London’s best lidos and outdoor swimming pools
The capital has plenty of places to beat the sweltering sun
The mercury is set to soar across the country this week and in London city-dwellers will look to soak up the rays by enjoying a day by the pool. When it comes to alfresco swimming, the capital has some of the finest lidos, ponds and pools on offer. Here we take a look at the best outdoor swimming spots in London.
Beckenham Place Park Swimming Lake
The newest addition to London’s myriad of outdoor swimming hotspots is Beckenham Place Park Swimming Lake, tucked away in the borough of Lewisham. According to Time Out, the park has “re-filled its lost Georgian lake, which was originally created by Beckenham Place Mansion’s former resident John Cator in 1800”. The 283m-long, 45m-wide lake, according to The Guardian, is a “combination of an aquifer reached by a new borehole, ground water and an existing stream”, while “reeds and other aquatic plants absorb unwanted nutrients in the water and oxygen pumps keep the water, which at its greatest depth is 3.5 metres, healthy”. Furthermore, there’s even a beach area complete with kiosks for refreshments.
Beckenham Hill Road, Beckenham BR3 1SY; lewisham.gov.uk
London Fields Lido
Described by The Guardian as “one of London’s swimming success stories”, the hipster hangout London Fields Lido reopened in 2006 on the site of the original 1930s pool after years of campaigning by locals. Located in Hackney, London Fields Lido is a 50m Olympic size, heated outdoor swimming pool open all year round.
London Fields West Side, Hackney, London E8 3EU; better.org.uk
Parliament Hill Lido
Parliament Hill Lido is another of London’s gorgeous 1930s-era art deco outdoor pools, but what sets this one apart is its stainless steel pool lining – the only one of its type in the UK – which gives the water a hypnotising “metallic shimmer”, said Time Out. The water at Parliament Hill is “notoriously chilly”, said The Daily Telegraph, but bathers can use the “piping hot showers” if the cold gets too much, followed by a hot drink in the site’s classic red brick cafe.
Heath Lodge, Hampstead, London NW5 1NA; parliamenthilllido.org
Hampstead Heath Bathing Ponds
The three ponds at Hampstead Heath remain open to ladies, men and mixed groups respectively. The men’s and ladies’ ponds are open all year round while the mixed bathing pond is open in summer. What makes these ponds so unique is that they were originally dammed-off clay pits, but are now the home to one of London's most popular swim spots. But be cautious, even in the summer the water is chilly.
Hampstead Way, Hampstead, London NW5 1QN; cityoflondon.gov.uk
Hidden in a corner of Brockwell Park in south London, the Brockwell Lido is an unquestionable gem. This austere yet beautiful Grade II-listed lido, featuring an award-winning cafe and wide, shallow pool is known affectionately by locals as “Brixton’s beach”. It has long been a favourite of residents of the area on sunny days. Brockwell Lido has set times for general swimming and lap swimming, so check the schedule before setting out.
Dulwich Rd, London SE24 0PA; fusion-lifestyle.com
Of London’s many outdoor pools, Charlton Lido is the cutting-edge choice, reopened in 2013 following a £2m refurbishment, and featuring a 50m heated outdoor pool. It was forced to extend its opening hours in 2015 to cope with extra demand, so be sure to head down early to get a prime sunbathing spot, said The Daily Telegraph.
Hornfair Park, Shooters Hill Rd, London SE18 4LX; better.org.uk
Tooting Bec Lido
Tooting Bec Lido is the biggest outdoor pool in Britain, said The Guardian. An impressive 91.44m long and 30.18m wide, it was built in 1906 as a make-work scheme for local unemployed people. Anyone can swim in this unheated pool from April to September. During the rest of the year, the pool is only open to members of the South London Swimming Club.
Tooting Bec Rd, London SW16 1RU; placesleisure.org
Home to the oldest swimming club in Britain, the iconic Serpentine Lido is open to the public this summer until early September. Located in Hyde Park, the Serpentine Lido is ideal for families as it holds an exclusive children’s playground and child-safe paddle pool. Featuring a sun terrace, sunbathing area, kiosk with tea, coffee, cold drinks and sandwiches, get ready to relax by the pool with the whole family.
Hyde Park, S Carriage Dr, London W2 2UH; royalparks.org.uk
Way out west next to Royal Bushy Park is Hampton Pool, a 96-year-old outdoor complex that’s perfect for families, featuring swimming lanes for adults and slides for children. A nearby grassy area is ideal for a post-dip picnic in the sunshine. During “lane swim” sessions the main pool is split into six. While during “recreational swim” sessions the main pool is split in half for lane swimming on one side and family swimming and fun on the other. Hampton Pool is open 365 days a year, so a leisurely paddle in its heated water on Christmas day is on the cards.
High St, Hampton TW12 2ST; hamptonpool.co.uk
Oasis Sports Centre
Slap-bang in the middle of London, the three-lane outdoor pool at the Oasis Sports Centre in Covent Garden is a hidden gem. At 27.5m it is long enough for serious exercise as well as lounging on hot days. The outdoor pool is heated and is complemented by 25m indoor pool and sauna. The centre also has a gym and sports facilities.
32 Endell St, London WC2H 9AG; better.org.uk
Pools on the Park
Featuring a lido, indoor pool, spa and fitness centre, Pools on the Park has been a fixture of Richmond Park in south west London for more than 50 years. Its proximity to the rolling grassland of the park and pretty stretches of the River Thames means a trip to Pools in the Park can easily become a day trip.
Old Deer Park, Twickenham Road, Richmond TW9 2SF; richmond.gov.uk