Bristol Zoo - History and Facts | History Hit

Bristol Zoo

Bristol, England, United Kingdom

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About Bristol Zoo

Bristol Zoo is a Victorian zoo and gardens in Clifton, Bristol. It is the fifth oldest zoo in the world and retains a lot of its Victorian elements today, making it a popular day out for all the family.

History of Bristol Zoo

Bristol Zoo (officially known as Bristol Zoological Gardens) was founded in 1835 for ‘the observation of habits, form and structure of the animal kingdom, as well as affording rational amusement and recreation to the visitors of the neighbourhood’ by the local zoological society.

It first opened in 1836, making it the world’s oldest provincial zoo. The fact Bristol was a port greatly helped early acquisitions of animals, including the zoo’s famous elephant, Zebi, who arrived in 1868.

A lion house was added in 1900, followed by an aquarium in the 1920s and a polar bear enclosure in 1935. The 1930s also saw the zoo begin to develop a highly successful breeding programme of chimpanzees, including the first chimp conceived and born in captivity in Europe, Adam.

By the 1960s, there was an increased emphasis on conservation and endangered species: the zoo successfully bred okapi, white tigers and Asiatic lions. In the modern world, the zoo focuses on conservation strategy, and has successfully helped save 75 endangered species.

Given its proximity to the city, it is a walled zoo, and still features much of the original Victorian architecture, although much of it is no longer used to house animals.

Bristol Zoo today

Bristol Zoo remains one of the city’s most popular days out, and the mix of Victorian curiosities and rare species makes the zoo a fun way to spend the afternoon.

Gorillas and redback pandas are particular highlights, and there are also plenty of indoor enclosures with smaller creatures and insects to keep people occupied if the weather is less good.

Picnicking is encouraged and there are refreshment stands inside the zoo. For a particularly nostalgic treat, try a stick of rock!

Getting to Bristol Zoo

The zoo is easily accessed both by car and public transport. The number 8 First bus service from Temple Meads/Bristol City Centre stops outside the zoo (trains to London take 90 mins and run twice hourly, and there are extensive connections to the south-west and midlands, with less regular trains to the north), or it’s roughly a 20-30 minute walk from Clifton Down train station.

The zoo is located on the A4176 and there is a car park (with a fee) right outside. Discounts are given to those who arrive by bicycle and there are bike racks available by the entrance.