With the growing popularity of bouldering we wanted to know the top European boulder destinations. So we asked Pete Edwards who runs Prowess Coaching – climbing coaching company – to write this article about the best bouldering in Europe. Peter has logged more than 800 boulder problems while climbing at 100 crags in ten countries, including several first ascents.
Bouldering is one of those activities that is rapidly growing around the world. You may have even had a go before at your local indoor climbing facility. However indoor walls aren’t where it all began and many of us have been bouldering on actual boulders for years.
Outdoor bouldering combines the problem solving and physical exertion you get indoors with the feeling of nature and being outside that drew many of us to bouldering in the first place. Bouldering is an adventure sport after all, and we all know how good they can be!
But as you can easily imagine, there is very much rock out there and knowing the best bouldering places to go can be a bit of a tricky one. So here, we present a list of some of the best go-to areas for outdoor bouldering around Europe.
Looking around the continent here are 10 of the best European boulder destinations:
No list of the best bouldering in Europe would be complete without starting here. Fontainebleau is a worldwide bouldering mecca, packed with history, quality and more quantity than you could possibly imagine. Located around an hour South of Paris, Font isn’t an area so much as a massive collection of crags; many of whom would make the list in their own right.
Cuvier, Cuisiniere and Isatis, l’Elephante and the crags of the Trois Pignons and just some of the areas that could keep even the most insatiable boulderer occupied for years and all are within a short drive of each other. Fontainebleau really is the mecca for every modern boulderer.
Nearest airport: Paris (one hour drive)
Nearest facilities: Fontainebleau town, including supermarket, climbing shops, train station and hospital
Accommodation: an abundance of choice, from hotels to campsites
The Alps are an obvious place to search for rock to be honest, and within this mountain range are plenty of outstanding venues. Crags such as Cresciano, Chironico, Brione and plenty of others attract much attention and are very much worth visiting but I have included them all under Magic Wood; a crag near the Swiss city of Chur.
The main reason for this is the social aspect that comes from climbing in such a small yet incredibly concentrated area. The climbing of Magic Wood is restricted between two bridges a mile apart with a local guesthouse and campsite (Bodhi climbing) facilitating everything for you from there.
So while there is more outstanding climbing than you could manage in a season, at the right time of year there are also a host of other like-minded climbers there too, to spur you on and inspire you with their own exploits.
Nearest airport: Milan (2-3 hours)
Nearest facilities: some available in the town of Ausserferrera, more available in Chur
Accommodation: camping or hostel accommodation in Ausserferrera at Bodhi Climbing
Photo by Sally Lisle
The rise in popularity of this Spanish gem in the Iberian mountains, some three hours’ drive from Madrid, to be one of the top European bouldering destinations has been an intriguing tale in of itself. At first, an open secret; then an overpopulated area struggling to come to terms with the sudden surge of people; now reaching an equilibrium between climbers and climate.
The reason is simple: the crags here are unbelievable. Sadly some of the sectors have been forced to close permanently to protect the local environment but even so, there is plenty left to offer a truly outstanding selection of climbing that is almost unique in style to anywhere else on this list.
Nearest airport: Valencia (2 hours) or Madrid (3 hours)
Nearest facilities: mostly in the town of Albarracin, nearest large town is Teruel
Accommodation: hostels, Airbnb and camping in Albarracin
There are not many climbing areas in the world that could host an annual bouldering festival and certainly not many that could yield more and more first ascents year on year. And yet, Val di Mello – near the Swiss-Italian border to the North of the Italian town of Morbegno – has been doing just that for since 2004.
While not somewhere I have visited personally, the reputation of Val di Mello is widely known and the area surely sits high on the list of dream destinations of any European boulderer.
Nearest airport: Bergamo (2 hours)
Nearest facilities: mostly in San Martino, more available in Morbegno
Accommodation: again, mostly in San Martino, including hotels and camping
Much as with Magic Wood, Zillertal isn’t the only class area around the Austrian ski resort of Mayrhofen but it’s possibly the most famed and home to some of the best bouldering in Europe. I visited back in 2013 and the potential on offer was unreal, with plenty to go at even back then.
Now, the area still sees a steady influx of climbers of all grades, eager to test their mettle on some fantastic Alpine granite.
