Vienna has plenty of rare sights, but perhaps none rarer than the Giant Pandas found in Schönbrunn Zoo.
According to the World Wide Fund for Nature, there are only around 1860 of these bears left in the bamboo forests of China. A very few live outside China in zoos, with Vienna one of these exceptions.
- A female panda, Yang Yang, in a lovely bear-friendly enclosure
- Recent mother to the twins Fu Feng and Fu Ban (now in China)
- What can you say? Pandas come top of the cute scale
- Zoo opens daily. Adults pay €20 at the time of writing, though a Vienna Pass gets you in free. Tickets available online.
Where are they?
The panda enclosure is very close to the zoo’s main entrance. After the ticket barrier, go straight ahead and look to your left. There’s a large outdoor area, so you can’t miss it.
The Panda backstory
In 2003, the Chinese government gave “Yang Yang” and “Long Hui” to the Republic of Austria. Actually, “loaned” is a better word, with the zoo participating in the international panda breeding and research project.
Yang Yang has had several cubs, most recently twins in 2016. Like all her offspring, Fu Feng and Fu Ban are now in China. Astonishingly, Yang Yang is the first panda ever to successfully raise twins without outside help. This video shows various clips from the cubs’ youth, from little balls of skin to just before they left for China in early December 2018:
Unfortunately, the father of all these cubs, Long Hui, died in December 2016.
The arrival of the bears was a major event for the country and saw the outbreak of a veritable pandamania. When the panda enclosure was thrown open to visitors for the first time, half of Vienna descended on the poor creatures.
The post office brought out special panda stamps, the Chancellor welcomed them in person, and they featured on TV and radio stations throughout the land.
On the initiative of one national radio station, the two bears were rechristened Sissi and Franzl. The names refer to Emperor Franz Joseph and his famous wife, Elisabeth.
Not that the pandas themselves seemed too bothered by the fuss. They were invariably found either sleeping or eating and viewed human proceedings with a gentle disdain.
If you do want to see the panda, you don’t need to worry about long queues now. Unless you visit the zoo on a hot weekend or public holiday, you should have little trouble getting a good view of her (assuming she is active). The exception is, of course, if Yang Yang has another cub. Because let’s be honest, there is nothing on this planet as cute as a baby panda.