Everything you need to know about Chester Zoo

Chester Zoo is known as one of the premier zoos in the UK, if not Europe. You can see over 500 species across the 128 acres, and in this guide, we’ll provide key information about the zoo.

Where is Chester Zoo?

Chester Zoo is located in Upton-upon-Chester, a suburb on the outskirts of Chester.

Given its location in the heart of the North West of England, Chester is easily reachable by car from several UK cities. It is only 35 minutes from Chester, and 50 minutes from Manchester. You can get to the zoo in 1 hour 40 minutes from Birmingham, and in two hours from Nottingham.

How to get to Chester Zoo

Located off the A41, the zoo has easy connections to the motorway, being near to the M56. The M56 runs east to west through Cheshire connecting with the M6 motorway (for the Midlands and the South) and the M62 motorway (for Manchester, Liverpool and Yorkshire).

If you are coming by train, both Chester and Bache stations are just two miles from the zoo. From both Chester and Bache train stations, you can take several regular buses to the zoo, including the X1 and the PR3, or take a taxi.

There is nothing to stop you from coming to Chester Zoo by foot or bike – in fact, the zoo will give you 15% off your ticket price if you come by bike to reward this green choice. Walkers from Chester or the bus stop near the zoo can take a shortcut to the main entrance via the public bridle path from Flag Lane North. Directions to the bridle path are available on the Chester Zoo website. Cyclists will find plenty of bike racks awaiting them at the zoo, and can hand in a voucher downloadable from the Chester Zoo website to claim their 15% off discount.

Chester Zoo opening times

Chester Zoo operates all-year round and opens every day from 10 am.

Closing time varies throughout the year – from the earliest of 4pm during winter, to 6 pm during the summer months. Closing times may also vary during holiday periods.

Parking at Chester Zoo

There is ample free parking on-site at Chester Zoo, with 6,000 spaces in total.

Drivers of electric cars can power up using one of 26 7kw charging points at the zoo, with each bay offering a Type 2 universal socket. Electricity is charged per kwh.

There are also premium parking spaces available to book online, charged at £5 per spot.

What is there to see at Chester Zoo?

There are a wide variety of animals to see at Chester Zoo; from amphibians to birds, invertebrates, mammals and reptiles.

Chester Zoo is a conservation-based zoo which strives to protect some of the world’s most rare animals from extinction. Among the rare types of animals born at Chester Zoo are a Malayan tapir (large herbivore similar to a pig), an okapi calf forest giraffe, a Visayan warty piglet, and an eastern bongo (the rarest critically endangered mammal in Africa).

The zoo spreads the animals into different zones over a wide expanse, including areas such as the Tropical Realm and Monsoon Forest. One of the most popular attractions is Islands, which opened in 2015. Visitors can immerse themselves in an environment which imitates the tropical islands of South East Asia, such as Bali, Sumatra, Papua and Panay. These ‘replicas’ of tropical forests contain rare and endangered species such as the Visayan warty piglet.

There are also plants and gardens throughout Chester Zoo. Eye-catching areas of vegetation include the Nepenthes National Plant Collection, which showcases endangered varieties kept in special conditions, and the Botanist’s Lab, a display made entirely from recycled materials.

Booking tickets

You can book tickets for Chester Zoo online via the official website. You can also pay on the day, purchasing your tickets at the ticket windows.

If you have a gift voucher, there is no need to pre-book a ticket. Simply present your gift voucher at the admissions window.

Carers of visitors with disabilities are permitted free entry. Carer tickets can be collected from the ticket windows on arrival, and require a support document such as a disability allowance or PIP letter.

Chester Zoo cost

Tickets to Chester Zoo vary in price according to the time of year you visit. Check ticket prices online using the calendar on the official Chester Zoo website – select the date on which you want to visit to bring up prices.

Adults can expect to pay around £30 for a day ticket, with children over the age of three charged around £20 to £25. Student tickets are priced a little cheaper than adult tickets. Children under the age of two but over 12 months pay less than £5, with babies under 12 months permitted free entry.

