The Best Zoos In The World

By: Clarissa Vanner
A smiling zoo administrator standing next to five young children of different multiethnic backgrounds watching giraffes in the park. The man, who is clad in a brown hat, white shirt and brown pants, is pointing his hand towards one of the giraffes in the park. Both the kids and the zoo keeper are standing on a raised wooden platform that has a wire mesh barrier. Some of the kids are looking at the animals in the zoo, while others are looking away. The zoo has several giraffes in view, with one next to the viewing gallery. Getty Images / kali9

Zoos have come a long way over the years. Not only are they a source of entertainment but many have become educational hubs as well as leaders in conservation research. This has led to better run zoos and has made the animal’s welfare the top priority! When creating this list we considered the zoo’s conservation efforts, the visitor experience, as well the variety of species offered. From the United States to Singapore here are the best zoos in the world! 


Henry Doorly Zoo (Nebraska, USA)

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Trip Advisor rated this zoo as the best zoo in the world based on millions of reviews and considering the conservation, research, and experience that visitors have, it is, therefore, no surprise it remains at the top of the list. The Henry Doorly Zoo is not only the best zoo in the world but also the best zoo in the United States. 

Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo is renowned worldwide for its leadership in conservation and research and the remarkable exhibits back these claims up. The largest cat complex in North America, the largest indoor desert in the world, the world’s largest nocturnal exhibit and indoor swamp, and one of the world’s largest indoor rainforests are all located here at this zoo. Visitors love the tide pool touch tank where they can get up close and personal with sea creatures. You may also enjoy walking through the second-largest free-flight aviary in the world! Shows, feedings, education, conservation, and research make this the number one zoo in the world.


Toronto Zoo (Toronto, Canada)

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The Toronto Zoo is the largest zoo in Canada and at 710 acres, it’s one of the largest in the world. Housing more than 16,000 animals, the Toronto Zoo remains dedicated to expanding and creating natural environments for these animals. This zoo is also largely involved in collaborating with other zoos across the world to conserve endangered species and has been largely successful in captive breeding programs and even the re-introduction of many species. 

There are endless amounts of fun to be had but keep in mind there is a lot of walking involved. Animals range from giraffes to gorillas to giant pandas to pavilions full of nocturnal creatures and even a komodo dragon. Additionally, there are also a ton of dining options, picnic areas, kid’s playgrounds, and behind-the-scenes experiences that will enhance your visit.


Basel Zoo (Basel, Switzerland)

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This zoo may not be talked about around the world but Basel Zoo is a must-visit if you are looking to see one of the very best in the world. It also happens to be the most visited attraction in Switzerland with over 1.8 million happy visitors per year. 

The Basel zoo is largely dedicated to its animals, keeping close attention to their diets and behavior. This dedication has led Basel Zoo to become a leader in breeding endangered species such as cheetahs, Indian Rhinos, and okapi. Popular animal exhibits are rhinos, hippos, apes, cheetahs, okapi, and flamingos. There is plenty of open space for the animals, well-kept clean grounds, and the park isn’t too big which means you can easily walk around the entire zoo. This is a great experience for anyone living in or visiting Switzerland!


Korkeasaari Zoo (Helsinki, Finland)

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The Korkeasaari Zoo, located in Helsinki Finland is the country’s largest zoo. What makes this zoo unique, is that it’s located on an island in the Baltic Sea. The island can be reached by a local ferry or bus that runs from May through September.

Guests who visit the Korkeasaari Zoo will be able to see firsthand how the zoo puts the needs of conserving biodiversity first. Their mission is to teach guests the importance of being environmentally friendly and how those changes can affect biodiversity. The zoo also aims to be carbon neutral by the year 2030. You will have the opportunity to observe and learn about a variety of species including Amur tigers, snow leopards, and more all the while being able to take in the luscious green Finnish landscape.


Chester Zoo (Chester, England)

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Chester Zoo is one of the UK’s largest zoos and the most visited wildlife attraction in Britain and just happens to be one of the best zoos in the world! This is in large part due to both the commitment it has made to developing a long-term conservation strategy for animals in Africa and its focus on research and education. The amazing animals, exhibits, and scenery at the zoo only further its popularity. 

The Chester Zoo has put a big focus on giraffes and their closest living relatives, the okapi; both of which are largely endangered. You may even have the chance to see some babies of both species as Chester has been successful in breeding them. 


Smithsonian’s National Zoo (Washington DC, USA)

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This is one of the oldest zoos in America which houses about 1,800 animals and offers free admission. It is part of the Smithsonian Institution which means these animals are not only well taken care of but a lot of research is put into them. The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institution collaborates with other groups on research initiatives such as studying the elephant herpes virus and amphibian conservation. 

Furthermore, about one-fifth of the species here are threatened or endangered and this was, in fact, one of the first zoos to create a scientific research program. Visitors here will come up close with apes, giant pandas, Asian elephants, big cats, and more. This national zoo offers visitors the chance to go behind the scenes in the state-of-the-art elephant barn and it even offers guided tours for an even better experience. This remarkable zoo is open 364 days of the year, is free to get in, and puts a big emphasis on animal welfare. 


