A White Knuckle Guide To High Adrenaline Activities In London

A White Knuckle Guide To High Adrenaline Activities In London
A woman dangling by a rope from the Orbit, photographed through glass.
Just an average day at work for Team Londonist.

Feeling bold? Want to test your boundaries? Looking for something a little different to do in London? Read on for our pick of high-adrenaline experiences and daredevil activities available in the capital.

Skydiving in London

A woman lying horizontal in the air in a vertical wind tunnel, with an instructor holding her in position
Image: iFly London

iFly Indoor Skydiving opened at The O2 in 2023, offering you a chance to experience the adrenaline of skydiving, without the need for a plane. It takes the form of a vertical wind tunnel, which lifts you clean off the ground.

After a few seconds of acclimatising, it's not all that scary — an instructor helps you to assume the correct position on your first go, and you're only about 5ft off the ground, so if the worst were to happen, you'd fall and land on some netting. We found ourselves more concerned with trying not to dribble as the intense wind pummelled our lips out of shape.

Various packages are available with flights of different lengths. Once you've mastered the basics, your instructor offers you the opportunity to fly up to the top of the wind tunnel, which is where things get a little more exciting, though for us, it was more a feat of endurance to maintain the correct flying posture, rather than anything too scary.

Best of all, indoor skydiving is often accessible to people with physical disabilities, for whom regular skydiving wouldn't be possible. If this is you, get in touch with iFly to discuss your needs.

As far as we know, there are no 'real' skydiving venues in London. Don't be fooled by 'North London Skydiving', which is located north of Cambridge, or 'Skydiving London', which is actually near Swindon.

The Dare Skywalk, Tottenham

Four people standing on a ledge, looking out at the view
Don't worry, they're clipped on! Image: The Dare Skywalk

Spurs really upped the ante when they opened their new stadium in 2019. Aside from the usual behind the scenes tours, it also offers a chance to view the pitch from a glass walkway 46.8m up in the air.

The Dare Skywalk takes you up onto the roof of the largest club stadium in London, then out onto the glass walkway in front of the famous golden cockerel statue. The experiences last 90 minutes, from briefing at basecamp, to climbing 100 steps and ascending the open-sided walkway along the side of the stadium (you're clipped on, don't fret!). Wheelchair accessible versions of the experience are available too, and the platform offers 360° views over London and beyond, with landmarks including The Shard easy to pick out.

As for returning back down to the ground — you can take the route you came. Or...

Abseiling in London

A woman dangling by a rope in mid air
Abseiling at the Orbit: Don't. Look. Down. Photo: Londonist

For a city with so many high buildings, London is surprisingly limited when it comes to regular abseiling options, other than climbing walls and centres.

What you can do, is sign up for a 'controlled descent' back down to the ground after you finish The Dare Skywalk (above). The Edge, as the experience is known, has you clipped onto guide ropes to descend the 42 metres back down — and you can choose whether you go forwards or backwards.

Alternatively, the ArcelorMittal Orbit in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park offers an abseiling experience (which we tried before it launched, all the way back in 2014), though at time of writing, that's on pause for a few months — check back later in 2024 if you're keen for that one.

Otherwise, look out for one-off charity abseils in London. London's Air Ambulance Charity tends to host at least one abseil each year, usually around September, when gutsy fundraisers abseil 17 floors from the helipad on top of the Royal London Hospital, all the way back down to the ground. Similarly the Guy's & St Thomas' Charity offers occasional 160ft abseils down the St Thomas' building by Westminster Bridge. It's a case of checking on the individual websites to see when the next event is.

Thames Rockets speedboats

People sitting in a moving Thames Rockets red speedboat, holding their hands in the air while spray splashes them
Probably one to save for the summer. Image: Thames Rockets

Thames Rockets gives you the chance to whizz up and down the Thames on a speedboat at speeds of up to 30 knots (35mph) — which doesn't sound too nippy, but with the wind in your hair, spray coming at you from the side of the boat, and guides throwing commentary at you left, right and centre, it's a fairly fast-paced way to see the capital.

Everyone's provided with a life jacket, and you shouldn't get too wet, though if the wind's blowing the wrong way, you might get covered in spray. Different experiences are available, including the 50-minute Ultimate London Adventure, which takes you from the London Eye to Canary Wharf and back, or the 80-minute Thames Barrier Voyage which takes you all the way out to... yep, the Thames Barrier, then back to central London.

