One polar bear rose up on his back legs on a single rock in the middle of the pool. Scouting out the perfect spot in advance definitely payed off. I kept my finger on the shutter, while keeping an eye on the bears. The zookeeper started tossing what looked to be raw steaks toward the polar bears, and the one that was on his back legs easily caught them directly in his mouth! Many of the other polar bears dived into the water for theirs. After all of the bears had several steaks, the zookeeper tossed what appeared to be dinner rolls. The polar bears all floated amicably in their pool, balancing their rolls on top of their big paws. I didn’t know polar bears ate dinner rolls, but they’re just carbs right? They were adorable...from this side of the glass anyway.
One of the first things I research when looking into a city to explore is whether or not there is a zoo, and if so, are there polar bears? Berlin delivers on both counts! For being a zoo within the center of a city, it’s huge. We allotted just a morning there, and it wasn’t enough time to see everything. There’s also an aquarium onsite, but a separate admission, and a whole other zoo in eastern Berlin that’s managed by the same organization.
Tips for visiting the Berlin Zoo
I always recommend going to zoos in the morning, since most animals are not active during the middle, or hotter part of the day. Take that advice to the next step, and plan on seeing the animal exhibit you’re most interested in first, to increase your chances of a good experience, as well as you’ll have a significant expanse of time between arriving and leaving that if need be you can visit that animal exhibit a second time if the first visit doesn’t pan out.The Berlin Zoo also presents their polar bear feeding as the first one in the morning. There are numerous other animal feedings and zoo keeper talks available throughout the day.
The Oldest Zoo in Germany
The Berlin Zoo is the oldest zoo in Germany, and kicks off in the 1840s when the Prussian King William IV inherited the throne as well as his father’s menagerie. He was more thrilled about the throne than the animals, suffice it to say. It was a great opportunity for a public zoo, and Martin Lichtenstein, Alexander Humboldt and landscape architect Peter Joseph Lenné jumped at it. You can read the fascinating history of the zoo on their site.
Unique Animal Houses
Many of the animal buildings, or houses, in the Berlin Zoo are themed according to the animal living there, and feel like an exhibit in and of itself. The bison have a native american lodge-like house, the giraffes and antelopes have a beautiful brick african inspired building, which was my favorite. Their house really suited the elegance of the giraffe and antelope. Double back up to the title image to see it. The majority of the zoo had to be rebuilt after World War II, but they were rebuilt to how they were before where possible. As I understand it, they’re currently renovating the panda pagoda in anticipation of new pandas from China, and they want to recreate the former elephant pagoda in the Indian style design it was before the war, at the same time expanding the surrounding area for the rhinos and hippos. They’ve shared some concept art on their site.
I have to give a shout out to the Zoo Berlin website, it's wonderful, and it's fully available in English. You can buy tickets in advance, and download a copy of the map. Be sure to check out the one of a kind animal experiences and tours they offer, as those all require advance reservations.
What's your favorite zoo? What did that zoo do to make the experience outstanding? Tell us about it in the comments below. Or, what do you research first when exploring a new city? I can't be the only one who checks the city for polar bears:-)