Having been numerous times with our family, we can definitely say Belfast Zoological Gardens is an amazing destination for animal lovers visiting Northern Ireland. Situated in North Belfast, only a couple of miles (although up a very long and steep Antrim Road) from Belfast City Centre.
The zoo houses over 1,200 animals from around the world and provides educational programs and interactive experiences for visitors of all ages. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a regular, there’s always something new to discover at Belfast Zoo. In this guide, we’ll take you through a brief history of the zoo, how to get there, must-see animal exhibits, and interactive experiences that you won’t want to miss.
The opening times of Belfast Zoo can vary throughout the year. Generally, the zoo is open daily, including weekends and holidays, with the following approximate opening hours:
Summer Season (April to September): 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM
Winter Season (October to March): 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM
The last admission to the Zoo is an hour before official closing time, however, in busy periods it has been known to close its doors earlier. Last admission t the visitor centre is at closing and the zoovenir shop closes shortly before this.
A Brief History of Belfast Zoo
The Zoo’s Origins
Belfast Zoological Gardens first opened to the public in 1934, after years of planning and construction. The zoo was built on the slopes of Cave Hill country park part of Belfast Castle estate, a popular local landmark that offers stunning views of the city. The first animals to arrive at the zoo were a group of Barbary macaques, who still reside at the zoo to this day. These playful primates quickly became a beloved attraction for visitors young and old.
During the Second World War, the zoo was closed to the public and used as a place of refuge for animals from across Europe. Many of these animals had been displaced by the war, and the zoo provided a safe haven where they could be cared for until the conflict ended. The zoo staff worked tirelessly to ensure that the animals were well-fed and comfortable, despite the difficult circumstances.
Expansion and Development
Since its opening, Belfast Zoo has undergone significant expansion and development by its owners Belfast City Council. In the 1960s, the zoo underwent a major renovation, which included the addition of the Tropical Rainforest House. This impressive structure houses a variety of exotic animals, including monkeys, birds, and reptiles. Visitors can stroll through the lush, humid environment and observe these fascinating creatures in their natural habitat.
More recently, the zoo has continued to grow and improve. In response to changing attitudes towards animal welfare, the zoo has built new habitats for various animals, providing them with more space and better living conditions. These habitats are designed to mimic the animals’ natural environments as closely as possible, allowing them to thrive and exhibit their natural behaviors.
In addition to these animal-focused improvements, the zoo has also extended its car park and added new visitor facilities. These include a gift shop, a café, and a playground for children. Visitors can now spend an entire day at the zoo, enjoying all that it has to offer.
Overall, Belfast Zoo has come a long way since its humble beginnings in 1934. Today, it is a world-class zoological park that is dedicated to the conservation and care of some of the world’s most fascinating animals. Whether you’re a local resident or a visitor from afar, a trip to Belfast Zoo is sure to be a memorable experience.
Getting to Belfast Zoo
Public Transport Options
Visitors can easily reach Belfast Zoo by public transport. The number 1 Metro bus from Belfast City Hall stops outside the zoo’s entrance. The journey takes approximately 15 minutes and runs every 20 minutes on weekdays and every 30 minutes on weekends.
As you make your way to the zoo on public transportation, be sure to take in the sights of Belfast. The city is rich in history and culture, with many landmarks and attractions to explore. You might consider stopping at the Titanic Belfast museum, which tells the story of the famous ship and its tragic sinking. Or, if you’re interested in politics, you can visit the Stormont Estate and Parliament Buildings, where the Northern Ireland Assembly meets.
Parking and Accessibility
If you’re traveling by car, there is ample on-site parking at the zoo. As you drive into the car parks, keep an eye out for the beautiful views of Cave Hill, which is located just behind the zoo. This hill is a popular hiking spot for locals and visitors alike, and offers stunning panoramic views of Belfast and the surrounding countryside.
There are also designated parking spaces for disabled visitors, and the zoo is fully accessible for visitors with mobility issues. Wheelchairs are available to hire, and there are accessible toilets across the site. If you have any questions or concerns about accessibility, don’t hesitate to ask one of the friendly staff members at the zoo. They will be happy to assist you in any way they can.
