London's best swimming pools

Great pools? From marble-clad baths dripping in history to modern leisure centres echoing with lifeguards' whistles, London is swimming in them

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Central London

Ironmonger Row Baths

Originally opened as a wash house in 1931, the public centre recently underwent a £16.5 million restoration project, which included giving the Turkish hammam in the basement (now operated by Spa London) a lavish facelift. Its trio of hot rooms, two saunas, two steam rooms and an ice-cold plunge pool now feel incongruously luxurious given the cost of a three-hour session here (from £8.75), and the spa’s menu of signature and Elemis beauty treatments are almost absurdly affordable. The chasm between palatial looks and leisure centre prices continues throughout. A state-of-the-art gym has been installed (we love the spinning bikes facing an anytime DVD tutorial), and the five-lane pool has been spruced up: apparently 200 man-hours were spent sanding down and varnishing its 1930s wooden gallery – and it shows. What’s been preserved in spite of the primping, however, is a sense of the venue’s place in local history.

  1. 1-11 Ironmonger Row, EC1V 3QF
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Central YMCA

A perennial favourite with those working in the West End due to low membership rates, a fully equipped Pilates studio, large cardio theatre and up-to-date resistance training equipment. It’s not glamorous but that’s not the point here; instead it provides every possible type of workout and activity including climbing, trampolining and volleyball, taught to a very high standard (YMCA Fitness Industry Training is an industry leader and many of its graduates instruct here). A good 25-metre pool is divided for lane swimming; there’s also a chapel, therapies and a decent café to boot.

  1. 112 Great Russell St, WC1B 3NQ
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Serpentine Lido

Early mornings and the winter months are the preserve of the Serpentine Swimming Club, but from May to September there’s a warm welcome for everyone in this section of the Serpentine lake – although the water is not heated. It’s not chlorinated either, a boon for swimmers who prefer to avoid the stuff, as well as to the wildlife (you may find yourself sharing a dip with the local ducks and swans). The gated family area with a (chlorinated) paddling pool, sandpit and swings means parents can relax while their children play. There's a private sunbathing area and sun loungers for hire and a kiosk within the lido grounds makes it possible to order from the popular Lido Café next door.

  1. Hyde Park, W2 3XA
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Oasis Sports Centre

A 27.5m expanse of blue, the outdoor pool at the Oasis in Covent Garden is a central London revelation to the uninitiated. Once you’ve discovered the open-air heated pool, sun terrace and adjacent indoor pool you’ll be hooked, just like everyone else who’s in on the secret. The Oasis is so popular at hot summer weekends and at peak times that getting any serious swimming done is difficult – best go with the modest aim of splashing about to cool down. The outdoor parts were refurbished in 2011, with new steps to the sunbathing terrace, where there are separate areas for adults and families, and decking beside the café which serves smoothies and ice creams. Swimming is free for Camden residents aged 55 and over between 9am and noon Monday to Friday.

  1. 32 Endell St, WC2H 9AG
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Golden Lane Leisure Centre

This handsome rooftop swimming pool might be on the shortish side at 20 metres but its uplifting, light-filled surroundings more than make up for it. The pool offers fitness sessions and swimming classes. Part of the Fusion Leisure group, there's also a high-tech gym and outdoor courts for tennis and netball. Once you've done a few lengths, the club also offers a good range of martial arts classes including Karate, Tae Kwon Do and Judo. A swim will set you back £8, so if you live of work nearby membership is a much more cost-effective option.

  1. Golden Lane Estate, Fann St, EC1Y 0SH
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Users say

76 comments
Emilie
Emilie

Aquabiking: London's latest fitness craze has finally landed in London! Check www.aquallure.co.uk at Dolphin Square Fitness Club in Pimlico SW1. Classes are on everyday for members and NON members. It is challening & fun and aquabiking / aquaspin / poolbiking benefits are just GREAT! So Happy!

Nuray Omma
Nuray Omma

I went to the Hyde park, I was not satisfield.I was quite dirty, upstairs cafe there was not enough food, also there was not enough chair for people it was really dirty...

David
David

Here, in the US, (Minnesota) we use sphagnum moss to filter the pool water. It's inherently antibacterial and grows in abundance here.

Alvaro
Alvaro

Agree with Pedro. Any ideas where to find chlorine-free swimming pools in London, with affordable membership?

Alanna
Alanna

HELP icant find a swimming pool that that is in the top 50's of the best swimming pool

Andy
Andy

Ditto, adding myself to those requesting info on any aqua bike style facilities in London - anyone? If not, maybe we should open one - there's at least 3 punters lined up here already! Regards, Andy

Cindy
Cindy

Hi everyone! Like Magui I cannot find a swimming pool with aquabiking (aquq cycling, hydrospin, you name it!). It s everywhere in Europe, must be somewhere in london no? Please help!!! Thanks!

Magui
Magui

Hello... i´m Magui, from Portugal. I live in southeast london, about a month and i´m looking for hidrobike, or aquabike but i just cant find it!... where can i have aquaspinning classes????? Thanks very much!!

