If you’re looking for an exciting day out with the family, why not visit one of the best zoos in the UK? From safari parks to wildlife reserves, there’s something to suit every age and taste. Here are 17 of the best zoos in the UK.
This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you if you make a purchase through a link. Please see my full disclosure for further information.
How Many Zoos are there in the UK?
There are 48 zoos in the UK, some of which are considered the best in the world. All of them preserve endangered animal species and exotic creatures.
MAP of the Best Zoos in the UK (+Safari Parks)
Best Zoos in the UK + Safari Parks
From spotting lions in the wild to admiring majestic birds of prey, a trip to a safari park or zoo can be an unforgettable experience for the whole family. Let’s get started!
#1 Edinburgh Zoo
Edinburgh Zoo many people consider the best zoo in Britain. It is a non-profit organization that aims not only for visitors but also to participate in serious research projects.
The zoo and a conservation centre are actively working in the following areas: rare breeds and endangered species, research in the field of ethology (animal behaviour), and active participation in various wildlife conservation programs worldwide.
The first penguins appeared here in 1914. The first king penguin chick was hatched at the zoo in 1919, the first ever captive penguin chick. One of the most colourful and popular events of the day is the penguin parade.
Besides all the animals of popular types, here you can see Asiatic lions, sun bears, and giant pandas, precisely, the two giant pandas, Tian Tian and Yang Guang.
If you’re visiting Edinburgh, make sure you read about the best places to stay in Edinburgh!
#2 Chester Zoo
Chester zoo is one of the best zoos in the UK. On the site, optimal animal conditions have been created – from a rain jungle for elephants to a vast indoor hangar for primates.
The zoo is home to more than 27000 animals, about 400 species. They live free here in a natural habitat.
For the conservation of endangered species was created a special program. Here you can see black rhinos, painted dogs, Asian elephants, Sumatran orangutans, and birds ─ Malayan Kalao, crowned cranes, etc.
#3 Paignton Zoo
Paignton zoo is one of the best zoos in England and the best zoo in Devon. It was founded in 1923 by millionaire Herbert Whitley. The Wild Planet Trust, a wildlife conservation and education charity, own it. Since 2001, the park has been reconstructed, and now the entire infrastructure of the zoo meets European standards.
On an area of 32.5 hectares, 2.5 thousand animals live in natural conditions, divided by habitat zones. Endangered black rhinos, ostriches, and cheetahs live in the Savannah; various birds live in the Desert House; gibbons, lions, Sumatran tigers, etc., live in the forest thicket. Red pandas, baboons, a giant tortoise and many others live in the Primley zone.
#4 ZSL London Zoo
London Zoo is one of the best zoos in the UK and the biggest zoo in London. It was founded for scientific research and only later opened to the public.
ZSL London zoo is the world’s oldest scientific zoo. About 17000 incredible animals of 755 species make up the largest British zoological collection. The first African hippopotamus and elephant were brought in England to this zoo.
The territory of one of the oldest zoos in the world is divided into habitats of different representatives of the fauna. Also, it has the best reptile zoo UK, namely, a reptile house with the largest lizard in the world! Here you will find western lowland gorillas, the huge penguin pool and the home of the monitor lizard from Komodo Island, a butterfly forest, and an insect house. Note the zoo offers free adult tickets for special holidays.
#5 ZSL Whipsnade Zoo
ZSL Whipsnade Zoo is located next to Dunstable, Bedfordshire. Whipsnade Zoo is the biggest zoo in the UK. It is formerly known as Whipsnade Wild Animal Park. The Zoological Society of London owns this zoo. ZSL is a charity organization committed to the worldwide conservation of animals and their habitats.
Make sure to dedicate at least half a day to the visit. Here you can see an endangered red panda, wild horses, and even an aquarium with sea creatures. You can move around the territory of Whipsnade Zoo between the paddocks by car or by the narrow-gauge railway ─ Jumbo Express.
#6 Longleat safari park
Longleat safari park was opened in 1966 and became the world’s first safari park outside of Africa. It is located on the territory of the historic estate of Longleat. During a trip through the park, tourists are invited to observe the natural behaviour of such wild individuals as wolves, lions, giraffes, white rhinos, zebras, leopards, and tigers.
