London might not be the first destination that comes to mind when you’re planning a day of rock climbing, but the British capital is actually home to some of the country’s best indoor rock climbing centres.
In London, you can rock climb all through the year – regardless of the weather – and the many centres across the city are set up with different climbing walls that are suited to different ages and abilities. You can boulder, learn how to top rope and, if you’re experienced, you can even do unsupported lead rope climbing.
If climbing indoors isn’t for you, then close to London there are a few fantastic outdoor areas where you can boulder and rock climb in spectacular surroundings. And if you’re really looking for an adventure, then London even has an ice climbing wall.
To inspire your adventurous day out in the capital, here’s our guide to the best places to go rock climbing in London.
Different Types of Rock Climbing in London
There are several different types of climbing that you can take on in London. Some climbing centres specialise in particular activities, while others are more general. Some centres only support certain specialities, while others are more encompassing.
The most casual and common form of climbing at London’s indoor centres is bouldering. This is where the climber attempts a route unsupported, with no ropes. Bouldering routes are usually quite low-level and, ordinarily, you can simply jump back down if you start to fall, particularly as there are padded mats beneath you. Bouldering is great for beginners and great for practising climbing techniques, as it’s fast, fun and casual. Many centres in London only cater to boulderers.
Top rope climbing is the more traditional form of rock climbing that you can find in London. This is where you are attached to a rope that is looped to the top of the climbing wall or the top of the route, and which then passes back down to a ‘belayer’ on the ground, who is responsible for supporting the climber’s weight as they climb up and then abseil back down. This takes some training or, at the very least, an experienced climber to act as the belayer, as you’ll need to know the ropes and the commands. Centres that support top rope climbing will be able to provide tuition and training classes too.
The third major type of climbing supported at London’s indoor climbing centres, is lead climbing, but this is only for more experienced and equipped rock climbers. Lead climbing involves two climbers attempting to climb a route at the same time. However, rather than having a rope above, they lay the rope out themselves as they work their way up the wall or the rock, with the second climbing behind acting as a belayer.
Lead climbing takes a lot more trust, skill and experience, but you can learn how it works from instructors at many different rock climbing centres in London after you’ve mastered bouldering and are confident in top rope climbing.
The Climbing Hangar
The Climbing Hangar is in Parson’s Green in Fulham, and the London establishment is one of four across the country. The Climbing Hangar is dedicated to bouldering, and you’ll find a huge array of different climbing boards, overhangs and unique routes that are just begging to be tackled.
This is a great place for boulderers of all abilities, as there is a wide range of different difficulties, and you can be a complete beginner or even a pro and still find a suitable place to climb in the hangar.
The routes are changed regularly too, so as you progress and conquer harder bouldering walls, you’ll still be able to find something new and ever more challenging to take on here. There are changing facilities, a communal viewing area and, if you climb regularly, you can sign up for monthly memberships too.
VauxWall West Climbing Centre
As the name suggests, VauxWall West Climbing Centre is located in Vauxhall, London, right by Vauxhall train station. The climbing centre is actually built beneath the arches of the train station, making this a really unique place to climb.
VauxWall West is just dedicated to bouldering, but there are 250 different bouldering routes in the centre, spread over hundreds of square metres of climbing space and climbing walls. This is a relatively new addition to the bouldering scene in London, but the centre has gone all out to ensure that it’s one of the most high-tech in the city. You can book spaces online and you can check in electronically when you arrive. There’s a fantastic on-site cafe for when you’re chilling out after a heavy bouldering session, and you can rent boots or buy equipment at the shop.
HarroWall is run by the same company behind VauxWall West and is even newer and bigger than its companion climbing centre. HarroWall opened in 2018, and it’s ultra modern and spectacularly hi-tech.
It’s also the largest bouldering centre in the United Kingdom, with 12,000 square metres worth of bouldering space on offer. That’s absolutely enormous, and you can rest assured that there is something for everyone here, no matter how seasoned or how new you are to the climbing game.
The bouldering setup includes standard, vertical walls, as well as ridiculously challenging overhangs that take those brave enough high up onto the ceiling, at harrowing angles. There are changing facilities, a cafe, viewing areas and dedicated zones for kids, including not just play areas, but low-level bouldering walls.
Interestingly, HarroWall is also home to Europe’s largest indoor cave. The 170-metre long cave system is built under the climbing centre and is entirely man-made, but it gives you the chance to try your hand at caving in a safe environment.
HarroWall is located in Harrow, so it’s a bit of a journey from central London, but it’s well worth it because few other climbing centres in the capital can match this one!
