The city of Basel is about as far north as you can get and still be in Switzerland. If you’re driving north and miss your exit, another two kilometers puts you in France. Basel, a town of just under 200,000, actually has sprawling suburbs in neighboring countries France and Germany. Even with the suburbs, it’s not a particularly large metropolis. Still, Basel offers a few truly unique experiences, one of which is the Basel Zoo penguin parade.
Even those who aren’t penguin fans – is that even possible? – will enjoy the zoo. It’s beautifully designed with a handful of unique animals you likely haven’t seen elsewhere.
Zookeepers at Basel Zoo have a unique tradition. Every day at 11 am when the weather is cold enough, they take their 17 resident king penguins on a little field trip.
Leading them from their specially cooled indoor habitat, the zookeepers accompany the penguins while they waddle past visitors to a sandy open-air pen outside. There they can enjoy the fresh winter air.
A bone-chilling January day found me huddled with just a small handful of hardy folks willing to brave the zoo in the winter.
We were rewarded with an intimate experience with these stunning penguins.
When the penguins first came outside, a zookeeper briefly blocked off their path. He allowed us to watch them there for several minutes up close without barriers before allowing them to start their procession.
Kneeling down brought me eye to eye just a couple of feet from them, a first for me. It’s an experience I’ll never forget!
Basel Zoo Marine Exhibits
In addition to the Penguin Parade, the Basel Zoo has your typical range of zoo animals. In particular, they have a nice series of marine exhibits with some unique specimens not found at most zoos.
After visiting with the penguins, I spent an inordinate amount of time admiring the colorful and artistically designed marine exhibits.
Notable Insects and Arachnids
The stick insects at the Basel Zoo are particularly prickly.
We’ve seen stick insects before, but none quite as interesting as this Giant prickly stick insect.
And who doesn’t love venomous spiders?!
This Australian redback spider is closely related to our North American black widow spider.
Needless to say, this gal had the exhibit to herself.
Monkeying Around at the Basel Zoo
As always, the monkeys were inquisitive and playful.
Don’t miss the passel of golden lion tamarins in their exhibit.
Though I’ve seen these adorable little buggers before at other zoos, I’m always astounded at how beautiful they are, and how entertaining.
With just over 3000 individuals left in the wild and fewer than 500 in captivity, it reinforces the importance of zoos for animal conservation and education. If it weren’t for zoos, most of us would never have the chance to see animals like this.
A brief stop to watch the meerkats chowing down on dinner and then dozing under their heat lamp left me with a smile on my face long after I left their enclosure.
The cost of a standard adult ticket – 25+ years old – is 18 CHF at the time of this writing.
Want a discount? Visit on Monday when an adult ticket only costs 13 CHF (holidays excluded).
Zoo Basel doesn’t offer discounts for students, but if you’re a “young person” age 16-24, a ticket costs 12 CHF (9 CHF on discount Monday).
The penguin parade starts at 1100. Make sure to arrive a few minutes early to stake out a good place to see them. Their pen is marked on the zoo map you’ll receive upon entry.
The zoo website is available in French, German, and English. The only English throughout most of the zoo though are the names of the animals on signs. The descriptions of animals, written brochures, etc are only in German and French. Make sure you have a translator app like Google Translate.
The zoo is open daily from 0800 to 1730 or 1800, depending on the day.
For those arriving by car, the zoo has a small parking area immediately next to the museum. I paid 2 CHF to park for 3 hours. However, during the summer months, it likely fills up fast and you’ll need to find parking further away.
For those arriving by train, you can buy a combined SBB rail/zoo ticket for a 10% discount on the SBB web page.
Info is current as of the time of this writing. As always, we recommend confirming updated information prior to planning your visit.Save