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Lidos and outdoor swimming pools in London

Beat the heat with a dip in one of the city's lidos, pools or swimming ponds

Whether you're looking to swim yourself fit or simply escape the summer heat, nothing beats a refreshing dip in the open air. Luckily, London has loads of options for front-crawlers and pool-posers alike, with open-air facilities in every corner of the city. Just remember: no heavy petting.
 
RECOMMENDED: Outdoor London

Hampstead Heath Swimming Ponds

Originally dammed-off clay pits, the ponds are run by the City of London Corporation. It is consulting with local residents about essential works to protect against flooding, which – though unlikely – could be catastrophic if a large quantity of rain fell over an extended period. In the meantime, the three pools remain open to ladies, men and mixed groups (including accompanied children aged eight-15, at the lifeguards’ discretion) respectively. The Men’s and Ladies’ Ponds are open all year round but to use the Mixed Pond in the winter season you must join the Hampstead Heath Winter Swimming Club. Even in the summer the water is chilly.

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North London

Tooting Bec Lido

South London’s vast pool, with its iconic, Pantone-coloured changing huts, has been treasured by fortunate locals since it opened as a bathing lake in 1906. At just over 90m, it’s this country’s largest outdoor freshwater pool and inspires devoted swimming all through the year, although to swim in winter you must be a member of the well established South London Swimming Club, which has been based at the lido almost as long as it has existed. Facilities include a paddling pool for kids, a café, and lockers for small valuables.

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Streatham

Charlton Lido

After an extensive, £2 million refurbishment, this 50-metre pool was reopened to the public in early 2013. The facility is fully heated and has two sun terraces, with a café, gym and fitness studio also on the site. 

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London

Brockwell Lido

The 50-metre pool is surrounded by art deco Grade II-listed buildings which house the Lido Café (winner of a Time Out Eating and Drinking award for 'Best park cafe' in 2011) and exercise studios, offering year-round dance and pilates classes and activities for pre-school children. An eclectic range of events are organised on the site, from film nights to furniture fairs, and the Brockwell Lido Users' Group (www.brockwelllido.com) is active in ensuring the facility meets the needs of the community. On weekdays before 10am admission is free to people over 60.

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Brixton

Finchley Lido Leisure Centre

The 1990s update of the original ’30s lido is housed in a complex which includes an indoor pool, cinema and bowling alley. The (unheated) lido is now far smaller, but still has a grassy terrace. Opening is weather dependent – you won't get an al fresco swim if it's less than 20C outside. Indoors, swimmers can plough up and down the main pool or enjoy the leisure pool’s wave machine.

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Barnet

Hillingdon Outdoor Pool

Formerly known as Uxbridge Lido, the Grade II-listed, 50m, open-air swimming pool reopened in 2010, restored to its 1930s glory, complete with cascades (fountains) at either end and a new, heated shallow splash pool for children. The outdoor pool is now part of a new leisure centre that includes an indoor pool of the same size. Out in the open, there’s space to chill by the pool and café for post-swimming snacks. 

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Uxbridge, Middx

London Fields Lido

A dogged 18-year campaign by the London Fields User Group saved this 50-metre lido from demolition, and it reopened in 2006. Open year-round, it’s now run by Greenwich Leisure Ltd. It’s heated and well used: during busy holiday periods it closes at lunchtime between sessions to make sure as many people as possible can enjoy it. Picnicking is off-limits but there are two cafés.

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London Fields

Parliament Hill Lido

Built in 1938 and refurbished in 2005, the Grade II-listed Parliament Hill Lido measures a generous 60 metres by 28 metres. It has a stainless steel pool liner (the only one in an outdoor pool in the UK) which gives the water a metallic shimmer – not that you'll be able to tell when it's packed full of people on a sunny day. The lido is unheated, but wetsuits are permitted at the lifeguard’s discretion. There are two sessions a day (7-9am and 10am-6pm) with an additional adults-only evening session on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays. There's a paddling pool for under-fives and a cafe.

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Central London

Hampton Pool

This south-facing, 36-metre open-air pool, with grassy areas for sunbathing, is open and heated to a balmy 28C all year round. Built in 1922, it was saved from closure in the 1980s by a group of local residents, who continue to take part in fundraising activities and more practical tasks including gardening and other maintenance. The group has rebranded itself as the Poolside Swim & BBQ Club and holds swimming and social sessions outside of normal pool hours – anyone is welcome to join.

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Hampton Court

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.

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Covent Garden

Comments

3 comments
Penny L
Penny L

Good to be reminded that chlorine-free swimming is possible in the Serpentine, also Hampstead ponds, I assume.  Are there any chlorine-free lidos?

The pebble beach at Brighton has a very steep drop from paddling to out of your depth- not suitable for unskilled swimmers of any age.   Which seaside resorts have swimming pools filled by the tide?

JIM BIRKETT
JIM BIRKETT

nearest salt water outdoor swimming for London residents is Brighton, about an hour from Victoria by train and a 10 minute walk from Brighton station to the beach. The beach is almost all pebbles but at low tide there is a small stretch of sand. This year, 2013, the sea temperature is fairly good in August and September. On windy days the sea can be quite rough and then small children should NOT go in the sea. Never dive into the sea from the pier or breakwaters.Every year young men do this and end up with serious injuries when they collide with underwater obstructions. Along the Sussex coast there are sandy beaches at Camber Sands and at West Wittering.