Walk on the glass floor of Tower Bridge

A pair of feet in black trainers standing on a glass floor, with the Tower Bridge road, and a  boat on the river visible below
Photo: Matt Brown/Londonist

For anyone who's scared of heights, few things are likely to get your pulse racing and your palms sweating quite like walking over the glass floors in the high-level walkways of Tower Bridge. They're right in the centre of the bridge, putting you over both the road (33.5 metres down) and the river (42 metres down), and giving you a clear view straight down to both... if you dare open your eyes. Maybe don't wear a skirt that day.

There are two lifts up to the walkways, one in each tower of the bridge, offering step-free access to the glass floors.

Go snorkelling with sharks at Sealife London Aquarium

Find out what happened when we went snorkelling with sharks.

For a whole generation raised on Jaws, sharks are the ultimate in giving you the heebie-jeebies, and the Sealife London Aquarium lets you get up close to them, with a snorkelling cage in its shark tank.

For 15 minutes, don a snorkelling mask and bob about in a transparent — but very solid — cage, in a tank which is home to five species of shark including sand tiger sharks, blacktip reef sharks, and bowmouth guitarfish. There are no great whites... we triple-checked before we got in.

We dived in when the experience relaunched in 2019, having previously dipped visitors into the tank in a net-like vessel. These days it's a solid cage, which removes a certain frisson of danger from the experience. The cage is kept at the top of the water too, so you're never completely submerged. It's a fascinating and very special encounter to get a close look at these creatures while they're swimming — and ever so cool to be able to drop "that time I swam with sharks" into everyday conversations — but not the heart-stoppingly frightening, adrenaline-pumping experience you might expect.

Up at The O2

A group of people in a row holding onto a railing and walking on a blue path over the O2
Image: Up at The O2

If you've ever been in North Greenwich and looked up to see ant-like people trekking across the dome, they were (hopefully) taking part at Up at The O2. It's a walk across a path over the famous white dome of the O2, led by a guide. It begins fairly steep, but soon flattens out, and you're clipped onto a central railing for the ascent and descent. In the centre is a viewing platform, where you can pause to take in the 360 degree views.

Although it's high, it's not London's scariest experience for anyone scared of heights. The solid nature of the walkway means you can't see directly below you — and even if you could, there's only the roof of the O2 to see down there. Instead, focus your eyes on your surroundings, such as the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf across the river. If anything, the descent is scarier than the ascent, as the ground is in front of you — if you're not keen on heights, try to make sure you're not at the front of your group for this bit. For us, the springy nature of the stretched canvas walkway was the most unnerving part.

Wheelchair climbs are available on selected days, for wheelchair users and their family/friends. They involve transferring into a specially designed wheelchair, operated on a pulley system by a team of guides.

White Water Rafting at Lee Valley

Of all the experiences we've tried in London, the one that got our heart pumping the fastest was white water rafting at the Lee Valley White Water Centre. Admittedly, it's a tiny bit beyond the London border, but it was a London 2012 Olympics venue, so we're claiming it.

Board a raft with up to eight other people and tackle the world-class rapids course. You're given a spot of training into how to paddle and steer, and then made to take a running jump into the (chilly!) water, to allow you to acclimatise to the temperatures before you go overboard later. Then it's out onto the course, and being thrown up, down, left, right, don't drop your paddle, lean left, NOW NOW NOW. Or something like that. Exhilarating, exciting, terrifying — everything a daredevil experience should be.

Try the flying trapeze

A silhouetted photo of someone mid-air swinging on a trapeze bar, with trees in the background
Woohoo! Gorilla Circus in Regent's Park. Photo: Laura Reynolds/Londonist

Fancy hurling yourself off of something rather high and seeing what happens? Perhaps the trapeze is for you.

Gorilla Circus is a flying trapeze school which pops up in a couple of London locations in the summer — it's been swinging by Regent's Park for years, and recently added Kensington Gardens to its repertoire, though keep an eye on the website for this summer's plans. Courses and classes range from one-off sessions for beginners to regular courses for more experienced trapezists. During our two-hour introductory lesson, we started on a lower bar to get the feel of things, but did progress to having a go at the highest bar, which involved throwing ourselves off a platform several metres off the ground, and hoping to feel our fingers clasping around the bar as we fell. Yes, we had safety ropes and all that gubbins, but your brain doesn't tend to cling to logic like that when you're trying to work up the courage to jump.

Alternatively, the National Centre for Circus Arts in Hoxton offers regular Circus Experience Days throughout the year, where adults can have a go at skills including the static trapeze, aerial hoops, tightwire, and acrobatics. As the name suggests, the static trapeze doesn't move, whereas the flying trapeze swings backwards and forwards with your body weight. If you like the sound of the latter, the National Centre for Circus Arts also offers an introductory Flying Trapeze course across several weeks.

Last Updated 11 January 2024