What to do at the Weekend: Seeing the Giant Pandas at Edinburgh Zoo
Seeing the Giant Pandas at Edinburgh Zoo was one of the absolute highlights of our trip to Scotland.
We felt really lucky to get the opportunity to see Yang Guang and Tian Tian before they head back home to China later this year.
What we did at the weekend:
Visited Edinburgh Zoo
Our rating: 8/10
Visiting Edinburgh Zoo in November
As part of Tanith’s birthday celebrations, we braved the Scottish weather in November and headed ‘North of the wall’.
In actuality, we were very lucky – it stayed dry and we were treated to bright blue skies and sunshine.
Seeing the Giant Pandas at Edinburgh Zoo has been on our list for some time.
After all, it’s the only place in the UK where you can still see them in the flesh.
And, since they are Tanith’s undisputed favourite animal, seeing them was even more special.
Incidentally, red pandas are a close second for her (as anyone who has read our red panda experience post will see).
The Giant Pandas at Edinburgh Zoo
Seeing the Giant Pandas at Edinburgh Zoo was undoubtedly the highlight of our whole trip to Scotland.
The panda pair Yang Guang and Tian Tian did not disappoint.
Now, Giant Pandas are notoriously sleepy animals and this proved to be the case during the first part of the day.
They (rather inconsiderately) slept through the panda keeper talk we waited so patiently for.
Luckily, they woke up later in the day and we were able to capture some really cool snaps of the panda pair chewing on some bamboo.
It was actually Ben’s first time seeing Giant Pandas in real life.
Although he still maintains they are “just a pair of homeless dudes in bear suits” to this day.
(Any Simpsons fans out there will get the reference).
Tanith had previously encountered them at Berlin Zoo a few years ago and was extremely excited to see them again.
In many ways we feel quite lucky to have seen them since Yang Guang and Tian Tian are sadly leaving Edinburgh Zoo later this year.
The Giant Panda Farewell Event
To mark the farewell, Edinburgh are hosting variety of farewell events throughout the year that are available to book via their website here.
How does Edinburgh Zoo Compare to Other Zoos?
Anyone who reads this blog or follows us on social media will tell you, we love a good zoo.
Anything that features cute and cuddly, amazing animals and we are there.
This year, we’ve been lucky enough to visit Dudley Zoo, Chester Zoo, Manor Wildlife Park, and Phoenix Zoo (in the USA).
You could probably add the Busch-owned theme parks in Florida – Sea World, Discovery Cove, and Busch Gardens to that list too.
How Edinburgh Zoo measures up
There is plenty to see
With over 1000 rare animal species to see, you won’t be stuck for furry friends to visit.
This number actually puts Edinburgh amongst the most species-laden zoos in the UK.
So, you will definitely get your money’s worth on the day.
It’s one of the biggest in the UK
Spread over 85 acres of hilly land, Edinburgh Zoo is more than twice the size of Dudley Zoo (40 acres) and London Zoo (36 acres).
So, make sure you have your comfortable shoes handy.
Edinburgh Zoo is however quite a bit smaller than Chester Zoo – which is 130 acres in size.
Chester is one of the largest in the UK (and the best in our opinion).
You get some really amazing views of the surrounding Scottish countryside from parts of Edinburgh Zoo.
The beautiful scenery makes it feel very different from typical ‘City Zoo’ and is definitely one of the key differentiators for this location.
Cool Penguin Enclosure
We were massively impressed with the penguin enclosure at Edinburgh Zoo.
In fact, it is probably the best one we have seen to date.
The penguins have so much room to bullet through the water and plenty of space to move around.
We loved it and spent a decent amount of time just watching them living out their lives.
Things you should know before visiting Edinburgh Zoo
If you are like us, we tend to research a place before we visit. So, we’ve put together a few things you might want to consider if you’re planning to visit Edinburgh Zoo.
Edinburgh Zoo is located outside the City Centre of Edinburgh
The first thing you should be aware of is that the Zoo is located about 4 miles outside of the City.
This is what we would consider to be the outskirts of Edinburgh.
Therefore, if you are staying in the city centre itself, you’ll need to find transportation to the site.
Unless you fancy a long walk of course.
One thing to note is that If you are driving, it’s quite easy to drive past it initially – as we did (although that could just be us being stupid).
The best tip is to look out for the big Holiday Inn on the corner, the zoo shares a car parking area with the hotel.
For anyone taking this option, use EH12 6TS as the postcode.
Travelling to Edinburgh Zoo by bus?
We recommend hopping on the number 12 service, which can be picked up on Princes Street in the city centre.
Parking is quite limited and chargeable
Although we didn’t experience a problem finding a space, we understand that parking can be quite limited at peak times.
Edinburgh is one of the busiest zoos in the UK with over 600,000 visitors per year.
Most of whom arrive over the summer months.
We would suggest trying to book an early time slot via the Edinburgh Zoo website and get there for opening time at 10am.
Edinburgh Zoo Parking Charges
It costs £3.00 to park at Edinburgh Zoo.
You need to grab a ticket on the way in and have this validated inside the main visitor centre / reception area.
Edinburgh Zoo is very hilly
You might want to turn the incline up on the treadmill in training for your visit to Edinburgh Zoo.
It is very very hilly and your calves will be aching after a few hours.
It is particularly steep on the way up to the Giant Panda enclosure.
Though, pandas live at altitude so perhaps it is fitting that they are towards (almost) the highest point of the zoo.
Having said this, being on the side of a hill does make for some phenomenal views from higher up.
The picturesque setting really does differentiate this zoo from any other place that we have been to this year.
Beyond the Giant Pandas
We know that the focus of this post has been on Edinburgh Zoo’s star attractions but we want to highlight the fact that this is a really good zoo even without the pandas.
We already mentioned the quality of the penguin enclosure earlier in the piece, but overall this is a well laid out zoo that features some of the best enclosures we’ve seen.
The giraffe paddock for instance is on two levels (high and low) which provides optimal viewing for the paying guest.
We’ll definitely be back
Its location too, is well considered – overlooking the mountains on the hill giving you spectacular photo ops, especially in the early winter sunshine.
We loved the expansive primate enclosures and were very lucky to catch the family of otters and the red panda at their most active.
All-in-all, a great visit and we will be back.
How much does Edinburgh Zoo cost?
Admission prices on the Edinburgh Zoo website cost £21.95 for adults and children can enter for £13.95 – booking is advised via the ticket section of the website.
Alternatively, you can save a bit of money on Get Your Guide, with Adult tickets for £19.95 and Child Tickets for £12.50. Give it a try here.
We think this is really good value for money and a must-visit if you are spending time in and around Edinburgh.