When it’s a sweltering summer in the city, there’s only one place to seek respite – at one of the capital’s outdoor swimming pools and lidos. Open-air swimming has seen a major resurgence over recent years, with many of London’s favourite pools receiving welcome upgrades and refurbishments. And with the announcement that outdoor swimming spots can now reopen from tomorrow, a cooling splash is finally back on the agenda. Here we’ve rounded up the loveliest places in London to take the plunge.
Tooting Bec Lido
Tucked away in one corner of vast Tooting Common, this Victorian outdoor swimming pool is best known for its retro, brightly coloured changing rooms, painted in an eye-catching variety of hues that conjure up childhood trips to the seaside. Open until September, it’s the largest open-air freshwater lido in the country, meaning it never feels too crowded – an added bonus in Covid-19 times – and there are plenty of sheltered spots to seek out shade on sunny days, whether underneath one of the surrounding towering trees or in the gazebos at the family-friendly end.
Tooting Common, Tooting, London SW16 1RU
Glide past the resident ducks and geese at the Serpentine’s 100-metre-long swimming area, which has to be one of the most charming places in central London to take a dip. Surrounded by the bucolic delights of Hyde Park, it’s the perfect spot to get away from it all right in the heart of the city. Open until the end of August (apart from a few hardy souls who brace the icy waters for the annual Christmas Day swim), head over to the Lido Café and Bar after your swim for an al fresco coffee or glass of wine.
Hyde Park, Kensington, London W2 2UH
This south London gem in Herne Hill’s leafy Brockwell Park has been around since 1937 and has become something of a local landmark. Surrounded by an Art Deco, Grade II-listed building that houses a fully equipped gym, there’s plenty of space for sunbathing beside the Olympic-length outdoor swimming pool, which is open year-round. It also comes with a smart poolside café that serves up artisan sourdough pizzas from neighbourhood favourite 400 Rabbits – nab a table on the terrace overlooking the water with an Aperol spritz in hand and watch as the sun dips behind the trees.
Brockwell Park, Herne Hill, London SE24 0PA
London Fields Lido
This popular east London outdoor swimming pool is open all year round, come rain or shine – a fact it celebrates by adorning its walls with a selection of large-scale photographs by Australian photographer Madeleine Waller featuring its bravest swimmers shivering their way into the pool through the snow. Mercifully, the water is heated during the winter (it’s the only 50m-outdoor pool in London to do so) and blissfully cool in the summer, meaning coming for a splash here is always a thoroughly enjoyable affair.
London Fields West Side, Hackney, London E8 3EU
Hampstead Bathing Ponds
These three ponds in Hampstead Heath are some of the dreamiest places to try open water swimming in the capital, surrounded by weeping willows and bulrushes and home to resident ducks and moorhens. Open year-round, the Men’s and Ladies’ Ponds are tucked away on the Highgate side of the heath, while the Mixed Pond is closer to Belsize Park. All are lovely but the Ladies’ Pond is the most special, veiled by oak trees to offer ultimate privacy for a bit of topless swimming and sunbathing, should you fancy it.
Hampstead Heath, Hampstead, London, NW3
Parliament Hill Lido
For north Londoners who don’t fancy the wild swimming options at the nearby Hampstead Bathing Ponds, this all year outdoor lido is a popular choice. The 60m-long pool offers plenty of space for some socially distanced lengths, as well as spots for lounging beside the glittering water, which has added sparkle thanks to the pool’s stainless steel liner, the only outdoor lido in the UK to have one. There’s also a baby pool for little ones to splash about in and shady gazebos for afternoon snoozes.
Gordon House Road, Hampstead, London NW5 1NA
Oasis Rooftop Pool
Not that many people know about this heated rooftop pool at the top of the Oasis Sports Centre, making it a true hidden oasis. A five-minute walk from Holborn, it’s the only outdoor swimming pool in the West End, making the location hard to beat, and it’s open until 10.30pm on weekdays. At less than 30m long it’s on the smaller side, making it better suited for those after a quick splash rather than a lengthy swim session. But on hot summer days it’s a real sun-trap and the terrace and café offer plenty of reasons to stick around.
32 Endell Street, Covent Garden, London WC2H 9AG
Pools on the Park
Just a minute’s walk from Richmond train station, this open-air pool is situated in pretty Old Deer Park and surrounded by trees and lush greenery. There are two pools here, an indoor and an outdoor option, with the latter only open during the summer months and heated to a pleasant 24C. Come for a dip before taking a turn around the deer park or a walk along the river nearby – this stretch of the Thames in Richmond is one of the most attractive in all of London.
Twickenham Road, Richmond, London TW9 2SF
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