I’m not a huge fan of zoos to be completely honest with you. I’ve seen some dire ones, ones that I would like to see closed down, ones that have in fact closed down since I visited them. But Prague ZOO is on a completely different level.
Last year it has been voted one of the TOP 5 ZOOS IN THE WORLD and rightly so. The zoo opened in 1931 and has has gone through so many transformations since. They are constantly bettering the living conditions for their animals and improving the educational opportunities for the visitors. Now the zoo houses over 680 species of animals from elephants to earthworms and has got one of Europe’s largest wild animal enclosures in the form of an Indonesian Jungle. But the truth is that even if a zoo is bloody amazing, it’s just another zoo. So why do I think Prague ZOO is better than any other zoo I’ve visited?
Why you need to visit Prague ZOO when in Prague?
Outside of Prague but still in the centre
One of the greatest advantages of Prague ZOO is the accessibility from the centre. It’s situated in the quarter called Troja and when you get there you think you must be outside of the city completely. There are large trees and greenery a the whole zoo sits above the capital with the best possible views. The zoo is engulfed in greenery and sometimes you even feel like you’re on some sort of a hike rather than in the city. The whole complex is so large that I recommend dedicating this trip a full day if not two – there’s so much to see and if you want to take part in various educational events such as feeding of the animals then you definitely need more time. All this is just mere 15 minutes by tram/bus from the very city centre.
Bigger than life
There are so many animals you won’t be able to remember them all. Even if you get to see them all. And the thing that will baffle you the most is the sheer size of the enclosures. Back in the early 2000’s Prague was hit by a terrible flooding which didn’t spare anyone, not even the zoo. It was a horrible tragedy because many animals drowned and the zoo was absolutely devastated. This however gave them the opportunity to rethink their goals and the structural side of the zoo. With all the donations they received they were able to increase the size of some enclosures and to this day they are still working on enlarging certain areas. For example the African animals such as giraffes and elephants now have such a huge enclosure that you could easily fit another smaller zoo in there!
Up in the sky
Because of the insane size of the zoo which stretches from the bottom of a hill all the way to the top, they built a little chairlift that hangs above it. It costs something like a pound to go up on it and it’s not terribly fancy (I assume it’s actually quite dated as the seats are just little discs that you sit on with very little security features. I’m a chicken so I didn’t go but even small children seemed to love it so I’m sure it has its charm for many!). If you don’t fancy the chairlift then you can walk up to the highest point of the zoo and admire the breath-taking views of Prague.
There are dozens of little kiosks scattered around the zoo with fairly affordable snacks and lunch options. Of course, you’ll find a few bigger restaurants there too. But there’s a certain charm about walking around the zoo with a pint and a hot dog in your hand. I feel like this is something that might not work in every country because people might end up feeding the hot dogs to the penguins. But there seems to be a decent common sense amongst Czech people and I haven’t seen a single person abusing this liberty. The pint is about £1 and so is the hot dog. Or when it’s sunny you can get an ice cream for another quid. Quite alright, isn’t it?
The zoo takes into consideration that it might attract not just Czech people but also visitors from further afar. That’s why pretty much all the information boards are written in Czech and English, sometimes even in Russian. You can even read funny stories about the gorillas, including all their names, their most characteristic traits and even about their background. You can even find all the information translated on the official website which is quite snazzy to say the least. Have a look here!
Another thing you’ll definitely enjoy are the special events that take place in the zoo. One of them is a photography excursion where a professional animal photographer takes a walk with you through the zoo and reveals tips and tricks on how to take the most beautiful photos of wild animals. You can also experience what it is like to be a zoo keeper. Feed the camels or even have a wedding in the zoo (for laughable £400), how insane is that?!
But – animals first
I’ve already mentioned that the African savannah is absolutely insane and huge. But it’s definitely not the only enclosure that will take you aback. The Chambal – pavillion of crocodiles and alligators is also pretty special. We watched tortoise riding their back and fish swimming around like it was no big deal. The zoo has obviously created as natural habitat as possible for these animals, mixing and matching them as if they were in the real wilderness. The Indonesian jungle is just incredible. It’s a huge dome that you enter and you’re surrounded by flora of Indonesia complete with a waterfall and heart-stopping humidity. Amongst all the lianas and orchids you can spot colourful birds, monkeys as well as various insect. They have similar domes built around the zoo for various species and habitats. A lot of them are for monkeys and birds.
I admit that it’s still a zoo and some people are rightly against the concept of these. But if you were to visit one zoo in the Czech Republic then please visit and support the one in Prague. It’s built on tradition and eduction. They really do try their best to find a compromise between educating visitors. And giving these animals the best possible life. Once or twice a year you’ll be able to visit the zoo for free (on these days they simply wave the entry fees completely to make the zoo accessible for the less fortunate). But I do urge you to pay the entrance fee (it’s less than £8 per person) as the money goes back into the animal care and the development of their enclosures.
Have you ever been to the Prague ZOO?
What was your favourite part about it?