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. So, take this guide to the best zoos in the world and check it before your next trip to see if you’ll be near one.
If you’ve ever wondered what is the best zoo in the world you best read on because we’re going to show you the top candidates.
1. Tiergarten Schönbrunn, Vienna, Austria
If you want to visit the oldest zoo in the world that has been continuously operating since 1752, head to the incredible Tiergarten Schönbrunn of Vienna. Also known as the Vienna Zoo, this historic institution is found within the beautiful grounds of the ever-popular Schönbrunn Palace. Initially created as the imperial menagerie, Tiergarten Schönbrunn is now focused on conservation and education. Like its grand surroundings, the zoo still uses several elegant Baroque buildings, making this quite a beautiful zoo to visit. Among the different animals you can see here in Vienna are oriental small-clawed otters, arctic wolves, elephants, and Siberian tigers.
Further reading: 3 Days in Vienna: The Perfect Vienna Itinerary
2. Bronx Zoo, New York City, USA
While there are quite a few zoos in New York, there’s little doubt that the Bronx Zoo is at the top of the best zoos in NY. Located within Bronx Park, the zoo is one of the largest in the U.S. and covers 265 acres with the Bronx River flowing right through it. Bronx Zoo opened in 1899 and established the first modern zoo animal hospital 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. Exploring the zoo you’ll have the opportunity to spot animals from all over the world, from tigers, lions, and gorillas to smaller critters like lemurs and reptiles.
Further reading: The Perfect 3-Day Weekend in New York City
3. San Diego Zoo, San Diego, USA
One of the best zoos in the US and possibly the world’s best zoo, or at least the most famous, is the San Diego Zoo in California. Since opening in 1916 in Balboa Park, San Diego Zoo has grown to become the most visited zoo in the country and a main attraction of the city. The zoo is divided up into eight different exhibits themed around geography and habitat. The exhibits are home to over 3,500 animals across 650 species. One of the better known exhibits here is the Outback exhibit, which is home to creatures from Australia like koalas and Tasmanian devils. But there are also exhibits on animals from other places like Africa and Asia, and interesting ways to get about like the Skyfari Aerial Tram.
4. Singapore Zoo, Singapore
With a stellar reputation, Singapore Zoo is another international zoo that animal lovers should aim to visit if they can. Hidden away among the forests in the center of this small Southeast Asian nation, visiting this zoo is a world-class experience. Singapore Zoo is spread over 69 acres and is home to 2,800 animals across 315 species, making it a bit smaller than other zoos mentioned here. But what it lacks in size, it makes up for in atmosphere and exhibits. Within its eleven zones you’ll encounter animals from all over; orangutans, lemurs, and sloths as well as kangaroos, lions, and zebras.
Further reading: 3 Days in Singapore: The Perfect Singapore Itinerary
5. Beijing Zoo, Beijing, China
Found in the Xicheng District city of Beijing is the largest and oldest zoo in China, 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. Beijing Zoo spans more than 200 acres and has been designed with classical Chinese gardens in mind. Naturally, the zoo has a strong focus on rare animals native to China, most famously its giant panda population. Other species you can see that are endemic to China include red pandas and Sichuan golden hair monkeys, while there are also many creatures from beyond its borders.
6. National Zoological Gardens, Pretoria, South Africa
The largest and most well-known zoo on the continent of Africa is the National Zoological Garden of South Africa. Often referred to as the Pretoria Zoo as well, due to its location in the city of Pretoria, this zoo has been operating since 1899. With a footprint of 210 acres, the National Zoological Garden of South Africa boasts more than 9,000 animals from 600+ species, including an Aquarium and Reptile Park. African penguins, African savannah elephants, hippopotamuses, and even endangered Okapi can be seen here. Actually, you’ll be hard pressed to find anywhere with a better collection of animals from across Africa than here, while there are also creatures from Asia, Australia, and the Americas.
7. Zoologischer Garten, Berlin, Germany
When it comes to impressive historic zoos, it’s hard to beat the Zoologischer Garten of Berlin. Translating as the Berlin Zoological Garden, this zoo was opened in 1844 and is a great source of pride for Berlin locals. But Berlin Zoo isn’t just a heritage site, 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 here at this city zoo, which also makes it a key player in many different breeding programs. On its 86 acres you can discover a dizzying variety of animals which includes polar bears, giant pandas, lemurs, and many other kinds of primates.
