Visiting the best zoo in England is a great idea for a day out. Let us take you through England’s best zoos so you can pick your favourite.
We have some cool animals here in England, all carefully homed and looked after by attentive and caring staff. Zoos in England are a high quality thanks to the laws and general love of animals here. If ever you’re worried about the size of their compounds, or what they’re eating / when they’re sleeping – just ask the staff.
Whatever they’re doing will be for the best for the animal. You don’t need to worry about animal welfare in the best zoos in the UK.
English zoos make sure to give all the animal and nature lovers the best opportunity to experience all the species in their natural habitat. They’re also a great educational opportunity for children to learn more about animals, and animal care. In short, they’re great, and the best UK zoos make for a wonderful day out up and down the country.
It’s hard to choose the best zoo in England, but here are 18 of the most highly rated according to me, my friends and the internet reviews. If any of you manage to visit every zoo in the UK, and have an unbiased opinion as to which one is the best, please do let us know!
18 of the Best Zoos in England
Visit one of the best zoos in the UK and you can expect a good amount of primates, birds, reptiles and mammals to wow you. All the zoos in England will have some sort of play area for toddlers and kids, a cafe or bar, a picnic area to bring your own and a gift shop or two too.
If you’re looking to save money, sign up to the individual zoos’ emailing lists to get notified of special offers, as you can sometimes get some good deals to bring the costs down. Especially in the off season.
1. Regents Park’s Zoo – The London Zoo, London
The London Zoo is one of the oldest zoos in England. It was established in 1828 and is the most ancient scientist zoo in the entire world.
At first, the London Zoo was the main hub for scientists where they could work on scientific studies related to animals and nature. After some time, in about 1874, the London Zoo was then open for the public and tourists to visit nature’s beauty.
London Zoo has the largest collection of different species of animals. There are over 19,000 animals at London Zoo of hundreds of different species.
The Insect House is very popular here, the zoo for children is always a winner and there’s also an aquarium. One of the best parts about visiting London Zoo are all the penguins playing in the pools – so fun to watch them waddling about.
During the summer they run Zoo Lates where you can enjoy a silent disco, and see the animals with more adults around rather than children.
If you want to spend longer than a day at London Zoo, then you can also stay over. These cabins are available year round and you’ll get dinner, breakfast, and an after hours tour of the zoo too.
Book online in advance to receive 10% off standard gate ticket prices and save time on the gate.
Tickets bought online on the day of your visit will be charged at the standard rate (same price as on the gate).
2. Chester Zoo, Cheshire
Chester Zoo is commonly known as the best zoo in England, and the best zoo in the UK. It’s ranked in the list of top zoos in the entire world and is one of the largest British zoos.
Located in Cheshire, Chester Zoo covers about 125 acres of land. There are about 400 species of animals here, and 12,000 to look at. You’ll need a whole day at Chester Zoo to get the best of it, and to see as many of the experiences here as possible.
There are boat trips on the river here so visitors can observe different animals doing their activities. Chester Zoo is so great in fact, it makes our list of the top days out in each of the counties of England.
And it’s set to get even better in 2023!
This coming spring, Chester Zoo is opening a 380-capacity wedding venue as part of an extension to a Grade II listed stable block. Also, over 60 lodges and a new restaurant will be built in the Grasslands zone around an artificial lake. That means you can stay at Chester Zoo for a night or two and wake up to see giraffes at close quarters.
Perhaps best of all for animal lovers, Chester Zoo will soon be unveiling a new snow leopard habitat, which will further cement the zoo’s position as one of the world’s best animal conservation attractions.
It’s hard to choose between the best zoos in the UK, there are so many zoos in England, but we’ve narrowed it down thanks to our community. Everyone’s got their favourite UK zoo, I guess you’ll just have to visit them all to find yours!
3. Whipsnade Zoo, Dunstable, Bedfordshire
Whipsnade Zoo is actually the biggest zoo in England and covers 600 acres of land. Whipsnade is famous for having the largest collection of wildlife of all the zoos in England.
