One of the top attractions in the city of Basel is located right in the very centre, something not often found so close to homes, transport and shops – a zoo. Basel Zoo is listed amongst the 15 best zoos in the world by Forbes magazine and boasts over 1.8 million visitors every year. This makes it one of the most popular attractions in Switzerland.
Normal entry for the zoo comes in at 21 CHF (£15.68) for adults and 10-15 CHF (£7.46-11.20) for young people and children. We managed to get free entry to the zoo courtesy of The Basel Card, given to us by our hotel at Aparthotel Adagio Basel City. The card is also useful for discounts into museums plus free transport around the city for the duration of your stay.
We headed to the stop Zoo Bachletten on Line 1 of the tram from SBB station. As we passed the station we recalled getting the train from SBB to Colmar and as the train pulled out of the station you could see the giraffes enclosure – that’s how close you are to the zoo.
Just five minutes walk from the tram stop and we were at the main entrance. We were early visitors to the zoo and it did appear quite eerie at first, very quiet with just the sounds of hoses washing out the enclosures for company. Right in the middle of the zoo there’s a large tree that houses a huge tropical bird that flies around dangerously close to peoples apartments overlooking the complex – you’ve got to be brave to live there.
Our first stop was the small housing featuring deadly spiders and snakes, a great way to start. This area also contains tortoise’s which roam freely in a spacious exhibit. There’s a humongous python to check out as well as the deadly black widow spider – if you can spot him.
From there, we moved onto the ape house. Monkeys and orangutans were the absolute highlight here, I love spider monkeys – I could watch them for hours swinging around on branches. The enclosures are huge in the ape house and the animals all seem happy and well looked after.
The orangutans were superb, great entertainment and unusually very active as they normally spend a great deal of time snoozing up in the trees. A huge gorilla was also present. You can view these animals from a very comfortable seating area where people spend ages just watching these incredible specimens going about their daily business – it’s highly recommended.
We left the ape house and began to wander through the African area. Here, you’ll find a grand selection of zebras, ostriches and hippo’s. A little further on is a large auditorium where live seal shows are advertised. Just behind the auditorium you can catch the rhino exhibit. If, like us, the rhinos are having their daily shower, you can go into a housing area to see them.
Towards the back of the zoo is where the real gold is. We wandered up the hill just beside the train tracks and found the giraffe enclosure. These animals are incredible and the zoo have the perfect viewing platform to watch them from. A raised area that brings you up and above the giraffes instead of looking up from ground level.
Walking along from the giraffe’s leads you to the king’s lair. Here you can find lions, big ones at that. One male and two female lions were doing exactly what lions do for the majority of the day – chilling. The good news is that you can go into a housed area and view the lions up close from safely behind the glass, this was an amazing experience.
As we walked away from the glass, I turned around to see a pair of eyes staring at me. This is the famous Nile crocodile. A huge beast in a pool with a worryingly low fence. When first inspecting the crocodile he was safely over the far side of the enclosure. I turned around to check my phone, turned back again and he had swam over towards me – scary stuff.
Leaving the lions behind, we passed antelopes, flamingo’s, wild dogs and a cheetah enjoying the midday sun. If you head in the direction of the cafe you will meet the largest animals in the whole place – the elephants.
I’m not going to lie, the elephant house smelled like elephant dung – they even have digger trucks to cart around their food and shovel the poop. These animals though, are incredible. Around four elephants live in a huge enclosure, happily plodding around going about their daily routine. It felt very special to get as close to them as we did.
Last but not least, it’s the turn of arguably my favourite animal – penguins. These little characters are so much fun to watch. A whole pool of them took turns to have a dip and do their funny walk back onto the shore. Hours of fun and great for kids.
The zoo scores huge points for accessibility. Right outside either exit you have the choice of trams back into the city. We exited just beside the penguin enclosure, getting a Line 2 tram back to our end of the city for a planned lunch at Elsbethenstuebli, a restaurant famed for Swiss cheese fondue.
Overall, this is a superb day out. Even if we had paid full price it would have been worth every last franc. The variety of animals to see is incredible. There’s so much space to roam around at your leisure and even places to sit and enjoy the creatures as they go about their day. We really loved our day at Basel Zoo and would stick it firmly at the top of our list of things to do while in the city.
Opening times: Daily 0800-1800
Nearest tram: Zoo Bachletten (Line 1), Zoo Dorenbach (Line 2 and 36), Zoo (Line 10 and 17)