Best London activities: Top 21 capital city adventures in England

Jun 30, 2021 BY Luke Rees

London is one of the most recognisable and famous cities on the planet. Nearly 9 million people call it home and visitors flock there from around the world. But if you want to get outdoors to do something exciting, what are the best London activities? Check out the top 21 capital city adventures in England below.

The UK is a diverse country. With everything from sprawling metropolitan cities to rolling green hills and dramatic coastlines to rugged mountains. Where ever you are in the country, you’re just not far from picturesque scenery and adventure.

SUP one of the best active adventures in London image courtesy of Wake Up Docklands

 

Outdoor enthusiasts head to the Peak District, Pennines, Snowdonia, the Scottish Highlands or the Lake District for hiking, biking and other adventures. While water sports fans hit beaches all around the coastline for surfing, sailing, kiteboarding, diving and so much more. But what about London?

Best London activities

London is one of the most visited cities in the world, but few head there with plans of adventure. Its unique architecture, vibrant nightlife, thriving culture scene, complex history, famous landmarks and red double-decker buses attract around 30 million tourists every year.

Most of the visitors stay within Central London as there is so much to do within this area. Even those attending major sporting events like Formula E, Lex Live, and the FA Cup can remain within the city’s central zones.

But unknown to many locals, let alone London visitors, the capital city adventures in England are hugely varied and exceptionally good. Within Central London you can get on the water in a speedboat, SUP, wakeboard or kayak, you can climb an indoor wall, the O2 or a treetop rope course. You can bungee jump, skydive or get involved in parkour, or if you prefer your feet on the ground go hiking or biking.

cycling one of the best london activities 2014 Start trans continental race wikimedia CC image by Cm2white

21 best activities in London for adventure

Top 21 capital city adventures in England

Many of the best London activities are available by travelling a short distance out of the city. Plus there is plenty of opportunity for adventure within the centre. Here are the best of both:

Cycling

London is one of the few cities in the UK where cycling has really taken off. This is thanks in part to the introduction of a cycle hire scheme. Known as the “Boris Bikes”, despite being commissioned by Ken Livingstone the Mayor before Mr Johnson, it’s hugely popular.

Mountain biking

Does weaving in and out of London’s traffic and exploring the many cycle paths does not appeal to your adventurous side? Then you’ll be pleased to hear there are plenty of opportunities for mountain biking near the city.

London mountain biking 5 great places to MTB near London Flickr CC image by dumbledad

One of the most popular options is Epping Forest, to the northeast of the capital. It’s got a range of trails to suit all abilities. The 48km Epping Forest Killer Loop is the one that riders love to brag about.

Other great options include the Surrey Hills, Epsom Downs, and Hadleigh Park. The latter hosted the mountain biking event during the 2012 Olympics. Find out more about London mountain biking in this article.

Horse riding

At the stables in Hyde park you’ll find one of the best London activities – horse riding. They provide riding lessons around this iconic central London park. There are in fact numerous stables and equestrian centres in Greater London making it one of the top capital city adventures in England.

Walking

Did you know that urban hiking is a thing? It is exploring a city on foot, travelling from one side to the other, following a river or linking up parks etc. London is no different, there are plenty of interesting walks you can take. Check out the circular Hampstead Heath walk which includes Highgate Cemetery and Parliament Hill.

walking one of the best london activities Pixabay royalty free image

Hiking

Within striking distance of London there is even more to explore. The Surry Hills, Chilterns, North Downs and Colne Valley are all worth a visit for a day of hiking. Trail starts and ends can be reached on public transport meaning you are not limited to circular walks.

Trekking

Trekking is multiple days of hiking combined to travel from one destination to another. Interestingly there are plenty of multi-day treks that begin or end in London. Try the 126 km/78 mile Capital Ring, the 301 km/187 mile Games Way from Weymouth to the Olympic Stadium or the 107 km/66 mile Vanguard way from Croydon to Newhaven.

But the Thames Path is widely regarded as one of the best UK treks. It runs 307 km/191 miles from Kemble – the source of the Thames – in the Cotswolds all the way to the Thames Barrier. This 11 to 15 day trek passes through Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Surrey, Central London, Kent and Essex.

