How wheelchair-friendly is ARTIS?

How wheelchair-friendly is ARTIS?

4 min read
A few weeks ago I went to check out the accessibility of ARTIS Amsterdam Royal Zoo. Dating back to 1838, ARTIS is the oldest zoo in The Netherlands and one of the oldest in all of Europe. The zoo is home to a range of different animals — from snakes, penguins and vultures to elephants, giraffes and chimpanzees. It is centrally located in Amsterdam’s historic Plantage neighbourhood and is easily accessible by car and public transportation.
VIP Treatment on Arrival
On arrival at ARTIS I felt like a VIP guest. Having bought my ticket online in advance, I whizzed straight past a huge queue of excited visitors to join a handful of others in the priority lane. Officially for ARTIS members, the priority lane is also the place for wheelchair users to obtain a free chaperone ticket. As my wheelchair isn’t one I can use independently for long (hello, exhausted arms and impossible slopes) my mum chaperoned me. Before I knew it, we were beeped in with both tickets and off on a little mother-daughter-zoo-adventure.
First Impressions: Mobility aids, wheelchair routes & accessible toilets
As I rolled into the zoo, some great accessibility features caught my eye. Blue metal wheelchairs were lined up at the entrance, ready for visitors to borrow. These wheelchairs — which require someone to push them — are a great option if you haven’t brought your own mobility aid but need to put your feet up. ARTIS is a large zoo, so if you think you’ll need a wheelchair along the way I recommend picking one up at the start.
I immediately knew the most accessible pathways thanks to sign-posted wheelchair routes. These routes guided me towards lifts, ramps and slopes and away from potential obstacles.
Several accessible toilets are located throughout the zoo’s restaurants and other indoor areas. The few that I checked out were spacious, with support beams and everything at the correct height for wheelchair users.
One of many wheelchair routes around the zoo
Wheelchairs for visitors to borrow
One of the many accessible toilets
Miss Independent
At ARTIS, I loved that I could be independent. From my wheelchair I had a great view of the giraffes, elephants, chimpanzees and countless other animals. Paths are fabulously wide and smooth, as are entrances to the Planetarium, Butterfly Farm, and other indoor areas.

Even the Petting Zoo is accessible on the inside — just be prepared to dodge some droppings! Unfortunately the gate leading to the petting zoo is incredibly heavy, but I’m sure this is to prevent the goats, pigs and chickens from running around the rest of the zoo.

Hanging out with a goat at the petting zoo
Cute souvenirs at the gift shop
Payment terminal within reach
Towards the end of my visit, I was able to glide into the gift shop like a swan on water. Wide doorways, smooth floors, spacious aisles, payment terminals within reach — you name it, the gift shop has it. Certain products are located on higher shelves, but other than that the accessibility of the gift shop is great.
Almost perfect

While ARTIS is largely accessible, I encountered a few challenges along the way. The parking lot, for example, has five blue badge parking spaces. Rather than being extra wide, however, these spaces are the same width as a standard parking space. This makes it impossible to manoeuvre a wheelchair alongside your car if two cars are parked side-by-side. (I informed ARTIS and was told  the appropriate department would do something about it ‘in the future’)

Other challenges include: some binoculars outside animal enclosures are too high for wheelchair users; a handful of pathways can only be reached via steps; and finally, there are one or two very steep slopes outdoors and inside the Butterfly Farm.
Almost perfect: Designated wheelchair spaces, but far too narrow
9/10. Overall, ARTIS has clearly been designed with wheelchair users in mind. Aside from a few minor challenges, the zoo is exceptionally accessible for visitors with reduced mobility.
Tips for a hassle-free visit to ARTIS
  • Buy your ticket online in advance to skip the  queues
  • Bring a mobility aid or borrow an ARTIS wheelchair for extra support
  • As a wheelchair user, take along a family member of friend to chaperone you for free
  • Follow the zoo’s  wheelchair routes
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Josephine Rees

My name is Josephine Rees (1993) and I am Dutch-British. I was raised in Tokyo and Moscow and moved to The Netherlands to study Anthropology & Human Geography in 2012. After briefly living in Thailand and Cambodia, I am now based in Amsterdam. I love exploring Amsterdam and hope to help others by sharing accessibility tips.

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