The Schonbrunner Zoo in Vienna boasts the distinction of being the world’s oldest zoo. Founded in the mid-18th century on the grounds of the imperial palace, it began as a menagerie, the first such major collection of animals in Europe since Roman times. Thanks to its location at the Schonbrunn Palace, it is a highly prominent and popular facility. It is one of the few places in Europe that enjoys a permanent Giant Panda exhibit.
The original menagerie was constructed in 1752 by Austrian monarchs Francis I and Maria Theresia. A smaller facility dated back as far as the 16th century, but the newer zoo was opened to the public in 1779. It was stocked with animals captured on expeditions specifically sent for the purpose. The zoo was one of the largest in Europe but suffered badly during the world wars due to food shortages and bombing raids. Schonbrunner was largely rebuilt in the second hald of the 20th century as a more modern zoo. The zoo is well known in Central Europe for its association with the popular children’s series Tom Turbo.
Schonbrunner is a large zoo but much smaller than its counterpart in nearby Berlin. It features some very modern indoor environments, including a rainforest and desert. Most standard zoo species can be found here, but the two most popular by far are the Koala and Giant Panda. The latter consists of a family of five, one of the largest such panda families in captivity anywhere outside of China.
The Schonbrunner Zoo is located along the west side of the palace park just south of the palace itself, approximately five miles west of the city center of Vienna. It is open year round from 9:00am-4:30pm (later hours in summer). The cost of admission is E15.00. Web: www.zoovienna.at (official website).