Fancy a cool dip in the pool after a long hot day on the city streets? Luckily, London has a variety of brilliant outdoor pools and lidos…
Lead image: Brockwell Lido (photo: Victoria Purcell)
Coronavirus update: Outdoor swimming is a great way to get your exercise in if you’re worried about COVID-19. As well as being outdoors, chlorine in the water disinfects bacteria and viruses. Changing rooms and showers are likely to be limited though, so your best bet is to arrive ‘pool ready’ in your swimming gear. Book in advance as capacity will be limited. It is also advisable not to overtake other swimmers so as to maintain social distancing. Please contact your local lido for further information.
1 Tooting Bec Lido, Tooting
Coronavirus update: Open now! Book in advance. No changing rooms or lockers available.
The legendary Tooting Bec Lido is every bit as glorious as they say. Those colourful changing rooms doors, the glistening blue waters, the lush green backdrop of mature trees… And it’s not just a pretty face, it’s the largest outdoor fresh-water pool in the UK, measuring 91.44 metres long by 30.18 metres wide. Visitors to the pool can relax in the sunbathing area, splash around in the paddling pool, strap on goggles and swim laps, or grab an ice-cream cone at the café.
Tooting Bec Road, Tooting SW16 1RU; placesleisure.org
2 Beckenham Place Park Wild Swimming Lake
Coronavirus update: Open now! Book in advance. No changing rooms available.
The new wild swimming lake at Beckenham Place Park, which launched in July 2019, is a 283 metre-long, 45 metre-wide lake created as part of a £6.8 million park regeneration project. A recreation of an original Georgian water feature, it has a sloped beach, creating shallow water areas for younger children to play in for free (up to depths of 1-1.2 metres). Adult open water swim tickets are £5.50 (juniors £3.50). Boat hire and stand up paddleboard hire is also available. The lake is open all year round.
For full swim info and boat hire, see ptpcoaching.co.uk/beckenham-place-park
3 Brockwell Lido, Herne Hill
Coronavirus update: Open now! Book in advance. Changing rooms not available till 12 April.
Nestled in the corner of Brockwell Park, Brockwell Lido is one of south London’s absolute gems with glistening blue waters, art deco surrounds and palm plants giving the place an almost Mediterranean feel. The lido, known locally as Brixton Beach, has set times for general swimming and lap swimming, so check online before you go. The lovely poolside Lido Cafe was taken over by south east London pizza maestros 400 Rabbits last year, so pizza and a swim is definitely one for those sunny summer days.
Brockwell Park, Dulwich Road, Herne Hill SE24 0PA; fusion-lifestyle.com
4 London Fields Lido, Hackney
Coronavirus update: Open now! Book in advance. No changing rooms available.
The London Fields Lido in Hackney reopened in 2006 on the site of the original 1930s pool after locals fought for the facility’s return. The 50m Olympic-sized swimming pool has lane swimming available all day, swimming lessons for children and adults, one-to-one lessons and swim-fit sessions. There’s also a café and large sundeck and sunbathing area. The heated pool is open all year round, so you don’t need a heatwave to enjoy the swim. London Fields introduced floodlights to the pool in 2014, so the lido is open daily from 6.30am to 9pm, all year round.
London Fields West Side, Hackney E8 3EU; better.org.uk
5 Park Road Pools & Fitness, Crouch End
Coronavirus update: Open now! Book in advance. No changing rooms available till 12 April.
One of London’s largest lidos, people have been flocking to Park Road Pools since 1926. But things are anything but tired here – Park Road Pools underwent an £8 million redevelopment project in 2016. The Olympic-sized main pool is just one of five swimming pools – lucky ol’ Crouch Enders – and there is also a play area, fitness facilities, changing areas, sun loungers and fun water features.
Park Road, Crouch End N8 8JN; fusion-lifestyle.com
6 Parliament Hill Lido, Hampstead
Coronavirus update: Open now! No advance booking required, but there will be a one-in-one-out queuing system when capacity is reached. No hot showers till 12 April.
Built in 1938 and Grade II-listed, Parliament Hill Lido is the only stainless steel-lined outdoor pool in the UK. The shiny metal lining makes the whole pool shimmer with a deep royal blue hue, plus, the water is unheated (handy, since it’s open all-year round. There are also splash pools, sports facilities, playgrounds and gardens, making this a great family spot for summer. Plus, if it’s too crowded, the famous Hampstead ponds are just a stroll away, making the Heath one of London’s best open-air swimming areas.
