London’s best outdoor pools and lidos
Best for: Trying something new.
City-dwellers hungry for their alfresco swim fix now have a new expanse of chilly open water to throw their shivering bods into. The Borough of Lewisham’s largest green space is officially London’s newest wild swimming spot. Only technically, it’s pretty ancient. The park has re-filled its lost Georgian lake, which was originally created by Beckenham Place Mansion’s former resident John Cator in 1800. Now, the lagoon has been brought back to its former glory. Swimmers have to book in advance and pay electronically before taking the plunge from the jetty, but a beach area will be free to use for paddling. There’s also a brand new café for post-swim snacks and the chance to try kayaking and other water sports on the new lake. The swimming spot will be open all year round, with lifeguards and changing facilities in the summer. Open from July 20.
Price: From £3. Book here.
Best for: A post-swim bite – the stalls and trendy cafes of Broadway Market nearby are the perfect place to refuel afterwards.
A dogged 18-year campaign by the London Fields User Group saved this 50-metre lido from demolition, and it reopened in 2006. After a nine-month refurb in 2017, it's looking super swanky once again. Open year-round, 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.
Price: £5.20 for non-members, various discounts for members.
Best for: Icredible Royal park views that are worth braving the wrath of the swans for.
Early mornings and the winter months are the preserve of the Serpentine Swimming Club, but from June to September there’s a warm welcome for everyone in this section of the Serpentine lake – in May it's only open on weekends and bank holidays.
Although the water is not heated or chlorinated, and you may find yourself sharing a dip with the local ducks and swans. There’s a gated family area with paddling pool and play area, plus sun loungers for hire if you want to make a day of it.
Price: £4.80, £3.80 concs, £1.80 children.
Best for: Year-round dips, whatever the weather.
Hampstead Heath’s swimming ponds were originally dammed-off clay pits. Three pools are open, to ladies, men and mixed groups. 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. You have been warned.
Price: £2 for a single day ticket. £1 for concs.
Best for: A fun-filled splash mere minutes from the West End.
A 27.5m expanse of blue, the outdoor pool at the Oasis in Camden is a 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.
Price: £6.15 for non-members, various discounts for members.
Best for: A good, long swim. Swimming lengths in this one isn’t for the faint of heart.
Tooting’s vast pool, with its iconic, coloured changing huts, has been treasured by fortunate locals since it opened as a bathing lake in 1906. At just over 90m, it’s the largest outdoor freshwater pool in the country, and inspires devoted swimming all through the year. 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.
Price: £7.70, £4.70 after 6pm and for children and concs.
Best for: A well-rounded day of work-outs and poolside relaxation.
After an extensive, £2 million refurbishment, this 50-metre, Olympic-sized pool in the heart of Greenwich 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.
Price: £7 for non-members, various discounts for members.
Best for: Added value. You'd be a fool not to take advantage of the spoils of the rest of the complex – catch a movie or grab a meal at one of the many restaurants onsite.
Finchley's lido is housed in a complex which includes an indoor pool, cinema and bowling alley. The lido is petite (and unheated) with a grassy terrace for lazy days in the sun. Opening is weather dependent – you won't get an alfresco 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.
Price: £6.80 for non-members, various discounts available for members.
Best for: A social swim. Book brunch before or after your swim at the Lido Café.
Brockwell’s 50-metre pool is surrounded by art deco Grade II-listed buildings that house the Lido Café and exercise studios that offer year-round dance and pilates classes and activities for pre-school children. Once you’ve perfected your backstroke, enjoy an eclectic range of events on site, from film nights to furniture fairs.
Price: £6.10 on weekends, prices vary between £3.20-£3.40 during the week depending on time of entry.
Best for: Awesome kids facilities and the impressive cascades.
Formerly known as Uxbridge Lido, the Grade II-listed, 50m, open-air swimming pool has been recently 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 a café for post-swimming snacks.
Price: £4.60 for non-residents, £2.15 for non-resident concs. Discount available for residents.
Best for: This lido wins the award for best location. It’s right next to one of the best views of the London skyline. Take a walk up Parliament Hill on a clear day, post-swim.
Built in 1938, the Grade II-listed Parliament Hill Lido measures a generous 60 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 and there's also paddling pool for under-fives and a cafe onsite.
Price: £7, £4.50 for concs.
Best for: An awesome community feel.
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. 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.
Price: £5.60 off-peak, £4.30 concs. Peak prices vary.
Best for: Long summer days. Pack a picnic and grab a spot on the grass beside the lido.
At busy weekends and during holiday periods, separate sessions for lane and fun swimming operate at Crouch End’s 50-metre lido, which is heated and dates from 1926. Now run by Fusion Lifestyle, there are diving areas, a children's pool, grassy slopes for sunbathing and a cafeteria. The centre also has an indoor pool, exercise studios and therapy rooms.
Price: Prices vary. Children under three go free.
Best for: A warm dip all year around.
Built in the 1960s and featuring both a lido and an indoor pool, the Richmond Pools are part of a complex that includes a spa and fitness centre. The heated outdoor pool opens all day during the summer months, with morning swimming offered for the rest of the year.
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