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zoo vincennes
© C.Gaillard

Aquarium and zoo guide

For a dose of nature and wildlife in the city centre, head to one of Paris’s popular aquariums, zoos or animal-themed museums

By Huw Oliver

Paris is an urban jungle in every sense of the term. From zoos and aquariums to wildlife-abounding museums and parks, you and your family are never far from a feathered friend, a creepy crawly or a even a Billy Goats Gruff. You can check out our pick of the best petting opportunities in Paris below.

The best places to see animals in Paris

Museum • Grande Galerie de l'Evolution

Museums Natural history 5e arrondissement

One of the city's most child-friendly attractions, this is guaranteed to bowl adults over too. Located within the Jardin des Plantes, this beauty of a 19th-century iron-framed, glass-roofed structure has been modernised with lifts, galleries and false floors, and filled with life-size models of tentacle-waving squids, open-mawed sharks, tigers hanging off elephants and monkeys swarming down from the ceiling...

Zoo • Parc Zoologique de Vincennes

Attractions Zoos and aquariums Bel-Air

After five long years of renovation work, the Parc Zoologique (known colloquially as the Zoo de Vincennes) is back in business. Regular patrons of the old zoo are in for a shock: the venue's been subjected to a radical redesign in which nothing, bar the 65m Grand Rocher centerpiece and of course the beasts themselves, has been spared. Visitors are now greeted by spots of woodland, a greenhouse, an aviary and five 'biozones', all of it brand spanking new...

Aquarium de Paris - Cinéaqua
Aquarium de Paris - Cinéaqua

Acquarium • Cinéaqua

Attractions Zoos and aquariums Chaillot

Aquarium de Paris - Cinéaqua (combining an aquarium and a two-screen cinema) is a wonderful attraction and a key element in the renaissance of the once moribund Trocadéro. Children in particular love the shark tunnel (home to 24 toothy harks), and the petting pool (bassin de caresses) where you can stroke friendly sturgeon who pop their long funnel noses out of the water. Also interesting (though less theatrical) is the section on the River Seine, showing the sorts of fish who still survive in Paris' river despite the pollution.  Many people baulk at the admission fee, but you can easily spend a long afternoon here, watching cartoons in the cinemas and observing the sealife. Even very small kids are catered for, with glass walls that touch the floor so that the little ones can see inside without mums and dads picking them up. On Wednesdays and weekends, there are special children's shows too.

Farm and gardens • Jardin d'Acclimatation

Attractions Theme parks 16e arrondissement

Founded in 1860, this amusement park and garden has animals, a Normandy-style farm and an aviary, as well as boat rides, a funfair with mini rollercoasters, flying chairs, the Enchanted House for children aged two to four and two playgrounds. There's also a place to steer radio-controlled boats and mini golf. Many of the attractions cost €2.90 a go; others are free...


Aquarium • Palais de la Porte Dorée Aquarium Tropical

Museums Bel-Air

The basement of this art deco palace, built for the Colonial Exhibition in 1931, contains the small but much-loved city aquarium and its crocodiles, brought from Dakar in 1948; other watery residents include cuttlefish, sharks, and luminous deep-water species. The Palais de la Porte Dorée is also home to the new Cité Nationale de l'Histoire de l'Immigration....

Greenhouses • Le Jardin des Serres d'Auteuil

Attractions Parks and gardens 16e arrondissement

These romantic glasshouses were opened in 1895 to cultivate plants for Paris parks and public spaces. Today there are seasonal displays of orchids and begonias. Look out for the steamy tropical pavilion, which is home to palms, birds and Japanese ornamental carp...


Zoo • Ménagerie du Jardin des Plantes

Attractions Zoos and aquariums 5e arrondissement

Heads rolled during the Terror, leaving many an aristocratic collection of exotic animals without a home. This ménagerie became the solution in 1794. Nowadays, its inhabitants include vultures, monkeys, orang-utans, ostriches, flamingos, a century-old turtle, plus another one rescued from the sewers, a lovely red panda and lots of satisfyingly scary spiders and snakes...


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