Longleat safari theme park is home to 500 species of animals – giant otters, Cuban crocodiles, porcupines, cockatoos, iguanas, armadillos, cheeky monkeys, etc.
In the best safari park UK, you can test your orienteering skills in the UK’s largest hedge maze of sheared yew trees.
#7 Welsh Mountain Zoo, Colwy
Welsh mountain zoo is a wonderful zoological garden near Colwyn Bay in Conwy, Wales. Wildlife lover and naturalist Robert Jackson opened the zoo on May 18, 1963. The zoo covers an area of 37 acres. It hosts sea lions, otters, snow leopards, owls, chimps, flamingos, and many more. Additionally, the conservating zoo provides fantastic views of the area. Due to the steep hills, it is not very convenient to visit the zoo with toddlers, but if you have older children, it is a great place to spend the whole day. Don’t worry about the food, it has a nice café onsite.
#8 Colchester Zoo
Colchester zoo is one of the top zoos in the UK. It is the best in Europe. The animals at the zoo are treated well and have good homes. The zoo staff make sure to create the appropriate conditions for each animal based on its needs and wishes. After all, when the animals are happy, it is pleasant to watch them.
Colchester Zoo is in the southeast of England. It was founded in 1963 on 24 hectares of land with hills, ponds and thickets, and 250 species of animals.
Rare and endangered species of animals live in Colchester Zoo. Among them are white rhinos, Amur tigers, anteaters and even spider monkeys. The pride of the Colchester Zoo is its 24m long underwater tunnel, one of the largest in Europe! The zoo has a lot of land and marine animals (sea lions, penguins, turtles).
#9 Howletts wild animal park
Howletts Wild Animal Park is the best zoo near London. In 1957 it was a private zoo founded by John Aspinall, an animal fan, and only in 1975 it open to the public.
Howletts wildlife park is known for breeding rare and endangered species. It has been owned by The John Aspinall Foundation since 1984. John Aspinall was buried in the park near the main entrance to the family mansion, opposite the corral with bison. Next to the grave is a memorial with a mention of the zoo’s founder.
The zoo is home to the largest breeding herd of African elephants in the UK. It also contains one of the world’s largest populations of the lion-tailed macaque. But the park rightfully received its celebrity for the world’s largest family group of western plains gorillas.
#10 Marwell Zoo
Marwell animal park, a good zoo in the UK, hosts lots of exotic and endangered animals. The territory of Marwell zoo covers 140 acres of beautiful land and is owned by the global conservation charity Marwell Wildlife.
The tropical house of Marwell zoo has many beautiful birds and butterflies. You can see adorable snow leopards, red pandas, white rhinos, Rothchild’s giraffes, and Amur tigers. The zoo also has an interesting Lego dinosaur model display which is especially loved by kids. For the convenience of visitors, there is a small tractor train, which has an additional cost, but the money goes for animals’ care.
#11 Yorkshire Wildlife Park
Yorkshire wildlife park is a unique wildlife park that opened in 2009 in South Yorkshire. This popular zoo was founded as a centre for protecting animals and animal welfare from conserving biodiversity. It is one of the best zoos in Yorkshire.
Yorkshire wildlife park has more than 400 animals (about 70 species) of the most amazing animals on the planet. Here you can see polar bears, lemurs, giraffes, tigers, etc. The cherry on the pie for kids is a great Dino Park! Educational courses for children, and great animal shows, are held here.
#12 Cotswold wildlife park
The Cotswold Wildlife Park is one of England’s most popular wildlife parks with natural beauty.
The park is divided into four climatic zones representing certain habitat conditions. During its existence in the nature reserve, it was possible to collect and preserve a huge collection of endangered plants and animals. There are more than 200 species of animals, more than 130 species of birds and several thousand plants in the park. Therefore, the entire territory is called Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens Burford.
For the convenience of visiting the park, a light train is provided, which slowly moves along the monorail and allows you to see everything to the maximum. The fauna here is collected from all over the world and is replete with exotic species. There are many herbivores in the park, such as giraffes and camels.
#13 Belfast Zoo
Belfast zoo is located on the northeastern slope of Mount Cavehill, which offers an incredible view of the city.
The total area of Belfast Zoo is 22 hectares. About 300,000 visitors, both locals and tourists, come to the zoo every year. The area has steep hills, so make sure to take comfortable shoes. In 2011, a cub of the southern pudu was born here – the tiniest deer, up to 43 cm tall and weighing up to 13 kg. There are four such deer in Belfast. At the moment, only 70 pudu are kept in zoos around the world.