Pedro
Pedro

I think it's high time London pools used less chlorine or none at all. It has carcinogenous side effect. It is already banned in some countries.There are new technologies now in place like electrooxidation which kill all patogens and a lot quicker than chlorine.Obviously with no odour.

Sarah
Sarah

Anyone know a pool that has a jacuzzi?

Peter
Peter

I agree, the Aquilla pool at the Rembrandt Hotel in Knightsbridge is a wonderful pool. Its a bit of a hidden gem and can be very quiet at times. the best pool in central London for me!!

Andy
Andy

Reply to ADY. The pool you are thinking about is Marshall St Baths - I went there in the 80s too. It was closed during the thatcher era along with many other pools and libraries in london at the time. Classic design, and one of the deepest pools in london . The good news is its now renovated, reopened ( New Labour did something right!) and run by GLL so no elitist and expensive entry fees. Ps , its in Marshall st funnily enough - just alongside Carnaby St. Enjoy...

Ram
Ram

Visiting London in mid sept and staying near Aldgate station. Plase could someone recommend a swimming pool nearby. I dont know the city at all. Many thanks

Emma
Emma

Seriously though, Swiss cottage the best? Pity the capital. Staff are unhelpful, pool changing rooms are filthy and classes are booked up days in advance but half empty when you finally manage to get to one. God forbid, if you aren't a member and want to use you local, council funded leisure facilities once in a while.

Francesca
Francesca

Does anyone know of a fairly large, not too busy pool near Wimbledon? The cleaner the better!

???
???

London is great for swimming pools

Jack
Jack

About time this article was updated. Seems there are lots of new and great pools that havent been featured. Im particularly interested in hearing more about these pools without chlorine - didn't realise that was possible. come on TIme Out - send out the reporters and bring us up to date

Layaan
Layaan

Try the Aquilla club in the Rembrandt Hotel, knightsbridge. Its roman columns are fantastic and it heated to 32 degrees! WOW

NATASHA
NATASHA

The leisure centre on Latchmere Road in Battersea SW11 has a great pool for young children, it has a few slides and a wave machine, also Bromley Glades has a good pool with slides.

Cathy Harris
Cathy Harris

TopNotch in New Malden is zero chlorine. according to the FB page they use poolsan and its much, much better than before

henry
henry

Hello, I will like to get new information about this site..

paul
paul

hi , just returned from s visit to london back home to australia , found a nice pool in bayswater at the porchester club a bit crowded but ok 30m pool , nice old building looks like a convrted baths the pool is indoor great way to start the day before treaking off

Ben F
Ben F

Pools in London are vile, dirty, cockroach-infested middens. Top marks to Brixton Recreation Centre's pond for sheer filth and grime, had I not resisted the desire to vomit it would have made little difference. Not unusual to pull used condoms from the filters I was informed by an ex-member of staff....nice Why can't we follow the example of out continental friends: showering thoroughly before entering pool (using soap) and wearing swim caps. It will never happen.

Andy Cheatle
Andy Cheatle

London swimmer since the 60s and veteran of many many pools, many now gone down the plughole. Favourite pool - the Original Swiss Cottage - award winning ambitious design, huge (used by olympians for training)...suffused with light and air...simply a Jewel, a swimmers dream and sooo unlike the poky postage stamp pool surrounded by private apartments that replaced it. Camden council should hang its head in eternal shame for selling out to the property developers. Close 2nd favourite the original Marshall St baths just off Carnaby St. Tiled, individual changing cubicles poolside and unfeasibly deep. Best current pool - not telling you, find out for yourself!...

Angerland
Angerland

In response to Samantha I'd suggest checking out The Jubilee sports centre, Caird Street W10. Its usually fairly quiet as it's tucked away from the main drag. Only a stones throw from Maida Vale. Not entirely sure on temperatures though?!

samantha
samantha

I have just moved to W9 and am looking for a swimming pool that's at least 17m that is cold enough to really swim in. All the pools I've been to in London are either too warm, too crowded -with people that are in a lane that is inappropriate for their speed- or absolutely filthy. I've tried: Marriott County Hall (too warm), Crystal Palace (too far), Oasis Sports Centre (filthy), Harbour Club (too warm), Third Space (a little too far from W9), Swiss Cottage (too crowded -it gets dangerous with slow swimmers in the fast lane and it can be really filthy). I will pay up to 150 pounds/month just to get a good pool within 20 minutes of W9 (Maida Vale/Warwick Ave) Anyone?

Jean St John (nee Carter)
Jean St John (nee Carter)

In reply to Aly - I think you may be thinking of Marshall Street Baths in the West End - same street as the Palladium if I remember correctly. Used to compete there many years ago in ASA Galas representing the Islington Swimming Club

Hawa
Hawa

Hello, Do you know where I can do Aquabiking in London???

dmitry
dmitry

london is a useless place sometimes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! why no bloody indoor waterslides? they are all over the country but not in london!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Aly
Aly

Hi, I used to go to a swimming pool in London's West End, somewhere west of Portman Square. Does anyone know what it's called, or the road it is in? It was in the '80's when I used to go and it was an old pool, tiled all round the edges with changing rooms along the side of the pool. It was gorgeous but I can't remember what it was called and I'm feeling nostalgic! It may be somewhere off Seymour Street. If anyone knows can they let me know....thanks.

