10 best zoos in the UK based on ticket prices, reviews and value for money

The best zoos in the UK have been determined based on a number of key factors, include prices, popularity, Trip Advisor ratings and how many animals they have

Mother and young child feeding a giraffe at a zoo
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The best zoos in the UK, based on numerous factors including ticket prices, number of species on display, and value for money, have been revealed by new research.

With parents anticipating spending more than £3,000 in 2024 to keep their kids entertained in the school holidays, finding things to do with kids can be an expensive endeavour. But while there are free and easy activities you can do with your children, it's nice to mix it up.

Zoos are great options for kids - they can get a good look at animals that they might only have seen in storybooks, learning about them from a safe distance or in a hands-on experience, and there's usually some kind of ride, park or play area that can help wear them out too.

But with so many zoos across the UK, how do you know which is the best? Fortunately, Outdoor Games has released its UK Zoo Index, where it ranks the zoos on a number of key features to determine which is the best. Here's what the research found:

Best zoos in the UK

  • Cotswold Wildlife Park, Oxfordshire, is the best zoo in the UK, with an average 4.5 out of five star rating on Trip Advisor, more than 260 species on display and child ticket price of £13.50
  • Paignton Zoo, Devon, took the second spot with the same Trip Advisor rating, 250 species on display, and child tickets available for £16.85
  • Chester Zoo, comes in at number three with more than 500 species on display, but with the highest ticket price out of the top ten zoos at £21.81
  • Belfast Zoo might be sixth on the list overall, but it takes the top spot when it comes to the cheapest child tickets at just £6.75

To determine the list, various factors were taken into consideration, including the price of admission, whether you have to pay for car parking or not, it's popularity (based on an increase in the number of Google searches over the last 12 months), how many stars it gets on Trip Advisor, as well as how many species each zoo has on display. All of these points were assessed to give a new overall score out of ten for each zoo. According to that overall score, the top 10 best zoos in the UK are:

  1. Cotswold Wildlife Park, Oxfordshire
  2. Paignton Zoo, Devon
  3. Chester Zoo
  4. Bristol Zoo
  5. Marwell Zoo, Winchester
  6. Belfast Zoo
  7. Twycross Zoo, Leicestershire
  8. Blackpool Zoo
  9. Dublin Zoo
  10. Colchester Zoo

Which UK zoo is best value for money?

Of the top 10 zoos, Bristol Zoo offers the best value for money, with 419 species on display and a child's entry costing £14.32, which works out at just over 3p per species.

When it comes to working out which zoo is the best value for money, you need to factor in more than the price of admission - it's what that admission buys you that determines its value. For example, Chester Zoo might be third on the list overall, and have the highest child admission prices on the list, but with 500 species on display it offers better value for money than the zoo in second place, Paignton Zoo, which, while cheaper when it comes to admission, only has 250 species on display. Similarly, Belfast Zoo might have the cheapest entry price for a child, but with only 120 species, it's not quite the best value for money.

Which UK zoos have the cheapest entry fees for children?

Belfast Zoo offers the cheapest tickets for kids by quite a degree, at a bargain £6.75, but unless you live in Northern Ireland, any saving might be undone by higher travel costs. The second cheapest zoo, according to the research, is Wildheart Animal Sanctuary on the Isle of Wight at £12.75, but you'd need to factor in ferry costs to get there which might make it significantly more expensive than a zoo closer to home.

According to the index, the top 10 cheapest zoos in the UK are:

  1. Belfast Zoo - £6.75
  2. Wildheart Animal Sanctuary, Isle of Wight - £12.75
  3. Cotswold Wildlife Park, Oxfordshire - £13.50
  4. Marwell Zoo, Winchester - £13.94
  5. Bristol Zoo - £14.32
  6. Dublin Zoo - £15
  7. Edinburgh Zoo - £15.25
  8. Highland Wildlife Park, Kingussie, Scotland - £15.75
  9. Blackpool Zoo - £15.99
  10. Chessington World of Adventures Zoo, Greater London - £16

If you find your day out ruined by the weather, it's worth checking whether there is a rainy day guarantee in place that could give you a free second chance. It's also worth knowing why a free day out might not be all that it seems, and this mum's hack to save money on snacks when your out with the kids.

Sarah Handley
Consumer Writer & Money Editor, GoodtoKnow

Sarah is GoodtoKnow’s Consumer Writer & Money Editor and is passionate about helping mums save money wherever they can - whether that's spending wisely on toys and kidswear or keeping on top of the latest news around childcare costs, child benefit, the motherhood penalty. A writer, journalist and editor with more than 15 years' experience, Sarah is all about the latest toy trends and is always on the look out for toys for her nephew or Goddaughters so that she remains one of their favourite grown ups. When not writing about money or best buys, Sarah can be found hanging out with her rockstar dog Pepsi, getting opinionated about a movie or learning British Sign Language.