It had been a while since I last visited Antwerp Zoo. Such a long while actually that I couldn’t remember a thing of it. Apparently I was there with my parents, brother and grandparents when me and my brother were still playing in the sandbox behind our house. For your information: no we don’t have that sandbox anymore in case you were wondering.
Since we went to the Antwerp Zoo last time with my grandparents, making another visit with them felt like the right thing to do. So my mum, my grandparents and I set off on a Saturday morning and headed for the train in nearby Belgian Turnhout (the trains in Belgium are tons cheaper than the ones in the Netherlands – just a little heads up). In about 50 minutes (with cheaper train fare comes a de-route unfortunately) we stood right in the heart of Antwerp, a city in the north of Belgium.
Antwerp is a city I know quite well, as we often make a visit. The beautiful buildings, great shopping and eating possibilities and the friendly people make it a must-see when you ever visit our southern neighbours. If you travel down there by car, make sure to park on the quayside: the parking area at the end of the row of parking areas is free of charge. You can also park the car on the other side of the Schelde river and take the metro or foot tunnel to the city center.
But even if you do travel to Antwerp by car, I would absolutely recommend you to walk up to Antwerp Central Station. That’s the station we arrived at that Saturday, and it’s a beauty. Booking website stedentripper.com declared it to be the most beautiful station of Europe, and newssite Mashable even announced it to be one of the most beautiful station of the world. The ceiling of the building is immense, as it had to be high enough for the steam trains to be able to arrive back in the 18oo’s. Since the latest renovation, the station features as many as four levels of trains.
Where the area where the platforms are, are very much modernized during the renovation, the central hall is an impressive piece of work and the historical value definitely shines through. To be honest, I spent quite a while in the hall taking photos from all corners.
Then it was time to head to the Zoo. Take the exit on the right and you’ll find yourself standing right in front of the entrance of the Antwerp Zoo – speaking of convenience!
Antwerp Zoo is literally almost glued to the station and you’ll see the historic building then also from almost every point in the animal park. So animals on the train? Almost!
Zoo Antwerp, or simply called Zoo by the locals, is one of the oldest animal parks in the world. Opened in 1843, when there was still one building, the Zoo has now grown to one of proper size, and that for a zoo which is located in the middle of a city.
What I love about the Zoo is that combination of historical, yet beautiful, buildings and the focus on landscaping. Small ponds, fountains, large flowerbeds and even a few waterfalls here and there make up the space between the buildings, outdoor cages and footpaths.
And the animals… Yes, all the lovely animals: The Big Five, reptiles, birds, mammals – we saw them all. A few of my favourites were the butterflies in the Amazon-looking ‘jungle’, the apes swinging on their jungle gym, and the tropical fish in the new reef aquarium. The Zoo is still expanding, as they are building an entire new safari themed area right at this moment.
Another highlight is the Egyptian Temple, which is the current home of the giraffes and the elephants. Don’t you just love the Egyptian paintings?
As a side note, I’m not always a big fan of zoos, mainly because the cages and areas the animals live in often are way too small. I still had some doubts while walking around the Antwerp Zoo, but it was also clear that the zoo tries to do everything to make the living situation for the animals as comfortable as possible.
I also learned that the organization does a lot to support science and conservation. Info plaques at almost every animal cage explain what the organization does to help and protect these type of animals in the wild. Antwerp Zoo also received the internationally recognized eco label ‘green key’ for being a sustainable-conscious organization.
On to you: do you like visiting zoos? What’s your favourite one?