The zoo in London is the world’s oldest scientific zoo and a must for any animal-lover visiting the capital. It’s home to several attractions including the new Land of the Lions, Tiger Territory, Gorilla Kingdom, Into Africa, Rainforest Life and Nightlife, and The Outback. There are over 17,000 animals, including exotic beasts like Sumatran tigers, Asiatic lions, kangaroos, penguins and otters.
Skip the daytime queues and instead discover London Zoo at night to see what happens after dark.
What to do at the zoo
The most popular attractions has to be the new state-of-the-art lion exhibit, designed to resemble India’s Sasan Gir, the natural habitat of the Asiatic lions. The Indian-themed enclosure features three walkways, a train station and temple clearing over 2,500 sqm, and is home to four lions. The species is classified as endangered with only 500 left in the wild, so seeing these big cats is extra special. Penguin Beach is another fun habitat where Humboldt and Rockhopper penguins happily play and swim in their giant enclosure. If you like creepy-crawlies, you can go through Europe’s only spider walk-through, watch butterflies flutter around you, or get up close and personal with over 140 different species of bugs, insects and invertebrates.
When the sun starts to go down, that’s when things get interesting. Previously known as Zoo Lates, the new Sunset Safaris are a family-friendly event where guests of all ages are invited to discover the animal magic every Friday evening from June 3 to July 15. From dusk onwards, the zoo is your playground and you’ll be treated to special Sunset Safari activities such as face painting and performance shows, animal keeper and scientist talks, and smooth jazz jams. If you’re feeling peckish around dinner time, there’s also the World Food Market where 15 of London’s best independent food vendors prepare delicious snacks and light meals.
Gir Lion Lodge
For an unforgettable night, check into the Gir Lion Lodge – you’re guaranteed a room with a very unique view! Within roaring distance of the lion enclosure, you’ll find nine luxury lodges in the Land of the Lions exhibit, each bespoke and inspired by the lions’ natural Indian habitat. Guests receive one night’s accommodation, a two-course dinner, breakfast and access to London Zoo late at night with exclusive tours at sunset, torchlight and morning before the zoo opens to the public. Aside from the sleeping lions, you can also meet some nocturnal animals, listen to the sounds and silence of the zoo, and enjoy a natural wake-up call with the resident birds!
While the Gir Lion Lodge is generally for adults, the BedBUGS sleepover caters exclusively for children aged 7-11 years old and an accompanying parent. Kids will find out all about bugs firsthand with showings by the London Zoo keepers. As soon as it gets dark, it’s time for a walk on the wild side to see bugs such as the locust swarm display, cockroaches, giant orb spiders and their webs, cave crickets, mole rats, honeybees, Golden mantilla frogs and Polynesian tree snails. After you’ve had your fill of bugs, you can tuck in (far away from any creepy crawlies!) in the Bughouse.
London’s partner zoo, the ZSL Whipsnade Zoo offers a once-in-a-lifetime experience to sleep amongst their rare white rhinos. Just an hour from London, the Whipsnade Zoo is home to larger animals such as elephants, giraffes and hippos. Aside from staying overnight in the comfortable wood cabins, guests also receive two free day passes to explore Whipsnade Zoo, a sunset, torchlight and private morning tour to meet the animals, and a two-course dinner and complimentary breakfast.