In May 2023 ARTIS celebrates its 185th birthday. Throughout the month there will be special activities to celebrate this anniversary of the Netherlands’ oldest zoo. And to top if off you can take your ticket to the zoo to the cash register in ARTIS, to book free tickets to ARTIS-Micropia and ARTIS-Groote Museum.

Wondering how you can celebrate this anniversary in Amsterdam’s zoo? Read on to find out all about the park, the special events as well as ARTIS-Micropia and ARTIS-Groote Museum.

The fifth oldest zoo in the world is celebrating its birthday

In 1838, the zoo was founded on the “Middenhof” estate, which at the time was a rural area on the outskirts of the city of Amsterdam. When Bristol Zoo closed its doors in September 2022, Natura Artis Magistra became the fifth oldest zoo in the world. Today, the Artis Amsterdam Royal Zoo sits in the heart of the city, as Amsterdam grew around it.

ARTIS-park is both a zoo and a botanical garden, and contains 26 historically significant (listed) buildings, bridges and ponds, many of which are still used as animal enclosures. Some even date back to before the opening of the zoo, such as the Aviary, current home to scarlet ibises, hornbills and crowned cranes, and the Wolf House. Beyond buildings, the heritage at ARTIS also includes 17th-century statues, the 100-year-anniversary plaque, and many other sculptures.

At the start of this millennium ARTIS started the process of a full renovation to turn the zoo into an educational institution, which stimulates to love and care towards nature. Within the park more room is created for both animals and plants, as well as for education and heritage. Already the history in the park is surrounded by and inhabited by over 550 different animal species and more than 700 types of trees and plants.

Historic buildings and enclosures are renovated to maintain their historic value and improve the quality of life for the animals that live there. The Ape House, Aviary and Pheasantry have been restored to their former glory, and new enclosures for the jaguars, Asian elephants, red-faced spider monkeys and buff-cheeked gibbons have also been completed. Both the flora and the fauna come from all over the world, to bring all the world together.

Celebrating 185 years of ARTIS in Amsterdam

185-years ARTIS celebration events

Throughout the month of May, in 2023, ARTIS is organising special events to celebrate its 185th anniversary. Some events are only available in Dutch but several can also be enjoyed in other languages.

During the first week of May, when the Netherlands remembers the Second World War, ARTIS holds guided tours through the park to remember the park as it was during the war, when it accommodated many Jews and resistance fighters. From May 4th, a special audio tour with nine stories is available via QR codes throughout the park.

From 13 May, you can learn more about the history of the monuments, works of art and green heritage that can be found in the park with a guided tour, every Saturday and Sunday. A not-to-miss natural heritage site within the park is the oldest oak tree in Amsterdam, which was described as ‘the pride of ARTIS’ in 1903.

Every Wednesday in May, ARTIS remembers stories of old at the Forest House and Insectarium. At 11 in the morning, the park remembers when the Insectarium used to be the old food warehouse and tells you all about 185 years of food at ARTIS. At 5 in the afternoon, the park remembers how Amsterdam’s most famous monkey used to play on the front lawn of the Forest House.

Throughout the entire month of May, you can use your ticket to ARTIS Royal Zoo, to get free entrance to both ARTIS-Micropia and ARTIS-Groote Museum. Simply take your entry ticket to the cash register at ARTIS to book your visits to the two museums. At ARTIS-Micropia you can travel through time to the earliest discoveries of microbiology.

Celebrating 185 years of ARTIS in Amsterdam

Micropia: the world’s first and only museum of microbes

Microbes may be invisible to the naked eye but they are all around us. At ARTIS-Micropia, you can uncover the fascinating world of microorganisms and learn how they influence our day-to-day life. With the help of state-of-the-art microscopes and interactive games the world of microbes comes to life before your very eyes.

Micropia is located inside one of ARTIS’ oldest buildings, the Ledenlokalen (Member’s Rooms), which was built in the 1870s. In 1939, part of the building was assigned the purpose of the City of Amsterdam's Population Register. Because of how the Nazi’s used the information from this register, it was successfully targeted by the Resistance in 1943, when the low roof of the middle section of the building was blown off, and never repaired.

Groote Museum: all the world is connected

ARTIS-Groote Museum is a prime example of how the world once viewed nature and how we view it now. Once, when the Groote Museum first opened its doors in 1855, nature was seen as something completely separate from the human experience. Today we know better, as we know that there is a connection between everything that lives: humans, animals, plants and microbes.

When the Groote Museum was created, in what used to be the Main Building of ARTIS, it’s cases and cabinets were crammed full of objects, from small specimens to whole skeletons. The glass kept the humans separate from nature. This first version of the museum closed its doors in 1947.

In 2022, 75 years later, the museum reopened to bring humans and nature together and to showcase the connection between humans and all life on Earth. Through interactive games you’ll see how you can relive memories through your sense of smell, and how your memory stands up against that of a chimpanzee. Did you know your intestines do the same thing as tree roots, and that you crawled around on the ground like a crocodile when you were an infant?