Australia Zoo (Queensland, Australia)

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If you ever travel to Australia, don’t miss your chance to visit this zoo. The Australia Zoo, located in Queensland, Australia boasts 1000 acres of wonderful exhibits. The zoo is also a member of the Zoo and Aquarium Association and is owned by Terri Irwin, the widow of the late Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin. Terri Irwin, Bindi Irwin (daughter of Steve and Terri Irwin), and Robert Irwin (Son of Steve and Terri Irwin) have dedicated their efforts to honor Steve by making sure his legacy lives on.

The Irwin family has made sure the Australia Zoo follows Steves’s mission of “Conservation through exciting education”. The Australia Zoo offer’s many hands-on experiences from learning how to safely feed kangaroos and wallabies to encountering wombats, tigers, elephants, and so much more.


Saint Louis Zoo (St Louis, Missouri, U.S.)

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The Saint Louis Zoo is one of the top free attractions in America. With more than 13,000 animals (many of which are endangered and rare) there’s no wonder why many make this a destination to experience again and again. 

Saint Louis Zoo’s mission is to conserve animals and their habitats, and they always put the care and protection of their animals first. You can read more about their mission on the Saint Louis Zoo website. The zoo sees about 3 million visitors per year and guests can wander the 90 acres of animal exhibits, attractions, shopping, and dining — perfect for the whole family!


Edinburgh Zoo (Edinburgh, Scotland)

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This was the first zoo in the world to house and breed penguins along with being the first in Britain to house koalas and giant pandas. The vision of Edinburgh Zoo is to not only cater to tourists but to actively participate in breeding programs of endangered species and promote conservation around the world. 

Furthermore, this impressive zoo also features a state-of-the-art chimpanzee enclosure that has been endorsed by experts such as Jane Goodall. Visitors will want to witness the famous penguin parade when penguins are let out of their enclosure and can walk around as they please with their keepers. Daily presentations and tours are a large part of the visit to this zoo and there is certainly no shortage of animals to look at and things to learn during a day here.


Philadelphia Zoo (Pennsylvania, USA)

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America’s first zoo, Philadelphia Zoo officially opened its gates on July 1, 1874. Today, the zoo allows guests to explore the state-of-the-art exhibits that are designed to simulate the natural environment for its 1,300 animals including many rare and endangered species. This is a very popular attraction in Pennsylvania as more than 1.2 million visitors visit the zoo every year!

The zoo is dedicated to educating its guests about animal and environmental conservation. The zoo even offers a groundbreaking animal exploration trail experience called Zoo360 which is a collection of see-through mesh trails that allows the animals to roam around and above zoo grounds — as you move, the animals move too!


Wellington Zoo (Wellington, New Zealand)

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The Wellington Zoo is New Zealand’s first zoo and has been caring for animals since 1906. The zoo has been a not-for-profit charitable trust since 2003 and is the world’s first Toitū caboNZero certified zoo. This means the zoo works hard to reduce its environmental impact. Read more about that on the Wellington Zoo website.

The zoo is spread over 32 acres and is home to many endangered species that are native to the land. You’ll have the opportunity to see a Sun bear (the smallest bear species), Red Pandas, Brown Capuchins, and beyond. Wellington Zoo is committed to providing its animals with the best care including proper veterinary care, keeper care, and enrichment activities.


Yokohama Zoological Gardens “Zoorasia” (Yokohama, Japan)

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Yokahama Zoo‘s mission is to combine life and harmony with nature. The Zoo is divided into 7 areas; Asian Tropical Forest, Central Asian Highland, Oceanian Grassland, Japanese Countryside, African Tropical Rainforest, and the Amazon Jungle. 

The exhibits are designed to reflect the natural habitat of each species which ensures the animals are placed in the best environment. This also provides an authentic learning experience for you! Further, the zoo is committed to providing environmental education for its guests and puts a big focus on zoological research and wildlife conservation which all play a role in making this one of the best zoos in the world. 


National Zoological Gardens of South Africa (Pretoria, South Africa)

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It may not be the most well-known zoo on this list but the National Zoo in South Africa is a world-respected research facility and famous for its successful breeding programs. The programs are so successful that most of the animals you will see were actually born here! 

You will see many different animals at this zoo. The numbers are quite staggering actually; 3117 specimens of 209 mammal species, 1358 specimens of 202 bird species, 3871 specimens of 190 fish species, 388 specimens of 4 invertebrate species, 309 specimens of 93 reptile species, and 44 specimens of 7 amphibian species. Don’t worry about walking the entire 210 acres because the zoo offers golf carts that you can rent by the hour. If you’re looking for an even better experience you may want to check out the night tours or sleepovers that the zoo offers. 