Due to the size of the zoo, visitors can ride around on a bus or via train service. You can also drive around in your car, like on a safari. The African lions are incredible.
Most of the animals in Whipsnade Zoo are considered to be endangered species. At Whipsnade you can see their herd of elephants, a waddle of penguins and a tower of giraffes too. There are also cheetahs and lemurs for you to see, and don’t miss the mesmerising butterfly house there too.
Chinese water deer, Muntjac deer, wallabies and Mara roam freely, and peacock too.
PRE BOOKING FOR WHIPSNADE ZOO IS ESSENTIAL
Try out our BIG Wildlife Quiz here – how many can you score?
4. The Bristol Zoo, Bristol
Bristol Zoo is not as large as the other zoos, covering just 12 acres. But what a beautiful 12 acres it is.
There are around 7000 animals here, from 450 individual species. There are about 50 species of incredible mammal collection, including red pandas, gorillas, and Asiatic lions. Bristol Zoo makes for a strong contender for best city zoo in England for sure!
The zoo consists of a reptile house, an insect house, an aquarium, and a large enclosure for penguins and seals on the outside of the aquarium. In fact, the Bristol aquarium is so good, we’ve decided it’s one of the best aquariums in England.
You’ll also find a range of spiders and gibbons too.
Visiting Bristol Zoo makes for a great afternoon on a day out in Bristol – enjoy!
Map of the best zoos in England
5. Marwell Zoo, Hampshire
Marwell Zoo covers around 140 acres. There are 270 endangered and exotic species here, and about 1200 animals in total. Expect frilled lizards, giraffes and ring-tailed coatis, as well as African wildlife displays.
Marwell Zoo is the biggest zoo in Hampshire with 100s of animals, including tigers & penguins. There are four adventure playgrounds here, as well as a cafe and gift shop. This is the best zoo in England for me, as it’s the closest one to my house!
READ MORE: 19 Brilliant Days Out in Hampshire
6. Colchester Zoo, Essex
Colchester Zoo is built on 60 acres of land, so we could say the zoo is a tiny zoological garden. There are around 270 species and 5000 individual animals here.
“We are proudly listed as the 11th best zoo around the world and in the top 2 zoos in the UK as part of the TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Attractions.” – Colchester Zoo
Colchester Zoo is easily one of the top days out in Essex for all the family. They’ve got Jungle Tumble soft play here, and you can expect to see lots of baby animals at the right time of year too!
It’s definitely one of the best zoos in UK. Click here to book with LovetoVisit.
7. Longleat Safari & Adventure Park, Wiltshire
Longleat Safari and Adventure Park is one of the oldest zoos in England. It stands out as one of the best zoos in England as you can go on safari among the animals and really get up close.
You can feed the animals yourself too.
Longleat is a great activity for a rainy day, as you get to just stay in the car and cruise around. Longleat is known as the UK’s number one safari park. Last time I tried to go here our car broke down just outside the monkey enclosure. God it was awful. We made it out, a few hours later, with a breakdown recovery vehicle. But that won’t happen to you – I hope.
Lions, tigers and monkeys from the comfort of your car seat? This is the England zoo for you!
As the best zoo in the UK, you can drive around tuned into the exclusive audio commentary by Animal Park’s Kate Humble to guide you through the incredible animals, triggered by your location as you drive. How cool is that?
CLICK HERE: 10 Simple Ways to Go Greener on Your Days Out
8. Port Lympne Reserve, Hythe, Kent
I love Port Lympne Reserve. It’s more of a safari experience than a zoo, which makes it feel all the better as a visitor to see the animals in more of a free and natural habitat.
Port Lympne Reserve replicates the African safari experience as much as possible with safari jeeps to take you through enclosures. The staff are super knowledgable and caring, and will tell you all about how the Reserve has linked up with wildlife projects in Africa to mutually support each other.
