London's top 10 action-packed adventures

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London’s sights, culture and nightlife are world famous. But the city has an adventurous side too, with ice climbing in Covent Garden, bungee jumping by the O2, kayaking down the Thames and cycling the world’s fastest track among the thrills on offer. So sit up and strap in for our round-up of the capital’s 10 best action-packed activities.

Abseil from the UK’s tallest sculpture

The twisting red and silver structure that spears East London’s horizon is a unique spot to dangle from. The creation of artist Anish Kapoor, the ArcelorMittal Orbit is the UK’s tallest sculpture and the centrepiece of the Olympic Park. It's also home to the highest freefall abseil in the country.

You can enjoy a bird’s eye view from the top before starting the 80m descent. Those wanting to take in the panoramas can slowly control the drop, while daredevils can whip down as fast as their arms will allow. From spring 2016 there will be another exciting way to get to the bottom, as the world’s tallest and longest tunnel slide is set to snake its way down the sculpture. Abseiling is available on select dates throughout the summer.

Kayak along the Thames

Guided kayaking tours offer the opportunity to paddle along one of the world’s most recognisable rivers. Departing from Chelsea, in west London, you can glide under the famous bridges and propel yourself past sights including the Houses of Parliament and the London Eye. The busy waterway is navigated in two-seater kayaks, or singles for those with experience. Trips can be organised with Kayaking London (kayakinglondon.com).


Parkour in the urban jungle

Do not be alarmed, as you wander the city’s streets, if you spot someone leaping across a stairwell, scaling a wall or teetering on a rooftop. Parkour, also known as free running, is the practice of negotiating obstacles in the most efficient way possible. If you see it in action (there are popular spots around Waterloo and the South Bank), it may give you the impression that the urban environment is one big adventure playground, but it can be a risky business. Classes allow you to safely learn the skills, and Parkour Generations (parkourgenerations.com) offer lessons around the city.

Climb a wall of ice

One of the most surprising adventures to be found in the city is indoor ice climbing. Tucked away in Covent Garden is a giant refrigeration unit where temperatures hover between a chilly -5 and -12°C. The 8m wall offers ice for all abilities, with gentle inclines for novices and sharp overhangs for experienced climbers. Sessions can be booked through Vertical Chill London (vertical-chill.com).

White-water raft the Olympic course

Hurtling at speed through frothy rapids, dodging boulders and clinging tightly as you plummet down a 5m drop is all part of the rafting experience at Lee Valley. The 300m course, which was constructed to host the canoe slalom at the 2012 Summer Olympics, is one of the world’s top artificial white-water spots. Located in Waltham Cross, just outside of the capital, the Lee Valley White Water Centre (gowhitewater.co.uk) offers a range of activities for aqua adventurers including canoeing and hydro-speeding, where you take to the rapids on a cross between a float and a body board.

Bungee jump next to the O2 arena

If you want to stretch your tolerance for heights, take the plunge with a bungee jump alongside the vast dome of the O2 arena. For one weekend each month a 50m crane in Greenwich gives those willing to take a leap the chance to tandem jump or go it alone. From the top there’s just enough time to take in the views of Canary Wharf and some of the city’s tallest landmarks before plummeting towards a giant airbag. Jumps can be booked through the UK Bungee Club (ukbungee.co.uk).

Swim in the Serpentine or on the Heath

A bracing dip in one of London’s famous parks is a skin-tingling way to revive yourself. Beyond the pedalos and squabbling ducks and swans of the Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park is a 100m swimming area that’s a great place to cool off in summer, although it does get busy on warm weekends. In north London, the wilder expanse of Hampstead Heathoffers a wonderfully natural environment, and two of its three ponds are open for year-round swimming.

Pedal the world's fastest cycle track

Cycling fans will not want to miss a spin around the fastest track in the world. The indoor velodrome at the Lee Valley VeloPark, inside Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, hosted the world’s top riders during the 2012 games and now cyclists of all levels can have a go. The oval track has steep, sloping banks which, combined with the fixed wheel bikes and iconic setting, makes a circuit a unique experience.

The park also boasts an outdoor BMX track and miles of mountain bike trails.

Speed-boat along the Thames

James Bond has twice zipped along the Thames in a speedboat, and you don't need a '00' number to follow in his wake. Tours head past the Tate Modern, Shakespeare’s Globe and the Shard, before the action is taken up to 35mph when the boat reaches the high-speed zone east of Tower Bridge.

London RIB Voyages (londonribvoyages.com) offer a number of tours departing from the London Eye, as well as a trip from Tower Bridge which heads as far east as the Thames Barrier and is particularly nippy as it operates only in the high-speed zone.

Power kite in Richmond Park

Why take a stroll through a park when a giant kite can pull you along instead? A range of kiting activities can be found in southwest London’s massive, deer-filled Richmond Park, starting with two-line and four-line kiting lessons. Once the basics have been mastered you can progress to a kite landboarding course, where you speed along on an oversized skateboard, or a kite buggy course, where you sit in a three-wheeled go-kart. Check out Kitevibe (kitevibe.com) for more details.