The Berlin Zoological Garden is the largest zoo in the world and the most visited zoo in Europe. It may also have one of the most gruesome histories of any zoo in the world thanks to the Second World War. Originally founded using animals donated from the menagerie of the Emperor of Prussia, the zoo as it exists today essentially dates from the second half of the 20th century when it was completely rebuilt. It is also home to one of the largest aquariums in Europe.
In 1844, the Prussian emperor, Frederick William IV, set aside part of the Tiergarten for use as a zoo, and personally donated animals to begin the project. It was already one of the largest and most popular zoos in Europe when World War II broke out a century later. During the Battle of Berlin, most of the zoo was leveled during the fighting. Most of the animals were butchered and eaten by the starving populace. Of the nearly four thousand animals kept there, less than one hundred survived the war. Afterwards, the zoo was rebuilt on a grand scale with the most modern of enclosure designs, and by the 1970s it had reclaimed its title as Europe’s preeminent zoo.
While the Berlin Zoo is about average size for an urban zoo, the animal population is staggering. There are over 20,000 animals here representing more than 1,500 species. No other zoo in the world comes close. Because of the shear variety of animals here, it is hard to focus on favorites. The two most popular residents, Knut the Polar Bear and Bao Bao the Giant Panda, both recently passed away. Nevertheless there are enough other species here to more than satisfy the avid nature lover.
The Berlin Zoological Garden is located at the western end of the Tiergarten, approximately three miles from the city center. It is open year round, with times varying significantly throughout the year. The cost of admission is E13.00. Web: www.zoo-berlin.de/zoo (official website).