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One of the country's oldest attractions, in a stunning hillside location

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Views of Belfast Lough
Over 140 Species
Rainforest Exhibit
Floral Hall
In the early 20th century, a tram service operated between the city of Belfast and the surrounding villages. To encourage its use, the city council built a garden and miniature railway at the end of the line. The site steadily gained popularity and in 1934, it was eventually transformed into a zoo.

The View from Belfast Zoo
Photo Keys767
The zoo has been open ever since, and can now claim to be one of the oldest attractions in the country. In fact, it frequently attracts over 300,000 visitors a year.

Photo Pete Fordham
Despite the swarming crowds, the zoo has somehow managed to remain a quiet, peaceful spot. The park's location, nestled among the rocks of a steep slope, is spectacular, with sweeping views across the waters of Belfast Lough. It's an ideal place to raise animals, which is why the zoo's population has grown steadily to over 1000 creatures of 140 different species.

Photo Pete Fordham
They boast all the large mammals you might expect, from elephants and giraffes to lions and tigers. There's the only display of bears in the entire country, and all sorts of smaller animals, such as monkeys and penguins. The park also contains several species native to Northern Ireland. A sign on each enclosure explains which ones these are, so keep an eye out. If you’re ever out and about in the nation’s countryside, you might just spot some of these!

Photo RobRyb
One of the newer exhibits is The Rainforest. It's self-contained in its own building, which is kept at a steady 27 degrees. This balmy environment is perfect for creatures like two-toed sloths and fruit bats. The walk-through exhibition also includes all sorts of multi-coloured tropical plants that wouldn't survive in Northern Ireland's cooler climate.
Throughout the zoo, great care is taken to make the enclosures resemble a natural, wild environment. The monkey cages, for example, look like an aerial obstacle course, which the creatures throw themselves around with wild abandon.

Photo Theyoungones1994
The zookeepers often hide food so the animals have to forage naturally for it. Sometimes, the staff even step in as foster parents. One lion cub was raised by a human after being rejected by her mother. The zoo's inhabitants are obviously pleased with their surroundings, as several dozen new babies are born here every year. Sometimes there are competitions to let members of the public give the new arrivals a name.

Lions Cubs at Belfast Zoo
Photo RobRyb
The park's 55 acres are scattered with cafes and restaurants where you can pick up a snack. There's a "zoovenir" shop, selling various toys and keepsakes. Many of the products are fairtrade, or ethically sourced.

Photo krismcconkey
Also within the park is a 1930s ballroom called Floral Hall. It was previously used as a concert venue, hosting such famous bands as Pink Floyd. At present the building is not currently in use, but plans are underway to restore it. Another historical sight is the World War II memorial. It pays tribute to the time when a US aeroplane crashed on the hill.
Visitors shouldn't forget that this used to be a garden, and it's still home to all sorts of trees, flowers and plants. The centrepiece is the huge lake, just past the entranceway. The colourful scene is complimented perfectly by the lurid pink flamingos, balancing calmly in the water.
Visitor Information
Belfast Zoo is open daily, 10am to 7pm (4pm in winter). Entry costs around £8 for adults, £4 children, £20 families. Belfast Zoological Gardens, Antrim Road, Belfast, BT36 7PN. Tel: 028 9077 6277

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