Did you know you can climb The O2 Arena in London? When I found out about it, part of me wanted to do the climb and part of me was scared. I don’t like roller coasters and sometimes heights can bother me. I thought doing Up at The O2 would be a good way to help conquer some of my fears. It’s quite safe of course. Their expert guides take excellent care of you and you are given a safety harness. It’s good to get outside your comfort zone! Let me tell you more about my experience so that you will know what to expect when you climb The O2.
COVID-19 Notice: Up at the O2 will re-open July 4, 2020. In line with social distancing guidelines, each climb has been reduced to less than half the capacity previously in place (from 30 to 10 people), giving a more exclusive experience to visitors. Read more about their enhanced health and safety measures here.
I liked the idea that this building had all kinds of symbolism to do with time built into its design, as The O2 was originally put up to commemorate the millennium. The tent has 12 yellow masts, one for each month of the year. The height of the top of the structure is 52 meters, one for each week of the year. Additionally, the diameter is 365 meters, one for each day of the year.
Up at The O2 Experience
The Up at The O2 experience was added in 2012 around the time of the Olympics. While the gymnastics competition took place inside, you could climb right over it.
You don’t walk right on the roof – there is a rubber track that is suspended 2 meters above it. This walkway is made of the same material as the roof so it does move a bit as you walk on it. It is 380 meters long and the whole experience lasts about 90 minutes.
There are several different climb options available. You can choose from a daytime, sunset, or twilight climb. If you like you can upgrade to a Celebration Climb which includes a glass of champagne. There is also the option to do a Climb and Dine which includes a two course dinner at All Bar One inside The O2. On certain days between May and September, they offer a special climb where a guide from the Museum of London Dockland gives you a 15 minute talk about the local Dockland’s history when you reach the summit.
Group climbs normally have up to 16 climbers and one guide. Sometimes they will do climbs with 30 guests and 2 guides. We were excited to do a private climb. It would be just me, Russell, and our guide.
Up at The O2 gave us special dispensation to use a GoPro to create the video that accompanies this post, provided we used an original GoPro manufactured chest strap. GoPros and other handheld cameras are not usually allowed on group climbs for safety reasons. I’d like to say thanks to Up at The O2 for accommodating us to make this video possible.
Checking In at Base Camp
As instructed, we went to check in about 15 minutes before our climb time. When we passed by the start of the climb, there was a group getting ready to start. They were all doing stretches, it was a good reminder that The O2 climb would be a workout.
We went inside “Base Camp” and I showed the tickets on my phone. They asked us if we wanted to upgrade to a Celebration Climb which would include a glass of champagne at the top. I figured, why not?! We should celebrate the experience.
Next, we went into a small theatre room. Our guide, Susie, came and introduced herself. She gave us our waivers to sign and told us we would be watching a short video introduction. When Susie returned, she reviewed our waivers and then demonstrated how we would put on our harnesses.
Getting Suited Up to Climb The O2
After our mini-lesson, we moved into the staging area where we received our equipment and suited up for the climb. We were given jackets, harnesses, and shoes. Susie warned me that the shoes can sometimes be larger than expected and I can confirm that as I had to get a smaller size. Since it wasn’t cold outside, our jackets were really vests, but still they had pockets to store your cell phone.
The only thing you can carry with you is your cell phone so we each put our shoes and other belongings in a locked flight case. It would be sent around to the other side and waiting for us when we finished. My heart was pounding as it was time to start our climb.
Starting our Climb
We left base camp and went up a few flights of stairs to the start of the walkway. I knew the incline going up was 28 degrees but it looked steeper than I expected. I put on a smile as the photographer took the obligatory photo.
Susie demonstration how the latch system would work and then attached us. The chain was in the middle of the walkway. Susie would climb on the left side of the chain and we would go up on the right. I went first, there was no turning back now! The first few sections are the steepest so there are ridges to help with the footing. There was also a rope to hold on to. I probably used this to pull myself up more than I should have. Looking back, I wish I would have brought some gloves.
I struggled with the latch gates, but Susie was there to help so that didn’t worry me much. It was physically demanding but I was able to take my time. Every so often there would be planks that were solid, where I could stop and rest. It was much easier to stand on these planks as well. I have to say, the first part of the climb was hard on my ankles.
Before I knew it, we were on to the easier sections. While I was beginning to feel more relaxed, I still felt like I wanted to hold on to the rope and I was still struggling with the gates. My focus was on the walkway so didn’t even notice the view. Russell said he was deliberately not looking around. He wanted to save the view for the top. Even so, he couldn’t resist a little glance around every now and then!
The O2 Viewing Platform
We made it to the top of The O2 where there is a viewing platform. Susie unhooked our chains and went to get our glasses of champagne from the cooler. Now I felt like I could relax and enjoy the views. We had great views of the River Thames, Canary Wharf, the Greenwich Maritime Museum, the Emirates Cable Car, and more. We could make out Central London in the distance. Even more impressive than the view is the fact I had climbed an iconic building and I definitely had adrenaline from that.
We took a few selfies and pictures as we enjoyed our champagne. It was a bit windy but that didn’t bother me, I was on a high. I tried not to think about the journey down. I knew it was slightly steeper (at 30 degrees) than the route up. Even though I knew the chain would catch me if I slipped, I was still nervous. Susie told me that I could go backwards down the last bit that was steep. That made me feel better since that would stop me from looking down.
I saw the group behind us approaching the viewing platform, so I thought we should get going. I didn’t want another group on top of us, making me feel pressured to go down faster. (That was a needless worry, as they never caught up with us.)
The first part going down was gentle, like a walk in the park. As it got a bit steeper, I asked Susie if I should start going backwards yet. She told me no, she would tell me when it was time.
