Home to almost 20,000 animals of more than 800 species, London Zoo dates back to 1828 - but it hasn’t always been open to visitors. It was originally intended to be used as a collection for scientific study, and was opened to the public in 1847.
All the tropical animals were kept indoors until 1902, as the zoo’s owners thought they couldn’t survive outside in the cold weather.
London Zoo is managed by the Zoological Society of London, which also runs Whipsnade Zoo in Bedfordshire. It receives no government funding, so survives through entrance fees, sponsorship, donations and membership. Financial problems meant it was threatened with closure in the 1980s, but an overwhelming response from the public to the news meant it was able to stay open.
There’s plenty to explore in the vicinity of London Zoo, including Regent’s Park itself, Camden Market, Lord’s Cricket Ground and Primrose Hill. So why not book one of our hotels near London Zoo and spend a few days exploring the capital?
What to see
Take a trip to Indonesia in Tiger Territory, where you’ll come face-to-face with the tigers through the floor-to-ceiling glass windows. Admire tropical fish and coral reefs in the aquarium, exotic birds in the Victorian Blackburn Pavilion, and snakes, lizards, frogs and crocodiles in the reptile house. In the rainforest house, you’ll see monkeys, sloths, armadillos and a tamandua before moving into the night zone, where you’ll see the nocturnal wildlife too.
Marvel at the colours of hundreds of butterflies and moths from around the globe in the Butterfly Paradise, which also has a pupae room where you can see the chrysalises developing. The Gorilla Kingdom is also home to an African aviary and several types of monkey, while the BUGS section houses insects, spiders and millepedes. At Penguin Beach, you can watch the birds’ antics and see them diving for their food through the underwater viewing areas.
There are daily opportunities to learn more about many of the animals at feeds and talks, from tropical birds and tigers to bird-eating spiders and penguins. You’ll also learn about conservation, climate change, biodiversity and life cycles, as well as the animals, as you explore the museum.
If you want to get even more involved, book a Meet The Animals experience or a Keeper For A Day experience. Sessions are available for schools, too.
The zoo is involved with breeding programmes for more than 130 species. It co-ordinates the European breeding programme for Sumatran tigers and is working on several projects to protect birds under threat in the UK, including research in Ireland into declining puffin populations. It is also running a campaign called Lions400 to save the Asiatic lion, of which only 400 remain in the wild, from extinction.
London Zoo is on the north side of Regent’s Park. It is within walking distance of Camden Town and Regent's Park tube stations - Camden Town is nearer – or you can catch bus 274 or C2. If you’re cycling, there is a bike shed in the car park opposite the main entrance. Car parking is also available at the zoo, which is outside the congestion charge zone.
Opening hours vary according to the time of year.
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