Established in 1838, Amsterdam’s happily family-friendly zoo was the first to open in The Netherlands and covers more than 14 hectares (35 acres) of shady tree-lined pathways and landscaped botanical gardens in the Plantage. It combines 19th-century architecture amid hundreds of mature trees with a 21st-century approach to conservation, housing more than 900 species of animal, some in majestic 19th-century compounds. The most impressive of these is the Aquarium, which was built in 1882 and reveals a cross-section of the murky waters of the city’s canals as well as housing more than 300 species of shark, eel and shoals of tropical fish.
While the Wolf House was formerly a 19th-century pub, the big cats, elephants, gorillas, zebras, meerkats, giraffes and antelopes range freely in spacious enclosures of modern design. Artis holds daily keeper talks (not always in English, so check ahead of time at the ticket office, where daily timetables are posted) and feeding times for the sea lions, vultures and comical penguins as well as elephant training – always popular with the kids, who will also love the fluttering dashes of color in the Butterfly Pavilion. The ticket price also gives admission to the greenhouses, zoological and geological museums as well as the Planetarium, where 3D movies on the birth of our universe are featured. There’s a kiddies’ playground, five restaurants and plenty of tray bikes selling pancakes and spicy, creamy bitterballen. Late-night openings on Saturday evenings between June and late August are often accompanied by live music.