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© Heather Cowper/Flickr
© Heather Cowper/Flickr

Profile: Berlin Zoological Garden

Picture of Lily Cichanowicz
Updated: 9 February 2017
Berlin’s Zoological Garden is both the largest and the oldest zoo in Germany. It is located at the southwestern tip of Tiergarten, and has long been one of the city’s major tourist attractions. The sprawling zoo spans over 35 hectares of land in the city center, and the collection of animals housed at there is the most expansive in the world — featuring over 1,500 different species.

The zoo’s oriental style exterior architecture features two enormous stone elephant statues, which mark the entryway. Behind the elephants are Shinto-style roofs with red accents and golden decorative details. This striking setup has been the iconic façade of the Zoological Garden since 1899, inviting guests to explore the multitude of captivating sights that lie within. The story of the Berlin Zoological Garden, however, began even earlier than this.

The zoo itself has its origins in the efforts of famous scientists and researchers like Alexander von Humboldt; explorer, Lichtenstein Martin Hinrich; and horticulturalist, Peter Joseph Lenné. After two years of construction, the zoo was complete in 1844. King Friedrich Wilhelm IV donated the first animals to the zoo from his own menagerie located elsewhere in Tiergarten.

Naturally, like the rest of Berlin, the zoo faced many changes since its beginnings. For one, the damages done during World War II wreaked havoc on the zoo’s grounds while also killing most of its 3,700 animal collection. In fact, only 91 of these survived the war. Yet, today, the zoo has made a huge comeback. It is now one of the most popular attractions in the city — garnering over three million visitors per year.

Modern construction techniques were first implemented during reconstruction after the war. Today, exhibits are constructed to be remarkably similar to the animals’ natural habitats, the result of painstaking measures taken to set the zoo apart from others like it.  Some points of notable interest include the aviary, which is the largest of its kind in Europe, as well as the buildings dedicated to nocturnal animals, great apes, and predators, respectively. There is also an impressive aquarium located in a separate facility near the zoo.

The Berlin Zoological Garen also does its part to cultivate populations of endangered species — working alongside researchers and other zoos, they introduce the animals back into the wild. This is largely said to be the result of the zoo’s habitats, authentic enough to emulate those existing in the wild.

The zoo also offers several interactive tours in addition to serving as home to several famous animals including Knut the polar bear. Animal feedings are often open to the public, one of the most exciting attractions at the zoo. Additionally, there is a petting zoo and plenty of special events for kids to enjoy during their holidays.

For more information about tickets and opening times at the Berlin Zoological Garden, click here.