Visiting the Oldest Zoo in the World: Tiergarten Schönbrunn

Ever since I missed my chance to visit the Warsaw Zoo in 2016, I try to go to zoos when I’m traveling whenever possible. I love animals and although zoos are controversial (is it cruel to the animals? are they unhappy?), I’ve come to the conclusion that I’d rather have members of these endangered species live in manmade habitats than risk relying on mankind having a sudden change of heart to a) not hunt animals for sport and b) not destroy their environments so they can build apartment buildings. Of course, I believe these zoos should have expansive grounds and any zoo found guilty of animal cruelty should be closed.

But I digress. When I was planning my trip to Vienna, I saw there was a zoo near the Schönbrunn Palace and that it was the oldest operating zoo in the world so I had to go. I bought a ticket online (around $25 USD) and after I toured Schönbrunn Palace, I strolled through the gardens and towards the Schönbrunn Zoo.

Originally opened in 1752 for Holy Roman Emperor Francis I (husband of Maria Theresa) it was meant to be an imperial menagerie as it was on the property of their palace. The Schönbrunn Tiergarten later opened to the public in 1779 and has operated continuously ever since (even during World War I and II, although bombing raids meant parts of the zoo sustained extensive damage).

The Tiergarten is expansive and it can sometimes be confusing to navigate. I definitely walked in more than one circle. One tip to keep in mind is that the exhibits stem from the pavilion in the center.

The Tiergarten is one of the only zoos to house giant pandas in the world and these guys were adorable. I probably took 100 pictures of these guys, but here are my favorite four.

There was a section of the park labeled “grosskatzen” and you could probably guess what that translates to in English. If you walked inside, you would see info graphics about the tigers and windows through which you could view the gorgeous creatures.

In the “grosskatzen” family at the Tiergarten was a bobcat (who wouldn’t come anywhere near the fence), a cheetah (beautiful, but I think he/she was likely trying to figure out how to eat us), lions (who wanted nothing more than for all of us to shut up while they sunbathed), and leopards (who were also deeply engrossed in their daily sunbathing routine).

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The animals in the exhibits included elephants, wallabies, meerkats, penguins, seals, antelope, various species of monkeys, snow wolfs, koalas, turtles, giraffes, and they even had a chicken coup with chickens running around! These guys were also super cute – like furry piglets:

I can’t imagine what it must have been like to be Maria Theresa and have this menagerie in my backyard. And while I think that some of the animal’s habitats could be vastly improved (the leopard’s, for example), I very much enjoyed this zoo and I am very grateful that these beautiful animals have the ability to spend their lives here.

For more information about the Tiergarten Schonbrunn, click here

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