Berlin’s Zoologischer Garten is the oldest zoo in Germany. Despite its location right in the heart of the city, the zoo thrills visitors with an amazing amount of popular animals, from giant pandas and polar bears to silverback gorillas and Canadian wolves.
The zoo occupies the southwest portion of the Tiergarten, a large public park in the center of Berlin and is easily accessible from the nearby Zoo Station, a transportation hub with direct access to local trains, the U-Bahn and a bus terminal.
Building the Zoo
The idea for the zoo was the brainchild of Alexander von Humboldt and German-born African explorer and zoologist Martin Hinrich Lichtenstein. In 1841 Lichtenstein convinced King Frederick William IV to donate exotic animals from his menagerie on the Pfaueninsel (Peacock Island) to create a public zoo.
The new zoo, which opened to the public in 1844, was designed by landscape architect Peter Joseph Lenné (who also designed the Tiergarten and Sanssouci Park).
The zoo’s population increased rapidly and literally thousands of animals had taken up residence there by the early to mid 1900s and the zoo was a popular attraction for those visiting the city, but after the destruction caused by the Second World War, less than one hundred animals remained.
The Zoo Today
These days, as you enter the Zoologischer Garten through its Elephant or Lion Gates, you’ll be treated to more than 17,000 animals representing about 1,500 species, making the Berlin zoo one of the world’s largest. Cages are rare. Most animals roam free in re-creations of their natural habitats.
Pandas and more
The pandas are the most popular residents of the Berlin Zoo, attracting an amazing amount of attention from local media whenever they hit a landmark birthday or other occasion. The polar bears were also very popular when Knut – a polar bear cub rejected by its mother – was fed by one of the zookeepers. Among the other well known species in the zoo are wolves, gorillas, elephants, seals, zebras, rhinoceros, lions, orangutans, giraffes and okapis.
The Birdhouse is one of the most modern in Europe, boasting more than five hundred species of birds, many of them quite rare. And kids love the Children’s Zoo, where they can pet the animals, as well as the on-site playground, providing lots of room to run around after a long day of sightseeing.
There’s also an excellent aquarium at the zoo. The aquarium, which opened in 1913, is one of the largest in Germany. Here you’ll find not only 250 tanks with fish but also insects, amphibians, and reptiles. Some of the most popular attractions include the Shark tank and the Crocodile hall.
The zoo has two entrances. One is situated at the Hardenbergerplatz and is known as the Lion Gate since it is flanked by two small buildings with statues of couchant lions. The other entrance, at Budapester Straße 34, is flanked by statues of elephants, appropriately known as the Elephant Gate.
The aquarium can be accessed from inside the zoo if you have a combo ticket, but there’s also a separate entrance at Budapester Straße 32.