Keep fit on a city break, add a sense of adventure to urban explorations or simply get your adrenaline pumping during your holidays with these athletic, adventurous and thrilling activities around the globe.
River Surfing in Munich – River surfing has become increasingly popular in recent years, with cities around the world constructing standing waves or legalising and encouraging the use of existing ones. The Munich Eisbach wave, which locals have been surfing since the 1970s, is the most famous urban surf spot and arguably the one that launched the trend. Its name translates to “ice-cold stream”, so don’t even attempt it without a wetsuit or a local to show you the ropes (tours available through Withlocals.com).
Kiteboarding in Berlin – Kiteboarding isn’t a typically urban activity, even less so when the city in question is miles from the ocean. However, stick some wheels under the board and get thee to a former airport in Berlin and – lo and behold – the local kiteboarding school will have you skimming the asphalt in no time. The Tempelhofer Feld is a historical landmark and offers a sprawling recreational space in between two densely populated residential areas, popular with skaters, cyclists and kiteboarders thanks to the open space and perfect surface of the runways.
Parkour in London – An urban obstacle race combining running, jumping, swinging and climbing into a forceful workout between concrete and steel is the ultimate city sightseeing adventure. Unfortunately, you would have to be well-trained to casually parkour your way around a city like London, so beginners should start with a course and regular training before heading out into the urban jungle.
Diving in Lake Michigan, Chicago – Who would have thought you could go shipwreck diving in a city – never mind a landlocked city? Chicago residents have the expansive, tempestuous waters of Lake Michigan and the busy shipping routes of yore to thank for almost a dozen shipwrecks in easy reach of the city. Windy City Diving offer scuba diving tours to some of these sites.
Abseiling in Cape Town – Urban abseiling is offered in locations across the world, but Abseil Africa‘s Table Mountain hike and abseil tour ticks more boxes than most. Climb Cape Town’s unmissable monolith, enjoying panoramic views across the city all the way, as well as of the Atlantic and Indian Ocean beyond. On the way down, you’ll feel as though you were on a wilderness adventure at times – until a glimpse of the Mother City below reminds you that you are abseiling an urban mountain.
Be a Superhero in La Paz – The 50-metre descent from the 17th floor of a hotel in downtown La Paz feels a lot more gritty and urban, especially if you choose to abseil in a superhero costume. Why anyone would choose to walk down the side of a building in an orange boiler suit if they could do it in a Spiderman costume is beyond us, but – costume or no costume – you’ll feel like a hero if you choose to do it face-first.
Zip Across Rotterdam – The zipline ride from the top of the Euromast observation deck only takes 15 seconds, which is hardly enough time to take in the views of the city and its harbour stretching all the way to the Hook of Holland. Your flight starts at a height of 100 meters and the 250-metre distance is covered at over 100 km/h.
Bridge Climbing in Sydney – The Sydney Harbour Bridge isn’t exactly an insider tip. (Actually, we’ve argued against the expensive tourist trap before, suggesting the bridge pylon as a cheaper climb with a similarly breathtaking view of Sydney Harbour). However, if you have the cash and love a vertigo-inducing height with a view, this is the spectacularly scenic bridge climb for you. After all, there’s a reason it’s a tourist attraction.
Bungy Jumping in Auckland – Climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge may be enthralling, but not nearly as adrenaline-inducing as jumping off Auckland Harbour Bridge. New Zealand is the world’s prime bungy jumping destination, and a jump is on most visitors’ to do list. AJ Hackett, the oldest commercial bungy company in the world offers the Auckland Harbour Bridge bungy, a 40-metre jump complete with an ocean dip, all in full view of the city skyline.
Sky Jumping in Las Vegas – In a way, the differences between abseiling, ziplining, bungee jumping and sky jumping seem purely semantic. At the end of the day, you jump off something high, get an adrenaline rush on the way down and hopefully enjoy the view at the same time. What makes the Stratosphere Sky Jump unique is the free-fall element and the fact that it holds the Guinness record as the world’s “highest commercial decelerator descent.”
Hang Gliding in Rio – Rio is a vibrant city on the ground, but its true beauty reveals itself when viewed from a distance. Surrounded by the foothills of the Brazilian Highlands, the city offers plenty of scenic vantage points, but you can’t beat the bird’s-eye view afforded by a hang glider. Soaring through the sky across bays, Copacabana and Ipanema Beach, Tijuca National Forest and the Sugar Loaf, you see most of the city’s sights and feel the sensation of flight, all in one handy package.
Hiking in San Francisco – Not an adrenaline junkie, but keen on a city tour with a sense of adventure? San Francisco, the home of urban hiking, is the place for you. Its 42 hills, many of them ridiculously steep, can turn even a short trip to the local shops into a HIIT workout. Urban Hiker SF offers guided tours that require serious stamina and proper footwear, taking in city streets and the famous urban steps, as well as National Park hiking trails.
Rooftop Adventures in Stockholm – Make like Astrid Lindgren’s Karlsson-on-the-Roof and take to the rooftops of the Swedish capital. Takvandring (literally “roof hiking”) guides small groups of visitors to moderate heights atop the buildings of Stockholm’s Old Town. They don’t cover much ground, but provide far-reaching views and supply the commentary to match. Unike Karlsson, most participants don’t have their own propellers or the ability to fly, so safety harnesses and hard hats are provided.
Climb a (Very High) Tower in Macau – The Macau Tower Climb is the type of activity that most people can’t even watch on Youtube without feeling faint. It involves ascending 223 metres to the observation deck, then climbing from there to the top of a mast, peaking at 338 metres. Those who can still focus on anything other than the dizzying height get to take in the view of the city and surrounds, possibly even catching a glimpse of Hong Kong in the distance on a clear day.
Chase the City, All Around Canada – The series of City Chase events is like a combination of adult treasure hunt, fitness challenge and urban adventure. Participants scour cities from Calgary to Toronto for clues that take them to “chase points” posing challenges. These can be physically or mentally challenging and have to be completed before moving on to the next clue.
Article by Fiona Brutscher