The Castle Climbing Centre
The Castle Climbing Centre is one of London’s more unique offerings in the climbing world. This excellent centre is found in an old Victorian-era pumping house, an archaic looking building that bears a remarkable resemblance to a medieval castle, given its striking turrets and towers.
The Castle Climbing Centre is for both boulderers and climbers, and you can learn from the experts how to do both if you’ve never attempted the sports before. The climbing routes are set over several different floors, with the highest routes reaching up to 12 metres in height.
There are many different marked routes that you can rope into and climb, while if you’d rather boulder, there are lots of lower level routes to tackle without ropes too. The Castle is one of the busiest climbing centres in London, as the fairly central location next to Finsbury Park makes it easy to get to. The Castle is also well established, having been around since 1995, while the iconic Victorian building is a huge draw too!
While most of the routes are inside, when it’s sunny, there are even a few outdoor climbing walls you can tackle, although they aren’t quite as tall or as impressive as the indoor ones. Not many other places in London offer outdoor climbing though, so make the most of it outside the castle in summer.
Hackney Wick Boulder Project
In East London, Hackney Wick Boulder Project is one of the best places in the capital for a spot of bouldering. This is bouldering only, and it’s a very new establishment, but it’s one of the friendliest climbing centres in the city.
Hackney Wick Boulder Project is small, but it’s a great place to meet fellow climbers, as they host many different social sessions through the week, which give you the chance to climb with fellow enthusiasts.
You can enjoy excellent coffee in your downtime, while there are tempting monthly climbing rates to keep you coming back time after time for more and more bouldering.
The Arch Climbing Wall
The Arch Climbing Wall is a company that runs not just one climbing centre, but three climbing centres across London. If you are keen on climbing, then they offer a subscription-based membership that gives you access to all three centres, giving you three times the opportunities for new challenges and new climbs in comparison to other centres.
The centres are spread over London, with the newest being the Biscuit Factory in Bermondsey, where there are thousands of square metres worth of space and hundreds of different routes for different abilities.
You also have The Arch North, the company’s offering in North London, which is just as big as its cousin across the city and is home to more technical bouldering walls, and many more overhangs.
Finally, there’s the Arch Climbing Wall Acton, the biggest of all three of the centres, where you can find technical walls, beginner walls, and a huge range of different routes that will challenge both novices and professionals. It’s probably the best of the three, and one of the best places to rock climb in London.
Clip ‘n Climb Chelsea
In the heart of London’s most affluent neighbourhood, you can find Clip ‘n Climb Chelsea, which offers an easy route into the climbing world for beginners. Clip ‘n Climb Chelsea has a wide range of walls and climbing routes, and all of it is for bouldering or top rope climbing. However whereas in other climbing centres you will need to know how to belay and will need some level of experience and instruction to top rope, here, it’s all done for you.
You literally clip onto the rope and start to climb, because the ropes are fully automated and held in place by a mechanical belay system, which tightens or slackens as you climb and then descend again.
It’s not quite as cheap as other climbing centres – this is Chelsea after all – but if you’re a beginner or if you’re looking for a great place for your kids to learn, then Clip ‘n Climb Chelsea is the best place to start in London.
More than just the climbing though, Clip ‘n Climb Chelsea also has a range of other attractions. You can take on the Leap of Faith, which is a vertical drop slide that takes some courage to tackle, while there are other challenges across the climbing walls, such as speed climbing.
London doesn’t exactly have too many opportunities for outdoor climbing, on actual, solid rocks, but head out of the city and there are a few places nearby where you can enjoy some true climbing.
One of the most iconic locations is Harrison’s Rocks, which is an hour outside of central London to the south, close to Tonbridge. Harrison’s Rocks are part of the Southern Sandstone region, where the rocks are soft but the routes are tough.
Harrison’s Rocks is a tall, rocky crag that offers a wide variety of top rope climbing options to climbers of all abilities. Many of the climbing centres and clubs in London will organise trips to Harrison’s Rocks, particularly if the weather is looking good, but you’ll want plenty of indoor practice before you head outside, because conditions will be very, very different.
If you’re looking for a new climbing challenge or just want to try your hand at something a little bit different, then head to Vertical Chill where you can learn how to ice climb!
Vertical Chill is in Covent Garden, and it’s run by the Ellis Brigham Mountain Sports Store. The indoor ice wall is the perfect place to learn how to ice climb, as you’ll be given all the necessary gear, and you’ll be given tuition and tips by the experienced staff.
You don’t need any experience ice climbing, but a bit of climbing knowledge might help you to get to the top of this high ice wall.
If you’re going rock climbing in London, check out Premium Tours’ fantastic range of London tours while you’re in town. As London experts, we’ll help you make the most of your adventures in the capital.