You may also see Chester Zoo day tickets for sale from affiliate sites and agents. These tickets may be priced higher than tickets from the official Chester Zoo site due to the addition of a commission fee.

Members of Chester Zoo get unlimited free entry for the whole year. Membership prices at the time of writing are £110 per annum for adults and £82 for 2-17 year-olds. There are discounts on offer for large groups and schools.

Food at Chester Zoo

If you are spending the day at Chester Zoo there will be plenty of opportunities for you and your group to eat. The zoo has located ‘Outposts’ – its name for snack huts – throughout the site. They serve ice cream and drinks, as well as a variety of hot dogs including original, chilli cheese and vegetarian.

For something more substantial, there is The Oakfield, a gastropub with indoor and outdoor seating. Serving everything from fish and chips to pork chop, Caesar salad and afternoon tea, the pub caters to a variety of palates.

There are other restaurants on site. Manado Street Kitchen serves fast food with an Asian twist, with dishes such as Indonesian Fried Chicken Sandwich on the menu. Then there is June’s Food Court, offering kid-friendly treats such as burger and chips, sausage and chips, and pizza.

Accessibility at Chester Zoo

Chester Zoo is fully accessible for visitors with wheelchairs and mobility scooters. There is free disabled parking by the main entrance, and accessible pathways throughout the site. Wheelchairs and electric scooters can be hired for free, on condition of a £25 refundable deposit. This requires pre-booking and hire is not available on the day.

Toilet facilities are accessible across the site, and in the Jubilee toilets, there is a changing space with hosts, an adjustable bed, and a sink. A wheelchair lift or assistance may be needed to see attractions such as the Realm of the Red Ape or the Elephant and Wooden Bats bridges which have a sharp gradient.

Assistance dogs are welcome on site, provided they are registered with an accredited training provider. The zoo advises that registered assistance dogs should be kept up to date with their inoculations and be kept under control on a lead at all times.

Chester Zoo conservation initiative

In its role as a conservation and education charity, Chester Zoo supports over 80 projects that are helping to fight against the extinction of animals in various countries worldwide. The zoo intensively manages animal populations to help preserve their future.

The history of Chester Zoo

Chester Zoo was opened in 1931 by George Mottershead, a florist and pet seller, and his family.

The zoo developed rapidly after the Second World War, and in 1950 featured a polar bear exhibit that was constructed entirely from war-time materials.

Mottershead stood by a belief that cages for animals should be avoided, instead preferring moats and ditches where possible.

After the turn of the millennium, ambitious plans for the construction of a marina and hotel linked to the zoo were shelved due to lack of funding. In 2010, the zoo broke its record for visitor numbers when 1.4 million people passed through its gates.


We’ll wrap up this guide by answering some common questions about Chester Zoo:

How long does it take to walk around Chester Zoo?

How long it takes to walk around Chester Zoo will depend on the pace of your group, and how long you stay in each area. It is possible to go around the entire site in just over two hours at a brisk pace. However, many groups will opt to spend a whole day at the zoo; from opening time at 10am through until closing time.

Attractions along the way – such as the boat ride and monorail – can take up time. You may also want to factor in the time it takes to take a break for snacks or a meal.

Can you take your own food into Chester Zoo?

The zoo invites visitors to bring their own food, including picnics. There are outdoor and indoor picnic areas provided on site, and the zoo urges visitors to use these zones for picnics, taking their waste home with them if possible.

Note that visitors are not allowed to bring alcohol, barbecue equipment and glass containers into the zoo.

What ages is Chester Zoo suitable for?

Chester Zoo is suitable for people of all ages. It is a popular attraction with children, who must be accompanied by an adult if under the age of 16. Chester Zoo is also suitable for senior citizens and offers accessibility for people with mobility problems.

Some attractions do have age restrictions. For example, Early Access Bird Photography Experience is only available to children aged 12 and over.

What happens when it rains at Chester Zoo?

Chester Zoo has several indoor attractions to see during inclement weather. These include exhibits such as the Realm of the Red Ape, Spirit of The Jaguar, Monsoon Forest and the Spirit of the Jaguar.

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