It’s one of the best safari parks in England for sure.
The Port Lympne Reserve has an incredible hotel you can stay at, and a super fancy restaurant too. There are 13 different room types to stay in here, or you can just visit for the day. Port Lympne Reserve is one of the best days out in Kent.
9. Twycross Zoo, Leicestershire
Twycross Zoo is where I spent my childhood – this was the nearest zoo to my home in Staffordshire growing up. Twycross is a much smaller zoo than some of the ones above, but I couldn’t write a list of the best zoos in England without mentioning it.
On the plus side though, this also means it’s a lot cheaper.
At Twycross Zoo you can expect to see flamingos, snow leopards, meerkats and bonobo monkeys too. There are daily talks, a soft play area and an outdoor playing area to enjoy as well. Lots to do here!
The zoo is an award-winning conservation charity with over 500 animals from 125 different species. Go and check it out to support it!
10. Cotswold Wildlife Park, Burford
The Cotswold Wildlife Park in the Cotswolds is definitely one of my favourite zoos in England. With the stars of the Park Life TV programme in the zoo grounds, you can spend all day wandering around and saying hello to over 260 species of animal. Wow, that figure blows my mind.
I loved the bats here so make sure you don’t miss them out, and the of course, the giraffes are awesome. The best of all the animals. You can enjoy walking through the walkway to get up close to them.
There’s a huge manor house here, and you can enjoy the rhinos grazing in the grounds. It’s pretty special for one of the best British zoos!
11. Shaldon Wildlife Trust, Devon
Shaldown Wildlife Trust is a cute zoo in Devon, very popular with holidaygoers. It’s too small to be considered the BEST zoo in England, but it’s definitely popular among visitors and locals.
There are over 50 species of animals here, including some of the rarest and most endangered animals in the world. They pride themselves on being the little zoo making a big difference!
12. Howletts Wildlife Park, Kent
Do you LOVE elephants?
Howletts Wildlife Park in Kent has loads of them, and you’ll probably end up deciding this is the best zoo in England if you visit.
Visit and you’ll be helping a dedicated animal conservation charity. Your visit will directly help them to protect wildlife in the UK which, in turn, enables them to send animals back to the wild, in conjunction with The Aspinall Foundation. Another reason why it’s one of the top zoos in England and one of the most popular UK zoos too.
You’ll find an Amur tiger here, and Kent’s only anteaters too. Join animal talks, walk with lemurs, and join the treetop adventures. There’s LOADS to enjoy on a day out at Howletts Wildlife Park – there’s 100 acres to explore!
13. Peak Wildlife Park, Stoke on Trent
Peak Wildlife Park is our central England zoo location, near Stoke on Trent. It’s one of the best zoos in the UK thanks to the amazing animal experiences they offer – including a walk with penguins.
Further amazing animal experiences include allowing you to experience what it’s like to be a keeper and to get hands-on experience with animals. You can get up close and personal with your favourite animal. Ask questions, feed animals and get involved!
They have plenty of food available around the park with their speciality pizza being a crowd favourite.
Adult tickets are priced at £14.95 with annual membership available.
14. Blackpool Zoo, Lancashire
In our recent survey of our readers’ top travel trends for 2023 we learned that Blackpool Zoo is one of your favourites. It had a few votes for best British zoo and the best zoo in UK, so we thought we’d add it here to our ultimate list of the best England zoos.
At Blackpool Zoo you can visit the Orangutans, the Lemurs and even see elephants. There are also zebras and lots of penguins, and talks and experiences going on all day to help you understand more about the animals around you. Let us know if you get to see a Bongo!
15. Paignton Zoo, Devon
For another of the best zoos in UK in the south, visit Paignton Zoo in Devon. This UK zoo has over 2000 animals across 80 acres. Visit the charity and you’ll see flamingos, tortoise, turtles, cheetahs and crocodiles, among many, many other animals.