Skiing and snowboarding

There are no mountains in London and it is pretty rare there is snow let alone enough to ski or snowboard. However, there are a range of dry ski slopes within the city, real snow at the SnowDome in Hemel Hempstead and even a revolving ski belt you can train on.

snowboard at Snowdome Hemel Hempstead one of the best activities in London for adventure image by James Kirby

The SnowDome is the best option and they have regular freestyle nights with kickers, rails, boxes and other features. There are lessons available all year round for all levels. And a visit certainly helps satisfy the need for snow that skiers and snowboards get between seasons.

White Water Rafting, Canoeing, Kayaking and Hydrospeeding

London’s River Thames is not exactly known for white water. After all, a series of rapids wouldn’t be conducive to the centuries of shipping that have facilitated global trade from the city’s ports. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t still go rafting in the capital.

Another hangover from the London 2012 Olympics is the Lee Valley White Water Centre. The facility offers a whole host of different watersports for guests to try, including canoeing, rafting, kayaking, and hydro-speeding.

The centre also has an aquatic obstacle course that it calls “Water Wipeout”. It’s pretty similar to the TV show Total Wipeout, but without the giant red balls and hydraulically controlled boxing gloves.

White water rafting at Lee Valley one of the best activities in London for adventure courtesy of Visit Lee Valley2

Paddleboarding

If you want to spend time on the water but are looking for something a bit more relaxed, then one of the best London activities is paddle boarding. The Lee Valley White Water Centre also offers this, but you may prefer the more picturesque option of paddling on the Thames itself.

You can book a range of Richmond stand up paddleboard experiences where you can SUP along the river. Experiences come with great views of Eel Pie Island, Kew Gardens, and Chiswick.

Other paddleboarding experiences start at Hampton Court Palace and pass other historic sites on your way to Richmond taking around four hours. There are also many docks, canals and other waterways where you can SUP in London.

Wakeboarding

Another water activity is wakeboarding. The cable tow park at Wake Up Docklands has two 2.0 cable systems and a host of features on which you can try tricks. Lessons are available plus there is gear to hire.

Wakeboarding in London one of the Top 21 capital city adventures in England Image courtesy of Wake Up docklands

If that is not enough you can also paddle board here or have a go at hydrofoil wakeboarding.

Rock Climbing and Bouldering

Climbing has always been popular, but over he last decade there have been an explosion of indoor walls for climbers to enjoy. They have sprung up in almost every city in the UK, London has more than a dozen options.

This includes The Arch, which owns two bouldering centres in Bermondsey and one in Burnt Oak. The Castle Climbing Centre in Stoke Newington offers bouldering, lead climbing, and top-rope climbing to its guests. You can even abseil down its five floors if you’d like.

Zipline/high ropes

Go Ape is not the most extreme of the best London activities, but it is exciting and exhilarating for all ages. There are around half a dozen high ropes, climbing and ziplining centres within Greater London making it easily accessible.

Go Ape high ropes and zipline experience one of the Top 21 capital city adventures in England Image courtesy of Go ape

Bungee Jump

Located at the O2 Arena you can bungee jump from 160 foot with views towards the Thames. There are dates available most months with more slots available in the summer. Book in advance to avoid disappointment.

Skydive

You can’t skydive over the city of London for security reasons. But there are plenty of places within easy reach offering freefall. The closest is at Chiltern Park Aerodrome at Ipsden, near Wallingford in Oxfordshire. But check out the top 10 UK tandem skydive locations for more ideas.

Abseil and Slide

The London Olympic Games left a few facilities and landmarks behind, but perhaps none are as strange-looking as the “ArcelorMittal Orbit” at the Olympic Park. The twisted-red steel structure was designed by artist Sir Anish Kapoor and engineer Cecil Balmond.

It’s open to the public and offers breathtaking views over the city. But guests can also take two exciting routes back down to the ground. You can abseil 80m down the side of the tower.

abseiling or sliding down the ArcelorMittal Orbit is one of the best london activities wikimedia CC image by Fred Romero

Alternatively “Ride the Slide”. This 178-metre tunnel slide was designed by Carsten Höller. It incorporates transparent and opaque sections, giving you passing glimpses of the city as you speed through the tube. The slide twists and turns as it navigates the oddly-shaped tower.

Located in the Olympic Park you don’t have to leave London to experience one of the top capital city adventures in England.

We hope you found this guide to the best London activities inspirations. Check out our London adventure travel page for more ideas.

 
 
     

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