Further reading: 3 Days in Berlin: The Perfect Berlin Itinerary
8. Taronga Zoo, Sydney, Australia
There are several major zoos around Australia, but the largest zoo there is Taronga Zoo in Sydney. Covering 69 acres, opposite the city center of Sydney, Taronga Zoo enjoys some great waterfront views of the city. The zoo was founded in 1916 and today is home to 350 species and over 4,000 animals across its eight zoogeographic regions. As to be expected, 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 like sun bears and endangered Sumatran tigers.
Further reading: 5 Days in Sydney: The Perfect Sydney Itinerary
9. Chester Zoo, England, UK
In the United Kingdom, Chester Zoo is the country’s most popular wildlife attraction, and with good reason. The zoo covers 128 acres of land to the north of the English city, making it one of the largest in the UK. Opened in 1931, it’s now managed by a charity called the North of England Zoological Society. Visitors to Chester Zoo have over 35,000 animals to try to find, including some incredible exotic creatures like Capybaras, Babirusas, and Andean bears. Chester Zoo actually made news recently when a rare Black rhino was born there, which is no doubt another reason to visit.
10. 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 Wellington Zoo, New Zealand’s most beloved zoo. Since its humble origins, Wellington Zoo has expanded to become home to over 500 animals, and is managed by a charitable trust for the local city council. Conservation is a large part of the work done here at New Zealand’s first zoo, especially with the zoo’s animal hospital – Nest Te Kōhanga. The zoo has been 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.
11. Toronto Zoo, Toronto, Canada
Toronto Zoo is not only the largest zoo in Canada, but it’s also one with an incredible breadth of animals from all across the world. Toronto Zoo’s massive 710 acres is separated into seven distinct zoogeographic regions which reflect different continents and environments found on Earth. Not only are these regions used to group the animal enclosures, but they’re also used to provide naturalized environments for the creatures. This includes one called the Canadian Domain where you can see classic native animals like grizzly bears, American moose, and Canada lynx. All told, Toronto Zoo is home to as many as 500 species and 5,000 animals, a far cry from where it started back in 1974.
12. Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo, Omaha, USA
Those looking for the largest zoo in the world should visit Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo. When you factor in both its land area and the number of species there – this Nebraskan zoo takes the lead. Henry Doorly Zoo may only take up a modest 130 acres, but that land is home to well over 900 species of animals. Originally known as Riverview Park Zoo when it first opened in 1894, this zoo has grown to become a national leader in wildlife conservation and research. Guests won’t have any trouble finding tigers, lions, elephants, and rhinos here, although you should also make a trip to the aquarium to see sea turtles and sharks up close.
13. Welsh Mountain Zoo, North Wales, UK
Up on the north coast of Wales, outside the seaside town of Colwyn Bay, lies the Welsh Mountain Zoo. Also known as the National Zoo of Wales, it’s the oldest zoo in the country and started out as a small family business in 1963. Now, the Welsh Mountain Zoo may not be very expansive, covering just 37 acres, but it does boast some gorgeous scenery as it looks out to the coast. More importantly, among its 140 different species you’ll encounter snow leopards, Sumatran tigers, American alligators, and Burmese pythons. There’s even the possibility of animal encounters here – like feeding the resident penguins and meerkats.
14. Loro Parque, Tenerife, Spain
Although its name may translate as “parrot park”, Loro Parque on the island of Tenerife has grown considerably beyond that name. When the park opened in 1972 its purpose was indeed to be a parrot sanctuary, but today it’s a 33 acre zoo with mammals, reptiles, and marine life. Understandably, the opportunity to see jaguars, hippos, sloths, and more has made it one of the most popular attractions on the Canary Islands. One word of warning though is that Loro Parque does have an orca enclosure, which has earned the zoo some controversy and may affect your personal decision to visit.
15. 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 the 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, of that number 132 species are classified as threatened, which ties in to the zoo’s prominent captive breeding program. Visit and you’ll get to see Galápagos Tortoises, Western Lowland Gorillas, polar bears, and much more.
Further reading: 3 Days in Prague: The Perfect Prague Itinerary
That sums up the world’s best zoos you should know about. Now you know which destinations you need to allow extra time for so you can pay them a visit.