Basel’s Penguin Parade

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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 harbors a few truly unique experiences, one of which is found at the Basel Zoo – the Penquin Parade!

Every day at 11 am when the weather is cold enough, zookeepers allow the resident king penguins to waddle from their specially cooled indoor habitat to a sandy open-air pen outside so they can enjoy the fresh winter air.

Huddled with just a small handful of hardy folks willing to brave the zoo on a bone-chilling January day, we were rewarded with an intimate experience with these stunning penguins.  A zookeeper briefly blocked off their path when the penguins first came outside, allowing us to observe them 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!

Beyond 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.

Gold marigold pufferfish at Zoo Basel
Devil firefish at Zoo Basel

The stick insects were particularly prickly, 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 spider had the exhibit to herself.

Giant prickly stick insect at the Basel Zoo
Redback spider at the Basel Zoo

As always, the monkeys were inquisitive and playful, particularly 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 critters 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.

Meerkats at the Basel Zoo

And a zoo isn’t a zoo without a herd of precocious goats.  What makes this fellow particularly unique is that he’s a peacock goat, native to the  Graubünden, Switzerland’s largest canton.  Just like the cows here, Swiss goats are more adorable than anywhere else.

Swiss peacock goat at the Basel Zoo

Have you visited the Basel Zoo?  Did you like it?  What was your favorite animal?  Let us know in the comments below!

If you’re looking for another unique experience while in town, visit the Basel Paper Mill Musuem where you can make your own paper.

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Penguin Parade at the Basel Zoo, Switzerland

Know Before You Go
  • The price of 18 chf for a single adult ticket (25 yrs+) is steep.  Want a discount? Visit on Monday when an adult ticket only costs 13 chf (holidays excluded). They don’t offer discounts for students, but if you’re a “young person” age 16-24, a ticket is only 12 chf, or 9 chf on discount Monday.
  • The “Penguin Parade” starts at 1100. When the weather is cold enough, the penguins are led from their indoor pen near the zoo entrance to a sandy pen outdoors to enjoy the cozy winter air.  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, but the only English throughout most of the zoo are the names of the animals on signs. The descriptions of animals, written brochures, etc are only in German and French.
  • The zoo is open daily at 0800 and closes at 1730 or 1800, depending on the day.
  • If you’re driving, 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. If you’re coming by rail, you can buy a combined SBB rail/zoo ticket for a 10% discount on the SSB web page.
  • Official site for Zoo Basel


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