Welcome to Paris, the city of light, the city of lovers…you’ve heard all the clichés. However, maybe what you haven’t heard is that France’s capital city also is an exciting hub for extreme sports, there may not be any mountains or an ocean but Paris’s infrastructure makes for a perfect playground. No matter the season, there’s always an adrenalin fuelled activity to be had only a stones throw away from the Eiffel Tower, simply keep on reading and find out our choice of the top 12 activities to try in Paris.
Today you have two types of climbing, climbing a cliff and bouldering, and due to the lack of mountains in Paris, bouldering’s popularity has really taken off. This technique should suit even the most reluctant because the climbs surface doesn’t exceed 5 meters in height for beginners, and even better, bouldering doesn’t require all the fiddley equipment that you need in regular climbing, e.g. rope, carabiners, harness etc. Perhaps the biggest bonus of all is that the risk is pretty much non-existent thanks to the large mattresses-like crash pads that are placed below the wall ready to cushion your fall should you lose your grip. We advise you kick-off your bouldering escapades at the famous site of Fontainebleau, an hour from Paris and considered as one of the true paradises for free-climbing fans, but there are several other places in the capital to give climbing a go, such as, Murmur in Issy les Moulineaux or Blocbuster in La Defense, which are both great options for indoor spots if the weather isn’t cooperating.
The largest skate club in France, Paris Skate Culture, welcomes you for group or private classes almost every day in Paris. With lessons available to those as young as 5, specific classes for women and for adults over 30, there is no excuse not to get on a board and test your balance in freestyle skateboarding. Fine tune your riding skills in the big concrete skatepark in the 18th district (EGP 18) or in the wooden-constructed skatepark in the 14th (Jules Noël), or in a variety of other spots at your disposal if you want to ride in the capital. The skateboard and protection pads are provided when you take part in any lesson and is supervised by qualified teachers with years of skate experience.
If you like urban sports but you prefer being on 2-wheels, then come test your skills with some freestyle BMX. A sport born in the ‘70s in California with a main goal of performing tricks with a small 20” bike. Pick your terrain of choice, whether it’s the park for lovers of curves, the street for those who want to express themselves on urban modules or the flats for creative riders on a concrete floor, you can find lessons in the capital with the Paris BMX club. This Parisian association gives group lessons on Tuesdays from 5.30 pm to 7.30 pm and Saturdays from 10 am to 12 pm, as well as private lessons upon request. The spots are the same as for skating (18th and 14th district skateparks) and the club will lend you a BMX tailored to your size with a helmet and protection pads. Learn the basics like bunny up, jumping with the bike without a trampoline, master your first balances without using the handlebars, and cruise down the park’s modules accompanied by qualified instructors.
Welcome to the world of longboarding, part of the skateboarding family, longboard dancing is a creative and artistic discipline, the idea being to elegantly move up and down on the board whilst skating. More accessible than freestyle skateboarding, where you need a skatepark or street, this more cruisey variation stands out because riders just need a flat floor to express themselves. In Paris, you can find the Dock Dession community led by the charismatic Lotfi Lamaali, with weekly meet-ups on Tuesday’s at the Trocadero and Sundays on the banks of the Seine, Quai Anatole France (opposite the Musée d’Orsay). Riders of all levels come together to have a good time cruising on their boards in a relaxed and creative atmosphere.
Free fall simulator
All the sensations of free fall without having to jump out of an airplane! Enjoy the experience of an indoor free fall in Paris with an hour and a half of simulation fun, including a training session before you drop in.
Set in a spectacular glass tube 14-metres high and 4.30-metres wide (the highest in the world) with an atrium opening up to the balconies in the Villette shopping centre in the 19th district, this new attraction aims to recreate the conditions and sensations of a free-fall flight in the sky but in a secure and controlled surrounding. Each session includes up to 12 passengers taking it in turns to experience two flights of 1 minute each accompanied by an instructor, equating to 3 trial jumps at 4,000 metres from an airplane.
If you’re already a fan of skateboarding or snowboarding, then you’ll be pleased to learn that you can ride the same kind of board on the water, and not far from the capital city. Wakeboarding is the perfect activity to try with family or friends, know that you can find nautical bases near Paris for a “free-surf” session or an introductory lesson to Wakeboarding. Wake is a sport in which you are connected by a cable to a motorboat or a ski lift that tows you around, ride on the water keeping your balance on the wakeboard. A rather physical board sport in the riding world which requires strength offers the chance to jump off modules, such as Kickers, Fun Boxes and Sliders, anchored in around the course.
Whether you’re a beginner or an expert, progress at your own pace in wakeboarding, wake-skating, knee-boarding or water skiing. Come on down to the Nautic Verberie Park in the Oise near Compiegne or to Paris Wakepark, located on a peninsula in the heart of the Choisy-le-Roi Park, only 20 km outside of Paris.