We went a little further and then it was time. I looked down and couldn’t imagine going down facing forward it seemed so steep. At first, I wasn’t sure if I should turn my feet sideways but Susie told me to go backwards. I inched my way down and Susie handled my chain. For extra peace of mind, I held on to the rope with both hands.
I faced Russell going down and he looked so relaxed like it was nothing. I was surprised since sometimes he has issues with heights too. He also had a much better grip on how to do the gates than I did.
Going down, the walkway goes all the way to the ground. There are no stairs like where we started on the other side. When I got to the bottom again I felt this huge sense of accomplishment. I would have never thought I could climb over The O2, but I did it! Looking back, I still have a hard time believing it!
Between the end of the walkway and “North Camp” there is a nice photo spot, so we stopped to take a few pictures. Then we went inside where our shoes and other stuff were waiting for us. I sat down and took a few deep breaths. I was pretty proud of myself.
The next day I did feel a little soreness in my calves and my arms similar to what you might feel after a good workout. The difference is my workout was climbing The O2!
My Up at The O2 Review
My climb up The O2 is something I will never forget, and I would definitely recommend that you do it too. I felt such a huge sense of accomplishment for completing the climb and not letting my fears stop me.
The staff at Up at The O2 were wonderful and helped calm me during my O2 climbing experience. They have a very efficient and organized system to make sure everything runs smoothly. Additionally, you can tell that safety is a priority. Our guide, Susie, was wonderful. She was supportive and patient, which I appreciated.
Check out our climb video to get a better idea of what our O2 climb experience was like.
Up at The O2 FAQs
How do you get to Up at The O2?
We drove (from Norwich) and parked in The O2 car park 2. The O2 is also very accessible by public transportation. The closest tube station is North Greenwich. If you prefer, the 108, 129, 132, 161, 188, 422, 472 or 486 buses all stop at the North Greenwich Station. You can also take the Thames Clipper or the Emirates Cable Car.
The Base Camp where you check in for Up at The O2 is located just to the left of the main entrance.
What are the opening hours Up at The O2?
The Up at The O2 operating hours vary throughout the year. It’s best to check their calendar for the specific dates you are interested in.
How much does it cost to climb The O2?
The prices for the O2 climb vary depending on the type of climb that you choose. Weekend climbs are also more expensive than climbs during the week. Prices start at £30.
Do I need to book in advance?
You can wait and buy tickets but Climb The O2 is a popular attraction, so there may be a wait. I would recommend booking online in advance.
How long does the climb take?
The whole experience takes about 90 minutes. This includes the introduction video and getting the equipment.
What should I wear to climb The O2?
It is a workout so I would recommend wearing athletic clothes that are appropriate for the weather conditions. They recommend you bring a hat and glove on cold days. You don’t need to worry about shoes as they are provided, but you must bring socks. The jacket/vest they give you to wear also has pockets with zippers for your cell phone.
Get more ideas for things to do when visiting London in the winter here.
Can I take pictures during our climb?
You are not allowed to take cameras on the climb but you can bring your cell phone. Your cell phone must stay inside your jacket pocket except when you are on the viewing platform. This is the only time you can take pictures.
Additionally, a professional photographer will take a few pictures of you as you start your climb. You get to see them after you finish your climb inside the gift shop at the North Camp. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my sunglasses on so I was squinting. Otherwise, they would have been great photos.
Do I need to be in good shape to climb The O2?
I have not been exercising much lately, and I was able to do it. It was physically challenging for me and I was a bit sore the next day. You are not allowed to do the climb if you are pregnant.
What happens when the weather is bad?
I was surprised to learn that they will still do climbs over The O2 in the rain. They will only cancel a climb if there is thunder and lightning, snow, or sustained high winds. If they have to cancel the climb, it will be rebooked or you can receive a refund.
Can kids climb The O2?
There were a few kids in the climbing group behind us. Children are allowed on the Up at The O2 climb provided they are over the age of 9, at least 1.2 meters tall, and accompanied. The details depend on the age of the children: Nine year olds must be accompanied by at least one adult per child. If the kids are between 10 and 12, you need 1 adult per 2 kids. If the children are between 13 to 17 years old, the ratio is 4 per adult.
Can I give the Up at The O2 experience as a gift?
Yes, you can order Up at The O2 gift cards and the recipient can then choose the date and time to do the climb. The gift cards can be purchased at the gift shop or online and are valid for one year.
Is Up at The O2 wheelchair accessible?
When I saw this on The O2 website, I thought how could someone in a wheelchair climb The O2. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that they have special wheelchairs that can climb The O2. You just need to be able to transfer yourself from your wheelchair to their special wheelchair. Your family or personal assistant can help, but O2 staff are not allowed to. Four guides use a pulley system to help you up and down the walkway over The O2. On the way down, you go backwards. I think The Up at The O2 should be applauded for figuring out a way for those in a wheelchair to do the climb.
What is the fastest someone has done The O2 climb?
According to our guide Susie, there is another guide that has done it in 2 minutes. That is from start to finish. I can’t even imagine that!
Are there any bathrooms available during the Up at The O2 experience?
There are bathrooms at Base Camp. If you need to, use them before you get any of your equipment.
What do you think? Do you have what it takes to climb The O2?
Expert Tips for Up at The O2
- Arrive 15 minutes before your climb time.
- Make sure you are physically able to do the climb. The first section is steep.
- If you get scared, you can go down The O2 backwards.
- You can only take pictures up on the viewing platform, so make the most of your time there. Make sure your phone is charged.
- You can ride the Emirates Cable Car before or after your visit since it is right next door.
Disclosure: We did receive a complimentary private climb so that we could share our experience with our readers. As always, opinions expressed here are my own.
Last Updated on September 3, 2020