Tiergarten Schönbrunn (Vienna, Austria)

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Tiergarten Schönbrunn opened in 1752 making it the oldest zoo in the world! Over the past 260 years, the zoo has established itself as a center for species conservation and education. It also happens to be full of amazing architecture as it is located on the grounds of the famous Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, Austria. 

This zoo is home to many firsts, including the first zoo to have an elephant born in captivity and the first natural insemination panda birth in Europe. While taking in the scenic grounds, you will have the chance to see giant pandas, monkeys, penguins, elephants, and so much more. Here they focus on daily animal presentations and feeding displays in order to educate the visitors. They also offer exciting guided tours, backstage access, and nighttime tours. There is plenty to see and do, along with many places to eat and drink, and overall this zoo continues to be one of the best in the world!


Welsh Mountain Zoo (Colwyn Bay, Wales)

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Welsh Mountain Zoo, also known as the National Zoo of Wales was established in 1963 making it the oldest zoo in Wales. This picturesque zoo occupies 37-acres of lavish green landscape and overlooks Colwyn Bay and the Carneddau mountains in North Wales. Because of this landscape, the zoo looks more like a wildlife conservation area rather than your typical zoo. 

To date, more than 8 million guests have visited Welsh Mountain Zoo. You will have the opportunity to witness over 140 species including otters, California sea lions, Humboldt penguins, and more. But above all else, the Welsh Mountain Zoo’s mission is to protect the animals and raise awareness of the world’s impact on wildlife and the environment.


Taronga Zoo (Sydney, Australia)

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Australian native wildlife species, as well as a number of imported animals, make up Taronga Zoo‘s 4, 00 animals. Over the years, the zoo has evolved from an entertainment destination to a mature conservation and education hub. This award-winning zoo believes that we hold a responsibility to protect the world’s precious wildlife and because of this, their team of scientists uses a combination of their existing knowledge as well as new data to determine the most effective conservation actions they need to take. 

Taronga Zoo consistently puts the needs of their animals first. The zoo is open all year long and is only 12 minutes away from Circular Quay by ferry. The ferries depart every 30 minutes and run an all-day hop-on, hop-off service.


Berlin Zoological Garden (Berlin, Germany)

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It is the most popular zoo in Europe and just might have the most comprehensive collection of species in the world with over 20,000 animals represented by 1,500 species. The Berlin Zoo is often celebrated for its successful breeding program of endangered species as well as the reintroduction of species. They are also known for re-creating the animal’s habitats as close as possible to their natural habitats.

The zoo is also famous because of the polar bear Knut who was born into captivity at the zoo, rejected by his mom, and hand-reared by the trainers. You will get to witness the popular animal feedings which include polar bears, orangutans, carnivores, and more. Further, you’ll also get to see many other popular animals such as lions, giraffes, hippos as well as rare deer and pigs! 


San Diego Zoo (California, USA)

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The San Diego Zoo is known around the world for pioneering the concept of cageless, open-air exhibits that help re-create the animal’s natural habitat. In terms of conservation, there may not be a better zoo out there than this one! The San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research is the largest zoo-based multidisciplinary research effort in the world with over 200 scientists carrying out research all over the world. 

The zoo houses over 3,700 animals including Giant Pandas, gorillas, monkeys, elephants, and so much more. This zoo offers a slew of extra experiences for visitors including special morning visits with the pandas as they eat their breakfast, backstage access to trainers and animals, and sunrise walking tours. There are also plenty of dining options, kids’ play areas, shows that will keep you and your family busy! 


Bronx Zoo (New York, USA)

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The Bronx Zoo boasts 265 acres and is the longest metropolitan zoo in the world, housing over 6,000 animals. It also happens to be one of the best zoos in the United States. Since the beginning, the zoo has focused much of its efforts on protecting and breeding endangered species, making it the go-to for orphaned animals in need. 

Recently the Bronx Zoo has been focusing its efforts on making itself more eco-friendly, installing compostable toilets that will help to conserve water. Visitors will find plenty of big animals including giraffes, lions, bears, and tigers along with monkeys, leopards, and much more. There are also plenty of other experiences such as a 4D theatre, camel rides, live shows, animal feedings, and a monorail ride. The zoo’s dedication to breeding programs and the protection of animals combined with the unique experience visitors get here are all reasons why this to be one of the best zoos in the world.


Singapore Zoo (Singapore)

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This highly visited zoo is one of the only zoos in the world to be 100% cage-free. The Singapore Zoo uses a series of moats and glass to enhance both the experience for visitors and to recreate the natural habitats of the animals. This zoo has invested in rescue and conservation efforts to protect wildlife and the late Steve Irwin (aka the Crocodile Hunter) greatly admired them for their work. 

A visit to this zoo is unlike any other in the world. It is the only zoo in the world where you can have breakfast with a group of free-ranging orangutans in their habitat. The lush rainforest setting that surrounds the entire zoo encourages animals such as free-ranging kangaroos and flying foxes to interact with the public. The daily animal feedings and shows are popular amongst visitors and are promoted as learning experiences rather than entertainment shows.