Paris is also a great place to practice some roller skating, with famous weekly “hikes” and classes to improve your balance and manoeuvres while touring about on skates. The Roller Club de France offers you skating lessons customised to any level at the Place de la Bastille in the heart of Paris, whether you are a beginner, intermediate or confirmed. Grab your skates and master the art of rollerblading in the capital city with courses accessible to everyone from 7 to 77, after evaluating you or your kids level, tailored training sessions will be available to you in small groups with plenty of fun to be had. Go to the Nomade shop in Bastille to get equipped with blades, knee pads, elbow guards, wrist guards and helmets, follow your instructor and let them guide you through an hour and half of pure pleasure!
Discover the extreme sensation of a tandem parachute jump near Paris, arrive at the jump zone and under-go a quick 15-minute training brief where your instructor will introduce you to all the equipment and safety rules of the tandem jump. Once equipped, its time to go to the runway to jump aboard the plane and climb up to 4,200 metres, taking around 15 minutes. Securely attach yourself to the instructor on the plane and get ready to jump! When the jump altitude is reached, the doors open out on to an exceptional panorama, and now it’s time, time to experience the adrenaline rush of a lifetime! The rush of the jump, followed by a fall-free of around 50 seconds and then the thrilling views of a panoramic landscape and, finally, the jolt of your parachute opening and guiding you safely back down to solid ground!
That’s right, believe it or not you can go scuba diving in Paris, even if the likelihood of crossing a manta ray is quite low, it’s still worth a try! PADI Discover Scuba Diver and Scuba Diver training courses near Paris give you the chance to experience diving without having to travel hundreds of miles to the ocean. Offering lesson for ages 8 and up, with friends, family or a solo mission, make the most of this opportunity to discover the sensations of diving. For those who have already attained a certain grade in diving can take a course here to improve their level, practice freely or work on certain skills. The diving trench is a large tiled tube reaching up to 20 to 40 metres in depth and 8 metres in diameter, with the clear water heated to 29 degrees it’s the ideal diving tool to help you train in the city all year long! Diving in an urban environment allows you to practice and master the technical exercises undertaken in the water and thus, when you arrive at sea, you’ll feel totally ready to explore the seabed and observe the fauna and flora.
Take a deep breath and discover this original activity, taking place, believe it or not, in the capital city of France. If you’re keen to re-enact your favourite scene from the Big Blue and find yourself in Paris or on holiday nearby, then you’ll be happy to know it’s possible to learn the basics of free diving right here. Join the Plongbalance Club and earn an SSI level 1 free-dive qualification, located in St-Denis in the suburbs of Paris which are easily accessible by metro, the course includes 10 sessions lasting 2 hours in the deep trench, with a maximum depth of 20 metres. The pit of St-Denis has a maximum depth of 10m and outputs to the Conflans Sainte Honorine or Villeneuve la Garenne pits that allow you to go down to 20m. A good start to get your confidence and competence up before you go exploring the depths of the ocean.
Freerunning & Parkour
One of the most modern sports of today, and interestingly, the only urban sport that requires no equipment; no board, no bike and no wheels are needed for this acrobatic discipline. Invented in 2003 by Sébastien Foucan, free-running is a sport derived from Parkour, focussing on aesthetic and acrobatic skills, movement and the art of urban displacement forms a certain language customised to each free-runner. The French Freerun Academy is a free-run practice training centre located at the Forum des Halles in Paris, created by the French Freerun Family, the most successful team in France, and La Fabrique Royale. Come and discover the techniques of this physical and creative practice during an introductory 2-hour course in the only securely adapted room in Paris, Centr’Halles Park. Learn to move fluidly and naturally, led by professionals, your free-run teacher will train you in the basics of this urban sport with a theoretical lesson and a warm-up beforehand, followed by a fun-filled technical run to teach you your first steps.
Looking for an original activity to do in the heart of Paris? At the core of the new wave of board sports is the freestyle scooter, the Parisian association Street Trott Klub offers group or individual courses as well as lessons with certified instructors. Personalised coaching is geared at beginners and young children from 5 years old and up, taking place in the EGP18 (Porte de la Chapelle) skatepark, known as the central hub for skateboarders and riders for years. Each lesson is conducted in a fun and dynamic way, adapted to the age and the level of each individual participant, and leaving you with a feeling of accomplishment and a buzz that lasts for weeks!
Finally, it’s time to leave the world of freestyle and board-riding behind us and take to the sensational skies above Paris in a memorable helicopter tour, flying over the iconic structures of the capital city in style. Get a buzz without having to get a sweat on during this unique trip, speed over the city of light and admire the famous Palace of Versailles from a more panoramic angle. Venture aboard a six-seat Airbus H135 twin-engine helicopter for an aerial adventure taking you on a journey of discovery around the western side of Paris lasting an hour and half with 25 minutes of flight time. Admire the magnificent views that await you; the westerly banks of the River Seine, the Parc des Princes, the Bois de Boulogne, the Longchamp racecourse, Saint-Cloud park and the magnificent gardens of the Sun King. To top it off, end this jaw-dropping experience with an unforgettable view of the crème de la crème of Paris, the Eiffel Tower.
Top picture : Alison Teal