Climbing has come a long way in the last few years. The sport was once dominated by tough grizzled men who battled the elements and abided by a strict code of ethics. It has evolved to become a sport that is accessible to all.
Climbing made its Olympic debut in Tokyo 2020. Its format will be further revised for the 2024 Paris Olympics but, broadly speaking, indoor climbing is divided into three disciplines:
- Speed climbing – a mad dash up a wall in a style often lamented by climbing traditionalists
- Sport climbing – a bolted rope climb, generally on walls of up to about 15m (more in bigger centers)
- Bouldering – short routes that are often technical or powerful. They involve problem solving to find the best moves to complete the route efficiently. This discipline has exploded in popularity across the world.
The appeal is severalfold. Climbing is a full body workout. It is more fun than running on a dreadmill, the problem-solving element keeps it interesting, and it’s sociable. Many venues are more than just a place to climb. Several Parisian climbing centres have a bar and restaurant, with craft ales and all manner of tasty comestible. In fact many young folks come to these places and don’t even climb. Most centres have a shop too, stocked full of all things climbing, with an emphasis on French brands like Snap and Petzl. You will also find saunas, yoga studios and even coworking spaces.
Here are our picks for the best climbing gyms in central Paris:
Arkose is one of the most popular gyms in Paris. Their concept is urban and ethical rock climbing lofts, where you can eat great food and enjoy modern bouldering.
There is an Arkose in Nation which was their first Paris location, so expect some slightly worn holds. This place gets super busy. Thursday nights feel like a nightclub with a vibrant atmosphere. There is also a large top-out island to practice your mantles for when you finally get on some outdoor rock! Centers in Montreuil, Pantin, Didot and Pont de Sèvres also offer great climbs. I particularly like their wooden system boards. Sign up for a membership with Arkose and you can use all their locations including the two MurMur centers which have rope climbing too!
Vertical Art has locales across the country and two in Paris. I must declare a personal bias for this one as the Vertical Art in Pigalle is where I normally go and I love it there. One of the smallest gyms in central Paris, they pack a lot in. The burgers are amazing; the staff, charming. They even have a Moonboard! The other centre in Chevaleret is bigger, with a greater variety of routes, and a good campus board. There is even a boardroom for hire if you’re looking for a quirky place to hold a work meeting.
Climb Up opened last year at Port d’Italie and has it all. There is a large bouldering area, rope climbing, and loads of training facilities. This is one of the biggest facilities in central Paris and they also have a gym in Aubervilliers opening soon. At 5000m2, it claims to be the largest climbing room in Europe.
With one venue in Batignolles and one at Canal Saint-Martin, Climbing District is très chouette and attracts a young urban crowd. Both gyms have modern climbing walls, co-working spaces and a buzzing ambiance. The new space in Canal Saint-Martin is part of a renovated old cinema with 1950’s architecture. It is the perfect creative setting to work, play, and climb.
The further out of the city you go, the larger the gyms are. Notable establishments include Hardbloc and Block’Out, which are both fantastic gyms. But for intramural climbing the above is a fairly comprehensive list. Beyond this, you have the beautiful forest of Fontainebleau, just south of Paris, which offers world class climbing if you’re ready to test your skills in the great outdoors. Go, explore, sample tasty food, and find the gym that is best for you. Let us know what you find, Bonne séance!
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