The Zurich zoo is a great zoo, with wide variety of animals and a strong focus on natural habitats for them. There are plenty of indoor exhibits, making it fun to visit in all seasons. They have fantastic playgrounds, so fun that it’s sometimes hard to drag the kids off to see the animals. As a parent, I like that even though the zoo is big, it’s still very walkable with interactive elements and play areas for restless kids. I grew up in San Diego and their world famous zoo is so large and hilly that you have to take a bus tour to see it all. But at Zurich zoo, you can easily stroll around and see most of it in a day without collapsing from exhaustion. I feel silly writing this post because if you live in Zurich, you surely have already been to the Zurich zoo more times than you can count. But it deserves a little shout out on this blog, so here goes.
|Address:||Zürichbergstrasse 219, 8044 Zürich, Switzerland|
|Car:||~15 mins from central Zurich|
|Train:||~20 mins from Zurich HB|
|Prices:||Adult CHF 24, Child 6 to 16 CHF 14, children under 6 free
Family ticket CHF 71
|Services:||lockers, stroller accessible and push carts available, mini train across zoo, multiple cafes and picnic areas, multiple playgrounds|
The Zurich Zoo is easily accessible by public transport with Tram 6 going from the main train station directly to the zoo. The zoo entrance is about 400 m east of the tram stop.
There is lots of metered parking near the zoo, along Zurichbergstr. that leads to the zoo and more if you turn right at the zoo and drive toward the Masoala zoo entrance, where there is a big parking lot. On busy weekends, there is overflow parking near the Dolder ice rink and a bus shuttle to the zoo. In this case, there will be detour signs directing you to the open lots.
Planning your visit
The main part of the zoo is rather compact, with the elephant park and Masoala rain park a little searpated from the main area. You can enter and exit the Zoo at the main entrance near the street parking (middle left) or at the Masoala Rain Forest (bottom left). Here is a map of the zoo. Click to access the full map on the zoo website.
There’s no right way to visit the zoo, but here are some tips based on our experience.
Go early. I like to get to the zoo right when it opens before the crowds fill up the park. If your kids aren’t in school, definitely take advantage of the quiet weekday mornings, when toddlers rule the park.
Bring a picnic. There are so many outdoor and indoor picnic areas, many by playgrounds.
Go on rainy, cold days too. There are lots of indoor exhibits – rain forest, monkeys, aquarium, elephants – so you can spend almost the whole day indoors away from the elements.
Go on rainy, cold days too. The zoo is a good option in bad weather because there are lots of indoor exhibits where you can stay dry and warm and still have a good time. The obvious choices are the aquarium (fish, penguins, reptiles, amphibians, birds), the gorilla/monkey house and the Masoala rain forest. You could spend several hours just in these areas. The zoo offers lots of private tours (some in English) and special events. I’m curious about the Night at the Zoo tour – has anyone tried it?
Plan a path that avoids the playgrounds, at first. We love the playgrounds at the zoo! But my kids love them so much that it can be difficult to convince them to see the animals. So I follow path that has us seeing a lot of animals until lunch time, then we settle into the playground for another couple hours before seeing more animals. If you enter through the main entrance, be sure to turn right. If you walk straight, the kids will definitely run into the playground before you see even one animal.
The zoo is stroller accessible and always has alternate routes when you encounter stairs. The zoo is getting so big, they’ve added a little bus train that transports you from the main entrance, to the elephant habitat, to the Masoala rain forest and back. It costs 2.- per person per ride. Under 6 ride free. There is a big booth at the back for wheelchairs and strollers. It runs about every 40 minutes.
In either case, I recommend buying tickets online to avoid the queue on busy days. Sometimes they offer online discounts. Check the website for details.
In 2016, tickets cost 26 CHF / adult, 13 CHF / child, children under 6 free. Family ticket for 2 adults, 2 children – 71 CHF.
If you go more than three times a year, it’s worth it to buy a season pass. Before my kids were school age, I always had a season pass and went almost every week. With the pass, we could spend just an hour or two, visiting a couple of our favorites and playing on the playground. Then back home for a nap. No pressure to see every animal every time we went. I miss those days.
Here are a few of our favorite things. The Zurich Zoo is constantly building and improving. For example, the aquarium, which we loved, is closed for renovation until fall 2016. The far west section with rhinos, otters, etc has been bulldozed and will reopen in 2018 with an Australia exhibit with koalas, among other things. I’ll try to keep this post updated but some exhibits shown here could be gone by the time you read this.
The new elephant habitat certainly lives up to the hype, with much more room for the herd to roam.
The facilities are beautiful, with plenty of viewing areas inside and out, even underwater. My only disappointment was that the presentation by zoo staff was done in Swiss German. I was expecting at least High German, which would be understood by a wider variety of people.
There are picnic tables next to the indoor elephant viewing area – so thoughtful! I used to have to sit uncomfortably on stairs while my kids watched the elephants getting washed.
My kids have spent many happy hours in the gorilla house, staring face to face with the gorillas through the glass. I love going when the babies are born. So sweet! The enclosure is old skool, small and a little sad. But happily, Zurich Zoo is building a new modern habitat for the primates, scheduled to open in 2020.
The tigers are usually sleepy but sometimes they walk right up to the glass and growl. The kids are scared but love it too.
From October to March, the zoo does a Penguin Parade in the afternoons when it’s cold enough, under 10C. This is definitely a fun event.
My kids always enjoy the animal feedings as well, particularly the penguins and seals. You can see the schedule here. They also do camel and pony rides in the afternoons, around 13:30 last time we were there.
The Masoala rain forest is an enclosure, hot (29 C) and humid forest, where animals roam free. You have to be a little patient to see the animals. But it’s fun when they suddenly jump onto a tree right next to you.
There are stairs to an overlook platform above the trees (no elevator, leave strollers below), well worth the climb.
I’ve saved the best for last: the playgrounds. When I had the year pass, a few times we just played and didn’t see any animals. Oh well, the point was for my kids to have a good time, so mission accomplished.
They like best the playground near the Masoala rain forest, with its slides, climbing structures and sand and water play.
They also love the playground below the lion enclosure, with the climbing wall and zip line. The new playground near the main entrance is a climbing paradise. My kids race around the obstacle course, trying to beat each other’s time. There are several other small play areas scattered around the zoo.
There are food stands and cafes scattered throughout the zoo and the prices are typical Swiss prices. If I don’t bring a picnic, we typically eat at the Pantanal self-serve restaurant, which is adjacent to the big playground near the main entrance. They’ve redone the inside, so it has a cosy atmosphere instead of the industrial feel it had ten years ago.