But exotic animals were on display on the site as far back as the 1500s.
In more recent times, the zoo can claim a phoenix-like resurgence from the point of closure.
In the late 1980s, it was a fairly rundown, rather sad place in desperate need of rejuvenation. Then new management appeared in 1991 and started a massive ongoing investment programme of renovation and expansion.
While still an unfinished task, the zoo’s facilities and husbandry practices are now more in line with modern zookeeping and able to attract and support prestigious projects and exhibits like the Giant Pandas. Such has been the turnaround that Vienna Zoo is often near the top of zoo rankings.
For example, in 2015 it placed fifth worldwide in the Trip Advisor Travellers’ Choice Awards for zoos and was (again) ranked the best zoo in Europe by the independent zoo expert Anthony Sheridan.
The improvements also mean visitor numbers have skyrocketed, making the zoo the second most popular paid attraction in Vienna (after Schönbrunn Palace).
So what’s inside? Plenty – you can spend a good half-day or more in the zoo. You can also eat there.
The main zoo area has an open-plan food buffet serving mainly standard fried foods (sausages, langos etc.) and snacks. There’s also a full-service restaurant in the central pavilion; the one originally used by the founding royals for breakfast back in the 1700s. Other smaller buffets and snack bars are dotted around the zoo, too.
Up on the hill at the back of the zoo there’s the Tirolerhof restaurant, serving typical country fare and also accessible to visitors from outside the zoo. In the farmhouse next to the restaurant, there’s a farm shop selling simple but superb open sandwiches and pastries.
Of course, history and eating are all very well, but you want to see animals, right? So click here for a comprehensive look at what the zoo has to offer. To find the zoo, follow the instructions for getting to Schönbrunn. It’s signposted everywhere. For prices and opening times (the zoo is open every day), check the website:
Address: Schloß Schönbrunn, 1130 Vienna
Website: http://www.zoovienna.at/ (with a complete English version)