There are plenty of animal experiences you can enjoy while you’re there, including a giraffe experience, a rhino experience and a junior keeper experience too. Don’t miss the Nguru pygmy chameleon here – they’re so cute!
16. Dartmoor Zoo, Plymouth
Dartmoor Zoo is a great choice for a day out, and its claim to fame is that it is the zoo that inspired the movie ‘We Bought A Zoo’ starring Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson, after the real-life story of the previous zoo owner Benjamin Mee. Today the zoo is run by the Dartmoor Zoological Society, and is home to many amazing species.
You can take part in lots of animal experiences at Dartmoor Zoo, such as their Feed The Meerkats experience or their Rangers Academy, or simply visit for a great day out with the family to go animal spotting!
17. Banham Zoological Gardens, Norfolk
Banham Zoological Gardens is home to thousands of animals from all over the globe. With 50+ acres of stunning parkland and gardens, there’s so much to explore on a day out here. There are animals to fascinate every member of the family, with classic British wildlife living next door to exotic species such as Asian leopards, Russian tigers, and much more.
It’s a wonderful day out for kids if you check out their Farm Barn for a close-up encounter with the domestic livestock, and explore the Tropical House with birds swooping around you. There are also plenty of daily feeding talks, presentations, and interactive sessions in the Conservation Education Centre.
Banham Zoological Gardens has some amazing up-close-and-personal animal experiences that you won’t want to miss, including:
- The Giraffe Experience
- The Armadillo Experience
- The Tiger Experience
- The Adult/Junior Keeper Experience
18. Yorkshire Wildlife Park, Doncaster
Yorkshire Wildlife Park is a ‘walkthrough wildlife experience’ with around 475 animals from over 60 different species. Many of the animals you’ll meet at the park are endangered or threatened in the wild, so the zoo supports the Wildlife Foundation which helps vital wildlife and environmental projects around the globe.
From Red Pandas to Bush Dogs to Maned Wolves to Ostriches, there are lots of animals to discover here, and loads of events on each day. Visit one of the ranger talks, animal experiences or feeding time, where you’ll get to see tonnes of amazing species up close and hear about their habitats, food habits, and individual personalities. And if you want something really unique, you can even have afternoon tea at this zoo!
“Yorkshire Wildlife Park is our favourite. It’s worth travelling to from Newcastle (where we live). It’s huge, takes a whole day to see it all and it’s completely wheelchair friendly too with wooden walkways. It’s ideal for my daughter who is a wheelchair user. And flat (unlike Edinburgh which nearly killed us getting up that hill!). There’s a polar bear breeding programme, red pandas (our favourite) – just about everything we need!”– TOP TIP FROM READER, JOSIE HIGHMOOR (FROM NEWCASTLE)
Best zoos in England list
These are the best zoos in England. If you’re looking for a fun activity for the day, zoos are always a popular option. Also, if it’s raining in England, then the zoos are well set up for rainy day activities too.
Don’t miss a chance to visit these beautiful English zoos, and get connected with nature. Which do you think is the best zoo in England?
QUICKLIST OF THE BEST ZOOS IN THE UK
- Regents Park’s Zoo – The London Zoo, London
- Chester Zoo, Cheshire
- Whipsnade Zoo, Dunstable, Bedfordshire
- The Bristol Zoo, Bristol
- Marwell Zoo, Hampshire
- Colchester Zoo, Essex
- Longleat Safari & Adventure Park, Wiltshire
- Port Lympne Reserve, Hythe, Kent
- Twycross Zoo, Leicestershire
- Cotswold Wildlife Park, Burford
- Shaldon Wildlife Trust, Devon
- Howletts Wildlife Park, Kent
- Peak Wildlife Park, Stoke on Trent
- Blackpool Zoo, Lancashire
- Paignton Zoo, Devon
- Dartmoor Zoo, Plymouth
- Banham Zoological Gardens, Norfolk
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