TOP 15 Best Zoos and Wildlife Parks in the UK

TravelMedium.com is supported by its audience, that means when you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. In particular, as an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. We greatly appreciate your support.

In this article, I’ve brought you the best zoos and wildlife parks in the UK. I was born and raised in England, so I’ve visited lots of the UK’s best zoos, wildlife parks and conservation centers.

Now I know what you’re thinking. Zoos around the world have a reputation for being dirty, cruel and unfit for the critters that live in them. And in some places, that’s true.

But in the UK, there are some excellent zoos—lots of them are dedicated to preservation and education, and plenty of them take good care of their animals. That can’t be said about every zoo in the UK, but it’s definitely true for all the zoos in this list.

I’ve separated my list into places in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, so wherever you’ll go in the UK, you can find a great zoo.

Anyway, enough of all that stuff. Here they are: the 15 best zoos and wildlife parks in the UK.

Best Zoos in UK

Best Zoos and Wildlife Parks in England

1. London Zoo

Giraffes at the London Zoo
Giraffes at the London Zoo

Established in 1828, London Zoo was exclusively a scientific facility for its first twenty years, before it opened up to the public.

And although it’s been a long ol’ time since the 1800s, the zoo is still committed to wildlife welfare, housing and protecting lots of endangered creatures and critters. It has more than 20,000 animals, and over 750 different species.

Basically, if you’ve ever wanted to see an animal, you’ll see it at London Zoo.

Some of the zoo’s highlights are the interactive walk-through monkey area, a huge reptile house, and the giraffe zoo keeping experience.

You can also meet penguins, take a wildlife photography class, and get really close to some of the animals. If you like immersive experiences, this is one of the best zoos in the UK. And if you’re in London, you should definitely visit—surprisingly, it’s right in the center of the city.

  • Address: London Zoo, Outer Cir, London, NW1 4RY
  • Entrance Fees: Usually £32.50 for adults and £21 for children. Under-3s are free
  • Parking Fees: £14.50 per vehicle

2. Chester Zoo

African Painted Dog at Chester Zoo
African Painted Dog at Chester Zoo

Close to Liverpool, this is the most-visited zoo in the UK, and loads of people think it’s the best in England.

It has the biggest zoo-based butterfly house in the UK, an interactive fruit bat forest (with hundreds of bats all whizzing around your head!), a walk-through bird center and an excellent Madagascan habitat.

Other highlights at Chester Zoo include the wetland aviary, a parrot breeding center, an aquarium, and a lazy river. Some of the most popular animals include African painted dogs, jaguars, lions, black rhinos, loads of monkeys and macaques, and plenty more. The zoo has more than 35,000 animals in total.

Because it’s such a busy place, it’s a good idea to get here early—they welcome around 2 million visitors a year.

  • Address: Chester Zoo, Chester, CH2 1EU
  • Entrance Fees: Usually £25.45 for adults and £20.90 for children. 2s and under go free
  • Parking Fees: Free

3. Longleat Safari Park

Lions at Longleat Safari Park
Lions at Longleat Safari Park

More of a safari experience than a standard zoo, Longleat offers incredible immersive experiences. Here, lots of animals roam relatively freely—it was the first place in the world to offer safaris outside of Africa.

The most famous attraction here is the drive-through safari. In it, you clamber into a car, and drive through the park, passing deer, wolves, monkeys, tigers, lions, cheetahs, rhinos and much more.

You can even ride your own car around the safari, assuming you don’t want the monkeys to rip your fenders off. You can also wander on-foot among some of the park’s tamer residents, coming close to giraffes, zebras, tortoises, pygmy goats and more.

And when you’re bored of all that, there’s also a jungle cruise. On this cruise, you float along in a riverboat, spotting gorillas, sea lions, hippos and more.

For a proper interactive experience, Longleat is brilliant. It even used to have its own TV show (Animal Park, in case you’re wondering).

  • Address: Longleat Safari Park, Warminster, BA12 7NW
  • Entrance Fees: £34.95 for adults and £26.20 for children. Under-3s are free
  • Parking Fees: Free

4. Flamingo Land

Here’s something a bit different for you—a mega-fun zoo and theme park combo, packed with excellent animals and brilliant thrill rides.

The place is relatively close to Newcastle, where I was brought up, so I used to visit all the time when I was little. I loved it.

