By all accounts, Amsterdam is a pretty wild place. And nowhere more so here than the historic Artis Royal Zoo, of course. With over 750 species of animals roaming around, it’s easy to forget you’re right in the city center. Skip the lines at the gates and get carried away to the wonders of the natural world. You’ll be transported to the ocean depths in its aquarium, and the fringes of the galaxy in the planetarium. Here are six experiences at the Netherlands’ oldest zoo beyond your – ahem – wildest dreams.

1. Surround yourself with wonderful wildlife of all shapes and sizes

It’s like watching your favorite nature documentary – only the stars of the show have all come out to play. At Artis, you’ll find yourself eye-to-eye with the beasts of the African Savannah. Giraffes, zebras, and springboks, doing their thing right in front of you. Elsewhere, you’ll be able to marvel at elephants, monkeys, otters, sea lions, and snakes. If that ain’t enough, how about exploring the exotic flora and fauna of the Forest House? And for the brave souls out there, you can always see the creepy crawlies in the Insectarium.

2. Enjoy watching the kids being little monkeys themselves

Get up close and personal with creatures big and small

Let’s face it; if Artis is an exciting place for adults, it’s pure heaven for kids. And this is a zoo designed for children to engage in unashamed monkey business. When they’re not busy ogling at everything from gibbons to lizards, they’ll be jumping around like apes in the playground. Just watch their little imaginations come to life as the park’s dinosaur sculptures teleport them to prehistoric times. Just be aware that you might have a hard time explaining it’s time to leave!

3.  Feel the flutter of colorful wings in the Butterfly Pavilion

From the wings of a butterfly to the roar of a leopard, ARTIS has it all

When it gets cold in Amsterdam, how about transporting yourself to exotic climes? At Artis’s Butterfly Pavilion, you’ll feel like you’re in a tropical rainforest. With over a thousand butterflies of all colors fluttering around, it’s a magical place to be. While you wander through the greenery, 30 varieties of the colorful critters fly freely overhead. Look out for the beautiful Blue Morpho, and the Hawk Moth. You’ll have to be sharp – the latter travels at up to 60 km per hour.

4. Get back to nature in a botanical paradise

A plant-lover’s paradise

With over 300 species of trees and plants to discover, you could almost be forgiven for overlooking the animals. After all, some of those trees are not only centuries-old but a riot of blossoms in the Springtime. And if you’re interested in all things botanical, how about visiting the library? Home to 20000 books and 3000 manuscripts on zoology and botany, Artis is a plant-lover’s paradise.

5. Travel back in time among historic listed monuments

The park is full of historic buildings, bridges, and ponds (even the zoo residents get in on the action)

Wandering around Artis, you won’t just take a journey through the natural world. You’ll travel in time, surrounded by no fewer than 27 historic listed buildings, bridges, and ponds. Founded in 1838 by the three ‘Ws’ – Westerman, Werlemann, and Wijsmuller, the park was initially only for members. In fact, it wasn’t until 1920 that it was opened year-round to the public. So, make the most of the freedom to explore the zoo as you please!

Special Call-Out: Okay, so you’ve exhausted the natural wonders of Planet Earth – if that’s possible. It’s time to rocket yourself into outer space in the Artis Planetarium. As you travel faster than the speed of light, keep an eye out for planets, moons, and stars. You’ll be taken on a whirlwind tour of the solar system, and out beyond the Milky Way. Time for a cup of coffee at the café-restaurant de Plantage, anyone?

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