The address of the zoo is
Phone: 028 9077 6277
Must-See Animal Exhibits
Visiting a zoo is always a fun and educational experience, especially when you get to see some of the world’s most fascinating animals up close. Belfast Zoo is home to a wide variety of animals from all over the world, and there are several exhibits that you simply can’t miss. Here are some must-see animal exhibits that you should add to your list:
The Giraffe House
The Giraffe House is one of the most popular exhibits at Belfast Zoo, and for good reason. Visitors can watch the zoo’s four giraffes, which include two reticulated giraffes and two Rothschild’s giraffes, as they feed and interact with each other. Did you know that giraffes are the tallest mammals on Earth, with some individuals reaching over 18 feet tall? Not only are they tall, but they also have incredibly long necks, which can be up to 6 feet in length. The Giraffe House also showcases other African animals, such as zebras and antelopes, so you can learn more about the different animals that live on the African savannah.
The Penguin Enclosure
If you love penguins, then the Penguin Enclosure at Belfast Zoo is a must-see. This exhibit is home to different species of penguins, including Gentoo, King, and Rockhopper penguins. Visitors can watch the penguins swim and interact with their environment, including a rocky island and waterfall. Did you know that penguins are flightless birds that are perfectly adapted to life in the water? They have streamlined bodies, webbed feet, and waterproof feathers that help them swim and dive for food. You can also learn more about the threats that penguins face in the wild, such as climate change and overfishing.
The Chimpanzee Habitat
One of the zoo’s major attractions is the Chimpanzee Habitat. Visitors can watch the zoo’s group of chimpanzees as they play and interact with each other. Chimpanzees are one of our closest living relatives, sharing over 98% of our DNA. They are highly intelligent and social animals that live in complex societies. The chimpanzees at Belfast Zoo live in a spacious habitat that includes climbing structures, hiding places, and lots of vegetation. You can observe their natural behaviors, such as grooming each other and using tools to obtain food. You can also learn about the threats that wild chimpanzees face, such as habitat loss and poaching.
The part I enjoyed the most was the Bear enclosure towards the top of the hill and zoo. The enclosure is spacious and contains a large artificial pool in which the bears love to swim. On a hot day, you may feel like jumping in as well, but thankfully there are large glass panels preventing would be swimmers from taking a swim with the bears (though the Andean bears are usually quite harmless).
The Asian Elephants
On our last visit earlier this year, Belfast zoo had two Asian elephants – Dhunja and Yhetto – both in their 40s – the two endangered species were originally rescued from the circus and logging trade. However, it was revealed last year that the pair were due to be moved to a new home in the near future. So there is a danger that they may njot be there anymore.
The Tropical Rainforest House
If you want to escape the chilly Northern Irish weather, then the Tropical Rainforest House is the perfect place to warm up. This indoor exhibit recreates the habitat of tropical birds, reptiles, and mammals. Visitors can see various animals, such as the Green mamba snake and the Linne’s two-toed sloth, as they move and interact in the lush environment. The rainforest is one of the most biodiverse habitats on Earth, and it is home to millions of different species. You can learn about the different layers of the rainforest, from the forest floor to the canopy, and the unique adaptations that animals have evolved to survive in this challenging environment.
Overall, Belfast Zoo is a fantastic place to learn about animals and their habitats. These must-see exhibits are just a few of the highlights, so be sure to explore the entire zoo and discover all the amazing animals that call it home.
Interactive Experiences and Keeper Talks
Belfast Zoo is a wonderful place to visit for those who love animals. It is home to over 120 different species, including some of the rarest and most endangered animals in the world. Visitors can get up close and personal with many of these amazing creatures through the zoo’s interactive experiences and keeper talks.
Feeding Times and Demonstrations
One of the highlights of a visit to Belfast Zoo is the opportunity to see animals being fed. Visitors can watch penguins and sea lions being fed in designated areas, and the zoo’s experienced keepers are always on hand to answer any questions visitors may have. During these feeding times, visitors can learn about the animals’ diets and feeding habits, as well as the conservation efforts being made to protect them in the wild.
