Edinburgh Zoo

By Suman Sengupta

Edinburgh Zoo is a stunning parkland located on Corstorphine Hill. 

The zoo was the first in the world to shelter and breed penguins, but now it is best recognized as the only zoo in Britain to rear pandas. 

The only giant pandas and koalas in the UK may be found in Edinburgh Zoo, together with more than 1,000 other rare and exquisite animals worldwide.

The Edinburgh Zoo is more enjoyable during the summer, so be ready for an exciting day out visiting the 82 acres of lovely parkland full of amazing creatures and events. 

Edinburgh Zoo Hours

Edinburgh Zoo Hours
Image: En.Wikipedia.org

The Edinburgh Zoo opens at 10 am every day of the year. However, its closing time varies depending on the season.

Months Timings 
April to September 10 am to 6 pm 
October and March 10 am to 5 pm 
November to February 10 am to 4 pm 

The Zoo’s last entry is one hour before closing time.

The Edinburgh Zoo is closed on Christmas. 

Some indoor enclosures at the Edinburgh Zoo, such as the Koala Territory and Wee Beasties, may open later than listed hours and close 30 minutes before closing.

Best Time to Visit Edinburgh Zoo

The best time to visit Edinburgh Zoo is shortly after it opens at 10 am.

The animals are usually more active during this time, and you may have higher chances of viewing and monitoring their habits.

You can also visit the Zoo without crowds around this time.

We encourage you to visit during the week rather than on the weekends.

Weekdays are less busy, providing a more leisurely and pleasurable experience with fewer lines and people.

The Edinburgh Zoo attracts large crowds on weekends, so you cannot meet all your favorite animals or attend keeper talks.

Avoid Peak Season

Edinburgh Zoo can become more crowded during school holidays, public holidays, and weekends, especially during the summer.

If you prefer a more tranquil experience, consider going during off-seasons or on weekdays other than school holidays.

How Long to Spend at Edinburgh Zoo

Edinburgh Zoo’s rolling terrain comprises 33 hectares (82 acres) and has numerous exhibits.

However, if you are a group of adults and must tour the zoo quickly, you can visit most animal exhibits in two hours.

If you go with children and plan to attend keeper talks, feeding sessions, and other activities, you will need 4 to 5 hours at the Edinburgh Zoo.

Instead of bars and cages, this Scottish Zoo offers wide, open enclosures that are separated from the visitors by ditches and moats.

As a result, seeing this famed Zoo takes a little longer, but tourists leave feeling more satisfied.

If you intend to attend animal presentations or exhibits or travel with young children who may require longer breaks, you should allow for more time.

If you buy your Edinburgh Zoo tickets in advance, you won’t have to waste time at the Zoo’s ticket desk.

How to Get to Edinburgh Zoo

The Edinburgh Zoo is located in the Corstorphine area of Edinburgh, Scotland. 

Address of Edinburgh Zoo: Castlehill, Edinburgh EH1 2NG, United Kingdom

If you want to drive or take public transportation to Edinburgh Zoo. 

Find out the ways to reach Edinburgh Zoo here:

By Bus

By Bus Edinburgh Zoo
Image: En.Wikipedia.org

The zoo is easily accessible thanks to frequent bus connections from Edinburgh’s city center.

Lothian 12, 26, and 31 routes are available for pickup outside Haymarket and Waverly Station and in the city center. 

The Bus routes are as follows:

Bus 12: Seafield – Leith – Princes Street – Haymarket – Zoo – Gyle Center

Bus 26: Seton Sands/Tranent – Portobello – City Center – Zoo – Clerwood

Bus 31: Bonnyrigg – City Centre – Zoo – East Craigs

Before you travel, make sure to check the bus schedules on the official website.

When you buy tickets, the bus driver will not give you change, so bring precise change.

By Train

Waverley Station edinburgh
Image: En.Wikipedia.org

There are two train stations in the heart of Edinburgh – Edinburgh Waverley Station and Edinburgh Haymarket Station.

Buses to Edinburgh Zoo depart from the Waverley and Haymarket stations in the city center of Edinburgh.

By Car

To get to Edinburgh Zoo by car, take Princes Street west to Lothian Road, then turn left and continue straight.

Take the second exit at the roundabout into Morrison Street, then Dalry Road for approximately 1.5 miles until you reach the T-junction with St. John’s Road.

Continue for about 0.5 miles on St. John’s Road, then turn right onto Corstorphine Road.

After around 0.3 miles, you will see Edinburgh Zoo on your left.

Parking at Edinburgh Zoo

Please remember that the parking spaces are restricted and available on a first-come, first-served basis because it is a city zoo.

The parking lot has been highly popular, meaning it can fill up early in the day, especially during peak times like school vacations.

To exit the car park without paying the total amount (£10) at the machine, all visitors must first obtain a ticket from the barriers and have it validated.

