Schönbrunn Zoo: A Day At The World’s Oldest Zoo

We visited Schönbrunn Zoo during our short trip to Vienna back in July 2022. Although we visited the Schönbrunn Palace back in 2018, we didn’t have the chance to include the Zoo in our itinerary back then. But as our trip this year was a short one, we decided that it would be the best opportunity to actually explore the zoo.

We’ve visited other zoos before so we kind of knew what we could expect from Schönbrunn Zoo as well. Plenty of animals and crowds of families enjoying a day outside is definitely the usual picture you can see at places like this. However, it proved to be so much more. Yes, there were a lot of families and tourists. And yes, the list of animals was quite impressive. What we didn’t expect was the rich history in animal species preservation that truly makes the Schönbrunn Zoo so remarkable. From modern enclosures that mimic wildlife environments to the true love with which all zookeepers do their job every day. It is definitely not your regular zoo and nothing in Bulgaria can quite compare to it.

The train
A cafe at Schönbrunn Zoo

Schönbrunn Zoo

Schönbrunn Zoo was built in 1752 – Emperor Franz I Stephan started it as a hobby of his. This makes it the oldest operating zoo in the whole world. Together with the whole palace, it was added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1996. For six consecutive years it received the award for the best zoo in Europe. And with a good reason – in the 1990s the historic, cramped cages made way to spacious, modern habitats tailored to each species. Polar bears can enjoy diving. Rainforest insects and birds live in a humid environment with real thunderstorms. Arctic wolves wander around the forest freely. Today it proudly presents itself as a science-oriented zoo, focusing on the preservation of species and educating people.

“Science-led zoological gardens are enormously important in today’s society. In an increasingly urbanised world, people are coming into contact with nature less and less often. In big cities, a zoo could easily be the only place where people can experience nature. Today more than ever, I see this as the core task that falls to zoological gardens. We inspire people with our animals and that helps to spark their interest in nature and conservation. Of course, I love to watch nature documentaries, but it makes a huge difference if I have the opportunity to experience the animals live with all the senses.”

Stephan Hering-Hagenbeck, Managing Director of Schönbrunn Zoo
Schönbrunn Palace

Before visiting the zoo

Tickets: € 24 for adults/€ 14 for children/free entry for children under 6. Discounts apply if you are in a group of 10 or more people


Free admission with Vienna Pass


How to get here? 

  • By metro: U4 line, Station Hietzing
  • By tram or bus: Trams 10, 52, 60; Busses 51A, 56A, 56B, 58A
  • By car: a public car park at Seckendorff-Gudent-Weg where a limited number of parking spaces are available

Zoo map

Schönbrunn Zoo Map

What animals can you see?

Schönbrunn Zoo is the proud home of more than 8,500 animals from 700 species. It’s impossible to list them all here in this post. Here are the zoo stars based on our own personal opinion:

The Polar bear

The polar bear has become the symbol of the damage to the polar ice caps – the natural habitat to many animal species – because of climate change. Despite the impressive features of these majestic animals (about half a ton in weight and 3m tall), their habitat is very vulnerable to human activities.

You can observe the polar bear in a giant tiered enclosure that includes a central multi-storey dome full of information and displays about the animals and the polar environment. If you are lucky, you can even watch the animal underwater.

Polar bear at Schönbrunn Zoo

African elephants

Despite their size, the African elephants have been listed as vulnerable for at least two decades. It is very hard to protect them due to their nomadic lifestyle. Due to recent endeavours to protect them, the populations seem to bounce back by 4% every year since 2004.

The African elephants have a generous enclosure and house at the Schönbrunn Zoo when compared to most other zoo elephants. You can watch them both in the outside area and inside where they eat.

Elephant at Schönbrunn Zoo

Giant pandas

The zoo’s most popular residents are the giant pandas. Schönbrunn is one of a handful of zoos worldwide lucky enough to be entrusted with a pair of pandas by the People’s Republic of China. And it is the only zoo in Europe with a proven track record of successfully helping this endangered species to breed naturally. After the birth of Fu Long (2007), Fu Hu (2010) and Fu Bao (2013), in 2016 Yang became the first panda in captivity to raise twin cubs without human intervention, causing a global sensation in the process.

