Visiting a zoo is one of the best and fastest ways to get a global adventure, and you don’t even have to leave the country!
England has a large collection of zoos, wildlife preserves, and some of the most high-quality animal refuges in the whole world. Whether you’re an animal lover, a parent searching for an educational opportunity for the kids, or a curious local looking for a new experience, the zoos around England will satisfy your itch.
There are tons of animal sanctuaries all around the country, and but here are the top 20 best zoos in England.
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1. Chester Zoo
Chester Zoo is actually one of the top 10 zoos in the world, so it should come as no surprise that this is our pick for the number one zoo in England.
The Chester Zoo is located in Cheshire, and at 128 acres, it’s one of the biggest in the country. You’ll likely need a full day to see all the nooks and crannies of this large area.
There are over 20,000 animals and more than 60 different species tucked away in various corners of the zoo. You could also spend some time walking through the award-winning gardens or take a boat trip down the river to see the animals from a different perspective.
Once you get hungry, you’ll find plenty of places to grab some grub – but the historic Oakfield is by far a fan favorite.
2. The London Zoo
The London Zoo is one of the oldest zoos in England and is the oldest scientific zoo in the whole world. Established back in 1824, the zoo got its start as a place for scientists to research different types of plants and animal species.
After nearly 60 years, the doors were opened to the public – and the London Zoo has been one of the best in England ever since.
You’ll find over 19,000 different species here, and you’ll likely need a full day at the zoo if you’re going to get through all the exhibits. If you don’t make it through the whole zoo in one day, you can stay overnight in one of the on-site lodges – where you’ll be treated to a private tour of the zoo once the other visitors go home, a nice dinner, and breakfast the next morning.
The London Zoo also offers a unique experience just for adults: an after-hours silent disco. During the summer, you can put on a pair of headphones and rock out as you explore the exhibits without any youngsters running around.
3. Port Lympne Reserve
One of the best safari experiences can be found at the Port Lympne Reserve in Kent. This is one of the best zoos in England, as the animals have plenty of space to spread out and roam as they please.
The staff will lead you through the zoo in real safari jeeps and teach you all about the animals that call the reserve home. They’ll also keep you informed about all the ways that the reserve supports various overseas projects to help release animals born in captivity back into the wild.
Port Lympne also boasts an upscale restaurant and hotel on premises, and if you decide to stay overnight, you’ll likely have one of the coolest experiences of your life. You’ll have 14 different accommodation options to choose from, including a tree house suite, a romantic “bubble” that’s perfect for stargazing, the tiger lodge – where you’ll be just a window away from the tiger exhibit.
4. Whipsnade Zoo
It stands to reason that one of the largest zoos in England is also one of the best, and the Whipsnade Zoo easily checks both boxes. This zoo has been charming visitors ever since it opened in 1930, and it’s not hard to see why.
Whipsnade Zoo stretches across 600 acres of land on the outskirts of Dunstable and is home to the largest collection of wildlife in the country. In fact, it’s so large that there’s both a bus and train system inside. You can also drive your own car around the safari park – but beware of the pilfering primates.
Most of the species inside of Whipsnade are on the endangered species list, and this is one of 2 zoos owned by the Zoological Society of London. The charity is committed to the worldwide conservation of animals and their habitats, so by vising Whipsnade, you’ll be donating to a very deserving cause.
5. West Midland Safari Park
West Midland Safari Park is one of the best zoos in England, and you’ll find plenty here to keep you busy for hours on end. The park is located in Bewdley and has over 600 animals spread across its 200 acres.
The zoo has the UK’s biggest collection of white lions, cheetahs, hippopotami, and meerkats, and also boasts the largest walk-through lemur exhibit.
The safari drive-through is one of the most popular attractions at the park, and you’ll feel like you’ve left Britain altogether as you make your way through this diverse area.
You’ll also find:
- A theme park
- A virtual reality ride
- The largest animatronic dinosaur attraction in the U.K.
- An ice age exhibit
- An African village
- An informative discovery trail
- An interactive park, designed for the youngest of visitors.
You’ll likely have a hard time seeing everything in the zoo in one day, so if you’d like to take your time here, you can rent one of the on-site lodges and stay for a night or two. The zoo has 8 luxury safari lodges, each designed to give you an exclusive and immersive overnight experience.
The lodges are located near the cheetah and elephant exhibits, and you’ll be able to get up close and personal to these incredible creatures (at a safe distance, of course). The lodge experience is complete with dinner and breakfast, along with free entrance into the zoo and ride wristbands for the theme park.
6. Longleat Safari and Adventure Park
The Longleat Safari and Adventure Park is one of the oldest zoos in England, and is also one of the best. It has also been rated as the UK’s #1 safari park, so if you’re in the Wiltshire area, you should definitely take a spin through.
As you drive your way through the “safari”, you’ll be able to get up close and personal to the animals. This is the perfect activity for a rainy day when you want an adventure that doesn’t require you to actually venture out into the rain.
At the zoo’s main square, you’ll find a variety of exhibits and with a miniature railway that’ll take you around the park. You’ll also find playgrounds, a hedge maze, and a petting zoo in this area.
