A Birthday Party That Has Gone to the Animals

Heather Tucker, maandag 8 april 2013

“Lions and tigers and bears! Oh my!” – Dorothy, The Wizard of Oz

When it comes to animals, I have two confessions. The first is that my favourite animal is the hippopotamus. The second is that I am a bit of a zoo addict. So when I learned that Artis Royal Zoo in Amsterdam was celebrating its 175th birthday, it only made sense that I would pay them a visit.

While I was tempted to show up at the zoo gates cake in hand, I wasn’t convinced I could create a cake that would cater to, let alone feed, more than 900 species of animals. So I went empty handed – luckily the animals didn’t seem to mind.

Located a ten-minute tram ride from Dam Square, Artis really is a city zoo and that is something to keep in mind when setting your expectations of what your ticket is going to provide you access to. Sweeping safari plains filled with frolicking zebras and bouncing gazelles just don’t fit within the zoo walls. But that’s not to say Artis is a snooze. You’ll still see elephants, giraffes, lions and plenty of monkeys. You even get a butterfly house, a planetarium, the most playful sea lions I’ve seen to date and an insectarium that will leave your skin crawling.

The best bit about Artis though, in my opinion, is the 19th century architecture that competes for attention from the chattering chimpanzees. Many of the buildings are listed monuments and some even date back to before the zoo was established. One not to miss is the aquarium. The majesticness of the building’s interior combined with an old fashioned aquarium hall, transport you back to an earlier time. The fish aren’t half bad either.

If you do decide to celebrate with the Artis animals (or just pay them a visit) here would be five of my top tips:

  1. Entrance to Artis Royal Zoo is free if you have an I amsterdam City Card. This can be a nice saving.
  2. There are plenty of zookeeper talks throughout the day (check the daily programme). The talks are in Dutch but you can ask questions in English.
  3. When you are near the giraffes, make sure to turn around and spot the European vultures (face away from the entrance of the park). If you are lucky, you’ll see their impressive flight.
  4. The Ibex exhibit (steenbokkenrots on the map) is well worth a look.
  5. You might notice a strange looking cuddly toy with a big nose around the zoo. This is Artis the Partis and he is the zoo’s mascot. You can take your own Artis the Partis home with you from the gift shop and if he embarks on an adventure, make sure to snap a photo and share it with the zoo. Your photo might just make the website.