Great Panda at Schönbrunn Zoo


The Koala is yet another animal on the vulnerable list nowadays. Despite the efforts to re-populate them in Australia, their numbers are shrinking more and more every year. In an attempt to provide the best possible care for the three koalas at the Schönbrunn Zoo, the zoo has started an eucalypt plantation right in Vienna to provide fresh food for them every day.

Indian Rhinoceros

Sundari(F) and Jange(M), or Beauty and Strong, are the two rhinoceros currently living in Schönbrunn Zoo. Both moved here from Nepal under the blessing of Royal Chitwan National Park, which took care of them ever since their rescue from poachers. The rhinoceros share a similar unfortunate story of their early life. Both became orphans at a young age after poachers killed their mothers.


The building where the giraffes live is a sight worth seeing by itself. The Giraffe Park is great proof that modern architecture works great in combination with baroque and despite its style, the building is energy and heat self-sufficient. In 2016, Giraffe Park received the City of Vienna’s Environmental Award. 


Despite not being the largest cat, lions are best known as the Kings of all animals. Maybe it is due to their lazy lifestyle. Lions spend about 20 hours a day resting and hunt mostly at night and in groups. When we visited Schönbrunn Zoo both lions were resting at the shade.


Though most of the monkeys in Schönbrunn Zoo are in the affenhaus (the monkey house), some other primate species like white-handed gibbons, Barbary macaques and ring-tailed lemurs are outside of it. Originally the building was used for swimming and wading but in 1841 it was rebuilt as the monkey house. Ever since orangutans were moved to the much bigger facility – ORANG.erie in 2009, affenhaus was converted to house six monkey species and some other animals.


We found the sloth enclosure completely by chance. The building from outside did not give us any indication that any animals live there and we were not sure if visitors could actually enter it. Once we saw other people entering, we felt more confident and I am extremely happy that we did!

The sloth is literally above the visitors – there are no borders or glass separators. It was mesmerising how close each visitor could get to the animal and feel its presence.

Arctic Wolves

We came across the arctic wolves just in time for their daily feeding and were fortunate enough to observe it. They are free to roam on a huge area of the forest that surrounds the zoo and you can clearly see how happy that makes them.

Because of the isolation of their native habitat, hunting or habitat destruction are not a threat for the arctic wolves. However, industrial development (mines, roads and pipeline construction) is gradually encroaching on their native territory, and will most likely interfere with food supplies, in the future. The Arctic Wolf is the only subspecies of wolf that is not classified as threatened.

Our impressions

We were greatly impressed by the Schönbrunn Zoo. It might not be the biggest one in the world, but I would definitely suggest having enough time to walk through it all. We easily walked around 10 km while observing the different animals so you will definitely need at least 4 hours for a proper visit.

What amazes me is that probably not a single animal living in Schönbrunn Zoo is here without a reason. There is much much more happening beyond the surface of the entertaining nature of the zoo. The modern living areas for animals are built in a way to mimic their natural habitat. Last but not least, researchers use the animals for preservation efforts and research. The better we understand the animals, the better we can rebuild their home environments. 

If the weather makes taking a stroll between the outdoor sections of the park slightly less appealing, then the numerous animal houses will provide a great place to shelter from the elements: the multi-storey rainforest house,which is home to a rich variety of tropical flora and fauna; the aquarium terrarium, with shimmering fish and fascinating reptiles; the historic monkey house,where death’s head monkeys and red ruffed lemurs roam free; the Polarium, with views of the seals and penguins underwater; the neighbouring Polardom, where visitors can watch polar bears diving below the water’s surface; and the Tirolerhof, where visitors can find out everything they need to know about rare breeds of farm animals.

Overall, we spent a wonderful summer day at the Schönbrunn Zoo and would recommend it to anyone interested in animals. Have you ever visited it? Let me know your impressions in the comments below.

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