Is the Zagreb Zoo in Croatia Worth Visiting?

Many people generally have issues with zoos, seeing how animals are taken from their natural habitats and placed in captivity. But a well maintained zoo can be a fun and very importantly educational place for all ages. Lots of zoos have good conservation programs in place and by providing a place for people to have up-close encounters with some of the planets beautiful and even weird creatures this can then install a desire to protect their natural habitats. Even Bell and I, without kids, like to enjoy the occasional day at the zoo. With that said, if you even marginally have issues with zoos, the Zagreb Zoo is probably not the place to visit.

Entrance to the Zagreb zoo

Zagreb Zoo History and Facts

Zagreb Zoo is located in Maksimir Park, which is over 200 years old. The zoo was founded in 1925. It is home to more than 7800 animals from all continents, part of over 350 animal species. The zoo covers a total of 7 hectares,  5.5 of which is land.

Zagreb Zoo Issues

As we had rented a Croatian friends apartment for 3 weeks two summers ago, we had time for a day at the zoo and were initially excited to see what it had to offer. Entrance to the Zagreb Zoo is very cheap, just 30 kunas (€4 or $5 US) but we quickly came to realize why admission was so cheap. Like Wal-Mart, there is a high cost to low prices.

Run Down Habitats

Bear in a dry habitat at the Zagreb zoo
This bear was looking up as he begged for bread, a man shouted “opa!” as he tossed bread down to him.

Bear Habitat

The bear habitat was bone dry and occupied solely by this lone Brown Bear. We approached to find a grown Croatian man, with children by his side, dangling a piece of bread over the railing. The bear was sitting on his hind legs and crying for the bread. Finally, the teasing man tossed the bread down and yelled “Opa!” It was douchey enough to almost want to chuck him over. Opa! We both managed to restrain this urge enough to walk away shaking our heads.

Lion sleeping in a sandpit cage at the Zagreb zoo

Lion Habitat

The lion habitat was also particularly disgraceful. It consisted of several lions, in a far too small a cage that resembled a large kitty litter tray. Most of the lions were sleeping, probably out of sheer boredom. An excited Croatian boy ran up to the cage yelling and pointing “cava, cava!” (Lion in Croatian). We felt this was sad because the boy was too young to realize that this wasn’t a good situation for the lions, so there wasn’t much to be excited about. We also worried that if little hands got to close these animals could attack. It was another depressing display.

Seals at the Zagreb zoo
We should state that these photos were taken in July 2011 and we read that the zoo is building a larger enclosure for the big cats and bear(s?). Also, to be fair, Croatia is a country mired in economic problems, but with honest and generous people. Most Croatians work very hard, and many struggle to get by. Luckily they are family oriented and help one another, so not so many people fall into desperate poverty. Unfortunately, this also means that there isn’t as much money to spend on the zoo.

Tiger in a cage at the Zagreb zoo

Tears = Not a Good Day at the Zagreb Zoo

Bell was particularly affected by the experience, even shedding some tears after seeing two extremely cute little white foxes, huddled together and looking unhappy. Alarmingly, on a scorching hot summer day, we didn’t see a whole lot of water bowls in enclosures. We saw two very cute small red pandas pacing around and looking very thirsty. After just an hour or so at the zoo we decided it was time to leave, as it was just too heartbreaking. We had a much better time visiting places like Plitvice Lakes National Park.

While we don’t recommend visiting, you can read other’s reviews of the zoo on tripadvisor and make your own choice. The zoo is located in the large Maksimir Park which is worth checking out and easy to reach from the city center via tram. Take the tram line 12 and ride until the Hondlova stop and then you are just a short walk from the zoo.

Zagreb Zoo Information (updated August 2020)

Opening hours of the ticket office: 9.00 – 18.30

Current opening hours of the Zoo: 9.00 – 20.00

Telephone: +385 1 2302 198

Email: [email protected]

Office hours: 9.00 – 16.00 on workdays

Click here to double check the information above.

UPDATE: Zagreb zoo has undergone renovations. If you have visited recently, let us know how you found the Zagreb zoo and whether you would recommend a visit to others.


  • Alex&Bell

    Alex and Bell originally met while solo traveling after finishing university in 2002, in Brugge, Belgium. Alex grew up in the USA and Bell hails from Australia. During our nearly 20 year marriage we've lived around the world, including spending six years living in the Netherlands and Ireland. We have traveled to nearly 70 countries and enjoy giving readers authentic and quality travel tips. Alex is an award winning travel journalist and travel planner, who also freelances for other outlets. Bell is an award winning PhD scientist who currently works for a non-profit lung cancer advocacy research organization called Lungevity. Happy travels and if you have any questions leave a comment or drop an email!

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12 thoughts on “Is the Zagreb Zoo in Croatia Worth Visiting?

  1. It is sad to see animals that live in zoos that are not well funded. We are so lucky in Melbourne to have the large green enclosures.

    1. Indeed, very sad… Melbourne zoo is fantastic! I don’t mind the concept of zoos and I really liked the way the author put it in The Life of Pi, where he talks about zoos and compares its safety to the wild, where animals constantly have to protect their territory. I thought that was a really interesting perspective on zoos!

  2. It’s a shame that you didn’t have the time to visit Lisbon’s zoo. The entrance isn’t cheap but it has so many animals, cute babies and they’re very very well kept.
    I’ll take you there once you come back!

    1. Thank you! That sounds wonderful. Yes we would most definitely like to check out the Lisbon zoo with you when we return some day! 🙂 Amazingly we still haven’t been to the Dublin zoo yet, they are open even in winter but we are waiting until the weather warms up to go. We meant to go over the summer, but that came and went quick 😉

    1. Yes you certainly didn’t miss out on anything, aside from being bummed for an hour or more. There are definitely far better things to do in Zagreb! Pretty good pivos too 😉

  3. What a sad and not nice at all place for animals to be. It’s such a shame that these beautiful creatures are kept in such conditions after having already been deprived of their own freedom. 🙁 Thanks for sharing guys!

    1. Yes, it is horrible, we rarely go to zoos in many countries these days. Your bears in Bern looked to be slightly better off then the bear in Croatia, but that isn’t saying much.

      It is just too sad the way these animals are treated… I was in Japan a long time ago and went to this mini zoo where they had a monkey in a metal cage that was the same size a standing human, it was awful. I do think the introduction to Life of Pi has an interesting take on zoos and animals and their territories. Have you read the book?

  4. Zoo must be a place to show the fun of the beautiful animals but it seems like here in Zagreb Zoo, the animals are not happy. I feel sad especially at the part where the lions are put in a cage with lots more of them. I still hope to visit this place and hopefully things will change for the better especially for the animals. Thanks for sharing!

    1. The Zagreb Zoo is indeed unfortunate (as is the case with so many zoos around the world), especially when kids grow up thinking it’s normal to pack Lions and other animals in cages or poor habitats. One excited Croatian boy ran to the cage yelling “Kava, Kava!” Translation: “Lion, lion!” He was obviously totally unfazed by their current plight, and he was just a kid so you can’t blame him.

      1. Well, good news are that there are constructions going on in Zagreb ZOO in order to make better living conditions for animals, have to mention that animals in Zagreb ZOO never looked unhealthy or without a care. Alex&Bell your story about excited Croatian boy made me LOL, Kava doesn’t mean LION it means COFFEE. Croatian word for lion is lav. Obviously little boy wanted his coffee :)))))

        1. Thanks for sharing, Branka! That’s good news that the living conditions of the animals at Zagreb Zoo are improving! We obviously misunderstood the boy….or he was really craving coffee!! 🙂

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