The Handbook
The Handbook

There’s nothing that evokes holiday vibes like luxuriating in a pool under the beating sun. But London’s lidos come a close second…

Whether you’re doing laps in training, cooling on a summer’s day or you’re breaking the winter ice to take an unseasonal dip, London has swimming options. Here are 10 of them…

Corona-edit: Please check before venturing to one of these pools in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. While government advice allowed pools to reopen on 11th July, many are still in the process of opening and all now have additional COVID-19 measures in place.

Where: The Serpentine Lido, Hyde Park, W2 2UH
Website: www.serpentinelido.com

The Serpentine Lido

Central London’s answer to the Mediterranean (in that it’s wet), the extraordinary thing about The Serpentine Lido isn’t that it’s a popular spot for ice skaters and swimmers, it’s that they happen at the same time.

The lake, London’s favourite swimming spot since it was created in 1730, is 100 metres long, making it the longest stretch of water in the capital  for swimming (unless you want to David Walliams it The Thames, Weils disease and everything).

The Serpentine boasts the oldest swimming club in Britain (the first recorded Christmas Day race was held in 1864), but a better strategy might be to relax and watch the swimming happening to other people, glass of wine in hand at the Lido Cafe Bar.

Brockwell Lido

Dominating the edge of Brockwell Park, the lido is a 50 metre, Olympic sized Art Deco statement of a pool.

‘Brixton’s beach’ is a perfect place to enjoy outdoor swimming, but also caters for the health-conscious with a decent gym and The Lido Cafe, great for their brunches and their regular supper club-style kitchen takeovers.

Where: Brockwell Park, Dulwich Road, Herne Hill, SE24 0PA
Website: www.brockwelllido.com

Where: West Reservoir Water Sports Centre, Green Lanes, Hackney, N4 2HA
Website: www.better.org.uk

Stoke Newington West Reservoir Centre, Hackney

Set over 23 acres of water (presumably an acre of water is how much an ox can plough before it drowns), Stoke Newington Reservoir is ideal for all manner of water-borne activities, from sailing to canoeing to open swimming.

There’s an online induction, and Stoke Newington West Reservoir Centre only operates certain hours (including summer evenings), but it’s a great and hopefully safe way to experience outdoor open swimming in East London.

London Fields Lido

On the fringes fashionable London Fields, this open air pool is open to goose-bump-seekers all-year-round.

On a hot summer’s day expect to find it packed with East London’s cool set as Hackney heads to the heated 50 metre pool.

The pool isn’t enough, then perhaps the cafe, large sundeck and sunbathing area will sate your alfresco swimming experience appetite.

Where: London Fields West Side, Hackney, E8 3EU
Website: www.better.org.uk

Where: Tooting Bec Road, Tooting, SW16 1RU
Website: www.wandsworth.gov.uk

Tooting Bec Lido

Where does Brad Pitt come for a splash-around? Not Beverley Hills or Mustique but Tooting Bec Lido. Okay it just happened once, in the making of gangster flick Snatch, but it happened.

The 100 yard pool has everything you’d want from a lido experience, from colourful changing huts to an all year swimming club (the public can pitch up between May and September).

Charlton Lido And Lifestyle Club

Venture to South East London’s Charlton and you’ll find a heated Olympic sized pool along with, for added measure, a fully equipped fitness studio and an open air cycling studio. Perfect for anyone training for triathlons.

Straddling Woolwich and Blackheath, the lido is equipped with a sun terrace and seasonal café, for the more fair-weather swimmers amongst us…

Where: Hornfair Park, Shooters Hill Road, Charlton, SE18 4LX
Website: www.better.org.uk

Where: Old Deer Park, Twickenham Road, Richmond, TW9 2SF
Website: www.richmond.gov.uk

Pools On The Park Richmond

Sitting on the edge of Richmond Park, Pools on the Park gives you a choice. Alfreco fun or indoors incubation.

The vast pools lie side-by-side, giving swimmers the chance to alternate and enjoy both experiences.

But get there early as the pools reach capacity quickly in hot weather…

Hampstead Heath Ponds

Pondlife abounds on Hampstead Heath, thanks in part to the open-air swimming ponds.

There are ponds set aside for swimmers, one for men swimmers, one for women swimmers and another for men and women who don’t crave segregation.

Perfect for picnicking and pondering life, locals claim that the ponds were the inspiration for C.S. Lewis’ Narnia.

Where: Hampstead Heath, Hampstead, NW5 1QR
Website: www.cityoflondon.gov.uk

Where: Heath Lodge, Highgate, NW5 1NA
Website: www.parliamenthilllido.org

Parliament Hill Lido

If doing the front crawl directly in the wake of a swan with IBS isn’t your idea of a fun dip, you can swerve Hampstead Ponds and instead opt for Parliament Hill Lido, just round the corner.

Unheated, but open all-year-round, and with amble lounging space around the edges of the pool, the Grade II listed pool also features an paddling pool and has been relatively recently  refurbished.

Beckenham Place Park Swimming Lake

After a flurry of activity in the early 20th century, London stopped adding new outdoor swimming pools, so the recent addition of one more down in Beckenham is a real Brucey-bonus.

Lewisham Council has gone halvesies with the Heritage Lottery Fund on the £4.9m refurb of Beckenham Place Park, and a new addition to the public space is a swimming lake! Measuring 283 metres long by 45 metres wide and 3.5 metres deep at its deepest, the lake is on the site of an original Georgian water feature and is open all year round (though only life-guarded in summer).

Of course, if the very idea of an outdoor pool makes you start shivering then perhaps you’re more of a being-pampered-in-a-spa type of a person, in which case we’ve got you covered. Similarly, if all this mixing with the general public malarky makes you start shivering in social anxiety, then check out these posh rooftop pools.