Bristol Zoo review

Our rating 
3.9 out of 5 star rating 3.9
User rating
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In a nutshell

With entertainment to engage kids of all ages, there’s everything you would expect from a modern zoo, including informative keeper talks for animals such as lions, lemurs, fruit bats and gorillas
Fun for kids
4.5 out of 5 rating 4.5
Fun for parents
4.0 out of 5 rating 4.0
Worth the money
3.0 out of 5 rating 3.0
Facilities
3.5 out of 5 rating 3.5
Family friendliness
4.5 out of 5 rating 4.5
Pros: Educational, interactive, variety of different animals, beautiful grounds, friendly and informative staff
Cons: Forced to exit via gift shop, some toilets were small and not well maintained

When we visited:

We visited Bristol Zoo Gardens on an overcast, drizzly and fairly busy Saturday during the summer school holidays

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What age is Bristol Zoo Gardens best for?

Best for: Children aged 2-11 years

Still good fun for: Babies (who will be fascinated with the moving animals and the colours in the aquarium) and children aged 12+ years

How much does it cost?

Admission prices vary throughout the year, depending on what day/month you visit

  • Gate prices: Adults £17, children £11, under 2s free
  • Online prices: Adults £15.45, children £10

Are there discounts or cheap tickets available for Bristol Zoo Gardens?

Look out for special deals on the website – for example, a week day during term time or certain days during the winter months will cost £10 for an adult and £5 for a child (2-14 years) if booked online, or £12 (adult) and £7 (child) at the gate.

Also check Picniq for special offers before booking.

Any extra charges once I’m there?

  • Unfortunately, you are forced to exit via the gift shop, where there is a huge array of things to buy including badges and postcards, a bit of plastic tat, absolutely loads of soft toys, and various books and games
  • Some of the items are fairly overpriced, so either be prepared to say no – many times – or spend some money in there, for a quiet life!
  • ZooRopia, a high ropes course for everyone age 5 and over – it’s only open at weekends and during school holidays and costs £7.65 for adults and £6.75 for children, if booked online, or £8.50 (adult) and £7.50 (child) on the day
  • There are also some added extras such as the opportunity to feed the lorikeets, as well as VIP animal experiences for an additional cost

How long will we spend at Bristol Zoo Gardens?

You could easily spend a whole day here if you visit every part of the zoo and engage the children in all the activities and interactive displays. However, it’s a relatively small zoo, so you could do everything in 4-5 hours if you’re short on time or have kids who bound through each area fairly quickly!

What does Bristol Zoo Gardens offer for families?

Bristol Zoo Gardens is great for families. It’s been open to the public since 1836, making it the 5th oldest zoo in the world. The 12-acre site is home to hundreds of different animals, as well as award-winning botanical gardens, which are landscaped beautifully.

The zoo is well presented, with lots of interactive displays and information to help educate the children about each of the animals. You can expect to see a variety of different animals during your visit, including lions, giant tortoises, reptiles, red pandas,  monkeys, gorillas, seals, penguins and meerkats – plus there’s plenty of marine life on display in the aquarium. Some animal enclosures have raised children’s viewing areas to ensure little ones get a good view, but we found even on a pretty busy day that it was easy to get to the front and up close to the animals.

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What shouldn’t be missed?

Highlights for us were:

  • Definitely Monkey Jungle and Gorilla Island
  • Our little monkeys also loved the lions and viewing the seals from underwater walkways!
  • Bristol Zoo Gardens is a conservation and education charity and it’s obvious, just from wandering around, they have a strong focus on conservation and wildlife protection. All the animals within the zoo seem very well cared for
  • We found the staff particularly helpful, friendly and knowledgeable. You could see they loved working there, and were happy to spend time with our kids, talking to them about the animals and answering their questions
  • There’s a great children’s play area, an activity centre, a maze and a splash area to keep the kids entertained when not seeing the animals
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Is Bristol Zoo Gardens easy to navigate?

The zoo is relatively compact and well sign-posted – plus you get a helpful map and day planner upon entry, so you should have no problems finding your way around.

Is it a good all-weather option?

The zoo has some indoor areas, but it’s mainly outside so be prepared for the weather– sun cream and hats when it’s hot; umbrellas and rain coats when it’s wet!

What you need to know before you go to Bristol Zoo Gardens:

  • Check out the useful Bristol Zoo Gardens website if you plan to see particular animals – each animal has a page with detailed information, lots of pictures and a map to show where in the zoo they can be found
  • There is a steep incline when entering or exiting Bug World, so beware if you have pushchairs or wheelchairs
  • Twilight World is pretty dark inside and can be quite difficult to see (although the staff in there carry little red lights to help find your way). It was also a little scary for our 6 year old as it was quite busy and he was worried he would lose us in the dark, so he stayed glued to us the whole time!
  • There were some enclosures where the animals were nowhere to be seen, which is usual for a zoo, so bear this in mind and perhaps try to re-visit those enclosures later in the day
  • On busy days, it can be difficult to get a good view of the animals during the keeper talks, so aim to get there around 10-15 minutes before the talk begins
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Was it pushchair friendly?