Parliament Hill Mansions, Lissenden Gardens NW5 1NA; parliamenthilllido.org
7 Hampstead Heath Ponds, Hampstead
Coronavirus update: Open now! No booking required. Outdoor showers available.
Hampstead Heath’s famous ponds are legendary. Locals have kept fit and healthy splashing about in the ponds since way before open water swimming became a thing, but now that it is, well, you know where to head… It’s ‘cold, muddy and glorious’, as one local puts it. The mixed pond is on the Hampstead side of the Heath, near Hampstead Heath overground station, while the ladies’ and men’s ponds are on the Highgate side. The mixed pond is only open to the public in summer, whereas the ladies’ and men’s ponds are open all year round.
8 Serpentine Lido, Hyde Park
Coronavirus update: Open now! Serpentine Swimming Club members only. Alternate days system in operation (surnames A-K can swim on even dates, surnames L-Z on odd dates).
The Serpentine Lido and its accompanying paddling pool is located in the Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park and open to the public during the summer months. It is home to the Serpentine Swimming Club, which is the oldest swimming club in Britain. Members of the club may swim all year round at the lido and are famous for their crazy Christmas day race. You might even find yourself sharing a lane with swans or ducks. There is a gated family area with a chlorinated paddling pool and swings, as well as a private sunbathing area.
Hyde Park W2 2UH; royalparks.org.uk/serpentine-lido
9 Hampton Pool, Hampton Court
Coronavirus update: Open now! Book in advance. Changing rooms closed.
Hampton Pool – one of south west London’s best kept secrets – is a 36-metre long open-air pool. The lido is heated to provide for 365 days of outdoor swimming, split in half at all times to allow for lane swimming on one side and family swimming and fun on the other. Hampton Pool has an even warmer paddling pool for beginners, and a large grassy area for picnics or lazing in the sunshine. Once inside, you can stay all day, or follow your swim with a walk or cycle ride at Bushy Park next door.
High Street, Hampton TW12 2ST; hamptonpool.co.uk
10 Charlton Lido, Greenwich
Coronavirus update: Open now for outdoor swimming and fitness. Book in advance
Located in Hornfair Park, the Lido at Charlton Lido & Lifestyle Club is the capital’s second 50-metre, Olympic-sized heated outdoor pool after London Fields. It reopened in early 2013 after an extensive £2 million refurbishment. Whether you want to improve your freestyle technique, get fit, compete, meet fellow swimmers or have some family fun, you’re sure to love splashing about in the Charlton Lido. Fitness lane swimming is always available, but water games and fun with noodles are also encouraged.
Hornfair Park, Shooters Hill Road, Charlton SE18 4LX; better.org.uk
11 London Royal Docks Open Water Swimming
Coronavirus update: Open now! Book in advance. Changing rooms and wetsuit hire currently unavailable.
Open water swimming is really taking off in London as city dwellers attempt to reconnect with nature. Give it a whirl at London Royal Docks, where the Summer Season runs from March until late September, with 400m, 750m and 1000m loops available for swimming. Safety is paramount, with fortnightly water tests and a NOWCA safety tagging system in place. Sessions run five times a week – Tues, Weds and Fri evenings 5pm-8pm, and Sat-Sun 9am-12pm – for £8 a session. If you’re a little nervous, the Open Water Swim Squad meets every Wednesday at 6pm, where you’ll be assessed and put in the correct ability group (£15 a session). There are also plans to create a permanent lido here following successful pop-ups for the last two summers.
Waterfront Studios, 1 Dock Road E16 1AG; loveopenwater.co.uk
12 Thames Baths
Thames Baths is a proposal to launch a series of natural swimming baths. Specifically the group aims to reintroduce swimming in the river Thames to boost public use by Londoners. The idea was launched in 2014 as part of a London As It Could Be Now programme and a Kickstarter campaign helped raised £142,000 for a Pre-Planning Report to assess the various sites along the Thames. Sure, this one doesn’t exist yet, but we’re excited to see where this project goes and, for now, the other London lidos should keep us cool for the summer. If you like a community project, check out the plans for Peckham Lido, too.