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Artis Amsterdam Royal Zoo

Dierentuin ARTIS

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Elephants at Artis Amsterdam Royal Zoo. The young calf, Vihn, was born on May 4, 2020. He is one of five Asian elephants Artis.

Artis is the oldest zoo in the Netherlands, one of the oldest zoos in Europe, and one of the oldest zoos in the world.

It also is one of our favorite places to visit in Amsterdam. In that we’re certainly not alone. ARTIS welcomes some 1.4 million visitors year.

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What does ARTIS stand for?

When it was founded, in 1939, the zoo was called Natura Artis Magistra. That is Latin for ‘Nature is the Master of Art.’

Nowadays the park is known simply as ARTIS. The reason? The zoo’s entrance has three gates. Each of these gates bears one of the words from the full name, Natura Artis Magistra. But since visitors normally gathered in front of the middle gate, the park was soon known colloquially as ‘Artis.’

ARTIS, one of the most pleasant city zoos around

Map ARTIS Amsterdam Royal Zoo
Click to download a map to ARTIS Amsterdam Royal Zoo. A much more detailed map can be purchased at the zoo’s entrance.

Guidebooks rightly refer to ARTIS as one of the most pleasant city zoos in the world. The whole place breathes a 19th-century garden atmosphere with ponds, winding paths, majestic trees, fascinating sculptures, and monumental historical buildings. Even on busy days, the park is an oasis within the city of Amsterdam.

The park grounds include 26 listed monuments, including buildings, animal dwellings, and statues. The zoo doesn’t look or ‘feel’ old and dated, though.

Artis Is a Delightful Botanical Garden

ARTIS is not just a zoo, but also a botanical garden. It was officially designated as such in June 2020 by the Dutch Association of Botanical Gardens (NVBT) 1

It is, in fact, the oldest city park in Amsterdam. There are countless shrubs, annuals and perennials, thousands of bulbs and even houseplants.

The ARTIS Park is home to more than 700 trees of over 200 distinct species, which have the status of Arboretum. Some of the trees are even older than ARTIS itself, such as the oldest tree in Amsterdam, the Heijmans oak. This one was planted in the late 18th century.

The “Anne Frank Tree”

Another special tree is the “Anne Frank tree”. It is a seedling of the white horse chestnut that Anne Frank saw from the attic window of the Secret Annex. When this tree was found to be sick, several seedlings were raised and distributed all over the world.

500 Species of Animals

Not surprisingly many Amsterdam locals own a year pass to the zoo, allowing them to enjoy the park and its botanical gardens and greenhouses as much as the animals.

The zoo’s more than 500 distinct species of animals include everything from apes to zebras, butterflies to lions, and mice to elephants.

Mind you, that’s down from nearly 1500 species the zoo housed before its renewal program.

Speaking of which, wherever possible the animal enclosures do not include bars or cages. Instead, the animals appear relaxed and content in landscaping that resembles their natural habitat.

The Lions are Staying

Dembe is one of three lions at the Amsterdam Zoo.

Lion Dembe and the lionesses Kianga and Kacela live at the Kerbert Terrace. When it opened, in 1929, this was considered an ultra-modern animal enclosure without bars. While the terrace is a listed national monument, nowadays it is considered too small a space for the lions.

Construction of a new, 4 million Euro modern enclosure was planned. However, the Coronavirus pandemic first halved the number of visitors to the park, before an extended lockdown stopped the flow entirely. Meanwhile, the zoo’s operating expenses still cost €60.000 (±$71.000 | ±£51.000) a day. So in January 2021, Artis — faced with 21 million Euro shortfall until at least 2023 — announced it would donate its lions to a zoo in France.

However, the following June the zoo reported that two philanthropists have come to the rescue. They are going to finance the new lion enclosure.

Video: A Visit to Amsterdam Zoo Artis

Video film of a visit to Amsterdam Zoo Artis

ARTIS Was a WWII Hiding Place for Jews

Here’s an interesting fact: During WWII, some 300 Jews were hiding from the Nazis in storerooms above the animal dwellings. There were hiding places in the loft above the predator gallery, the wolf house, and the round aviary.