Yes. The majority of the zoo is quite flat, and we’d definitely recommend bringing a buggy for little ones. There is a fair bit of walking to do if you spend time visiting all areas of the zoo, and they may want to rest tired legs towards the end of the day.

What are the food and drink facilities like at Bristol Zoo Gardens?

If you’re after a sit-down meal, you can head over to The Hide restaurant, which is open all day and offers breakfasts, pizzas, burgers, salads, and so on, with prices ranging from around £5-£10. There is also a £5 kids menu, offering hot dishes such as pizza and pasta, plus a drink. It’s a large restaurant with plenty of seating and even an interactive screen for children, which amused our kids for a while! However, there are some negative reviews of the food and complaints of slow service on TripAdvisor, so bear this in mind when deciding on your food options.

Elsewhere, there is the Hungry Monkey kiosk, selling kids lunch bags, sandwiches, hot and cold drinks, crisps, cakes and ice cream, plus another kiosk that sells pasties. There’s also an ice cream van and Fire Pit barbecue, although these are only open on hot summer days.

The zoo is doing its bit for reducing plastic waste, with water refill stations dotted around to refill water bottles and rinse reusable coffee cups, plus there are lots of recycling bins.

Can you bring a picnic?

The zoo has plenty of picnic areas, so this is by far the best option if you’re trying to keep costs low. There are picnic benches right next to the children’s playground, as well as outside The Hide restaurant, and even an undercover picnic area near Gorilla Island. You can also find benches all over the zoo, including on the main lawn.

What are the toilets like?

There are plenty of toilets dotted around the zoo, including at the entrance/exit, however some of them are fairly cramped and can get busy. All of them have baby changing facilities and almost all are accessible, plus there are low-level sinks to help little ones wash their hands. Some of them have seen better days though, and were not always spotlessly clean on our visit.

Pushchair/wheelchair access and special needs:

Despite the fact that it’s over 180 years old and there are a number of old buildings, the majority of the zoo is quite flat and wheelchair-friendly

  • Most paths are tarmac and there are ramps into most buildings
  • A couple of the child viewing platforms can’t be accessed by wheelchair users, but you should still be able to view these animals in the main viewing area if they’re out and about
  • There are 6 unisex accessible toilets dotted around the zoo
  • The largest one is next to Butterfly Forest and also has an adult changing bed with hoist
  • The zoo doesn’t currently have British Sign Language, audio descriptive guides or Braille signs, although they did tell us that this is something they’d be keen to introduce in the future.
  • More information on accessibility at Bristol Zoo Gardens can be found here

Opening dates and times:

Bristol Zoo Gardens is open every day of the year except Christmas Day, from 9am-5.30pm, with last entry at 4.30pm. On Christmas Eve, it closes at 4pm.

How to get to Bristol Zoo Gardens:

Bristol Zoo Gardens is located in the Clifton area of Bristol, not far from Clifton Suspension Bridge

  • If you’re driving, the postcode for your SatNav is BS8 3HA
  • The zoo is easily accessible by public transport, via bus or train
  • Clifton Down Station is a 10-minute walk to the zoo
  •  From Bristol Temple Meads Station take the number 8 bus service to the Zoo’s main entrance
  • Cut admission costs by using public transport – Bristol Zoo Gardens offers 33% off entry to the attraction if you arrive by bus, train or bike, just fill in a voucher, and provide proof of transport

Do you have to pay for parking?

There are 2 car parks at the zoo, which cost £3 (cash only). However, if you’re visiting the zoo on a weekend or bank holiday, you can park in the surrounding streets for free. If you arrive early enough in the day, there should be no problem finding a space in the car park, but it does get very busy later on – our advice is to get there early!

Worth a long car journey?

Yes, absolutely! It’s definitely worth a trip if you live in, or are visiting, the south west.

Which hotels or holiday accommodation are near Bristol Zoo Gardens?

The zoo is near the centre of Bristol, so there are plenty of accommodation options nearby, including:

Nearby attractions for a longer day out:

Bristol Aquarium is a 7-minute drive, which is just steps from interactive science experience We The Curious and the Bristol Museum & Art Gallery.

MFM verdict:

We all loved our trip to Bristol Zoo Gardens! The staff are brilliant, there is a vast array of animals to visit, it’s compact and well laid out, plus it’s interactive and educational for the kids.  It can be expensive to visit at peak times, but your entrance fee goes towards supporting the zoo’s work on conservation and protecting wildlife around the world, so it’s a good cause. The kids were raving about it all the way home and, let’s face it, if they’re happy, we’re happy!

Visit Bristol Zoo Gardens’ website

See more reviews of Bristol Zoo Gardens on TripAdvisor

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Intro to me:

We visited with our two children aged 6 and 8 years old