But feeding times are not the only demonstrations on offer at Belfast Zoo. Visitors can also watch the zoo’s keepers in action as they train the animals and carry out health checks. These demonstrations are a great way to learn about the work that goes on behind the scenes to keep the animals healthy and happy.
Make sure to jot down the animal feeding times and be there for the spectacle. The feeding of the sea lions, monkeys and the penguins are the most laugh-enticing.
If you’re interested in learning even more about the zoo’s operations, behind-the-scenes tours are available. These tours take visitors on a guided tour of areas not usually open to the public, such as the animal kitchens and veterinary facilities. Visitors can see first-hand how the animals are cared for and learn about the zoo’s breeding programs and conservation efforts.
During the tour, visitors will have the opportunity to meet some of the zoo’s keepers and ask them any questions they may have. This is a unique opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the work that goes on at Belfast Zoo and the importance of conservation efforts.
Educational Programs for Children
Belfast Zoo is a great place for children to learn about animals and conservation. The zoo offers a range of educational programs, including workshops, summer camps, and birthday parties. These programs are designed to help children learn about animals, their habitats, and conservation efforts in a fun and engaging way.
Workshops cover a range of topics, from animal behavior to conservation issues, and are tailored to different age groups. Summer camps give children the opportunity to spend a week at the zoo, learning about animals and taking part in fun activities. And birthday parties at the zoo are a unique way to celebrate a special day, with animal encounters and guided tours.
Food and Drink
There are three cafes that serve food and drink, one, Treetop tearoom, strategically located at the top of the zoo. By the time you get there you will want a drink and you will want to sit down, rest and enjoy the view over Belfast Lough, Cave hill country park and . You can also bring your own food and eat at the picnic tables at the Lake Side see the zoo map
Our second favorite is the Lion’s den restaurant situated near the zoo visitor Centre.
Coffee Shops: At Belfast Zoo, a range of coffee shops or kiosks scattered throughout the zoo where visitors can enjoy a hot or cold beverage, such as coffee, tea, hot chocolate, or soft drinks.
Picnic Areas: Belfast Zoo provides designated picnic areas where visitors can bring their own food and enjoy a picnic amidst the beautiful surroundings. It’s a great option for families or those who prefer to bring their own meals.
Vending Machines: Vending machines with snacks and beverages can be found in certain areas of the zoo, providing a quick and convenient option for a snack or drink.
Other Facilities at Belfast Zoo
They have male, female and accessible toilets located at:
Upon exiting the Visitor Centre
In the Zoo Café
At the elephant and giraffe walk
Below the Treetop Tearooms
They also have a Changing Places toilet, suitable for adults with accessible requirements, located in the Visitor Centre.
Located inside the zoo’s Visitor Centre, the accessible facility is designed with space and equipment for people who are not able to use the toilet independently. The facility has:
a height-adjustable adult-sized changing bench
a ceiling-mounted hoist
a centrally-placed toilet with space either side, non-slip floor, privacy screen, adjustable washbasin and
The Changing Places facility is available during the zoo’s opening hours
Baby changing facilities are located in the Zoo Café and in all accessible toilets.
The zoo are part of the Breastfeeding Welcome Here scheme. Breastfeeding is acceptable in all areas of the zoo that are open to the public….this was very useful to know on more than one occassion.
Glass and plastic recycling banks are located in the zoo’s main car park. The zoo accepts donations of suitable items for animal enrichment including clothing.
Storage lockers are available at the zoo’s Visitor Centre. A charge applies for using the lockers. Lockers are used at the visitor’s own risk and Belfast Zoo accepts no responsibility for loss or damage of belongings. Lockers cannot be used for overnight storage.
Free Belfast Wi-Fi is available in the Visitor Centre.
In conclusion, Belfast Zoo is a fantastic destination for animal lovers of all ages. With its unique animal exhibits, interactive experiences, and educational programs, there is always something new to discover at this popular Northern Ireland attraction. So why not make your way to Belfast Zoo today and experience the wonder of the animal kingdom for yourself?