Check out our top 10 zoos in the UK and Ireland

By Kingfisher Visitor Guides

There’s no shortage of zoos in the UK, with plenty of opportunities to hang out with the animal kingdom. But which ones are the best? We have selected the 10 that we feel are a cut above the rest, from Dublin to Devon. Each has its own unique stand-out point and each provides good value for money, as well as being a great day out for the whole family.

Dublin Zoo, Dublin

Located in the Phoenix Park in the heart of Dublin city, Dublin Zoo is Ireland’s most popular family attraction, and welcomed over one million visitors last year. As one of the world’s oldest, yet popular zoos, the 28-hectare park in the heart of Dublin is home to some 400 animals in safe environment where education and conservation combine for an exciting and unforgettable experience.

The Zoo is also a registered charity – your visit will help maintain Dublin Zoo to a high standard, improve the zoo and contribute to conservation programmes.

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Red panda sitting in a tree at Dublin Zoo

See if you can spot the illusive red pandas at Dublin Zoo

Chester Zoo, Chester

It is one of the top zoos in the world and a leader in conservation of rare and endangered species. So visitors should set aside a whole day to visit Chester Zoo’s 20,000-plus animals from 500 different species, set in 128 acres of parkland, including black rhinos, giraffes, elephants, lions, tigers, reptiles, birds and bats.

Daily talks by keepers, animals being fed, and children’s faces painted as lions or tigers are just some of the things you can expect. Plus, you’re able to feel like you’re on the exotic islands of the Philippines and Sulawesi as you explore the amazing tropical environments of the Islands at Chester Zoo.

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Chester Zoo

Stevie the chimpanzee at Chester Zoo

Yorkshire Wildlife Park, Doncaster

Built on a former riding school and farm, Yorkshire Wildlife Park opened its doors in 2009. A centre for conservation and welfare, the park has more than 400 animals including over 60 different species – it’s a great place to experience a magnificent wildlife adventure! Most of the animals you will discover here are endangered or threatened in the wild.

If you work up an appetite wandering the park, take your pick from the fantastic themed restaurants. The Monkey Playhouse and Jungle Lookout are sure to keep the little ones happy too!

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Polar bear standing on grass at Yorkshire Wildlife Park

Yorkshire Wildlife Park is home to the largest collection of polar bears in England

Edinburgh Zoo, Edinburgh

Established more than a century ago, Edinburgh Zoo is set in 82 acres of sloping parkland and is situated three miles to the west of Edinburgh city centre. It is home to over 2,500 rare and endangered animals, including chimpanzees, sun bears, Indian Rhinos and the UK’s only koalas. The zoo is also home to a famous celebrity penguin, Sir Nils Olav, who was knighted by the Norwegian King in 2008.

You can experience a busy programme of educational events and activities from keeper talks to hands-on animal encounters and a famous daily penguin parade. There is also a wide-range of eating experiences, several play areas and a fantastic gift shop.

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Group of four penguins walking in a line at Edinburgh Zoo

Watch the daily penguin parade at Edinburgh Zoo

Paington Zoo, Devon

Paignton Zoo offers a glimpse into the life of the world’s most impressive creatures from gorillas to giraffes and cheetahs and lions. The zoo works to help preserve wildlife heritage and protect animals from extinction so you’ll also find endangered species in the nature reserve. There are plenty of dedicated clubs and activities too so that kids can learn all about the animals – and have fun in the process!

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Green and white chameleon on a branch amongst leaves at Paignton Zoo

Watch the chameleon camouflage itself at Paignton Zoo

ZSL London Zoo, London

Meet tigers, giraffes, lions, meerkats, monkeys and more at this impressive zoo. There are daily events such as live demonstrations, llama feedings, and specially created nature trails around the grounds, not to mention plenty of talks where zookeepers reveal how they look after the animals. ZSL London Zoo also hosts plenty of exciting events from its popular Zoo Late summer nights to seasonal offerings during the school holiday dates.

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Watch how the animals are fed at ZSL London Zoo

Watch how the animals are fed at ZSL London Zoo

Whipsnade Zoo, Bedfordshire

The UK’s largest zoo is set in a beautiful 600 acres, featuring over 2,500 animals, many of which are jumbo size, such as the elephants, rhinos, tigers, African lions, brown bears, zebras, moose and hippos. It’s also got the UK’s largest herd of Asian elephants, which you can watch getting taken for a stroll around the zoo most afternoons. Don’t miss out on the steam railway, which offers great views of many of the animals.

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Three asian small-clawed otters in a row on a log at Whipsnade Zoo

See the Asian small-clawed otters Whipsnade Zoo

Twycross Zoo, Leicestershire

Twycross Zoo started life as a pet shop in Sutton Coldfield in 1963. Today it occupies more than 80 acres at its site in Twycross, West Leicestershire. Bring the brood here to see more than 500 animals from around 100 different species, including mammals, primates, birds and reptiles.

The zoo is a registered charity, caring for a number of endangered species. It’s also a specialist primate centre that’s home to all four species of great ape: gorillas, orangutans, chimpanzees and bonobos.

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Enjoy a day out with the family at Twycross Zoo in Leicester

Enjoy a day out with the family at Twycross Zoo in Leicester

Belfast Zoo, Belfast

Belfast Zoo is home to more than 140 species of animal, many of which are in danger in their natural habitat. As one of the oldest visitor attractions in Northern Ireland, many visitors have fond memories of visiting the gardens, which have been home to the animals since 1934.

Belfast Zoo is now a leading and award-winning visitor attraction in Northern Ireland, with more than 300,000 visitors each year. Popular attractions include the Asian elephants, Rothschild’s giraffes, California sea lions, penguins, apes, Malayan tapirs, giant anteater, Malayan sun bears, Visayan warty pigs, Goodfellow’s tree kangaroo, red-backed bearded sakis, crowned sifaka and Sumatran tigers.

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Giraffes feeding at Belfast Zoo

Watch the firaffes feeding at Belfast Zoo

Marwell Zoo, Hampshire

This 140-acre park near Winchester is home to hundreds of exotic and endangered species, ranging from ring-tailed coatis to majestic giraffes, endangered tigers to frilled lizards, curious meerkats to pygmy hippos all set in beautiful, landscaped surroundings. Marwell Zoo has opened Wild Explorers, their biggest exhibit to date, hosting some of Africa’s most spectacular wildlife.

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Monkey standing on a tree stump at Marwell Zoo

Spot the cutest monkeys at Marwell Zoo

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Image credits: ©Chester Zoo; Kieran Robinson/Twycross Zoo; RZSS Edinburgh Zoo; ZSL London Zoo

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