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Cyclists in Paris │Pixabay
Cyclists in Paris │Pixabay
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A Fitness Lover's Guide to Paris

Picture of Paul McQueen
Updated: 4 April 2017

Munching daily through whole baguettes and draining that fourth or fifth (sixth?) glass of wine is great, but eventually you’ll want to make some time for fitness in your Parisian lifestyle. Whether it’s running, cycling, swimming, boxing, rollerblading, ballet dancing, hiking or goal-scoring you love, our guide has the information you need to get out there and get fit!

Outdoor activities

Running

Largely flat and with lots of wide boulevards, Paris is a great city for urban running. Even in the busiest areas, you’ll see people out pounding the pavements. If you prefer more tranquil surrounds (and not worrying about the local drivers), head to one of the many parks. For short circuits, the Parc Monceau and the Jardin des Tuileries are extremely popular, while for longer, more cross country-type paths head west to the Bois de Boulogne or east to the Bois de Vincennes. To find a group to run with, try Meetup or the Nike+ Run Club. Our dedicated Paris running guide also has more information on possible routes.

Paris marathon runners' feet │© Josiah Mackenzie / Wikimedia Commons

Paris marathon runners’ feet │© Josiah Mackenzie / Wikimedia Commons

Cycling

During the summer, when the temperature in the metro and on buses starts to climb seemingly inexorably, there’s no better way to get across Paris than on a bike. At any time of the year, however, hopping on the saddle and heading out for a day of two-wheeled exploration is a great way to improve your fitness and knowledge of the city. If you don’t have a bike of your own, you can take advantage of the Vélib rental scheme, which turns ten years old in 2017. No matter where you’re staying in Paris, you won’t be far from one of the 1200 stations that store more than 20,000 bikes. Check out our Paris cycling guide for seven scenic routes.

Parc des Buttes-Chaumont │© Frédérique Voisin-Demery

Parc des Buttes-Chaumont │© Frédérique Voisin-Demery/Flickr

Skating and rollerblading

Roller sports have been huge in Paris for over 20 years, despite the fact that the gravel paths of most of the city’s parks make them unsuitable for fun on two or four small rubber wheels. Nevertheless, the larger squares and museum plazas, particularly Place de la République and the Palais de Tokyo, are havens for fans of rollerblading, skateboarding, scootering, and BMXing in the city center, and there is a small number of excellent skate parks on the outskirts. See our guide to Paris’ skate-friendly spots and our shortlist of 11 chilled out skating routes for more useful information.

Skateboarders at the Palais de Tokyo │© Clément

Skateboarders at the Palais de Tokyo │© Clément/Flickr

Walking and climbing

As with running, there’s obviously hardly anywhere in Paris that you can’t walk. However, if you really want to rack up the miles and maybe take on a gradient steeper than Montmartre, you’ll need to get out to one of the surrounding country parks. One of the most popular destinations for local hikers is the forest surrounding the royal town of Fontainebleau. There are approximately 100 square miles (260 square meters) to explore on 190 miles (305 kilometers) of footpaths, and 690 miles (1110 kilometers) of mountain biking tracks. Among the pine trees, you’ll also find some oddly shaped boulders, which are a huge hit with free climbers. Our guide to country walks around Paris contains six more ideas.

Bouldering in Fontainebleau │© Stéphan Denys / Wikimedia Commons

Bouldering in Fontainebleau │© Stéphan Denys / Wikimedia Commons

Canoeing and kayaking

At the Bassin de la Villette in the 19th arrondissement of Paris, just where the Canal Saint-Martin starts to widen out, you can practice a whole range of water sports, including rowing, canoeing, and kayaking. In order to get a registration card, you have to be able to provide the state-qualified instructors who oversee the activities with a 25-meter swimming certificate (obtainable at your local swimming pool) and two passport photos. For adults, the base is open from 9AM to 12PM and from 2PM to 5PM on Saturdays during the school year, and every day during the holidays.

Watersports at the Bassin de la Villette│© besopha / Wikimedia Commons

Watersports at the Bassin de la Villette│© besopha / Wikimedia Commons

Indoor activities

Swimming

There are 39 public swimming pools in Paris, where a single session will cost you between €3 and €5, or less if you purchase a multi-session pass. Each has its own opening times and peculiar schedule of activities during the day (classes, training, clubs, single-sex sessions) so be sure to call ahead or check online to avoid disappointment. Like most of Paris, they tend to close for the month of August, though a few always stay open at least part of the week. Among the most beautiful pools in Paris is the Piscine Joséphine Baker, which overlooks the Seine and the Parc de Bercy.

Piscine Joséphine Baker│© Dinkum / Wikimedia Commons

Piscine Joséphine Baker│© Dinkum / Wikimedia Commons

Gyms and fitness classes

It hasn’t been a long time since the international fitness craze hit Paris, but, typical of the French capital’s entrepreneurial spirit, dozens of high-tech gyms and hip fitness studios have sprung up across the arrondissements, offering a plethora of innovative workouts. You can, without too much hassle, strengthen your body and mind in a spin class with Let’s Ride, subject yourself to a grueling urban boot camp or CrossFit regime, take up boxing or barre, or find a group that combines all of these activities. Before too long, the Seine will have its very own gym, the Paris Navigating Gym, designed by Carlo Ratti Associati, Terreform ONE, and URBEM.

Trainers at Let’s Ride │ Courtesy of Let’s Ride

Trainers at Let’s Ride │ Courtesy of Let’s Ride

Yoga and meditation

Likewise, yoga has undergone an explosion in popularity in recent years. Today, hardly an hour in the day goes by when there aren’t a dozen classes underway in Paris, delivered in English and French. Among the most strenuous and rewarding are those at Yoga Bikram Paris, where sessions last 90 minutes and take in 26 postures and two breathing exercises. Oh, and the room is heated to 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit). For more studios and classes, take a look at our Paris yoga guide. If you’re looking for something less physically but perhaps more spiritually demanding, try one of the French capital’s meditation classes.

In posture at Yoga Bikram Paris │ Courtesy of Yoga Bikram Paris

In posture at Yoga Bikram Paris │ Courtesy of Yoga Bikram Paris

Team sports

Football

If there were just one French national sport, it would be football (though don’t think for a second about suggesting this if you find yourself in rugby country). Furthermore, Parisians love playing the beautiful game as much as they love shamelessly booing any team that dares score a goal against the home side at the Stade de France. All the information you need about the public stadiums, urban pitches, suitable parks, and five-a-side facilities, where you can go around for a decent kick about, are contained in our Paris football guide.

Public stadium in Paris │© tpsdave / Pixabay

Public stadium in Paris │Pixabay

Rugby

Rugby is another wildly popular team sport in France and the capital is home to a host of amateur clubs and various leagues for women and men. Their training takes place in the city center and in the near suburbs, and the Saturday morning games (if you manage to make the line-up) could see you traveling across the country. Some of the teams on our list of Parisian rugby clubs are also attached to larger sporting organizations, through which you can get access to more fitness activities.

Men’s rugby match │© alliemcdowell / Pixabay

Men’s rugby match | Pixabay