At Flamingo Land, you get a wide range of animals, including zebras, warthogs, alpacas, red pandas, lemurs, rhinos, kangaroos, monkeys, tigers, hippos and loads more. Experiences include encounters with giraffes, meerkats and penguins.

The theme park has kids’ rides, family rides and thrill rides, with some of the best rollercoasters in the UK.

It might not be the best zoo in the UK, but it’s massively unique, and it’s loads of fun. If you want an activity-packed family day out, Flamingo Land is brilliant.

  • Address: Flamingo Land, Kirby Misperton, Malton, YO17 6UX
  • Entrance Fees: £37.50 for adults and children (if booked 7 or more days in advance). Kids 3 and under are free
  • Parking Fees: Free

5. Knowsley Safari Park

Rhinos grazing at Knowsley Safari Park
Rhinos grazing at Knowsley Safari Park

Another safari-style park, Knowsley is in northwest England, close to both Manchester and Liverpool.

Just like Longleat, the main attraction here is the safari drive. The longest safari drive in the UK, it clocks in at 5 miles (8km), and features 550 acres of animals. You see lions, rhinos, wildebeest, bison, camels, baboons and loads more. The animals come right up to your car, and they’re separated into 11 different themed zones. Just don’t try to feed them a sandwich.

If you don’t want to drive in your own car, you can take a guided tour in one of the park’s own vehicles.

Knowsley also offers a foot safari, so you can wander close to giraffes, meerkats, wolves, river hogs and more.

Knowsley isn’t quite as good as Longleat, but it’s a great second choice—and it’s much more affordable.

  • Address: Knowsley Safari Park, Prescot, L34 4AN
  • Entrance Fees: £19 for adults, £15 for kids, and free for kids under 3
  • Parking Fees: Free

6. Whipsnade Zoo

An asian elephant in Whipsnade Zoo
An asian elephant in Whipsnade Zoo

The biggest zoo in the UK, Whipsnade is absolutely massive. With 600 acres of land, the animals here live in huge enclosures. So if you want to visit a zoo where the animals are very clearly cared-for, Whipsnade is for you.

Northwest of London, the place is so big that there are public transport routes inside the park. It even offers overnight stays!

You get tigers, zebras, lions, cheetahs, penguins, elephants, chimpanzees, hippos, bears, rhinos and plenty more. In total, there are around 230 different species here, and more than 3,500 animals. The zoo offers interactive meet-the-animals experiences, bringing you close to giraffes, elephants, lions and tigers.

The zoo also has an excellent aquarium, featuring some fish that are now extinct in the wild. Conservation and protection are important ventures here—Whipsnade even helped to conserve the last-ever species of wild horse, breeding them before reintroducing them to China.

  • Address: Whipsnade Zoo, Whipsnade, Dunstable, LU6 2LF
  • Entrance Fees: Usually £30 for adults and £19.50 for children. Under-3s are free
  • Parking Fees: Free

7. Bristol Zoo

Gorilla in Bristol Zoo
Young Low land gorilla looking up to his father a Male silver back Gorilla in Bristol Zoo

Another zoo specializing in care and conservation, the staff at Bristol Zoo have helped to save over 175 species from extinction over a period of nearly 200 years.

Some of their star attractions include lions, gorillas, pythons, aye-ayes, monkeys, dwarf crocodiles, gibbons, gila monsters, armadillos, snakes, squirrel monkeys and plenty more. They don’t offer all the animal giants you might find at other zoos, but they have lots of unique and unusual species.

Interesting fact: they were the second zoo in Europe to house a gorilla!

Bristol Zoo is a great choice if you’re looking for an affordable zoo—the entry fees are pretty low.

  • Address: Bristol Zoo, College Rd, Clifton, Bristol, BS8 3HA
  • Entrance Fees: £17.84 for adults, £12.10 for kids. Children under 2 are free
  • Parking Fees: £4.50 per car

8. Port Lympne Reserve

Port Lympne Safari Park
Group of blue wildebeest in grassland with giraffes in background, Port Lympne Safari Park

Found in Kent, this place is more like a safari than a zoo. But more importantly than that, it’s primarily a conservation site. Here, endangered animals are brought to breed, before being released back into the wild when they’re ready.

The reserve helps to breed monkeys, leopards, gorillas, rhinos, langurs, gibbons and more. And while you’re on-site, you can see them all!

