“ Address: ul. Karwieńska 3 / 80-328 Gdańsk-Oliwa / Poland „
Oliwa Zoo (Zoo Oliwskie - pronounce zohoh ohleevskieh) is the municipal zoo for Gdansk. It's located on the outskirts of the suburb of Oliwa, and can be reached by bus from Oliwa SKM train station or the Oliwa tram terminus. The zoo car park is located few hundred yards from the entrance (and costs 4PLN - 1GBP).
The zoo was founded in 1952 and it has been growing and developing ever since. Originally, and for quite afew years afterwards, the cages for carnivorous animals and the primates were still rather 19th century - small, cramped and clearly making the animals very stressed; although the herbivores and woodland animals always had rather huge enclosures.
Nowadays the zoo is rather different, with plenty of new developments, renewed focus on conservation and noticeably better conditions for all animals.
The best aspect of the zoo is it's location: it's situated in a 250 acres of a rolling countryside, surrounded by and partially incorporating both woodland and wetland/meadows. Parts of the zoo feel more like a rather extensive country park than a typical zoo, and this makes a visit enjoyable even to people who are not desperately keen to stare at captive animals.
But animal-gazers will also find interesting subjects in Oliwa Zoo. They have almost 100 species of birds - many of the wetland birds for whom the environment of the zoo provides a natural habitat, but the zoo also specialises in breeding of condors. There are almost 80 mammal species, with the herbivores enjoying particularly good conditions - enclosures so large that it's often hard to see the creatures from the path. In total there are over 200 species; the highlights include hippos, elephants, rhinos, orang-utans, chimps, leopards, tigers and bison. Recently they have acquired several giraffes. Of the "classic" zoo animals only the lions are missing.
The zoo can be roughly separated into three main areas. To the left of the entrance there are elephants (Indian and African) in a medium sized enclosure. Further on there are hippos (gigantic Nile hippos and also dwarf hippos), the new giraffe house (the giraffes can be seen both outside and inside, and they are absolutely delightful.
Zebras, tapirs, capibaras and Eland antelopes are also there, as is a smallish reptile and exotic bird house and a new, modern enclosure for cheetahs complete with a glass wall which theoretically allows for face-to-face viewing, but in reality the cats - as most carnivores are wont to do - are usually hiding further inside the grassy enclosure.
Walking straight up from the entrance will take you past unimpressive seal and penguin pond, kangaroos and wallabies to the primate area, where in new, spacious and modern houses with reasonably large enclosures the monkeys and the apes live. There are three orang-utans, which are fascinating to watch and really make you think about our relationship to the the rest of the animal world, and a large family of chimps (which tend to go on doing their own chimpy things on branches and platforms in the middle of their gigantic cage ad also invite reflection, this time more on the ape in human rather than the human in ape as it was the case with the orang-utans).
If you continue round the corner along the path from the chimps you can reach the third main area of the zoo from the back. Alternatively, turning right straight after the petting zoo, go past the collection of the wild cats including leopards, pumas and servals (these are unfortunately caged but the cages have been improved significantly in recent years). If you keep the catering area and the waterfowl lake to your left, you'll be able to find the gibbon island on the lake to your right and further on, and extensive area of enclosures for the herbivores - deer, camels, bison and European bison; a row of cages with birds of prey (although the condors, which are pride and joy of the Oliwa Zoo bird collection, are in a huge aviary outside the main zoo area on the road back to town). This part of the zoo is perhaps the one that can be most easily missed if you are doing the tour with smaller children and are getting tired (and you would be by now) - on the other hand, it's the most spacious and least crowded one, and perhaps most suitable for grown ups looking for a walk as much as animals to marvel at.
It is also in this part, well past the bison and the yaks, at the very end of the zoo that the amazing Amur tigers live (I love tigers - and one of them is even called Magda!) - in a new wooded enclosure with a glass wall.
You can walk back to the entrance along a pleasant path past llamas and more camels (there is a little play park here).
In addition to the pleasant landscape and the animal collections as such, the zoo has several extra attractions which are worth considering if you are bringing children with you.
I already mentioned the petting zoo, which is inhabited by mostly younger animals, orphaned or rejected by the mothers and brought up the zoo staff. They have llama, sheep, goats, guinea pigs, rabbits and more. The petting zoo is located near the entrance, and it's not always open, so if you want to visit, check the opening times as you arrive and adjust your visit plan accordingly.
There is also a retro-style road train (operates in season, out of season by arrangement, call (058) 343 48 77 or 0 609 146 128), which will be undoubtedly a great attraction for the little ones and will afford the adults a rest for the tired feet. The main problem with the choo-choo is that it's a guided visit, so obviously if you have no Polish speakers with you, the voice-over will be an annoyance rather than a help.
The train has three routes (full zoo which takes 45min, the more compact and more interesting part which takes 30min and the extended part which takes 15min). I would recommend using the choo-choo for the "lower zoo" after you have tired yourself out walking the main part yourself.
The trains depart from the main entrance and cost which cost respectively 8PLN (2GBP), 6PLN (1.50GBP) and 4PLN (1GBP) for full, main and lower gardens' tour.
On the path above the elephants there are pony rides - these are operated by "Yukon" in season (May - September) and cost 5PLN (1.2GBP) per ride that takes about 5-10 minutes up and down a wooded path.
A completely new attraction in Oliwa Zoo is a rope adventure trail. This was only opened after my last visit in the summer of 2008 and thus I cannot comment, but it does look good.
===Catering and Facilities===
There are several fast-food concessions dotted around the zoo, where you can buy drinks, ice cream and fast food snacks, and one place with an outdoor sitting area. It will keep you going, but it's not particularly impressive and you can as well bring some sandwiches food to eat sitting on a bench - there are no picnic tables.
There are several toilets (though none in the "lower park" are with large herbivore enclosures and tigers) which were clean but had queues (and as usual with any public toilets in Poland, carry a charge of few zloties).
Pretty much all of the zoo is pushchair accessible, and most paths would be suitable for wheelchairs, some are tarmac, some are solid dirt tracks, although I am not certain about accessibility of the toilets.
It's a very pleasant zoo located in a lovely stretch of a countryside, with a good selection of animals, nice walks and some extra attractions.
The cheap entry prices make it a great value for money and even if you factor in the costs of extra attractions, it still remains very good value. You can easily make a whole day out of your visit. Highly recommended, especially if you have children with you.
You can also combine the zoo with a visit to Oliwa proper, which has a great cathedral famous for its organ and is set in a lovely park which also houses a museum of contemporary art and an ethnographic museum. I suspect that after an extended visit to the zoo you won't really feel like doing much more, but if you want to have a look at Oliwa's attractions, here there are described in more detail:
The zoo is open all year, but in the colder months you are less likely to see many of the animals as they would be hiding or hibernating!
May to September
9.00 - 19.00,
April and October
9.00 - 17.00,
November to March
9:00 - 15:00
Last entry an hour before closing time
normal: 12 PLN (3GBP)
concessions 6 PLN (1.50 GBP)
Basic website in English: