quite a beautiful zoo. Among the different animals you can see here are Asian small-clawed otters, Arctic wolves, African elephants, and Siberian tigers.
Further reading: 3 Days in Vienna: The Perfect Vienna Itinerary
Bronx Zoo – New York City, New York, USA
While there are quite a few zoos in New York, there’s little doubt that the Bronx Zoo tops the list of the best zoos in NY. Covering 265 acres within Bronx Park, the zoo is one of the largest in the U.S., with the Bronx River flowing right through it. The Bronx Zoo opened in 1899 and established the first modern hospital for zoo animals in 1916, indicating its long-running passion for animal welfare and conservation.
Exhibits showcase the zoo’s population of over 6,000 animals, which represent more than 700 species. As you explore the zoo, you’ll spot animals from all over the world, from tigers, lions, and gorillas to smaller critters such as lemurs and reptiles.
Further reading: The Perfect 3-Day Weekend in New York City
San Diego Zoo – San Diego, California, USA
The San Diego Zoo is not only one of the best zoos in the US, but also a contender for the world’s best zoo – or at least the most famous. Since opening in 1916 in Balboa Park, it’s become the most visited zoo in the country and a main attraction of San Diego.
The zoo is divided up into eight massive exhibits themed around geography and habitat, which are home to over 3,500 animals across 650 species. One of its better-known exhibits is the Australian Outback section, where you’ll see creatures like koalas and Tasmanian devils. There are also exhibits of animals from places such as Africa and Asia – as well as interesting ways to get around, particularly the Skyfari Aerial Tram.
Singapore Zoo – Singapore
With a stellar reputation, Singapore Zoo is another international zoo that animal lovers should aim to visit. Hidden away among the forests in the center of this small Southeast Asian nation, the zoo offers a world-class experience.
Spread over 69 acres, Singapore Zoo is home to 2,800 animals across 315 species, making it a bit smaller than other zoos on this list. However, it definitely makes up for this in atmosphere and exhibits. Within its 11 zones, you’ll encounter animals from all over, including orangutans, lemurs, sloths, kangaroos, lions, and zebras.
Further reading: 3 Days in Singapore: The Perfect Singapore Itinerary
Beijing Zoo – Beijing, China
Found in the Xicheng District of Beijing is the largest and oldest zoo in China, the Beijing Zoo.
The zoo was founded in 1906 and is now home to over 450 species of land animals, as well as more than 500 species of marine life in its aquarium. Designed with classical Chinese gardens in mind, the zoo spans more than 200 acres.
Naturally, the Beijing Zoo has a strong focus on rare animals native to China, most famously its giant panda population. Other species in the zoo that are endemic to China include red pandas and Sichuan golden hair monkeys, while it’s also home to many creatures from beyond the country’s borders.
National Zoological Garden – Pretoria, South Africa
The largest and best-known zoo in Africa is the National Zoological Garden of South Africa. Also known as the Pretoria Zoo, it was founded in 1899 and has a footprint of 210 acres, which includes an aquarium and a reptile park.
With more than 9,000 animals from over 600 species in the zoo, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anywhere with a better collection of animals from across Africa. You can see African penguins, African bush elephants, hippos, and even endangered okapi here, as well as creatures from Asia, Australia, and the Americas.
Zoologischer Garten – Berlin, Germany
When it comes to impressive historic zoos, it’s hard to beat the Zoologischer Garten of Berlin, also known as the Berlin Zoological Garden or the Berlin Zoo. The zoo opened in 1844 and is a great source of pride for Berlin locals.
The Berlin Zoo isn’t just a heritage site, though – it’s also the world’s biggest zoo when measured by number of animals. There are a whopping 20,200 animals across 1,380 different species at this city zoo, making it a key player in many breeding programs. You can discover a dizzying variety of animals across its 86 acres, including polar bears, giant pandas, lemurs, and many other primates.
Further reading: 3 Days in Berlin: The Perfect Berlin Itinerary
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Taronga Zoo – Sydney, Australia
Australia is home to several major zoos, but the largest is Taronga Zoo in Sydney. Covering 69 acres across from the city center, the zoo enjoys some great waterfront views of Sydney.