As if all that weren’t enough, those looking for an extra special experience can book a VIP package and feed some of the animals yourself.
7. Howletts Wildlife Park
For elephant lovers, the Howletts Wildlife Park is easily a top contender for the best zoo in England. Here you’ll find the largest herd of African elephants in all of the UK – and Howletts is dedicated to getting these animals back in the wild.
There are nearly 400 other species of animals here, including gorillas, giant anteaters, leopards, monkeys, and more. You’ll find this 90-acre park in Kent, and there’s plenty to keep you busy during your day at the zoo.
Besides exploring the exhibits, you can join an animal talk, watch an animal feeding, or check out the educational centre – all included in the price of your admission ticket. One of the best things about this zoo is that all of their proceeds go directly towards their charitable work.
8. Colchester Zoo
The lovely Colchester Zoo is one of the best zoos in England, and TripAdvisor has even named it the #2 zoo in all of the UK!
This zoological garden is spread across 60 acres of land and is home to over 200 species of animals. You’ll find animals from all over the world, some of the most popular including white rhinos, Komodo dragons, and giraffes.
Not only does the zoo boast a unique assortment of wildlife, they also provide guests with lots of fun ways to interact with them. Different events are hosted throughout the year, and both kids and adults alike will find reasons to visit over and over again.
One of the best times to visit the Colchester Zoo is when new animals are born, but no matter when you visit you’ll be sure to find plenty of cute critters to see.
9. Yorkshire Wildlife Park
Commonly referred to as YWP, the Yorkshire Wildlife Park is one of the best zoos in England and also one of the newest in the country, opening its doors in 2009. What was once a riding school is now a 260-acre zoo and home to nearly 400 animals.
Some of the most noteworthy of the bunch include polar bears, painted dogs, and giant otters. The zoo is constantly expanding; the Atlantic Forest Exhibit opened in 2021 and features the maned wolf, lowland tapir, and bush dogs.
Not only does the YWP keep things interesting with frequent new additions, but they also host a wide variety of events throughout the year. Come for the animals, but stay for the concerts, sunset safaris, and daily animal talks.
You could easily make a full day of a visit to this zoo, and once you get hungry you’ll find many cafes, sit-down restaurants, and quick bites to choose from all around the park.
10. Dudley Zoo and Castle
What’s the only thing better than visiting a zoo? How about vising a zoo and a castle, all on the same grounds? The Dudely Zoo and Castle offers just that, and provides visitors with a truly enchanting experience.
The zoo houses thousands of animals, and hundreds of those are extremely rare and endangered species. As you walk around the zoo you’ll be treated to scenic views of the 11th-century ruins of Dudley Castle, which is home to the world’s largest collection of Modernist Tecton buildings.
If the combination of zoo and castle wasn’t enough to entice you, check out some of the fun events held at the zoo throughout the year.
- Enjoy an open-air cinema night in front of the ruins.
- Sign up for an arachnophobia workshop.
- Come back for the Halloween Extravaganza in the fall.
No matter how many times you visit this one-of-a-kind zoo, there’s always something new to experience.
11. The Bristol Zoo
Although not famed for being the biggest zoo in the country, the Bristol Zoo is still one of the best in England. At just 12 acres, this may actually be one of the smallest zoos around – but its beauty keeps it towards the top of our list.
There are around 450 different species that call the zoo home, 50 of which are mammals. Some of the most popular mammal exhibits include those of the red pandas, the gorillas, and the Asiatic lions.
You’ll also find a reptile and insect house, but one of the Bristol Zoo’s main attractions is the aquarium. It’s actually one of the best in the country, so be sure not to miss this exhibit during your day at the zoo.
Similar to the ZSL zoo, the Bristol Zoo is a charity that works hard to research animals and protect their natural habitats.
12. Marwell Zoo
Those living in or visiting the Hampshire area shouldn’t miss the Marwell Zoo. It’s one of the biggest zoos in the county and houses thousands of animals across 140 acres of space, and it’s also one of the best zoos in England.
The Marwell Zoo boasts an impressive collection of endangered and exotic species, including giraffes, tigers, ring-tailed coatis, and frilled lizards. During your time at the zoo, you can listen to daily talks and various animal feedings, or simply wander at your own pace from exhibit to exhibit.
You’ll also find 5 different adventure parks inside the zoo, along with a café and gift shop. Like many of the other zoos on our list, the Marwell Zoo is a charity – so you’ll be helping out the animals by simply purchasing a ticket.
13. Twycross Zoo
If you’re searching for a zoo that won’t be overrun by large crowds, then the Twycross Zoo is the one for you. This Leichestchire zoo is on the small side, but those who stumble upon it will find over 500 animals of 125 different species.
Because it’s slightly less popular than some of the other zoos on our list, the entrance ticket is on the cheaper side. You’ll feel like you struck a bargain once you enter the grounds, however, because there are some seriously cool exhibits in the Twycross Zoo.