Some of the safaris here are in vehicles, while some are on foot. They have 900 animals and 75 species, all living over 600 acres of land.

If you’re interested in animal protection and conservation, you’ll love this place. Here, you can learn all about the animals, their natural habitats, and what the reserve is doing to save them.

If you want to extend your experience, there’s an excellent on-site 4-star hotel set in 15 acres of landscaped gardens.

  • Address: Port Lympne Reserve, Aldington Rd, Lympne, Hythe, CT21 4LR
  • Entrance Fees: Walking safaris are £22 for adults and £20 for kids. Vehicle safaris require an extra payment, which varies depending on which one you choose
  • Parking Fees: Free

9. Howletts Wildlife Park

Cute Gorilla Babies in Howletts Wildlife Park
Cute gorilla babies in Howletts Wildlife Park

Pretty close to Port Lympne, both Howletts and its neighbor are located in Kent—and they’re both owned by the John Aspinall Foundation.

So (as you’ve probably guessed), this place is also an animal conservation charity. The park is dedicated to protecting animals, restoring them to the wild, and educating visitors about its work and its creatures.

Howletts is most famous for its elephants—they have the biggest herd of African Elephants in the UK. They also have more monkeys, leopards and gorillas than any zoo in England. Animal legend Steve Irwin once visited the park, claiming their gorillas were “the finest in the world.”

Other highlights here include a walk-through lemur enclosure and chances to feed some of the animals. In total, they have around 390 animals spread over 90 acres.

  • Address: Howletts Wildlife Park, Bekesbourne Ln, Bekesbourne, Littlebourne, Canterbury, CT4 5EL
  • Entrance Fees: £23.50 for adults and £20 for kids. Under-3s are free
  • Parking Fees: Free

Best Zoos and Wildlife Parks in Scotland

10. Edinburgh Zoo

Giant Panda Edinburgh Zoo
Female Giant Panda, Tian Tian, Edinburgh Zoo

This is my favorite zoo in the UK—I’ve been loads of times. If you’re only going to visit one zoo in Scotland, Edinburgh Zoo is easily the best choice.

The place is most famous for having the only pandas in the UK—and for having the world’s only knighted penguin. It’s officially called Sir Nils Olav (and, no, I’m not joking).

Other than that, they have 1000 animals spread over 80 acres. The penguin enclosure is massive and very popular, and there are walk-through experiences featuring monkeys and lemurs. Another great experience is Tiger Tracks, a glass viewing tunnel with Sumatran tigers.

Other highlights include lions, porcupines, sun bears, hippos, the only Queensland koalas in the UK, and a ridiculous number of varied monkeys.

And when you’re done in the zoo, make sure you explore Edinburgh—it’s a brilliant city!

  • Address: Edinburgh Zoo, 134 Corstorphine Rd, Corstorphine, Edinburgh, EH12 6TS
  • Entrance Fees: £21.95 for adults, £12.50 for kids. Children under 3 go free
  • Parking Fees: Sometimes £4 per car, sometimes free

11. Blair Drummond Safari Park

Lioness at Blair Drummond Safari Park
Lioness at Blair Drummond Safari Park

Blair Drummond Safari Park is the best of its type in Scotland.

You can explore the park both on foot, and in a vehicle. Animals here include giraffes, African lions, rhinos, macaques, tigers, penguins, camels, deer and African elephants.

Set across 160 acres, some of the animals roam freely, while some are kept in (very big!) enclosures.

Other attractions at Blair Drummond include boat trips to a private chimp island (yes, you have read that right), sea lion presentations and birds of prey displays.

One of the best things about this park is where it’s situated—it sits between Edinburgh, Glasgow and Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park, three of Scotland’s most popular spots.

  • Address: Blair Drummond Safari Park, Blair Drummond, Stirling, FK9 4UR
  • Entrance Fees: £16.50 for adults, £13.50 for kids. Children under 3 go free
  • Parking Fees: Free

12. Highland Wildlife Park

Siberian Tiger in Highland Wildlife Park
Siberian Tiger in Highland Wildlife Park

Located inside the Cairngorms National Park (the biggest national park in the UK!), Highland Wildlife Park is a massively underrated little spot.

It only has around 300 animals, but many of its inhabitants are unusual and rare. Some highlights include snow leopards, red pandas, polar bears, eurasian elks, arctic foxes and amur tigers (siberian tigers). The park specializes in exhibiting animals from tundra and desert regions. They even have a polar bear cub!

