To the thrill-seeking Londoner, the cost of getting your blood pumping can seem like a towering obstacle. But there are plenty of budget options to get your heart racing and keep your bank balance out of the red. It doesn’t matter if you’re newbie looking to find a fresh challenge or an experienced adrenaline junkie, there are adventures in London to suit all tastes.
Outdoor & wild swimming
London has some great lidos, but as soon as the temperature hits above 15 degrees, you can spend half your day in line. For the competent swimmer, ponds, lakes and even rivers are suitable for wild swimming.
Go against the tide, swim in the Thames
While we categorically don’t advise just diving into the River Thames, there is a way of it doing safely. For a proper initiation into swimming with the big fish, Totally Thames has got your back. They’ve teamed up with the Sea Cadets to organise group river swimming sessions. Swimmers need to be prepared for open waters, as you’ll be swimming against the tide at Chiswick. Registration has to be done in advance, and events start at the Black Lion in Hammersmith. Sessions are just £6.00.
Hampstead Heath is home to three freshwater ponds—Ladies’, Men’s and Mixed. Unlike most lidos, you can swim here all year round if you’re brave enough to take a chilly dip. Don’t be deceived by the name, these are much deeper than your garden variety ponds (and just as cold). Tickets are just £2.00 for the day.
Lee Valley White Water Centre
A lot of hardcore sports activity takes place at Lee Valley White Water Centre. The lake is used for their Aquathlon training, but you don’t have to be an athlete to use it. Turn up on Tuesday evenings at 7:00pm for open water swimming at £5.00. Before your first visit you’ll need to prove yourself by booking a Monday assessment lap, which will set you back £10.00. After that the water is all yours.
Considered bouldering, but been grappling with the costs involved? It can be pricey, with most sessions costing £15.00–£20.00. Add that to equipment costs and the bills can quickly stack up. your best bet for cheapo climbing is The Arch. You can book a single session at any of their three venues for £8.50 if you go off-peak (before 4:00pm). Regular prices are still just £11.00, affordable enough to get you hooked!
One of the more physically demanding adventures in London, parkour is all about using your surroundings to get around (and look cool while doing it). Technically the only costs are in getting started—once you have the skills London is your playground.
If you’re new to free running, you can join a free parkour fitness session with LondonParkour. Sessions usually take place on the first Saturday of the month. The classes are suitable for complete beginners, but don’t be expecting an easy ride just because it’s free. The instructors will put you thought your paces! No sign up is necessary, but it’s worth checking the schedule before you show up.
Alternatively, go take a running jump with Parkour Generations. They host both indoor and outdoor beginner and mixed-level classes. Most sessions take place at Chainstore, a specialised gym in Trinity Buoy Wharf, but there are other venues too, as well as outdoor sessions across London.
Lee Valley VeloPark
Fancying taking sweet jumps at Olympic grade venue? BMX riders can test their skills out for just a few quid at the VeloPark, using the same facilities that saw plenty of action at London 2012. During the week pay and ride tickets are just £5.00. You’ll need to do a taster session for £15.00 or prove your British Cycling BMX Membership before you start. If you’re looking to push things further, 90-minute classes only cost a tenner. Bargain.
If you’d rather keep both tyres on the ground, you can also try out the former Olympic Velodrome, allegedly the world’s fastest cycling track. Taster sessions are usually a decidedly more pricey £45.00, but you can nab off-peak tickets for £35.00. off peak hours are 3:00pm Mondays, 3:00pm and 4:00pm Tuesdays and 9:00am–3:00pm Wednesday–Thursday.
With a name every bit as complicated as the design would suggest, the ArcelorMittal Orbit is apparently the world’s tallest and longest tunnel slide—as well as the UK’s biggest art installation. Originally billed as a public artwork/observation deck to commemorate the 2012 London Olympics, the tower is a twisting steel spire that’s been cutting an imposing figure on Stratford’s skyline since 2014. You can scale the tower and access the observation deck by stairs or lift for £11.50.
There are some decent panoramas of the city, but it’s far from London’s tallest (or cheapest) place to get a birds eye view. be sure to check our full guide to London from above if you’re interested in London’s best spots to look down on your fellow humans. The real standout is the slide, which was added in 2016, which you can ride for an extra fiver if you book online. For a decidedly un-cheapo £85.00 you can also abseil down the side of the tower.