When the mercury rises, London can be a pretty sticky place to be. The Central Line? Don’t even go there (speaking metaphorically and physically). Thankfully there are people who share our pain, so this year sees more urban beaches and lidos to dip into than ever. Grab your mates, a crate of ice-cold beers and a picnic rug and head to one of London’s best outdoor pools. We’ve rounded up the ones not to miss…
Go back to nature with a chlorine-free experience in one of Hampstead Heath’s open-air swimming ponds. One of London’s most popular open spaces, Hampstead Heath is just 6km from the crowds of Trafalgar Square. There are three ponds set aside for swimmers on the Heath – the men’s and ladies’ swimming ponds are located on the Highgate side, while the mixed pond is situated near Belsize Park. Perfect for picnicking and pondering life, local folklore claims that the picturesque ponds and lush grasslands here inspired the mystical land described CS Lewis’ books. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, anyone?
Colourful Changing Huts
There are open-air swimming pools and then there’s Tooting Bec Lido. Make some serious strokes in London’s largest open-air pool, which measures at 91 metres and boasts being the oldest purpose-built outdoor pool in the capital. The lido is open to the public from May until September, with club swimming year-round. There’s also a grassy area for sunbathers, a paddling pool for children and a café which is open 7 days a week. And don’t be surprised if the turquoise water and brightly coloured rows of cubicle doors look familiar – Brad Pitt took a dip here while filming gangster movie, Snatch.
London's Longest Stretch of Water For Swimming
At 100 metres, The Serpentine Lido is the longest stretch of water available to Londoners. Situated in the centre of the capital’s famous Hyde Park, the lido was created in 1730 by damming a small tributary of the River Thames, and ever since people have been taking a dip in its regal waters. The Serpentine also boasts the oldest swimming club in Britain, as the first recorded (and now iconic) Christmas Day race was in 1864. Alongside The Serpentine sits the Lido Cafe Bar, which has waterside tables and is the ideal place to enjoy a savoury meal or a glass of wine. There is also a sunbathing spot and a paddling pool for young swimmers to enjoy. The Serpentine Lido is open to the public from June to September.
Nestled in the corner of Brockwell Park sits local landmark Brockwell Lido, also known as ‘Brixton’s Beach’ (not to be confused with actual Brixton Beach, more on that further down…). The Olympic sized, 50 metre pool is surrounded by an art deco building housing a state-of-the-art gym and studios. The Lido is also managed in partnership with registered charity Fusion, meaning that every time you visit the lido, you are helping to keep the outdoor pool open for future generations. The Lido Cafe is well worth a visit in its own right – keep an eye out for regular supper club-style kitchen takeovers or try their brunch.
On the fringes of London Fields, this open air pool is available all-year-round if you’re brave enough. On a hot summer’s day, find it packed with the area’s hipster elite, although the feel is super inclusive. Spot the work of local artist Madeleine Waller on the walls surrounding the pool, she’s photographed some of the lido’s bravest swimmers in their bravest moment, just as they step into the pool for a dip in the height of winter…
Grade II Listed
If you’re in Hampstead but would rather swerve the ducks or roaming bits of undergrowth, visit the Lido rather than the natural Ponds. Closest to Gospel Oak station, the Lido is unheated, but open all-year-round and with amble lounging space around the edges of the pool. Originally opened in 1938, the pool is now Grade II listed and features an accompanying paddling pool, and has recently undergone a huge and expensive refurbishment.
South London’s premier outdoor pool also features a fully-equipped deluxe fitness studio, and an open air cycling studio to boot. The facilities overlook the pool, but if you’re here for a dip rather than a workout, you’ll be pleased with the Olympic-sized pool which is heated in the winter months (not that we need to worry right now). Straddling Woolwich and Blackheath, the lido is colourfully decked out in bunting to match the primary colour scheme.
Get There Early
As its name suggests, this Pools on the Park complex of indoor and outdoor pools neighbours Richmond Park. If you’re turning up for an outdoor swim in the generously-sized outdoor pool, beware that it only opens when the temperature is around 20 degrees celsius or higher and it commonly reaches capacity, so if you’re going on a hot day then make your move early.