Chester Zoo is named top visitor attraction in England outside London

In 2017 the zoo on the Cheshire/Wirral borders welcomed more than 1.86m visitors for the second year running – the best figures since it was first opened by founder George Mottershead in 1931. Tony McDonough reports

Chester Zoo
Humboldt penguins in their newly revamped habitat at Chester Zoo


Chester Zoo has been named England’s most popular visitor attraction outside of London for the seventh year in a row.

In 2017 the zoo welcomed more than 1.86m visitors for the second year running – the best figures since it was first opened by founder George Mottershead in 1931.

The new figures have released by the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA) which represents the UK’s busiest museums, galleries, palaces, castles, cathedrals, wildlife parks, heritage sites, gardens and leisure attractions.

Capital dominates

The entire top ten of the UK ALVA members’ list is filled with London attractions with the British Museum coming top for the 11th year running with more than 5.9m visitors, followed by Tate Modern and the National Gallery.

At numbers 11 and 12 were the National Museum of Scotland and Edinburgh Castle with Chester Zoo coming in at number 13 and number one in England outside of London. Overall almost 130m visits were made to the top 238 ALVA sites in the UK.

Conservation drive

The zoo has attributed the success to visitors wanting to be part of the charity’s conservation mission to prevent the extinction of species around the world. 

Jamie Christon, Chester Zoo’s chief operating officer, said: “We are proud to say that this is a golden era for Chester Zoo. In 2017 we welcomed more than 1.86m visitors for the second year in a row, a feat that has never previously been achieved since the zoo first opened in 1931.

“We know that developing major visitor experiences is crucial – such as our vast new South East Asian ‘Islands’ habitats for sun bears, tapirs and songbirds – and our appearances on Channel 4’s The Secret Life of The Zoo have helped spread the word about our offer.

Chester Zoo
Asiatic lion Iblis, one of the residents at Chester Zoo


“But we also strongly believe that visitors are moved to spend their leisure time with us because we are a world leading conservation charity – every individual to walk through our gates is helping fund urgent work preventing extinction here in the UK and across the globe. We thank each and every one of them for their support.”

TripAdvisor ranking

Chester Zoo, a registered conservation and education charity, currently supports more than 80 projects that are fighting to prevent extinction in around 30 countries worldwide. 

The zoo is also ranked as the UK’s best and third best in the world by users of the travel website, TripAdvisor.

So far in 2018 the zoo has got off to its busiest ever start to a year and last month unveiled a revamped penguin habitat with bigger pool, state-of-the-art filtration and renewed nesting facilities and improved viewing through larger windows.

New plans

A host of new developments for visitors are also set to open over the next 12 months including the transformation of the building at the heart of Chester Zoo’s history, Oakfield House – the inspirational home of the zoo’s founder George Mottershead – into a gastro pub with stunning garden room.

Work is also underway on an immersive walk-through Madagascan forest which will allow visitors to get closer to the zoo’s lemurs than ever before.

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