On the banks of the River Isar, south of central Munich, is the city’s zoo: the Tierpark Hellabrunn. Just over a hundred years old, it was the most progressive zoo in the world when it first opened, with an approach that most major zoos the world over would end up emulating. Two things set it apart: firstly, the animals were arranged more or less according to their region of origin. Secondly, they were placed in environments as close as possible to their natural habitats, allowed to wander freely with moats to keep them from the public (and vice versa). It was a huge step forward when you consider how zoo animals were generally kept at the time, left to miserably pace small concrete cages (and let’s not even get into circuses).
Tierpark Hellabrunn is currently undergoing a major overhaul, but it’s still one of the best zoos in the world, and a great day out for all ages. Kids get their own zoo-within-a-zoo where they can feed dwarf goats with specially-provided grains and cross the adventure rope bridge. Other highlights include the huge selection of big cats, the Elephant House, with its huge concrete dome, and the expansive orangutan enclosure where these beautiful, playful primates are free to swing, scamper and climb. The polar bear enclosure was recently upgraded and is now of the most extensive in Europe, with star attractions like Giovanna, born in 2006. Regular feedings and other animal outings include a sea lion performance, pelican feeding, and a daily elephant walk.