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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrMore than just your average zoo, Hellabrunn is an incredible wildlife sanctuary where animals are kept in accordance with the kind of habitat, and fellow creatures, they’d be experiencing in their natural environment. Renowned as a ‘geo zoo’, it was the first of its kind to ever open, anywhere in the world. Inaugurated in 1911, Hellabrunn has grown to cover an area of 36 acres on the eastern bank of the River Isa, only 5kms south-west from Munich’s city centre.
Home to 20,000 animals, representing over 750 species, Hellabrunn Zoo lacks the usual gated enclosures one would expect in a zoo. Instead, animals and visitors are separated by means of landscaping, with moats providing a very safe and natural buffer. Animal lovers, who may otherwise be apprehensive about visiting ‘yet another zoo’, should not fear disappointment. There are very valid reasons why Hellabrunn Zoo is consistently rated as one of the world’s best. Not only do visitors get the enviable chance to go on an international wildlife safari, but they’ll also learn about all our continents’ different animal habitats.
Brief HistoryHellabrunn was first inaugurated in 1770 by Maximilian III, Elector of Bavaria , yet was initially meant to be an exhibit, attached to Nymphenburg Palace, accessible only to Bavarian aristocrats. It was never particularly popular and it wasn’t until almost a century and a half later, in 1911 to be exact, that the grounds would be used to open the first, bona-fide zoological park. Although this is now one of Munich’s most revered attractions, Hellabrunn has suffered quite a tumultuous history. Due to either war or drastic economic downturns, the zoo was closed twice in the first five decades alone.
Nowadays, and certainly since major renovations took place in the 1970s, this is one ofMunich’s most visited landmarks. Almost 2 million people pass through its gates every year. Renowned as a formidable research and breeding centre, Hellabrunn is respected for its commitment to providing natural environments for its exhibits, and unique experiences for its visitors.
ExhibitsThe park is very well set out, as one would expect in Germany, making a loop walk and visit to the great majority of exhibits, perfectly doable in half a day. But, considering the extent of the place, and numerous food outlets dotted about, do plan on spending a whole day if time allows. Grab a map at the entrance and take a few minutes to decide which direction you prefer walking, taking feeding times and shows into consideration.
Hellabrunn is divided into continental themes (Africa, Asia, Australia, the Americas, Antarctica and Europe), making it easy to discern which areas are on your must-visit and which you’d be happy to leave until the end. Some of the most popular exhibits are the Polarium, Aquarium, Orang-utan Paradise, Elephant House and Jungle House. Of course, aside the above-mentioned crowd favourites, you’ll also get a chance to explore a bat cave, experience the unrelenting heat and humidity of the tropics. Children will love the dedicated petting zoo enclosure where they can cuddle and feed farm animals including ponies, goats, llamas and alpacas.
Feedings & ShowsStrolling around Hellabrunn is relaxing and rewarding, although it’s worthwhile catching a few of the timed shows as well. Kids, in particular, get a real kick out of watching some of the great (and small) creatures in action.
10.30am – Falconer At Work – Show Arena: Watch and learn all about these majestic birds of prey as they show off their acrobatic skills.
11am – Meet Domestic Animals – Show Arena: a wonderfully fun and interactive show which aims to educate children on some of the most endangered domestic animals in the world.
11.30am & 2.30pm – Flipper Show – Polar World: Arguably the most popular show of all, where sea lions put on a fantastic and very entertaining display of shenanigans. The training of these comical creatures serves a very important role, as only through their training are zoo-keepers able to conduct thorough health and dental checks.
2.15pm – Elephant Show – Elephant House: Learn about the fascinating daily lives of Asian Elephants.
3.30pm – Polar Bear Talk – Polarium: Polar bears are one of Hellabrunn’s most popular exhibit and, during this show, zoo-keepers introduce visitors to the furry animals who live here.
Don’t forget to check out the updated Hellabrunn Zoo’s Feedings & Shows Page, as show times change according to seasons.
Guided ToursFor visitors who desire a more in-depth visit, Hellabrunn offers three different guided-tour options.
Private Guided Tours: A 1.5hr guided walk through the zoo, taking visitors behind the scenes and even accommodating personal meet & greet requests, if possible. Tours are usually given in German yet English-language tours can also be organised upon request. These tours cost 150 Euro per person, but this includes a specially discounted entrance fee to the zoo. If you can manage, we highly recommend spending 180 Euro on the night-time tours, which are given at 8pm in winter and 10pm in summer. Visiting the zoo then, when gates are closed and no other visitors allowed, is absolutely spectacular.
Photography Workshops: An expert, local wildlife photographer will show you the tricks of the trade, and guide you through a four-hour intensive workshop. Guided by the zoo’s official photographer, these workshops are given only six times a year, cost 165 Euro per person and book out weeks in advance.
Hands-on Workshops: A very unique concept, these full-ay, hands-on workshops are aimed at helping you ‘face your worst fears’, and help you to therapeutically deal with your snake, spider or whatever-else phobias you may have! Group classes cost 130 Euros and one-on-one private workshops cost 185 Euro.
Admission InfoOpening times: 9am to 5pm (October to March), and 8am-6pm (April to September)
Admission Prices: Adults (14 Euro)
Children-up to 4yrs (5 Euro)
Under 4yrs (free)
One parent + kids (17 Euro)
Two parents + kids (30 Euro)
Senior and students, with relevant ID card (10 Euro).
How To Get ThereIf you’re even mildly contemplating driving to the zoo, from anywhere in Munich, you can just about forget it. Traffic around this area can be quite overwhelming and many a visitor has spent hours simply trying to find parking. If coming from outside Munich, we suggest you park near a metro station and reach the zoo by public transport. This is, by far and away, the very best option.
The nearest U-Bahn station is Thalkirchen (Tierpark), from where you can easily follow the brown signs to the zoo’s entrance gates or, alternatively, just follow the ubiquitous herd of visitors. The U3, the underground metro line you’ll need, is best accessed from Marienplatz in Munich’s city centre, from where you can also catch bus number 52 (direct to ‘Tierpark’) if you prefer.
If you have a particular aversion to large crowds, we suggest you plan your visit during a week-day but most definitely NOT during a public holiday. This is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of Bavaria’s most sought-after day trip destination on special holidays.
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Author: Laura Pattara. Last updated: Mar 23, 2016