M Sullivan
M Sullivan

Was taken by a friend to the Lansdowne club in berkley square - a huge pool there which is really unexpected in middle of London. Gorgeous art deco style with chrome lamps all around and so airy its amazing. no chlorine at all in the pool - the chlorine damaged the features too much apparently so now they dont use it at all. The water was really soft and not at all smelly. Worth making friends with someone who's a member!

Lee
Lee

Top Notch health club in bermondsey changed from chlorine to poolsan over christmas. Im really impressed with the pool now as it's much clearer and doesnt smell at all. Very pleased

SS
SS

The comment on showering is very important because if people do not shower before swimming the pools automatic cleaning system pumps in much more chlorine and other chemicals. These chemicals cause asthma in susceptible children. My husband and my daughter and 4 other people I know are allergic to chlorine.

Ella
Ella

i agree with ivan - living well pool is great now. whats best is my desk doesnt stink of chlorine from my wet coz and towel under it all day. excellent!

Janina
Janina

When it comes to swimming pools in East London, this list has really missed the best one for children! At the Waterfront Leisure Centre in Woolich, there is a complete indoor waterpark! It's got an adventure pool with wave machines and waterfalls, paddleing pools, several slides (including a very very long anaconda slide!!) and a normal swimming pool for adults. Any child will LOVE this place!!

Ivan
Ivan

I'm loving the Living Well pool in the Hilton on the Edgware Road since they went chlorine free. definitely worth a detour to swim in, much better than it was before and better than anything else I've swum in apart from the sea.

stephfany
stephfany

anyone knows a swimming pool in south london that would accept mini zoomers. I bought these specially to use them in a swimming pool but I already asked 3 swimming pools and they don't accept them. What is the point of selling them if no swimming pool accepts them. If anyone has any idea, thanks for letting me know!

Roger Golten
Roger Golten

Marshall St baths re-opened on Tuesday. Kentish Town re-opened last week, Uxbridge Lido re-opened in May. I swam at Parliament Hill Lido last weekend - awesome - stainless steel liner!!!! This is a great year for swimming in London

Charley
Charley

I know other have mentioned it but Market Sports pool is great to swim in. i really notice there's no smell on my skin and my hair and skin dont dry out. just brill

jamie
jamie

Landmark hotel have a great pool and spa for gym members. Another one that uses poolsan not chlorne

tom
tom

market sports pool in shoreditch is great - decent size and no chlorine at all. they use a pool san instead

Iman
Iman

I love The porchester!!!!! Great Fun. Childrens swimming pool. Greaaaaatttt =] I suggest If you have children. Bring them there. There are no Cokroaches as soemone said before. I learned how to swim in.. 1 LESSON. =] Teehee!. Also. Changing rooms are clean. But if youd rather change in a private room. Go on a saturday. And sneak Into the Schools Big changing rooms. The showers. (You don't Have to go in naked).. Are warm. The water is warm and clean. Not smelly. aNNDDD Not overlly Crowded. =]. I suggest You go to porchester!

Tim
Tim

try the chlorine free spa pool at brockwell lido they use a pool san instead of chlorine. Staff told me the lido will have no chlorine this summer.

jack
jack

we need more pool in london :(

Chad
Chad

I was robbed at Porchester pool. Someone broke into my locker and took all my stuff whilst I was swimming. The staff didn't seem too surprised about it, but did let me use their phone. I'd lost my keys so had to get across town to my mates flat to get a spare set wearing nothing but a towel and a pair of speedos. It was November. Nice pool though.

Walter
Walter

Comment on the request by Mike on 25 Mar 2009 " I am currently looking for a decent (which means CLEAN) swimming pool meeting the continental standards" Sorry to say that there are no public pools anywhere in the UK which would meet the minimum hygiene standards in Germany or any of the Nordic countries. In those countries, all swimmers are expected to shower, with soap and without swimwear on, before entering the pool. When it comes to hygiene, we British really are the dirty pigs of Europe.

Jalal
Jalal

Welcome to My Dear Website friends Thanks by

lucy
lucy

I really like porchester centre, never found it dirty a bit wet, but it's the cleanest i've found so far in london, apart from private ones, and i love the spa. Queen mother in vauxhall, everytime you swim by in the slow lane you smell the urine from the poolside toilets, horribe. Mile end ones changing rooms aren't great, and the pool is always crowded. the oasis in tottneham court road, changing rooms seem clean but kinda need a good seeing too they don't feel clean, and the showers weren't working very well. Still looking for a lean, unshabby public swimming pool

caroline
caroline

For a no chlorine swim try the 25m pool at Market Sports club in Shoreditch - very unusual in that it has no chlorine at all and no smell either. Lovely!! Details on the website www.marketsports.co.uk

Peter
Peter

I am looking for pool which water has been ozonized instead of treated by chlorine and would like to enjoy clean and not overcrowded pool cca 25m long and 3-4m deep. Guys..girls....could you recommend me some. It will do just one in London. Thanks :-)