Founded in 1916, the Taronga Zoo is now home to over 4,000 animals from 350 species across its eight zoogeographic regions. Of course, you’ll see loads of native Australian wildlife here, including tree kangaroos, koalas, and emus. But the zoo also features some incredibly rare creatures from around the world, such as sun bears and endangered Sumatran tigers.
Further reading: 5 Days in Sydney: The Perfect Sydney Itinerary
Chester Zoo – Upton-by-Chester, England, United Kingdom
Chester Zoo is the United Kingdom’s most popular wildlife attraction, and for good reason. It covers 128 acres to the north of the English city of Chester, making it one of the largest zoos in the U.K. Opened in 1931, it’s now managed by the nonprofit North of England Zoological Society.
You can find over 35,000 animals here, including exotic creatures such as capybaras, babirusas, and Andean bears. Chester Zoo actually made news recently when a rare black rhino was born there, which is yet another reason to visit.
Wellington Zoo – Wellington, New Zealand
What started in 1906 with the gift of a single young lion to the city of Wellington has turned into New Zealand’s most beloved zoo. Now managed by a charitable trust for the city council, Wellington Zoo, has expanded to host over 500 animals since its humble origins.
Conservation is a large part of the work done here at New Zealand’s first zoo, especially at its animal hospital, Nest Te Kōhanga. The zoo is largely known for its resident chimpanzees, but you’ll also find cheetahs, little blue penguins, and (of course) kiwi birds, the national icon of New Zealand.
Toronto Zoo – Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Not only is the Toronto Zoo the largest zoo in Canada, but it also boasts an incredible breadth of animals from all around the world. Its whopping 710 acres are separated into seven distinct zoogeographic regions representing various continents and environments. These regions don’t just help you navigate the enclosures; they also provide naturalized environments for the animals.
The Toronto Zoo houses around 5,000 animals from 500 species – a far cry from where it started in 1974. Naturally, one of its regions is the Canadian Domain, where you can see classic native animals such as grizzly bears, American moose, and Canada lynx.
Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo – Omaha, Nebraska, USA
When you factor in both land area and number of species, Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium is the largest zoo in the world. While it only takes up a relatively modest 130 acres, that land is home to well over 900 species of animals.
Known as Riverview Park Zoo when it opened in 1894, this Nebraskan zoo has become a national leader in wildlife conservation and research. You’ll have no trouble finding tigers, lions, elephants, and rhinos here – though you should also make a trip to the aquarium to see sea turtles and sharks up close.
Welsh Mountain Zoo – Colwyn Bay, Wales, United Kingdom
Just outside the seaside town of Colwyn Bay on the north coast of Wales lies the Welsh Mountain Zoo, also known as the National Zoo of Wales. It started out as a small family business in 1963, making it the oldest zoo in Wales.
While it covers just 37 acres, the Welsh Mountain Zoo boasts some gorgeous scenery looking out to the coast. More importantly, it’s home to 140 species, including snow leopards, Sumatran tigers, American alligators, and Burmese pythons. You can even participate in animal encounters, such as feeding the resident penguins and meerkats.
Loro Parque – Puerto de la Cruz, Tenerife, Spain
Although its name translates to “parrot park,” Loro Parque on the island of Tenerife has grown considerably beyond that niche. When the park opened in 1972, it was indeed meant to be a parrot sanctuary, but it’s now a 33-acre zoo with mammals, reptiles, and marine life.
Understandably, the opportunity to see animals such as jaguars, hippos, and sloths has made this one of the most popular attractions on the Canary Islands. One word of warning, though, is that Loro Parque has an orca enclosure, which has attracted some controversy and may affect your personal decision to visit.
Prague Zoo – Prague, Czechia
Another European zoo worth keeping in mind on your travels is the impressive Prague Zoo in the Czech Republic. Officially called Prague Zoological Garden, this zoo in the north of the city opened in 1931, even though it was still under construction then.
Prague Zoo now occupies 140 acres and is home to roughly 5,000 animals among 676 species. Quite impressively, 132 of those species are classified as threatened, which ties into the zoo’s prominent captive breeding program. You’ll get to see Galápagos tortoises, western lowland gorillas, polar bears, and many more exotic animals on your visit.
Further reading: 3 Days in Prague: The Perfect Prague Itinerary
That sums up our picks for the world’s best zoos. Now you know which ones to allow extra time for if you visit any of these areas!