Few zoos can boast the impeccable pedigree of the Zoological Society of London’s pride and joy. The Tower of London’s menagerie was transferred here, at the northern edge of Regent’s Park, shortly after the zoo opened in 1828. It’s now home to a staggering range of creatures furred, feathered and flippered, from the mighty Asiatic lion to Dolly, Polly and Priscilla, its magnificent trio of Galapagos tortoises. There’s important breeding and conservation work behind the scenes at this scientific institution, of course. But a visit here is all about the simple delight of seeing animals from far and wide. Watch tigers and gorillas go about their daily business, test your mettle with creepy crawlies and take a walk on the wild side with playful lemurs.
Step inside this tropical haven for a close-up look at the denizens of the rainforest. Spot exotic animals amid the foliage: an upside-down sloth savouring a languid breakfast, say, or the rushed scuttle of a hairy armadillo. A nightlife area keeps light-shy animals like the mysterious aye-aye happy.
The regal felines have been given five times more space to roam in this new enclosure, opened with much fanfare in 2016. To highlight modern conservation challenges in India’s Gir Forest, it’s designed like a village, complete with a train station, crumbling temple and street food stalls. Join the rangers and vet team on interactive adventures, or book a night within roaring distance at the Lion Lodges.
Waddle along to this South America-inspired pool for the flipping fast aquatic antics of a colony of Humboldt penguins. Catch the feeding times at 11.30am, 1.30pm and 4.30pm and watch them zoom through the turquoise waters, or learn more about the zoo’s breeding programme.
Pick up picnic essentials from acclaimed Middle Eastern café Honey & Co’s cheery deli. A rainbow’s worth of salads, dips and casseroles is laid out on the counter to take away from noon. Make space for a treat or two from the cake selection – they’re worth the indulgence.
This Fitzrovia bakery does magical things with Charentes butter, Valrhona chocolate and flour from Normandy. Drop in after your zoological adventure for a well-deserved snack: salted chocolate cookies, plump mango tarts or a perfectly caramelised kouign amann.
This rustic-chic spot serves hearty brunches from 9am every day. You’ll find quinoa porridge alongside shakshuka and ricotta-topped pancakes on the menu – just the thing for hungry zoologists about to hit the trails.
The London Zoo opens every day at 10am, except Christmas Day. Closing time is 6pm from 31 March to 1 September, 5pm from 2 September to 26 October, 4pm in winter. Last entry is an hour before closing time.
On the northern edge of Regent’s Park, London Zoo is easily accessible from the Tube. Camden Town, a 15-minute walk away, is the nearest station. Baker Street and Regent’s Park stations, on the other side of the park, make for a scenic walk.
Tickets are around £30 for over-16s (£27 with a concession), £19.50 for children. Under-3s get in free. Book online for a ten per cent discount.
Book online for fast-track entry and arrive early to enjoy the exhibits and morning feeding sessions. Overnight stays at Lion Lodges are pricey, but include three blissful after-hours tours without the crowds.
Book well ahead for a chance to experience the zoo without the pitter patter of little feet. These festive adults-only evenings feature live acoustic gigs, street food vendors and a round or two of crazy golf.
Lions and tigers and bears are all very well, but there’s local wildlife in London, too. Liven up the school holidays with these hands-on afternoons spent pond dipping and hunting for critters in the zoo’s pockets of wilderness.
From Charles Darwin to a certain bear called Winnie, London Zoo has played host to a menagerie of memorable characters. Uncover its hallowed history with these weekend guided tours through listed buildings and more.
Some fun activities for families if you're coming to London with your kids.
Discover London as you’ve never seen it before from the top of the London Eye.
Grab a fancy sandwich at Kerb's market during the day and dance the night away at Camden's electric gig venues.
Image credits: © Adobe Stock; © Adobe Stock; © ZSL London Zoo; © ZSL London Zoo; © ZSL London Zoo; © Patricia Niven; © Miel Bakery; © Greenberry Café; © ZSL London Zoo; © ZSL London Zoo; © Zoological Society of London; © London Eye; © Getty