Surprised by the sudden onslaught of real summer weather? Need 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
1 Tooting Bec Lido, Tooting
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 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
The new wild swimming lake at Beckenham Place Park, which launched in July 2019, during National Park City Festival is a brand new 283 metre-long, 45 metre-wide lake. A recreation of an original Georgian water feature, it has sloped beach, creating shallow water areas for younger children to play in (up to depths of 1-1.2 metres), which is free, and there’s a full swimming area costing £3 a swim. The lake, part of a £6.8 million park regeneration project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Lewisham Council, will be open all year round.
For full swim info and boat hire, see ptpcoaching.co.uk/beckenham-place-park
3 Brockwell Lido, Herne Hill
Nestled in the corner of Brockwell Park, the Brockwell Lido is a gem of south London and features an award-winning café in an art deco style building. Brockwell Lido has set times for general swimming and lap swimming, so make sure you check before you make the trek. But once you’re there, you’ll love all the Brockwell Lido has to offer, especially the lovely poolside Lido Cafe. No wonder locals call it Brixton’s Beach.
Brockwell Park, Dulwich Road, Herne Hill SE24 0PA; fusion-lifestyle.com
4 London Fields Lido, Hackney
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 swimfit 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
One of London’s largest lidos, the Park Road Pool underwent an £8 million redevelopment project in 2016. The Olympic-sized main pool is just one of five swimming pools at the Park Road location. There is also a play area and fitness facilities, changing areas, sun loungers and fun water features. Park Road’s lido has some good ol’ London tradition tied to it too—Londoners have been flocking to the swimming spot since 1926.
Park Road, Crouch End N8 8JN; fusion-lifestyle.com
6 Parliament Hill Lido, Hampstead
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. The pool is unheated and is one of a number of open-air swimming areas in Hampstead Heath. The Ladies’ Pond, Men’s Pond and the Mixed Pond are just steps away – and so are a number of splash pools, sports facilities, playgrounds and gardens for a whole afternoon of fun.
Parliament Hill Mansions, Lissenden Gardens NW5 1NA; cityoflondon.gov.uk
7 Charlton Lido, Greenwich
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
8 Serpentine Lido, Hyde Park
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 gated family area with a chlorinated paddling pool and swings, as well as a private sunbathing area for ultimate relaxation.
Hyde Park W2 2UH; serpentinelido.com
9 Hampton Pool, Hampton Court
Hampton Pool – one of deep south west London’s biggest 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 London Royal Docks Open Water Swimming
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 29 March until 30 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 5pm-8pm, Weds 5pm-8pm, Fri 5pm-8pm and Sat-Sun 9am-12pm – for £8 a session. If you’re a little nervous, join 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 2018’s successful pop-up.
Waterfront Studios, 1 Dock Road E16 1AG; londonroyaldocksows.co.uk
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 nine other London lidos should keep us cool for the summer. If you like a community project, check out the plans for Peckham Lido, too.