#14 Port Lympne Reserve
Port Lympne Reserve is located in Hythe, a wildlife sanctuary with a safari-themed hotel complex. The reserve is divided into two sections: a park safari for truck rides in such zones as “Africa”, “Asia”, and “South America”; and a park with enclosures for hiking.
The park’s collection includes such animals as Siberian tigers, Malayan tapirs, African hunting dogs, giraffes, etc. You can visit the gorillarium (“Monkey Palace”) and the “Forest of Dinosaurs”, where the exhibits of the latter are collected in full size. Also, there is a souvenir shop with amazing things and different cafes which offer snacks and drinks.
#15 Dudley Zoo
Dudley zoo is one of the most interesting zoos in the UK. It is located next to the ruins of 11th-century Dudley Castle. The zoo hosts many endangered animals, exotic creatures, big cats, and a reptile house. The hill can be reached by cable car or train. Both are included in the entrance price. Besides the great variety of animals, there is a fun activity called a ghost walk. You can be part of the group for a small tour where you will hear ghost stories about the castle. If you visit the zoo in good weather, there are plenty of nice places for a picnic for all the family.
#16 Folly Farm Adventure Park and Zoo
Folly Farm Adventure Park is considered the best family holiday destination in the UK for many people. Founded in 1988 by farmer Glyn Williams and his wife, Ann. A little later, their children joined the development of the zoo. The family is actively involved in the park’s development and sets high educational and entertainment goals.
A tour of the farm will be not only interesting but also very informative. On site, you can study in detail a combine harvester, a tractor and a milking system for cows. In the zoo, you can meet friendly farmyard animals such as donkeys, sheep, pigs, horses, chickens and many others.
Folly Farm Adventure Park is fun for the whole family, both indoors and outdoor play areas. For children, there is a huge indoor children’s attraction, its own racetrack. Pirate Park invites all fans to dream up. This attraction is for you if you want to be the old pirate Jolly Roger. There is Dragon Park with slides, swings, and funny carousels for the youngest visitors.
#17 Blair Drummond Safari Park, Stirling
Blair Drummond Safari Park is located near the city of Stirling and is the only place in the country where you can see elephants and giraffes. Many animals from Asia and Africa live on its territory, including rare endangered species.
The Safari Park was built in 1970 and currently occupies an area of 49 hectares. It consists of 3 animal reserves and 2 children’s recreation areas with various attractions. In addition to wild animals, you can also see farm animals such as goats, sheep, llamas, Vietnamese pigs and miniature wallabies in the park.
Best Zoos in the UK – FAQs
The UK’s largest zoo, Whipsnade, is located on 243 hectares of beautiful parkland in the Chiltern Hills, north of London. More than 2,500 animals live here, many of which are endangered in the wild.
Chester Zoo, the best zoo in the UK, is located on Moston Rd, Upton, in Chester. There are unique botanical gardens with 500 species and more than 15,000 individuals of the most exotic and endangered animals.
London Zoo is considered one of the oldest and most visited in the world. The area of the zoo is more than 146,000 square meters. It has over 16,800 animals of 755 different species. It is also the first zoo in the world that is engaged in scientific activities.
Whipsnade Zoo, the biggest zoo in England, is located in Dunstable, Bedfordshire. It covers an area of 600 acres and is home to more than 3,500 animals. The zoo is divided into several geographical zones, each containing different wildlife. It also has several interactive attractions for visitors.
There are 8 great safari parks in the UK. The first safari park appeared in Wiltshire after World War II. So, it is not necessary to travel to Africa to see wild exotic animals. You can have this experience in the UK.
Longleat Safari Park is one of the most famous safari parks in Britain. It is the first safari park outside of Africa, which offered the opportunity to go on a car safari; opened in 1966 in Wiltshire.
Discover the Best of Europe
Sylvie Simpson is the founder of European Cities with Kids. For the past 6 years, she has been travelling all over Europe whenever she has the chance, both solo, for work and with her daughter. Sylvie is on a mission to help people make the most of city breaks in Europe with kids and helps over 50,000 readers per month plan and make the most of their trips in Europe with kids.