26Cantons52Weeks: Basel-Stadt

Jellyfish in the Vivarium

Canton: Basel-Stadt

Destination: Zoo Basel

Interesting thing: Basel Zoo is called “Zolli” by loving locals, according to tourist site MySwitzerland

Special guests: my parents again (this was the last one, sadly!)

I’m not big on zoos, nor animals in general, but when you have young kids to entertain, whatchagonnado? And I’ll tell you a secret:

Basel Zoo is better than Zurich Zoo.

While it feels rather disloyal to say it, Switzerland’s oldest and largest zoo (by number of animals) in Basel seems to show that experience wins hands-down over Zurich’s… um… funding? Location? I don’t know.

Don’t get me wrong. Zurich Zoo is great and has saved my elephant-hide on many occasions when I desperately needed somewhere easy-ish to take two small kids that provided entertainment, shelter and food for an entire day.

And yet… and yet… Zurich Zoo sprawls rather awkwardly over an uneven, hilly terrain that means you always spend more time hoofing about than actually viewing your favourite four-legged creatures. Because of the layout, you have to make choices, too: Lions or Elephants? Tigers or Lemurs? Distance and gradient mean it’s almost impossible to see both in the same visit, especially with youngsters in tow.

Basel, on the other hand, curves and undulates in a far more pleasant and sensible-seeming way, meaning you naturally come across a lovely variety of its animal inhabitants. This is the second time I’ve been and I started from different ends of the zoo each time but on both occasions managed to see the gorgeous snow leopards, rhinos, elephants, giraffes, orangutans and the fish house/Vivarium. My eldest is also perversely fascinated by the locusts here and we loved seeing the Bison last year (missed them this time around – you can’t see everything!). But the stars of the show were definitely the Hippos. Wow, they put on a fantastic display.

Giraffes at Zoo Basel

Plus the main restaurant is brilliant. Maybe we had great timing (although we were there on a weekend, in school holidays), or perhaps there was a winning ratio of adults to kids (3:2 versus 2:4 usually at Zuri!) but Basel Zoo’s main eatery seemed far better set out and less crowded than its Zurich counterpart/s. Plus, they have the innovation of bagged lunches for kids and, believe me, when you’re juggling two hungry youngsters, a buggy and your own meal, it’s an absolute godsend not to have to balance a precarious lunch-tray as well!

Don’t get me wrong, Zurich Zoo is amazing but I gotta say, Basel’s got the edge. Bravo Basel!

Two months / nine weekends to go and eight cantons left to visit/ write up… hmmm.