Flamingoes in Shanghai Zoo
Flamingoes in Shanghai Zoo

I spent all of last weekend in Shanghai with my girlfriend, with two main purposes: to do some shopping for summer clothes; and to visit Shanghai Zoo, as my girlfriend has never seen any wild animals in the flesh, despite being quite expert on them from being addicted to CCTV-10’s nature shows and BBC natural science documentaries.

Shanghai Zoo is one of two such tourist attractions in the city, the other being the Shanghai Wildlife Park, which has an online petition for its closure from overseas animal-rights activists, and has been the scene in recent years of cruel stunts such as the ‘Animal Olympics’ and ‘Buy a duckling to feed to the crocodiles’.

Shanghai Zoo though has managed to remain boringly uncontroversial. And as there are few interesting or recent reviews of it online, here’s my input on the matter and my review of the place.

Lions in Shanghai Zoo
Lions in Shanghai Zoo

Worth seeing?
If you’re visiting Shanghai for the first time from out of town, or from overseas, then the answer is ‘no’. There’s plenty more to see in Shanghai to keep you occupied for a week without needing to see the zoo.

However, if you’re in the area and really want to have a pleasant morning or afternoon looking at a halfway decent variety of wildlife, then Shanghai Zoo is worth half a day of your time, at a reasonable price. If you have kids, you could make it a day-trip, but be prepared to walk several kilometres.

Getting there
Shanghai Zoo is westwards of the city centre, near Hongqiao airport. There are buses direct from the city center that go out past the zoo (such as from People’s Square), but that’ll be a long, hot ride in Summer. The way I did it I think was best: get to Hongqiao Road metro station (it’s on Lines 3 and 4), and then get onto Hongqiao Road itself, and, heading westwards, go to the nearest bus stop (just 100 metres away), and take either the 748 or 911 bus. Both buses are just 2 RMB each and have air-con, but are almost always busy. The ride is about 20 to 30 minutes on the bus, depending on traffic.

A cute sign in Shanghai Zoo
A cute sign in Shanghai Zoo

Two options: either a standard 30 RMB each ticket for access to pretty much everything, or a 45 RMB ticket that adds the ‘Elephant Show’ which runs from 2 to 3pm each day. Note that without getting that added extra you won’t actually get to see elephants clearly, as the rest of the time they’re just locked up in their little elephant house.

The birds and the bees
The reptiles area and the bird enclosures where the best part of the zoo, in that they had the best variety of species and better looking environments. There was also a nice park-like atmosphere. Many birds, such as pheasants, flamingoes and peacocks had had their wings clipped, which is a pity, but it explains how they were able to be kept in the open, divided from you by only a low mesh fence. A large bird-house with 10-metre high netting, where smaller exotic birds could fly freely, was a nice touch.

A giraffe in Shanghai Zoo
A giraffe in Shanghai Zoo

The big beasts
The other animals however were more of a disappointment, especially in terms of their environments; which were mostly rocky, dusty, and often littered with trash. Is a bit of grass that hard to grow? The bears especially had a miserable, barren patch of rubble on their enclosure.

In fairness though, the tigers and lions, in their large open pits, had better landscaping, and the big cats looked healthy and active.

Pandas, being China’s national icon and diplomatic gift of choice, had – perversely – the most miserable looking house. Set inside a concrete building, with concrete floors and white-tiled walls, it was viewable to the eager throngs of humans through thick glass, and it was a disappointment that they did not have an outside ‘pit’, such as the big cats and bears.

A panda in Shanghai Zoo
A panda in Shanghai Zoo

I suspect, though, it was to prevent the pandas being fed stuff by us humans, who, despite the ‘Love me. Don’t feed me’ signs all over the place, were constantly being thrown pieces of bread, peanuts, and various snacks.

In addition, there were the fun gorillas, monkeys, kangaroos and lots of less ‘popular’ four-legged stuff such as deers, bison, zebras, etc. The elephants, annoyingly, were locked away and barely visible, and seemed to be viewable only at their ‘showtime’ if you’d bought the 45 RMB ticket that included the ‘Elephant Show’.

Thankfully that was the only ‘show’ in the zoo, and no animals were made to perform elsewhere in any fashion, which was a huge relief.

