Vienna’s zoo features hundreds of different mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects, fish and more, often housed in special themed enclosures.
Here’s my choice of the top attractions.
See also: Zoo overview
Ok, this is the big one. Don’t go home without seeing the giant panda. And…at the back of the outdoor panda compound is another leafy enclosure that’s home to something almost as cute: the red pandas.
Opened in 2002, the rainforest house is a giant glassed enclosure reproducing the conditions in a — surprise, surprise — rainforest, complete with artificial thunderstorms.
You wander around the floor and canopy of a tropical forest, with its free-living birds, bats and other animals. Dotted around the complex are pools and mini-enclosures for particular animals, such as Asian small-clawed otters and vampire crabs (not what they sound like).
There’s also an actual bat cave. With bats. In a cave.
It can get very hot and close inside, so be careful if your lungs and circulation don’t agree with that kind of climate. And, if it’s cold out, your glasses and camera lenses will fog up – use the hot air-blowing model lizards at each entrance to heat them up before going in.
Another in a long line of refurbishments, the new, improved aquarium and terrarium (re)opened in 2000. There are three main sections.
The first is a large open water feature with crocodiles, fish and free-living birds and butterflies. There’s also a butterfly breeding station, with row upon row of chrysalises and freshly-popped butterflies experiencing their first (brief) taste of freedom.
The second section is the aquarium with the usual denizens of the sea on display. The highlight is a large 80,000 liter reef aquarium, replete with shoals of brightly-colored fish, anemones and corals. The bench opposite the reef makes an ideal spot for a snack while you watch the coral world go by.
The exit into the terrarium section is a 7.5m glass tunnel construction mimicking a flooded Amazon forest floor. Perhaps your only chance to ever see stingrays from below.
The terrarium and third section has snakes, frogs, lizards, the odd spider, ants and a darkened area (depending on the time of day) where you can see bats and scorpions going about their nightly business.
The African elephants have a generous new enclosure (generous compared to other zoo elephants) and house. Kids love the cleaning and feeding routines, where the keepers put the elephants through their paces.
The house has had its share of problems. In 2005, a keeper was tragically killed by the young bull and a manipulated video claimed (completely falsely) to show a young elephant being maltreated by zoo staff.
Polar bear world
One of the newest attractions is a huge layered enclosure for the polar bears, including a central multi-storey dome full of information and displays about the animals and the polar environment. With a bit of luck, you can watch the polar bears underwater.
Big cat house
Tigers, cheetahs and leopards occupy rooms and outdoor areas in the big cat house. In a reflection of the modernization of the zoo, the cheetahs now live in the areas previously reserved for visitors, and the visitors can watch the cheetahs from the safety of the old — small — big cat cages.
An extensive new house and enclosure now hosts an Indian rhinocerous pair, a gift from the Kingdom of Nepal.
The new polarium area features plenty of penguins and an extended pool for the sea lions. A zoo highlight is when the latter are fed, with plenty of large sea mammals jumping about and ensuring visitors daring (or foolish) enough to stand too close get a free shower.
Most of the information here is in German, but, hey, who doesn’t want to see a huge stick insect or a giant mantis? Just me, then?
A good place to take the kids. It keeps them busy as they search for the insect in the terrarium. Then watch them squirm when they do find it. Possibly educational. Possibly the stuff of nightmares.
A steep walk up the back of the zoo takes you to a large farmhouse with various domestic animals on display. See this separate article.
Outside of these main centers there are numerous other animals to see, including giraffes, zebra and antelope, birds, a koala house, a monkey and ape house, a gibbon island, meerkats, reindeer, pony rides, camels and, and, and…it’s a big zoo.