Nearest airport: Innsbruck (1.5 hours)
Nearest facilities: Mayrhofen, with supermarkets, cafes and outdoor shops
Accommodation: Maryhofen has hotels, Airbnb and camping options
I’ve been as far as British Columbia on the west coast of Canada only to have people talk to me about bouldering in the Peak District. Near Sheffield, the gritstone crags of Derbyshire and Yorkshire are genuinely world famous and rightly so; playing host not only to some of the most historic boulder problems but also surely some of the best.
Crags such as Stanage and Almscliffe (the latter technically further North but worthy of including in this context) can hold their own against almost any I’ve visited in a decade of European exploration. Whether you’re after somewhere you’ll be able to tell people about wherever you’re from or find a quiet backwater crag, there is something for everyone here.
Nearest airport: Manchester (1 hour)
Nearest facilities: small towns dotted around, larger towns include Buxton and Bakewell
Accommodation: plenty of hostels, Airbnb and campsites liberally scattered around
Yes, I’m biased, having lived here since January 2009 and even established crags of my but the fact is that in that time, we’ve gone from a small, bilingual black and white guidebook to two volumes, each around 600 pages long…
I honestly feel British bouldering doesn’t get much better than this (although the Pak and Lake District does give us a run for our money) with quality, quantity and sheer variety a major attraction for anyone. As much as North Wales might not be seen as the best bouldering in Europe yet, it really should be.
Nearest airport: Manchester (2 hours)
Nearest facilities: Plenty of small towns for essentials, Caernarfon and Bangor for bigger shops and hospital
Accommodation: hotels, Airbnb and campsites in abundance
It’s difficult to know which of the crags on the East coast of Sweden to include here but, having toured the country in 2016, it is clear that at least one should make the list of top European bouldering destinations. Vastervik is a little too far away to be included and is also worth investigating but I have gone for Kjugekull in the South.
The reason is simple: the concentration of problems here is mind boggling; so much so we left wondering what all the fuss was about. It was only once we had gone that I realised how much was actually there. I came away thinking this venue was not actually that great but quickly realised how wrong I had been.
Nearest airport: Kristianstad (0.5 hours)
Nearest facilities: Kristianstad
Accommodation: Airbnb and camping in Kjuge
Over on the West Coast of Sweden and no such worries existed. The very first visit to Gothenburg (Göteborg in Swedish) in Sweden made me quickly appreciate the area and its urban delights but the real draw here is the island of Hono.
The archipelago rises gently from the Baltic Sea creating crags and boulders with the most unreal aspect that is truly stunning. A visit here may not have people aching with envy but it will have you leaving with a smile.
Nearest airport: Landvetter (20 minutes)
Nearest facilities: Goteborg
Accommodation: Airbnb and campsites in Goteborg
Sintra is a National Park to the west of Lisbon and is regarded as having some of the best bouldering in Europe. While not somewhere I have visited, it is somewhere I have been desperate to see for many years.
The Instagram account @bouldersintra regularly peppers me with amazing photographs of boulder problems that look a mix of Font and Albarracin; two words guaranteed to prick the ears of any boulderer! And when the local guidebook covers at least 700 problems, you know it’ll be worth the air fare.
Nearest airport: Lisbon (30 minutes)
Nearest facilities: Unsure but Lisbon is only half an hour away
Accommodation: Airbnb and camping located around the National Park
Of course, this list is totally non-exhaustive and there are more top European boulder destinations and phenomenal venues not only just developed but also springing up all the time.
Meanwhile, there is still regular development in the areas mentioned here too. Just because somewhere has no reputation to draw you in, doesn’t mean it’s not worth a try and I’ve climbed some of my most memorable climbs in places that people have never heard of.
Likewise do remember that just because others love somewhere, doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be your cup of tea. The important part is the exploration and the experience of visiting somewhere new and the top European boulder destinations above are certainly a great place to start!
Pete Edwards runs his own climbing coaching company, Prowess Coaching helping climbers get better at climbing in their chosen discipline, no matter what that may be. After nearly twenty years of experience in trad, sport and winter climbing, Pete decided to specialise in bouldering; that being what inspires him most.
He has more than 800 recorded ascents of boulder problems at over 100 crags in ten countries, including several first ascents. His travels have taken him not only to the best bouldering in Europe but also to some of the more quiet local venues along the way, usually overland with his collie Tess along too.
While his top bouldering grade to date is 7c+ just before the birth of the first of his two children, he is currently regaining form and hopes to complete his first 8a in 2021. Pete also has his own blog, Chez de la Bloc, where his exploits – including his latest successes and adventures – can be found.