Attractions in Edinburgh: Edinburgh Zoo


Mike Pennington [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Edinburgh Zoo Entrance by Mike Pennington

Edinburgh Zoo is one of Scotland’s most popular attractions, receiving over 600k visitors a year. This makes the zoo Scotland’s second most popular paid-for tourist attraction, the number one attraction also being in the capital, Edinburgh Castle.

Owned by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, a registered charity set up by lawyer Thomas Hailing Gillespie in 1909, the zoo was first built in 1913 on Corstorphine Hill, set within 82 acres of sloping gardens and just a short drive from the city centre.

The zoo is home to over 1000 animals, including many rare and endangered species, several big cats and is the only zoo in the UK to house giant pandas and koala bears. The zoo also has a long-standing association with penguins.

Giant Pandas – In 2011, two giant pandas were leased by the zoo from the Bifengxia Breeding Centre in China. The pandas, a male named Yang Guang (meaning ‘sunshine’) and a female named Tian Tian (meaning ‘sweetie’) will remain at Edinburgh Zoo for a maximum of ten years before returning to China.

The pandas live in a purposely built enclosure which cost the zoo almost £300k. Although viewing the pandas are included in the standard entrance fee, visitors wanting to see the pandas must book a viewing time. These are available each morning on a first-come-first-served basis. To avoid disappointment, we would advise booking your panda viewing slot online on the Edinburgh Zoo website.

The Penguins – Edinburgh Zoo has a long-standing association with penguins, being the first zoo in the world to house penguins back in 1914, as well as being the first to successfully breed them. In 1919, the zoo witnessed the successful hatching of a King Penguin chick, the first penguin to be hatched in captivity.

In 1950, several of the penguins escaped their enclosure left wandering around the zoo. The zoo decided to hold a daily penguin parade, such was the popularity of the incident and is still a feature of the zoo to this day.

As well as viewing the animals in the traditional sense, there are also many educational events and activities going on in the zoo throughout the day. These can range from keeper talks through to hands-on animal encounters and there is also an opportunity to buy a souvenir from the zoo’s gift shop.

Find out more about the zoo, the animals, the facilities, booking your panda viewing and more at the Edinburgh Zoo website.

Places to stay – Edinburgh Zoo is a great day out for everyone; adults, kids, families and couples.

We understand that not everyone visiting the zoo will be from the local or surrounding area. For those needing accommodation when visiting the zoo, we have compiled a small list below.

IconicThe Balmoral Hotel – The most iconic hotel in Edinburgh, ideally located at 1 Princes Street and sits adjacent Waverley Station. A landmark in its own right, with its clock tower dominating the city centre skyline. Taxis from the hotel or buses from Princes Street will take you to the Edinburgh Zoo entrance.

Closest to the zoo – Holiday Inn Edinburgh – The Holiday Inn sits right next door to the zoo, and is 3 miles from the city centre and airport. The hotel boasts both leisure and business facilities.

Budget - Murrayfield Park Guest House – Offers cheap accommodation just a short distance away from the zoo and 2 miles from the city centre.

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