FitnessAthletics

Best gyms in the world: 9 that you have to visit

© National Fitness Campaign
Written by Joe Ellison
Be warned: once you see these fitness venues, you may get serious workout envy
You know what you’re getting at most high street gyms: nondescript dance music, locker key cards you don’t know quite what to do with, and second degree burns from house towels which feel like sandpaper. 
Sure, you can fork out an extra £20 per month, resulting in a few mod cons and classes here and there, but on the whole, it’s all very, very identikit. Even the big chains can feel a little, well, meh.
Such is the ubiquity among modern gyms, in fact, that we’ve decided to look further afield, scouring far and wide across the globe for the best. From the aesthetically pleasing to the downright quirky, here are the coolest places you’ll ever want to break sweat…

1. Brooklyn Zoo, New York

Guaranteed to take your ‘floor is lava’ game to the big leagues, New York’s Brooklyn Zoo is a parkour paradise. Spread out over two floors and festooned with padded mats and enough foam pits to rival Ninja Warrior (which is also the name of one of its classes), by all accounts the staff are a deft hand at teaching novices how to jump, tumble and navigate the obstacles in the speediest way possible. The ultimate urban jungle gym.

2. La Belle Équipe, Paris

A Thai boxing hall that packs a visual punch
A Thai boxing hall that packs a visual punch
Looking every bit as boutique as the shops on the Champs-Elysees, gyms rarely come as chic as La Belle Équipe, located just a stone's throw from Gare du Nord station and specialising in Thai boxing. Even so, it’s hard to deny the Parisian charm that fills its cosy walls, from neat wooden shelving to light paint and uncluttered décor evoking calmness, serenity and a certain je ne sais quoi few other fitness clubs can match. People battering each other senseless aside, there are also classes tailored to help busy clients deal with stress, fatigue and self-confidence and other knock-on effects of hectic working lifestyles.

3. Das Gym, Vienna

Das Gym: Europe's answer to Muscle Beach
Das Gym: Europe's answer to Muscle Beach
You know you’ve walked into a serious gym when you encounter a chin-up bar in the shower. Welcome to Das Gym, a meathead mecca that also features a ‘strongman’ area, mammoth grip building section and more motivational posters than you’d find on your network marketing friend's Facebook wall. Yep, it’s all about weights here – no Pilates, no spinning classes, just iron that must be pumped – and it’s fast on its way to becoming Europe’s answer to Muscle Beach.

4. Third Space, London

Feeling more swanky members’ club than corporate gym, Londoners have been truly spoilt by the rise of Third Space, a luxury chain of fitness clubs dotted across the capital, including Tower Bridge, Canary Wharf, Marylebone and Soho. Not only do members get their own concierge, but those feeling flusher still can opt for VIP access entitling them to private massage chairs and even laundered gym kit. Imagine that: not having to heave your sweat-laden shorts and briefs around in a holdall on the commute. The dream, basically.

5. Illoiha Omotesando, Tokyo

Pretty as a picture
Pretty as a picture
There are climbing walls and then there’s the climbing wall which will level your jaw inside Tokyo's Illoiha Omotesando fitness centre. Intricately designed by local firm Nendo, it's all a bit Salvador Dali, resembling a giant, oddly morphed art gallery that sees participants clamber up holds designed as picture frames. This vast space runs between two floors of the gym and isn't short of visitors. Just don’t slip and hit the canvas, yeah?

6. Aqua Expeditions, Peru

The fitness room is bathed in natural light
The fitness room is bathed in natural light
Of all the locations that would make you want to put on your running shoes, the Amazon Rainforest would rank quite highly. Don’t fret though, for aboard the sleek Aria Amazon River Cruiser, you can work up a sweat in a jungle setting without constantly looking over your shoulder for ravenous wildlife. Its gym, while compact, offers stunning views up and down Peru’s Amazon River. And with an evening food menu courtesy of renowned national chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino, something tells us you'll have ample reason to use it.

7. NFC Court, San Francisco

San Fran's NFC helps locals avoid costly gym fees
San Fran's NFC helps locals avoid costly gym fees
Overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco’s Fitness Court may well be the most scenic gym in North America. It's also the first of its kind, having been opened in 2013 as the testbed for a series of free urban fitness points which are now starting to spring up across the US. Locals have been known to head down for circuit training or yoga, with the option of finishing with a run through nearby Presidio National Park or towards the famous Fisherman’s Wharf district. The sunrises alone would make it worth a bleary-eyed jog.

8. 5th Element Wellness, Melbourne

Remember when you took your mate from work to that little-known hipster coffee place? The man never touched a Starbucks again. By the same token, it's easy to imagine gym lovers discovering Melbourne’s 5th Element and instantly finding themselves losing their appetite for the big chains. As well as a cool crowd and top notch equipment, there are tonnes of fitness programmes, a climbing wall, infrared detox sauna, and – like you even needed to be told – an organic coffee and juice bar. 'Strewth' doesn't cover it.

9. Swerve Fitness, New York

'Where indoor cycling meets team competition'
'Where indoor cycling meets team competition'
Another US inclusion – this time amid New York’s bustling Midtown – Swerve Fitness is a place where 'indoor cycling meets team competition'. In 45-minute rhythm rides, bikes are arranged into three teams, each pushing the others on with competitive distance racing. Between the neon-clad darkness and tropical pop soundtrack, it'll feel a little like being in Ariana Grande’s Side to Side music video, except – you know – you’ll actually break a proper sweat and you won’t find Nicki Minaj making a commotion in the sauna.