Exercise on holiday needs neither to be boring, nor a waste of valuable travel time. Hit these locations hard and you’ll experience a rush of more than just endorphins.
1. Grouse Grind, North Vancouver, Canada
Visitors looking for a little exercise in Vancouver traditionally head to the stunning 8.8km Stanley Park Seawall. And who can blame them? But if you want a sharp hit of dramatic mountain fitness (and beauty), head to the North Shore and tackle the Grouse Grind. The Grind, which rises 853m up the forest-clad face of Grouse Mountain in just 2.9km of trail (including 2830 stairs), is unsurprisingly referred to as ‘Mother Nature’s Stairmaster’. An average newcomer time is 90 minutes (the record is 25 minutes). If you’re broken, ride the gondola back. If not, enjoy the exhaustion on the faces of those you pass on the trot down.
The Grind is free, but if you’d like to set an official time (and have your bag ferried up) buy a Grind Timer Card for C$20 at grousemountain.com.
2. Fourvière, Lyon, France
For decades Lyon has been called the food capital of the world, and for good reason. A trip here is simply not complete without a serious (and perhaps gluttonous) gastronomic exploration. So how better to tackle your excesses (or build up your appetite for more) than by running up the hundreds of steps from Gare St Paul to Basilica Notre Dame de Fourvière? The grandiose basilica is a reward in itself, as is the panoramic view over the rivers Rhône and Saône meandering beautifully through the city. Want more? Reverse step one and repeat, or hit the many steps that climb Lyon’s La Croix-Rousse hill.
The Basilica Notre Dame de Fourvière is open 8am to 7pm. For information about guided tours visit fourviere.org.
3. Filbert Steps, San Francisco, USA
San Francisco’s Telegraph Hill is known for different things to different people. To some it’s the home of the iconic Coit Tower. To others it’s simply a good place to get a fantastic view over San Francisco Bay. To those who enjoy serious leg-, lung- and buttock-burning exercise, the hill is the site of the Filbert Steps. For a workout you won’t soon forget, run up and down the 377 narrow wooden steps, which meander steeply through verdant vegetation and past colourfully clad homes. You may even be serenaded by a wild parrot or two. Don’t leave your heart in San Francisco – strengthen it there.
The base of the Filbert Steps is found at the junction of Filbert and Kearny Streets.
4. Circuit de Monaco, Monaco
Perhaps the most famous section of city streets in the world, the 2.075-mile Circuit de Monaco has seen race cars scream around its corners and through Monte Carlo’s famed Casino Square since 1929. While modern Formula One drivers will see little but a blur of the plush principality when taking the circuit on, you can soak it all as you run around it (how many laps is up to you). Much like those strapped into an F1 car, your heart will race; the climb up Avenue d’Ostende after rounding Sainte Devote is a steep one. Finish with a plunge in the Mediterranean at Plage du Larvotto.
You’ll find the F1 starting grid painted onto Boulevard Albert 1er above the harbour’s swimming pool complex. GO! GO! GO!
5. Table Mountain, Cape Town, South Africa
Thanks to a scenic aerial cableway, a trip to the top of Table Mountain is simply a fun day out for most visitors to Cape Town. But you’re not like most people. Your journey to the top will be a workout you’ll continue savouring long after your muscles stop aching. The Patteklip Gorge, which cuts the mountain’s main face in two, is your most direct route up. The steep trail climbs almost 700m in a mere 3km.
The Patteklip Gorge route starts on Tafelberg Rd. Visit sanparks.org for trail safety advice and park information.
6. Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh, Scotland
Edinburgh is one of Europe’s most beautiful cities, and it’s home to one of the continent’s most rewarding workouts too. Head into Holyrood Park for an 8km run through its verdant volcanic playground. With sublime views of Edinburgh Castle, the Scottish Parliament and the sea, you’ll feel like you’re embracing the city. At other points, when you’re hemmed in by rocky crags and swaying grasses, you’ll feel away from it all. The high point, literally, is the summit of Arthur’s Seat at the halfway mark.
Start from the car park on Queen’s Drive, a 250m walk from Holyrood Palace at the end of the Royal Mile.
7. Central Park, New York City, USA
Arguably the most iconic of the world’s urban running routes is the 2.5km loop around the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir in New York City’s Central Park. The cinder pathway is soft under foot, so your knees won’t hate you for pushing that extra bit harder (and longer), though the views of the city’s skyline may rob you of breath. A great time to wrap up your workout is at dusk, when the setting sun reflects off the urban landscape. Watch the city’s lights start to sparkle as the night creeps in.
Run around the reservoir anticlockwise, and on the right side of the path. For more information visit centralpark.com.
8. Copacabana Beach, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Working your body out and showing it off collide in spectacular fashion on Copacabana Beach, Rio de Janeiro. Absorb the unique vibe with a run or rollerblade along the beach’s wide 4km-long promenade. Bump this up to 8km (16km return) if you include Ipanema Beach to the south. If you’d rather throw some weights around, there are several outdoor exercise stations and chin-up bars along Copacabana. Feeling bold? The final fitness frontier is to test your mettle against Cariocas in beach volleyball or football. How much showing off you do in the process, whether of sporting prowess or of your toned physique, is up to you.
Workouts are best in the early morning before temperatures rise. Although the beach is lit at night, it’s not wise to hang around after dark.
9. Berlin Wall Trail, Berlin, Germany
To quote Freddie Mercury: ‘Get on your bikes and ride!’ Enhance your brawn and enrich your brain while cycling around the 160km Berlin Wall Trail, a well-signposted route dotted with interesting historical information about the infamous wall. Learn about the division of Germany, the building and falling of the wall, and of the tragedies of those who lost their lives trying to escape it. The trail is broken up into 14 sections, which range from 7 to 21km in length, so you can take on as little or as much of it as you’d like.
The beginning and end of each section is reachable by public transport (most services allow bicycles on board). For more information visit berlin.de/mauer.
10. Coast to Coast walkway, Auckland, New Zealand
They say walkway. We say runway. Challenge yourself with this 16km route through the city of Auckland, taking you from the Pacific Ocean to the Tasman Sea. Along the way you’ll pass some of the city’s architectural gems, and no fewer than five volcanic sites, some of which have been shaped and terraced by the Maori over the past 600 years. The route starts in Viaduct Harbour and ends in Manukau. It’s part of the 3000km-long Te Araroa (The Long Pathway), which runs the length of the country.
Maps and information regarding the Coast to Coast are available at aucklandcouncil.govt.nz.