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Hampton Pool
Photo: Hampton Pool

Lidos and outdoor swimming pools in London

Nothing can beat the refreshing thrill of open-air splish-splashing

Ellie Walker-Arnott
Sarah Cohen
Written by
Ellie Walker-Arnott
&
Sarah Cohen
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London has some great outdoor swimming options, but our desire to paddle around under a sunny sky does mean that it’s important to book ahead if you want your open-air swim fix. So no rocking up to try your luck. We don’t do that anymore. 

Things also might look a little different now – one-way swim lanes, reduced capacities and plenty of hand sanitiser once you’re out of the water. It’s worth checking out all the rules and systems of the lido or pool you want to visit before you get there. It may kill the spontaneity of making a splash, but anything is worth it for that feeling of dipping a toe back into the water. 

Whether you’re looking for alternative ways to get fit, family-friendly fun or a body of water to lounge around next to, take your pick from our list of London’s best lidos and outdoor swimming pools.

RECOMMENDED: the best swimming pools in London.

London’s best outdoor pools and lidos

Beckenham Place Park Swimming Lake
  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens
  • Beckenham

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 refilled 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. In the Before Times, you could try kayaking and other water sports on the new lake, but now it’s reserved for swimmers as it reopens for the summer. The swimming spot is allowing 60 swimmers at a time in the new era of social distancing, with lifeguards on watch and changing facilities available.  

Price: £5.50. Book here

  • Sport and fitness
  • Herne Hill

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: £8, £5 concs for a 50-minute slot. Book here

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Charlton Lido
  • Sport and fitness
  • Charlton

Best for: A well-rounded day of workouts 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: £10, £5-£7.50 concs. Book here.

  • Sport and fitness
  • Finchley

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: £6.90, £4.25 concs for non-members, various discounts available for members. Book here.

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  • Things to do
  • Hampstead Heath

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. 

The ponds have introduced an online booking system now that they’re reopening to the public, with swimmers allowed to book up to three sessions per week.

Price: £4.05, £2.43 concs, for a single day ticket. Book here.

Hampton Pool
  • Sport and fitness
  • Hampton

Best for: A brilliant 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. It’s also possible to book moonlight swim sessions. Which is cool.

Price: £5.60 off-peak, £4.30 concs. Peak prices vary. Book here.

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Hillingdon Lido
  • Sport and fitness
  • Uxbridge

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.

Price: £4.70 for non-residents, £2.20 for non-resident concs. Discount available for residents. Book here.

  • Sport and fitness
  • London Fields

Best for: A post-swim bite – the stalls and trendy cafés 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. Usually 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. Stay tuned for how it’ll timetable its return.

Price: £5.25 for non-members, various discounts for members. Book here.

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  • Sport and fitness
  • Royal Docks

Best for: Swimming with London as your backdrop.

You can dive headfirst into the Royal Docks in safety as swimmers are tagged to make sure nothing goes wrong and qualified coaching is available should you feel you’ve thrown yourself in the deep end. Race distances are marked to help those training for competitive events, but there’s also a casual area for leisure swimmers. Children aged six and over are permitted but they must be able to swim 200m without stopping, wear a wetsuit and a tow float and be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Price: £8 per swim plus a £12 annual membership fee. Book here.

Oasis Sports Centre
  • Sport and fitness
  • Covent Garden

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. Book here.

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Park Road Leisure Centre
  • Sport and fitness
  • Crouch End

Best for: Long summer days. Pack a picnic and grab a spot on the grass beside the lido. 

On 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£8. Book here.

  • Sport and fitness
  • Gospel Oak

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. The lido is unheated and there’s also paddling pool for under-fives and a café on site. 

Price: £4.05, £2.43 for concs. Book here.

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Pools on the Park
  • Sport and fitness
  • Leisure centres
  • Richmond

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. 

Price: £8. Book here.

  • Sport and fitness
  • Hyde Park

Best for: Incredible 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 2021, the lido will be operating until early September for just four hours a day, 10am-2pm, and those swimming there will have to book 45-minute slots in advance. Other changes to ‘normal’ are the restriction of the lido being lap swimming only, and there will be no pay-and-stay option for this summer’s season.

The water is not heated or chlorinated, and you may find yourself sharing a dip with the local ducks and swans. But still, we’re really glad to have the opportunity to get back in the water. 

Price£5, £3.80 concs, £1.80 children. Book here.

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  • Sport and fitness
  • Tooting

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: £8, £5 concs. Book here.

West Reservoir Centre
  • Things to do
  • Event spaces
  • Manor House

Best for: Open-water swimming

Hidden in a picturesque corner of Stoke Newington, this facility is a sports and environmental education centre that offers regular courses in sailing and kayaking for all ages and abilities – and year-round cold-water swimming. Previously, swimmers had to wear a wetsuit when the water temperature was below 16C, but you can now hop in at all times of year wearing nothing more than some speedos, a swimsuit or a bikini (if that’s your thing). But remember, it’s an English reservoir, not some tropical beach.

Price: £10 for non-members. Book here.

Love hanging around in your swimming trunks?

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