Chester Zoo, in Chester, Cheshire is one place we’ve been meaning to go for a long time. In Summer 2019 we acheived it! We were staying at Delamere Forest camping and caravan club site, and Chester Zoo is approximately a 30 minute drive away.
The zoo was opened in 1931 and at 125 acres, is one of the UK’s largest zoos. It is famous for being the zoo on the TV show The Secret Life of the Zoo and we were as excited about the prospect of bumping into one of the zookeepers as we were about looking at the animals.
Chester Zoo wasn’t exactly as I expected either from the TV show or what I’d made up in my own head. I expected it to be more urban – more like London Zoo with more compact enclosures and period buildings, but it was more like Twycross Zoo, which isn’t at all a bad thing. Enclosures were roomy and a lot of effort has gone into making sure they are as appropriate as possible for each species. It was also a lot greener than I imagined, with lots of trees and scrubland, and a surprisingly good amount of children’s play areas.
Here are our top tips for visiting Chester Zoo
1 – Book online. If you book online at least seven days in advance, you get your ticket a little cheaper AND it enables you to skip the ticket queue and go straight to the entrance turnstiles. We didn’t find any other discounts available when we wanted to go. I don’t think they do special offers very often. If you find one, please do share!
2 – Get a map. If you don’t get given one on entry, please ask for one. It will be invaluable because……
3 – Watch your time. The zoo is HUGE. It really is. They expanded it with the Islands area in 2015 so it’s even bigger now. We were there about six hours when we visited and we had to rush the last few areas. The map will help you understand what you still haven’t seen yet and help you prioritise.
4 – Take a picnic. The eateries and food stands were plentiful and not that expensive from what we could see, nor were the queues that painful, but there were also plenty of places to eat a picnic, so if picnicking is your thing, then even better!
5 – Allow extra time to get there. The zoo is not in central Chester, but three miles to the north in Upton-by-Chester. The bus takes around 30 minutes from Chester town centre/bus station. We travelled by car and spent over an hour getting there instead of the planned 30 minutes Google said it would take because of roadworks and sheer volume of traffic – most of which was heading for the zoo. On busy days, I can imagine that it gets even worse than this. If you can come on bike or walk, do! In fact, if you come on bike, show your bike to the staff as you get 15% off your entrance fee.
6 – Plan ahead. Look on the Chester Zoo website for details of everything that is going on on the day of your visit. There are lots of talks and activities to choose from and it’s a big zoo to get around. You can also download a map in advance and plan your route to include the talks you want to hear.
7 – Plan for bad weather. If you’ve booked and the weather forecast isn’t looking great, then make sure you download a copy of the zoo’s recommended wet weather route. Always best to be prepared!
8 – Wear good shoes. Seriously, this place is huge. You will do a lot of walking. Yes you can get the monorail (extra charges apply) but it only takes you halfway round the zoo. You have to then walk back again and if you want to see all of the animals, the monorail may not be the best option anyway.
Learn more about the history of Chester Zoo and what exhibits are there at
Here are a few pics from our very long and tiring day…..
Have you visited Chester Zoo? What did you think?