London’s best outdoor swimming pools and lidos, from Hampstead Heath to London Fields

·7-min read
South London sun: Brockwell Park’s lido is an ever-popular spot
South London sun: Brockwell Park’s lido is an ever-popular spot

With London getting baked by the sun, pool your resources, get outdoors and dive into one of the city's best outdoor swimming spots.

We've rounded up London's best lidos, outdoor pools and even a reservoir or two. Most offer more than just a spot to splash about, with cafes, exercise classes, sun beds and plenty more on hand. You might even aqua-er one of your favourite new weekend go-tos in the city.

Brockwell Park

Brockwell boasts an Olympic length pool, a gym, hydrotherapy zone - basically, it's very well kitted out. You can take the plunge in the lido from 7am on most days (sometimes it’s 7.30am), and there are all sorts of workout classes available, from outdoor yoga to zumba. Follow up a dip with a trip to the Art Deco Grade II-listed Lido Café.

Dulwich Road, SE24, fusion-lifestyle.com

Oasis Sports Centre

This heated rooftop pool is just five minutes from Holborn, making it the West End's only outdoor heated pool. Remarkable stuff. Though it managed to fly a little under the radar for a while, it tends to get busy on warm days now, and at less than 30m long, it's perhaps not ideal for a thorough swim. But the location is hard to beat, it's open until 9pm during the week. If you're done in the pool, there are also squash courts and a gym.

32 Endell St, WC2H, better.org.uk

Parliament Hill

This 60m unheated pool on Hampstead Heath is often busy, but for those wanting to get away from small, splashy children, there are adult-only swimming sessions each day during the week, apart from Tuesday. It's always well attended with lifeguards and the pool is reliably kept clean. For those peckish after swimming, there's a cafe on site. Parliament Hill has the distinction of being the only outdoor pool in the UK with a stainless steel liner, which gives the water an unusual and – in the right light – a faintly glamorous metallic shimmer.

NW5 1LT, cityoflondon.gov.uk

Hampstead Heath Ponds

The swimming ponds are the highlight of Hampstead Heath. Apart from the Parliament Hill Lido, there are three ponds: one for men, elevated on a hillock; one for women, veiled by oak trees in a corner of the heath, and a mixed pond. If you're looking for a decent, less crowded swim, go segregated. Children must be accompanied at all ponds, and the single sex ponds are for over-8s only – but mostly, families stick to the mixed area.

NW5, cityoflondon.gov.uk

London Fields

Call it "bracing" if you like, but swimming outdoors is chilly. Not here though: the London Fields Lido is, gloriously, an heated open-air pool – so no excuses. The lido, which was restored recently, includes lane swimming for those serious about their dip, and classes for people wanting to improve their speed and technique, but there are also more relaxed sessions for parents and children too. After that, head to the cafe, and finish up with a doze on the sundeck.

London Fields, West Side, E8, better.org.uk

The Serpentine

Sunbathe here for one of the best views in London, with a pavilion, lush trees and, beyond that, the skyscrapers of our fair city. Often reserved for members of the Serpentine Swimming Club, the general public will be allowed to get involved this summer. Be warned that you'll be sharing the water with local ducks and swans – but by all accounts, they're pretty friendly, and the water is regularly tested to ensure it's safe. For food and drink, try the Serpentine Bar & Kitchen or the charming Lido Café and Bar.

Hyde Park, W2, royalparks.org.uk

Hillingdon Sport and Leisure Complex

Formerly known at the Uxbridge Lido, this is a rather beautiful spot, in all its 1930s, Grade II-listed glory. The heated open-air pool is an impressive 50m, with fountains at either end. The lido is in excellent shape, having been restored in 2010, and there's plenty of room to sunbathe. While you're at it, take advantage of the poolside food and drink, too. The leisure complex is packed out with everything from 3G football pitches to a 400m athletics track.

Gatting Way, Uxbridge, UB8, better.org.uk

Hampton Pool

Despite perhaps not being as well known as some others on this list, Hampton is well worth a trip, especially as 2022 marks the lido’s centenary year. There are two heated pools; the primary one is 36m, while the second is a learner pool for children and their parents. They're open year-round, including Christmas, and the main pool is sometimes divided up into lanes, or split down the middle for lane swimming on one side and fun on the other. Once you're done here, head out to Royal Bushy Park, which is next door.

High Street, Hampton, TW12, hamptonpool.co.uk

Tooting Bec

 (Wikimedia)
(Wikimedia)

At a smidge over 90m long, Tooting Bec is the largest freshwater open-air pool in the whole of England. Blimey. Be warned that despite its size, it still sometimes get crowded and queues aren't unheard of – but hey, in the glorious sunshine, that's just extra time to work on your tan. It's open to everyone from May until September, but you'll have to be a member of the South London Swimming Club to take a paddle in its cool waters in the winter months. A member, and very, very brave.

Tooting Bec Road, SW16, placesforpeopleleisure.org

London Royal Docks

For a rousing outdoor swim, the Docks are hard to beat. It’s a welcoming place for all types of outdoor swimmer, whether you’re new to it all and want to take it easy in the casual area, or you’re a seasoned pro who wants to take part in one of the 1500m sessions. They check the water every fortnight to make sure it’s all in order.

27 Western Gateway, E16, londonroyaldocksows.co.uk

Charlton

A fully heated 50m pool is the highlight of Charlton Lido, which is in tip-top condition thanks to a £5m refurbishment in 2013. There are two sun terraces, a gym and a fitness studio. They've even got eight tennis courts close by, which are flood lit, so games can be enjoyed through the evening. It's worth mentioning too that this lido is kept very clean and tidy.

Hornfair Park, Shooters Hill Road, SE18, better.org.uk

Pools on the Park

They've two pools here, but only one outdoors, which is only open during the summer. Unsurprisingly, the outside one is chillier, but is kept at a clement 24C, and is the larger of the two. Swimming lessons are on offer for all ages and abilities, and there’s both a fitness suite and indoor cycle studio on site as well.

Richmond Park, Twickenham Rd, TW9 2SF, richmond.gov.uk

Stoke Newington West Reservoir

One for the real hardy types, those who fancy a proper outdoor dip can head here (don't confuse it with the east reservoir). Granted, it's not heated, and there are no lanes or any of that, but there's a tremendous sense of freedom swimming in the open water.

Green Lanes, N4, better.org.uk

Denham Lake

The Denham waterski club have marked out a huge swimming zone, 500m in length, and anyone is welcome on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday mornings (Monday and Thursday evenings as well, from the start of May). Wetsuits are advised, and everyone swimming must wear a brightly coloured swimming cap for their own safety. A full list of rules is available on their site, and is a must read. Being here feels like being out in the country for a while.

N Orbital Rd, Uxbridge, UB9, denhamwaterski.com

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