Near the Beijing Zoo subway station in Haidian District is an unexpected oasis of exotic animals and aquatic creatures. From pandas to giraffes and dolphins to stingrays, the Beijing Zoo and Beijing Aquarium are right next door to each other. Founded in 1906, the Beijing Zoo covers a massive 86 hectares and houses over 5,000 animals of around 450 different species; no wonder the zoo welcomes over 5 million visitors every year! Beijing Aquarium is just as impressive, being the largest inland aquarium in the world; it is home to over 1,000 marine species and freshwater fish. So take some time away from the hustle and bustle of Beijing’s busy streets to explore this amazing sanctuary with the whole family.
To begin your animal adventure, take exit C at Beijing Zoo subway station (Line 4), which emerges right outside the east entrance of the zoo. To save trouble and money, buy a combined ticket for the zoo and aquarium from the ticket stand for RMB 130. Pick up one of the free maps located just inside the entrance to avoid missing out on any of the action.
Begin your exploration of the zoo by taking the entrance to the left to spot some giraffes, amphibians, and reptiles. From there, proceed straight ahead across the moon bridge (月桥) towards the Children’s Education and Conservation Center (1). The center provides an interactive environment for kids to learn more about the history of the zoo, as well as its many animals. There is also an arcade and on Saturdays, there are educational classes on animals for 4- to 6-year-olds (RMB 10 per person). After you’ve had a quick tour of the center, stop off at the gift shop before making your way out.
Next, turn right and follow signs leading straight ahead to take you to the Giraffes (2). Here, you can get up close and personal with these gentle giants as you watch them in their playpen, so don’t forget to bring your camera! If just watching the giraffes isn’t enough, you can feed them for RMB 5.
Once you’ve finished feeding the giraffes, carry on straight ahead for a short distance and on the right, you will see the Children’s Zoo (3). For a charge of RMB 10, you can explore the pony garden and feeding zone to get closer to some more of the fascinating animals. There is also a farmhouse zone, a bird garden, as well as a cat and dog zone – where you can even walk a dog (starting at RMB 30).
Continue your exploration with the Golden Monkey House, Chimpanzee House, and the Penguin House. Follow the signs for the Giant Panda (4) until you arrive at the ticket stand. For RMB 5 per ticket, you can make your way through the large area, which is home to a variety of pandas. In the outdoor area, you can watch pandas eating, playing, and lazing around in the sun. Make your way around the panda area until you arrive at the exit, where you will find another souvenir shop with panda teddy bears to take home.
Next, follow signs for the Beijing Aquarium (5), past the Pheasant Garden and Nocturnal Animals House, until you can see the large white building. Around this area, you can refuel with a hot dog (RMB 10) or popcorn at one of the snack stands by the entrance. Head into the aquarium, stopping first at the Rainforest Adventure (6). There are some exotic types of fish, such as the South American freshwater stingray and catfish; you can feed the fish for RMB 10.
Make your way through the seven areas of the aquarium to take a look at the vast array of aquatic life on display, from the huge sturgeons in the Chinese Sturgeon Hall, to the adorable dolphins in the Whale and Dolphin Discovery. Once exploring has taken its toll, make a stop at the Food Court Area (7), located between the Whale and Dolphin Discovery and the Marine Mammal Pavilion. Indulge in some hearty fast food-style meals, including a variety of burgers (around RMB 12), fries, hot dogs, and drinks.
Finally, end your underwater exploration at the Marine Mammal Pavilion (8), where you can catch one of the four daily dolphin and sea lion shows. Show times change daily, so check the performance schedule located just outside the arena. If you’re not quite ready to take in the full atmosphere of the sea at the show, then sit a few rows back from the front to avoid getting splashed! Before heading home, there is a gift shop downstairs if you still haven’t managed to pick up any souvenirs along the way.
Beijing Zoo 北京动物园
RMB 15, RMB 8 (students). RMB 130 (includes aquarium). Daily 7.30am-6pm (summer), 7.30am-5pm (winter). 137 Baishiqiao Lu, Xizhimenwai Dajie, Haidian District (6839 0274) www.bjzoo.com 海淀区西外大街白石桥路137号
Children’s Education and Conservation Centre 科普馆
Free. Additional RMB 10 for educational classes: Sat 11am-noon and 1-2pm.
Children’s Zoo 小动物爱心俱乐部
RMB 10. Daily 9am-5pm.
Giant Panda House 大熊猫馆
RMB 5, free for kids under 1.2m. Daily 8am-6pm.
Beijing Aquarium 北京海洋馆
RMB 130 (includes zoo), RMB 60 (kids under 18), free (kids under 1.2m). Daily 9am-5pm (6217 6655) www.bj-sea.com