Ironically, in 1941 Artis was one of the many places designated by the Nazi occupiers as ‘Forbidden to Jews.’

ARTIS remained open during the war. Visitor numbers even increased because the need to relax was great. A day at ARTIS was a pleasant break in a terrible time.

But Germans soldiers also visited the zoo — either to relax, or during manhunts. Many times, they were within earshot of the people hiding in or above the enclosures.

In 1941, a resistance group — intent on thwarting the Germans from finding people throughout the city — set fire to the Amsterdam population registry, which at that time was housed in the former Artis concert hall.

Micropia, the ARTIS Museum of Microbes

Often associated with illness and disease, microbes are also essential for our survival. But are you aware that you carry about 3 pounds of microbes on and in you?

You will be after visiting Micropia — the world’s first museum where the invisible world of micro-organisms becomes visible.

Frequently Asked Questions About a Visit to Amsterdam Zoo ARTIS

How long does a visit to ARTIS take?

A typical visit to ARTIS zoo lasts four to five hours. You can see the entire park in about two hours. However, visitors typically love to linger in the park. There are many spots to sit and relax.

Does the timed-entry ticket limit the length of time I can visit?

No. You can stay in the park as long as you like.

Do I need a negative coronatest to visit ARTIS?

No, you do not need to show a negative coronatest.

Considering the Coronavirus, is it safe to visit the park?

Yes. The number of visitors is monitored through the timed-ticket system. The park allows for enough social distance space.

Do I have to wear a mask during my visit to ARTIS zoo?

No. We do suggest you still wear a mask in indoor spaces, such as the toilet facilities. See also the basic Corinavirus measures observed in Amsterdam.

ARTIS Museums & Planetarium

ARTIS was founded on May 1, 1838 by the Zoological Society ‘Natura Artis Magistra.’ In 1852, King Willem III awarded ARTIS the right to carry the designation Koninklijk — ‘Royal.’ Online the organization presents itself in English as ARTIS Amsterdam Royal Zoo, and in Dutch simply as Dierentuin ARTIS.

Its purpose was: ‘to promote the knowledge of Natural History, in a clear and agreeable way; both by assembling an extensive collection of living animals and by displaying mounted exhibits from the animal kingdom.’

According to Artis, “In the first half of the 19th century, the combination of a zoo, scientific collections, a Zoological Laboratory and Museum as well as the academically exceptional Artis Library, was quite unique.”

The Zoological museum was later joined by a Planetarium and a Geological Museum.

Aquarium

The Artis Aquarium houses some 300 species of fish, amphibians, and invertebrates. Its mammoth tanks each house vastly different ecosystems: the Amazonian flooded forest, the tropical coral reef, and even a cross section of an Amsterdam canal.

Amsterdam ARTIS Royal Zoo Tickets

Opening Hours

ARTIS Zoo is open 7 days a week. Currently the number of visitors in the park at one time is limited to allow for social distancing rules. Initially, indoor exhibits will remain closed until coronavirus rules are further relaxed.

Note that during the aftermath of the coronavirus crisis, the zoo works with timed entry slots.

March 1 – October 319:00 – 18:00 (9 a.m. – 6 p.m.)
November 1 – February 289:00 – 17:00 (9 a.m. – 5 p.m.)

ARTIS Amsterdam Z00
Plantage Kerklaan 38-40
1018 CZ Amsterdam

How to get to Artis Zoo

Tram 14 (to and from Amsterdam Central Station) stops at Halte (Stop) ARTIS, just step from the entrance. [Get your public transport tickets here]

The nearest Metro station is at Waterlooplein, a 10-minute walk from the zoo’s entrance.


In the neighborhood

Here are some other attractions in The Plantage district

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About This Article

Category: Museums, Parks, Plantage, Zoo
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Last updated: Monday, August 9, 2021 at 7:39 AM, Central European Time (CET)   
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