You’ll find snow leopards, meerkats, giraffes, and bonobo monkeys, and there are daily animal talks to give you more information about some of the animals you see. The zoo also allows you to get up close and personal with some of these critters if you book a tour, but there are plenty of free activities to enjoy.
Take a stroll along the lemur walk, explore the nature reserve, or play on one of the playgrounds – all included with your entrance ticket. Don’t forget to stop by the gift shop on your way out!
14. Cotswold Wildlife Park
Another one of the best zoos in England is the Cotswold Wildlife Park. Spread across 160 scenic acres, the zoo is home to a large collection of endangered species from all over the world. The park is split into 4 different sections:
- Primates and small mammals
- Reptiles and amphibians.
One of the most unique sections of the zoo is the bat exhibit. It might sound a bit eerie, but these creatures are incredibly interesting and actually completely harmless. They’re also responsible for over 70% of the world’s fruit pollination, so if you’re a fan of anything with seeds you owe it to the bats to learn a bit more about them.
Cotswold Wildlife Park also boasts a beautiful Victorian Manor-house surrounded by impressive gardens. You’ll find plenty of benches around the gardens where you can stop and smell the roses (both the proverbial and the real).
Bird lovers will want to put Birdworld at the top of their list of the best zoos in England, and this bird park is actually the largest one in all of the United Kingdom. The park is located on the outskirts of the Buck Horn Oak village in the East Hampshire district and boasts 26 acres of bird sanctuary.
You’ll find over 150 different bird species, including flamingos, owls, penguins, and parrots. There’s also a number of threatened and endangered species at the park.
The Silent Forest exhibit aims to educate visitors about deforestation, trapping, and other threats that are causing the plight of these species. Birdworld is also home to a small underwater exhibit and the Jenny Wren Farm, which has been a long-time favorite at the zoo.
16. Shaldon Wildlife Trust
Shaldon Wildlife Trust is a small zoo located in the coastal village of Shaldon. What it lacks in size, the zoo more than makes up for in fun and interesting exhibits.
The trust houses some of the rarest and most endangered species from around the world, and their goal is to create a genetically diverse population large enough to safely repopulate their numbers in the wild.
The Shaldon Wildlife Trust is just over an acre, so it won’t take long to get through the whole zoo – which is great for those who prefer spending more time observing the animals.
The best part about this little gem is that it’s never overly crowded. That being said, it is fairly popular with the locals and summer tourists, so a visit during the off-season might be the best bet for enjoying some solitude.
17. Paignton Zoo Environmental Park
Located in Devon, the Paignton Zoo is one of the best zoos in the southwest, if not all of England. There are over 2,500 different animals spread across the park’s 80 acres, including lions, tigers and bears (oh my!).
Those with young ones will find the kid’s facilities here to be second to none, with numerous play areas located around the park.
There are also a few different restaurants to choose from once you get hungry, and there are even a few ice cream kiosks that are irresistible on a hot summer’s day.
Other points of interest at the environmental park include a nature trail, gift shop, and a jungle railway (available seasonally).
18. Exmoor Zoo
Exmoor Zoo got its start as a small bird garden and has expanded into a 12-acre zoo with a wide variety of species. Many of the 175 species here are endangered and extremely rare, including singing dogs, rusty-spotted cats, fanaloka, and yellow-throated martens.
It’s also the only zoo in the UK that is home to a black leopard, though legend would tells it that this creature is actually the fabled “Exmoor beast”.
The zoo is constantly expanding, and staff are dedicated to providing visitors with the best educational experience possible. Every half hour you’ll find some sort of event going on around the zoo, from animal talks and feedings to quizzes and holiday activities.
19. Blackpool Zoo
The Blackpool Zoo is a small zoo situated inside of the coastal Blackpool Resort. Although the zoo is only 32-acres, it is home to over 1,000 animals. There are tons of fun and unique exhibits at Blackpool, including a wallaby walkabout, an elephant base camp, a dinosaur safari, and an active “ocean”.
You’ll also find orangutans, gorillas, giraffes, and some big cats at Blackpool Zoo, in addition to a large playground area for the youngsters in your group.
Once you get hungry you can stop by the Lakeview Café – and make sure you check out the gift shop before heading out!
20. Wild Place Project
Last but not least on our list of the best zoos in England is the Wild Place Project. This wildlife conservation park is located in South Gloucestershire and spans across 136 acres.
This is one of the country’s newest zoos; although it’s been a wildlife breeding area since the 1960s, it first opened its doors to the public in 2013.
The project’s aim is to create a sustainable future for wildlife around the world and to educate visitors in a fun and interactive way.
You’ll find a barefoot walking trail, a rock climbing ropes course, beautiful woodland trails, and an assortment of exhibits on the numerous animal species that call the zoo home.
The zoo is constantly expanding, so you’ll likely find something new here every time you visit.
The Bottom Line
Animals from all over the world call these zoos home, and you’ll find a wide variety of primates, birds, mammals, and reptiles across the country. It’s not just kids that can enjoy a day at the zoo; some of the top parks have bars and cafes, picnic areas, and well-stocked gift shops to satisfy their adult visitors, too.