Located on the grounds of Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, Austria, the world’s oldest zoo is known as Tiergarten Schönbrunn or Vienna Zoo. It was founded in 1752 as the private menagerie of Empress Maria Theresa’s husband, Holy Roman Emperor Francis I, and was one of a number of leisurely distractions at the imperial summer residence.
The menagerie consisted of thirteen separate animal enclosures shaped like cake slices which were centered around a pavilion intended for imperial breakfasts—all built by French architect and sculptor Jean Nicolas Jadot de Ville-Issey.
The zoo opened to the public for free in 1779.
The eldest son of Maria Theresa and Francis I—Joseph II—would later go on expeditions to Africa and the Americas in order to collect specimens for the zoo. Of the many animals to be housed during the first decades of public access, the giraffe had extensive influence over Viennese culture, including fashion.
Today, the zoo continues to thrive as both a research and educational entity. It is supported through private and corporate donations.
More about the Vienna Zoo.