In short…
If you’re a local or expat in the area, Shanghai Zoo is actually worth the quite low 30 RMB price tag, despite it being a bit of a trek from the centre of the city. In addition to the animals, there’s some nice park area, and a large lake at the centre.


  1. Glad to see a semi-positive review of a Chinese zoo. Doesn’t sound great, but better than most zoos here I guess.

    I would like to add that I enjoyed the Shanghai Aquarium while I was there as well, right by the Pearl Tower. A bit more expensive, if I remember right, but a very high-quality venue. Personally, I would lump that together with the Zoo and Wildlife Park to make a third “such tourist attractions” in Shanghai. I mean, they’re all animals, right?

  2. Sweet review Steven. Was wondering if it was worth the effort to travel out there specifically to visit the zoo. It sounds very similar to the Dalian Forest Zoo — though you don’t have to pay 15RMB extra to see the elephants 🙂

    Zoos in China have a long way to go before they’re a comfortable place for me to visit.

  3. Hi Steven,

    I agree with Josh that it’s good to read a semi-positive review of a Chinese zoo. Beijing Zoo is rarely so lucky…

    Good post! I added part of your trip report to the travel forum of ChinaTravel.net to share with other China travelers.

  4. Besides being a half decent view I also believe that the history behind the location is that it was a colonial English garden park back in the day (by English I dont mean as in concession but as in style of garden) – animals aside and on a nice day without the throngs you can forget you are in China

  5. @Josh – the Shanghai Aquarium is indeed a lot classier, and pricier (about 100 RMB if memory from last year serves me correctly), and takes less time. Though, being indoors (well, underground) it’ll be more conveniently cool in summer (and warm in winter).

    @other commentators, thanks for your input. It is indeed a semi-positive review, which is a lot better than any other city or provincial zoo will get, i’m sure. Basically, if you’re on a short trip to shanghai, it’s not worth seeing; but if you live here, it’s worth a shot!

  6. I thought the Shanghai Aquarium was awesome!

    Another good one is the “Wild Insect Museum”, around the corner and down the street from the aquarium.

    I took a load of photos (and some videos).

    Shanghai Aquarium: http://pagesofinterest.net/photos/shanghai-aquarium/index.html
    Wild Insect Museum: http://pagesofinterest.net/photos/wild-insect-museum/

    Also, the Shanghai Art Museum & YuYuan (豫园) are worth seeing. The Art Museum is opposite the Shanghai Municipal building, which has to be the most intimidating building in the City.

  7. Shanghai Zoo is one of China’s best zoo and this zoo still has a long way to go to equal the much more better preservation in the West. It was presently a private estate of the Sassoon family, then a city golf course, right before its conversion to a zoo in the year of 1954. There are wide plenty of open spaces for children to play, but the spaces for animals are even more quite confined and depressing.. There are in fact about 5,000 specimens present in this zoo. Almost every major breed of animal you can find there

  8. My recent visit to Shanghai included a visit to the zoo. I come from Perth, Australia which has a world class facility protecting the animals in areas specifically designed to match the animals natural homes.
    One of the biggest things I found hard to handle at Shanghai zoo was the people just throwing food, sweets, rubbish and pretty much anything into the animal enclosures, despite the “no feeding signs” everywhere.
    Really quite miserable conditions for the poor animals.

  9. I’m planning to go to Shanghai Zoo tomorrow with my family and friends, I want to know if bringing our own food is allowed inside the Zoo, to have a picnic at the same time, because I heard they have a wide space there that’s good for hanging out and picnic.

  10. None of the enclosures are especially good. The elephant house is horrible. I went there last month and some kid dropped his Pringles can and it rolled toward one of the elephants, who proceeded to eat it. It was cardboard and metal and devoid of Pringles. Just chewed it a bit then swallowed it. We waited for a while to see what would happen. It started swaying around the place but was still alive and upright when we left. The only thing that happened while we were waiting for it to die (which it didn’t) was that it got a boner. It was hung like a….well, like an elephant. Almost like a fifth leg.
    True story.

    • Yeah I remember once, years ago in Geography class we watched some documentary that happened to have an erect elephant in it.

      Crazy big

  11. Chinese zoo r all the same—small cages,poor animal welfare, no scientific design of special experts..also some Chinese visitors behaved so rude/impolite,even throw some rubbish/fruits to animal enclouse

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