Because it’s a pretty small place, Highland Wildlife Park offers intimate experiences, and chances to learn lots about the animals you meet.

While you’re here, make sure you do some hiking in the Cairngorms. One of the best hiking spots in Scotland, it’s packed with excellent waymarked trails.

  • Address: Highland Wildlife Park, Kincraig, Kingussie, PH21 1NL
  • Entrance Fees: £18.50 for adults, £12.50 for kids. Children under 3 go free
  • Parking Fees: £4 per car

Best Zoos and Wildlife Parks in Wales

13. Manor Wildlife Park

The only walking safari in Wales, this place is halfway between a safari and a traditional zoo. Some animals are in enclosures, while others roam freely—but the park is dedicated to giving all animals as much space as safely possible.

Some of the most popular animals here are rhinos, Sumatran tigers, meerkats, zebras, tapirs, monkeys, warty pigs and emus. The park also offers lots of immersive experiences, including activities involving gibbons, wallabies, tigers and red pandas.

The park is owned by Anna Ryder Richardson, a TV presenter from the local area.

While you’re visiting Manor Wildlife Park, make sure you explore the nearby Pembrokeshire coast. Nestled in southwest Wales, it’s one of the most beautiful (and popular!) tourist hotspots in the nation.

  • Address: Manor Wildlife Park, St Florence, Tenby, SA70 8RJ
  • Entrance Fees: £17.95 for adults, £15.95 for kids. Children under 3 go free
  • Parking Fees: Free

14. Welsh Mountain Zoo

Snow Leopard in Welsh Mountain Zoo
Snow Leopard in Welsh Mountain Zoo

The oldest zoo in Wales, this place is set in a beautiful location in the north of the country—it overlooks mountains, and the shores of Colwyn Bay.

They have over 140 species, including snow leopards, brown bears, sea lions, Sumatran tigers, gibbons, lemurs, chimpanzees, deer, wallabies and red pandas. The park covers an area of 37 acres, making it smaller than most zoos on this list—so most people only spend half a day here.

Soon, they’ll be adding animal encounters to their attractions, including experiences involving penguins, primates, sea lions and more.

While you’re here, make sure you explore north Wales. The coastline is brilliant, the beaches are hugely underrated, and Snowdonia National Park is ridiculously good.

  • Address: Welsh Mountain Zoo, Colwyn Bay, LL28 5UY
  • Entrance Fees: £15.87 for adults, £11.92 for kids. Free for children under 3
  • Parking Fees: Free

Best Zoos and Wildlife Parks in Northern Ireland

15. Belfast Zoo

Barbary Lions Resting in Belfast Zoo
Barbary Lions Resting in Belfast Zoo

Northern Ireland is pretty small, so it doesn’t have many zoos. But although this one isn’t quite as good as some others on this list, it’s still great. Set in a quiet and secluded area, it’s a peaceful little getaway close to a bustling city center.

Belfast Zoo offers 55 acres with 116 species, loads of which are extinct or endangered in the wild. Some of the highlights include lions, pygmy goats, chimpanzees, spider monkeys, lemurs, penguins, anteaters, sun bears, snakes and gorillas.

The zoo also offers daily talks and feeding sessions.

One of the most popular attractions in Northern Ireland, this place is a great day out if you’re traveling with kids. It opened in 1934, and it’s been entertaining families ever since.

  • Address: Belfast Zoo, Antrim Rd, Belfast, BT36 7PN
  • Entrance Fees: £14 for adults, £7 for kids. Free for children under 4
  • Parking Fees: Free

Final Words

There they are—the best zoos and wildlife parks in the UK. Thanks for reading!

If you’re looking for more animal-based attractions, check out our guide to the best aquariums in the UK. And if you’re interested in other interesting UK adventures, wander over to our article on the most unique and unusual attractions in the north of England.

We also have loads more articles on UK travel, including guides on hiking, cycling, cities, accents, currency, tipping, and so much more. Whatever you want to know about traveling in the UK, we have it right here on our site!

Paul McDougal

Paul McDougal

Paul is a handsome and hilarious travel writer and travel journalist from the UK. He’s hiked, hitchhiked and laughed his way through more than fifty countries, and he’s always looking for a new place to call home. Originally from Newcastle, he’s lived all over the UK, spent more than three years in Asia, and most recently lived in Vietnam. Here’s his website.