The ZSL London Zoo is a magical place with an awe-inspiring history, the world's oldest scientific zoo. It started life in the 1820s, originally as a collection for scientific study, and eventually opened to the public in 1847. These days it's an internationally respected conservation charity with a vital vision to create a world where wildlife thrives. It's a record breaker in so many ways – home to the first ever reptile house, built in 1849, plus the first public aquarium in the 1850s, the very first insect house in 1881, and the world's first children's zoo in 1938. These days more than one and a half million of us visit London zoo every year.
You could easily spend a day or two exploring this remarkable attraction. If you'd like to base yourself in the local area, why not take a look at our selection of comfy, clean, friendly easyHotels in the Paddington area.
It's a great source of cheap hotels near London Zoo.
History and trivia on the ZSL London Zoo
Charles Darwin visited in 1838 and was astonished by an orangutan. He came back twice, and it's thought the experience inspired his work on evolution.
The Casson Pavilion used to be the elephant house. You can go in at ground level but there's also a creepy secret basement, apparently lined with crumbly old zoo posters. How exciting!
A photo of the Quagga, a kind of zebra, was taken at London Zoo in 1864. It's the only known photo and the animals finally became extinct in 1883.
The aquarium was built in 1921 under the 'Mappin Terraces'. They act as a clever water filtering system, created for the different types of fish - tropical, saltwater, and freshwater – housed in the aquarium. The sea water in the saltwater section originally came from the Bay of Biscay, delivered via barges via Regent's Canal next to the zoo. Later the water was brought in by road from the North Sea.
London Zoo has been home to some internationally famous characters including Winnie the Bear, Guy the Gorilla and Jumbo the elephant. In fact there was no such word as 'jumbo' in the English language before the famous elephant arrived.
During the 1840s the zoo held the first ever dog show, long before Crufts existed. The details of the event are lost in the mists of time, but the exhibit included exotic dogs from around the world. St Bernards from Switzerland stole the show – apparently, their sheer size and fluffiness caused a sensation.
Like many British zoos, London Zoo sent its sea lions away for training during World War One in an attempt to teach them to detect submarines. Luckily by the time they were trained new hydrophone technology had been invented, and they could be sent back home to the zoo.
You might be surprised to see very few of the animals are in cages. It's much more free and easy, with brilliant opportunities to interact with creatures up close and personal, in walk-through enclosures like Meet the Monkeys and Butterfly Paradise.
London zoo is home to at least 700 different species.
Essential information about London Zoo
Here's everything you need to know about the practical side of a visit to London Zoo.
Ticket prices – including a 10% voluntary donation to fund wildlife research:
- ZSL Members and children under 3 years of age – FREE
- Adult £27.00 advanced online price, £30.00 gate price/online booking within 2 days of your visit
- Child aged 3-15 years, or a child with a disability, £17.55 advanced online price, £19.50 gate price/online booking within 2 days of your visit
- Concessions - 65+, student & adult visitor with a disability (free entry for essential carer) £24.30, advanced online price, £27.00 gate price/online booking within 2 days of your visit
Advance online ZSL London Zoo ticket prices are as follows, excluding a voluntary 10% donation:
- Adult £24.54
- Child £15.95
- Concession £22.09
Gate and online price within two days of your visit, excluding a voluntary 10% donation:
- Adult £27.27
- Child £17.73
- Concession £24.54
What to see
There's so much to see at London Zoo.
- Enjoy the amazing tropical heat of the Rainforest Life attraction with its bats and slender loris, two-toed sloths, tamarins and green iguanas – there are guided tours at 2.30pm
- The Reptile House and Aquarium are both packed with strange, weird and wonderful creatures
- The In With the Spiders exhibit is Britain's first ever walk-through spider attraction
- The Land of the Lions reveals the secret life of one of the planet's biggest big cats complete with an old train station and crumbling temples inspired by an Indian village. You can even stay the night at the exclusive Gur Lion Lodge
- The South American coastline has been recreated especially for the penguins, hugely popular birds loved by kids in particular
- Why not Meet the Monkeys? You'll adore the group of black-capped squirrel monkeys, especially since there are no barriers between them and you. The enclosure is a whopper at 1,500 square metres and is designed to mirror the beautiful Bolivian rainforest
- The Tiger Territory houses a couple of critically endangered Sumatran tigers, who have had three cubs since moving in
Feeding times and shows
There's more to do at London Zoo, with fun at feeding times and shows throughout the day:
- Daily Zoo Tour at 10am
- Early Birds feeding time – 11am
- Otter snack time 11.30am
- Penguin Beach Live from 11.30am, 1.30pm and 4.30pm
- Coati Crunch time from 12 noon
- Tiger Time from 12 noon
- Animals in Action from 12 noon
- Megabugs Live from 1pm
- Meet the Keeper from 1.30pm
- Land of the Giants from 2pm
- Super Species Live from 2.15pm and 3.30pm
- Rainforest Live from 2.30pm
- Spiders Live from 3pm
- In With the Lemurs from 3pm
- Camel Chat from 3.15pm
- Giraffe High Tea from 3.30pm
- Porcupine and Coati Feed from 4.30pm
London Zoo opening hours are simple enough, from 10am every day except Christmas Day when it’s totally closed. The closing times vary in the winter so it's best to check the zoo website for winter closing times.
Places to eat near London Zoo
Did you know you can have a picnic at London Zoo? Very cool. They also have snacks at the Aquarium kiosk, the Animal Adventure Cafe near the Animal Adventure children’s zoo and the Terrace Restaurant with its tasty stone-baked pizza, lasagne and curries. But there are also some excellent places to eat around the London Zoo. Here are five of the best:
- Odette's at 130 Regent's Park Road – An intimate vibe with a tasty modern European menu
- Feng Shang Princess at the Southern Star Cumberland Basin - Wonderful Chinese dishes
- Michael Nadra Primrose Hill – Great modern European cuisine at 42 Gloucester Avenue
- Melabes at 221 Kensington High Street, lovely Mediterranean cuisine
- Hubbub Bar and Kitchen at 269 Westferry Road – Situated in a lovely old chapel, serving breakfasts, grills and burgers
Getting to ZSL London Zoo
Here's how to get to London Zoo.
Walking: Grab yourself an A-Z guide or download a London walking app and you'll discover much more of the capital by taking a stroll to London Zoo from any direction.
Underground: The nearest Underground station to ZSL London Zoo is Camden Town, a 10-15 minute walk away. Go out of the station, turn right, cross over the road and walk along Parkway for five minutes-ish and you'll see plenty of signs to the zoo. Alternatively, take a 20-minute walk from Regent’s Park tube, or take the tube to Baker Street then the 274 bus to Ormonde Terrace.
By water bus: The London Waterbus Company runs boats along the Regent's Canal between Camden Lock or Little Venice and the zoo, an extra-fun way to travel.
By bus and overland train: You can take a bus from Euston, the closest mainline railway station. Stop G is where you catch the 253 to Camden High Street, and from there you can either walk or take the 274 bus. You can catch an overland train to London Victoria then take a C2 bus to the zoo, which also stops at Oxford Circus, Great Portland Street and Gloucester Gate.
Train: Your nearest mainline railway station is Euston.
Bicycle: Regent’s Park is full of cycle lanes, which means cycling to the zoo is easy. There’s a bike shed in the car park opposite the main entrance – remember to bring a lock. You can also hire bikes at two docking stations, the first in the car park opposite the main entrance and the other at the Gloucester Slips car park.