Zoo visitors can enjoy the discounted price of £3 by verifying their ticket and paying for parking when they arrive at admissions.

RZSS members are entitled to free parking as part of their membership perks.

During the day, some parking is available near the zoo, but please keep in mind that this area is also limited due to the residential character of the location.

By Bicycle

By bicycle, you may get to Edinburgh Zoo via National Cycle Network Route 1, which runs from the city center to the zoo.

Continue down the Union Canal until you reach the Wester Hailes Road intersection.

Turn left onto Murrayburn Road, then right onto Wester Hailes Road.

Continue straight on Murrayburn Road until you reach the intersection with Corstorphine Road.

After about 0.5 miles, turn right onto Corstorphine Road, and Edinburgh Zoo will be on your right.

Secure bicycle racks are available at the zoo.

There is cycle parking (Sheffield racks) on the pavement directly outside the zoo. There is presently no guest bike parking on the site.

Traveling from the Airport to Edinburgh Zoo

From the airport, take the Airlink 100 express bus to Edinburgh Zoo.

This shuttle service has frequent departures, free WiFi, and comfortable seating.

Every 30 minutes, an Airlink 100 shuttle departs from the airport and arrives at the zoo in 20 minutes.

The 100 Airlink Service frequently stops outside their front door between Edinburgh Airport and the city center.

The express runs from 4.30 am to 11.30 pm.

A one-way ticket from the airport to the Edinburgh Zoo costs £5, and a roundtrip ticket costs around £8.

Purchasing your Edinburgh Airport to Edinburgh Zoo bus ticket in advance is preferable.

Edinburgh Zoo Map

Are you looking for a tiger? Are you lost near the lemurs? 

We want you to make the most of your day at Edinburgh Zoo, which spans over 82 acres of wooded hillside.

With over 1000 species to see, bringing a copy of the Edinburgh Zoo map with you is best to help you through the various exhibits.

Aside from the animal enclosures, a map can help you find tourist services such as restaurants, bathrooms, gift stores, etc.

On the map, you can also locate keeper talks and shows.

If you are traveling with children, carrying the Edinburgh Zoo’s layout is strongly suggested so that you do not waste time looking for the various exhibits and become weary in the process.

Please remember that Edinburgh Zoo is located on Corstorphine Hill, and some of the routes throughout the park have steep slopes. 

Visitors should plan their journey and carry appropriate footwear – the views from the summit are well worth it!

Check out the Edinburgh Castle tickets and combine your Edinburgh Zoo trip with the Edinburgh Castle to make your trip worthwhile!

Edinburgh Zoo Gift Shop

Gifts edinburgh zoo
Image: Edinburghzoo.org.uk

After seeing the beautiful Zoo and fantastic animals, finish your day by visiting the gift shop, where you will find a wide choice of wild animal-related products. 

There’s something for everyone (teenagers and little kids), whether enormous pandas, king penguins, meerkats, or koalas!

The Edinburgh Zoo gift shop is open daily and closes 30 minutes after the Zoo closes. 

The shop’s funds help conservation, education, and research efforts. 

An extensive range of merchandise is available, including cuddly toys, branded ZOO’venirs, and exclusive presents such as Edinburgh Zoo Monopoly and RZSS Top Trumps!

History of Edinburgh Zoo

History of Edinburgh Zoo

On 22 July 1913, Edinburgh Zoo opened to the public. Later that year, it was incorporated by Royal Charter.

Edinburgh Zoo now has approximately 2,500 animals worldwide and is the only zoo in Britain with a Royal Charter.

Continue reading to discover more about the foundation of Edinburgh Zoo and a fascinating timeline of events and information about its history from 1913 to the present.

The Origin of the Edinburgh Zoo

Scotland’s first zoo, the Royal Edinburgh Zoological Gardens, opened in 1839 before the Edinburgh Zoo. 

The animals in this zoo had unfavorable living conditions, including tiny, claustrophobic cages, rampant illness, and exposure to brisk winds. 

Despite being well-liked, the park was forced to close in 1857 due to numerous problems.

Many people thought that tropical animals would never be able to live in Edinburgh’s frigid environment after the closure of the Royal Edinburgh Zoological Gardens. 

But Dumfries-based lawyer Thomas Gillespie was adamant about building a zoo in Scotland.

He read about Carl Hagenbeck’s groundbreaking techniques in 1908, which had been used to successfully keep tropical animals alive and flourishing in a zoo in Hamburg, Germany, which also had a chilly environment.

To create Edinburgh’s next zoo, a group of individuals, including Gillespie, created the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland in 1909. 

They went out to select a location for this new zoo to find a place with plenty of sunshine and protection from strong winds for the animals. 

They chose the 82-acre estate known as Corstorphine Hill House. 

In 1913, they acquired it for £17,000 with assistance from the Edinburgh City Council. 

That is more than £2 million in today’s money!

