Known for its wondrous landscaping, the 135-acre (55-hectare) Pairi Daiza zoo is set in beautifully manicured botanical gardens. Its name fittingly means 'paradise' in Persian.
Located on the grounds of the ancient Cistercian abbey of Cambron, the zoo was established in 1993 with just a small bird garden. Today, the site houses more than 5,000 animals in several geographically themed zones, including the Chinese and Indonesian gardens, a rose garden surrounding the abbey ruins and the Andalusian garden, with its Moorish patios and terraces.
The animals, from lions and giraffes to a fantastic array of birds such as flamingos and raptors, have spacious accommodations. Steam-train rides, playgrounds, daily birds-of-prey shows and all manner of cafés and restaurants add to the family fun among the aquariums, aviaries and tropical greenhouses. And Pairi Daiza is still a work in progress, with many more attractions slowly being added.
The zoo is open daily from March 26 to November 6 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and until 7 p.m. in August. The site is accessible by car along the N56 road from Mons to Ath.