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Heads up! We’re working hard to be accurate – but these are unusual times, so please always check before heading out.

Hampton Pool
Photo: Hampton Pool

Lidos and outdoor swimming pools in London

Open-air splish-splashing is your God-given right

By Ellie Walker-Arnott
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London has some great outdoor swimming options. They look particularly appetising after a whole year of not being allowed near them. Our desire to paddle around under a sunny sky does mean that it's important to book ahead if you want your outdoor 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 – and you will almost certainly have to pre-book a spot at any of the pools listed below for the foreseeable future. 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 the list below. (Although, if things are like the aftermath to Lockdown One, the pools probably won't all swing their doors wide open straight away. Do make sure your to check on their websites to see if they're taking bookings before you show up.)

RECOMMENDED: the best swimming pools in London

London’s best outdoor pools and lidos

1. 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

AT_lidos_londonfieldslido_CREDIT_Jonathan Perugia.jpg
AT_lidos_londonfieldslido_CREDIT_Jonathan Perugia.jpg
Jonathan Perugia

2. London Fields Lido

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: £5.10 for non-members, various discounts for members. Book here.

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AT_SerpentineLido_CREDIT_CeliaTopping_TOpic.jpg
AT_SerpentineLido_CREDIT_CeliaTopping_TOpic.jpg
© Celia Topping

3. Serpentine Lido

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 then usually from June to September there’s a warm welcome for everyone in this section of the Serpentine lake. This year, it looks likely that the lake will remain open to just club members.

The water is not heated or chlorinated, and you may find yourself sharing a dip with the local ducks and swans. But still, we look forward to the opportunity to return, thanks to its great facilities – from 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.

Hampstead Heath Bathing Ponds, mixed pond
Hampstead Heath Bathing Ponds, mixed pond
Photograph: photocritical/Shutterstock.com

4. Hampstead Heath Swimming Ponds

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 for a single day ticket. £2.40 concs. Book here.

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5. Charlton Lido

Sport and fitness Charlton

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: £10, £5 concs. Book here.

brockwell lido
brockwell lido
© N Gentilli

6. Brockwell Lido

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 for a 50-minute slot. Book here

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7. 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. 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. Book here.

Parliament Hill Lido
Parliament Hill Lido
Andrew Brackenbury

8. Parliament Hill Lido

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, £2.40 for concs. Book here.

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9. 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 very possible to book 'midnight swim' sessions. Which is cool.

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

10. 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 for a 50-minute slot. Book here.

Love hanging around in your swimming trunks?

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