To erect and furnish the new zoo, the society’s members raised an additional £8,000 (equivalent to approximately $1 million today). 

Patrick Geddes and Frank Mears, inspired by Hagenbeck’s Hamburg Zoo and the recently opened New York Zoo, created the park under Gillespie’s vision. 

The Edinburgh Zoo, formerly known as the Scottish National Zoological Park, welcomed visitors on 22 July 1913.

Timeline of the Edinburgh Zoo

  • 1913- The Edinburgh Zoo welcomes visitors and is integrated into the Royal Charter. 
  • 1914- Three king penguins arrived at the zoo, marking the first appearance of penguins outside of the South Atlantic.
  • 1919 – The first king penguin chick ever raised in captivity hatches.

Since then, the Edinburgh Zoo has led penguin study and care. Even their logo has a king penguin on it!

  • 1925- A house for tropical birds and reptiles was built. 
  • 1927- The aquarium of the zoo debuts
  • 1928 – As the zoo grows, a neighboring 47-acre golf course is evacuated to make way for new construction.
  • 1929- The ape home was constructed.
  • 1930- The renowned penguin pool at the Edinburgh Zoo was opened. 

Today, the penguin pool at the zoo is 65 meters long, 3.5 meters deep, and holds 1.2 million liters of water. 

It is known as “Penguins Rock” and is home to three different penguin species.

  • 1934 – Captive births of a sea lion and a beaver are witnessed at the zoo.
  • 1936- A newborn chimpanzee was born in captivity in a zoo. 
  • 1937- Construction on the relocated golf course is finished, and Mears also created the new area.
  • 1940- A giraffe tragically perishes after Edinburgh Zoo is bombarded during World War II.

Fortunately, despite being bombarded twice during the war, the zoo escaped serious damage.

  • 1942- The first orangutan was born in Britain at Edinburgh Zoo. 
  • After an Iranian youngster traded the bear for food cans in 1943, the 22nd Company Polish Army Service and Corps (Artillery) soldiers adopted Wojtek as a cub.
  • He immediately earned a reputation as a troop favorite, and in 1944, he was officially recognized as a soldier and given a name, rank, and identification number.
  • 1951- The renowned penguin parade at Edinburgh Zoo first started. 
  • 1956- Gilbert Fisher was appointed the Zoological Society’s director-secretary. 
  • 1972 – The Norwegian King’s Guard adopts Nils Olav, a king penguin from the zoo, and confers on him the rank of lance corporal. 
  • 1984 – After being saved in Canada, a 3-year-old polar bear named Mercedes is donated to the zoo.
  • 1986 – The Zoological Society takes over the Highland Wildlife Park near Inverness.
  • 2000 – The Edinburgh Zoo makes the site-wide redevelopment announcement.
  • 2001 – The zoo shutters for five weeks to safeguard the animals from foot-and-mouth infection.
  • 2005 – The Budongo Chimp House and the Living Links to Human Evolution Centre, Britain’s first monkey behavior research facility, are both opened. 
  • 2009 – The zoo built a new polar bear exhibit to improve Mercedes’s living circumstances. 

The past of Edinburgh Zoo has been discussed, but what of the future? 

Five enormous projects are part of the “Edinburgh Zoo’s Big 5” initiative, which got underway in 2021 with the opening of a new giraffe habitat. 

Updating the sun bear, rhino, and king penguin cages is one of the future initiatives. 

There are also plans for a brand-new tropical home with free-ranging monkeys and birds.

To improve the lives of the animals and offer thrilling and motivating experiences for their guests. 

Design of the Edinburgh Zoo

Gillespie was influenced by Carl Hagenbeck’s ‘open zoo’ in Hamburg when designing the animal enclosures.

Large, open enclosures with ditches and moats separating the animals from the people were a feature of Edinburgh Zoo’s design. 

The Edinburgh Zoo has stayed at the forefront of zoo enclosure design, consistently winning honors for natural and fascinating animal habitats.


Is it worth going to Edinburgh Zoo?

Edinburgh Zoo is unrivaled for a fun day out. The world-class experiences and huge animal collection will leave you and your family with unforgettable memories!

Why is Edinburgh Zoo famous?

It is probably best known for its penguins around the world. The association with these remarkable birds began in January 1913, when three king penguins arrived in Leith from the Christian Salvesen whaling expedition.

How long to spend at Edinburgh Zoo? 

We recommend allowing at least two hours to explore the Edinburgh Zoo.

What animals are in Edinburgh Zoo?

With regular keeper talks, you may spend your day learning about dazzling birds, cheeky meerkats, incredibly strong sun bears, and more! 

In walkthrough habitats or during the daily animal-handling sessions, you can get closer than ever to monkeys, lemurs, wallabies, and pelicans.

About the author

Suman Sengupta heart lies where greeny mountains meet stretches of beach. he believes getting lost is the best way to explore