The vibiest outdoor pools in London

·5-min read
 (Soho House)
(Soho House)

The first summer heatwave of 2022 is upon and I don’t care how swanky the new Elizabeth Line is, you won’t catch me on any underground carriages.

Temperatures are set to hit the mid-30s this weekend and for most of us that means sleeping with our legs hanging out of the window and justifying a lunchtime pint as a “cooling” tonic.

But instead of sticking to the seats of your nearest pub garden, why not douse yourself in a vat of water, showering off any sweaty upper lips first, obviously.

Here are some of the chicest outdoor pools to help you seek refuge from the blistering heat.

180 The Strand

 (Soho House)
(Soho House)

Sadly not open to the general public, Soho House’s latest central London club is located in the Brutalist 180 Strand studios and is home to their best rooftop pool yet. With views overlooking the whole of London, members and one lucky guest can practice their best butterfly stroke, coming up for air only to be greeted by the spires of St Paul’s cathedral. As with their other London outposts in Shoreditch and White City, the rooftop is dotted with their now-iconic red and white umbrellas and Sixties-luxe furniture.

Rub shoulders with the likes of Clara Amfo, Joy Crookes and Sex Education star Asa Butterfield while sipping on a round of picantes, before retreating inside to dance and shmooze as the sun goes down.

The Berkeley

 (The Berkeley)
(The Berkeley)

Escape the searing temperatures at this roof-top oasis in the heart of Belgravia . The brand new pool is a feat of glass panelling and serious infinity pool flexing, with unfettered views across the searing metropolis. Just a stone’s throw away from the designer shopping hubs of Harvey Nichols and Harrods, it’s the perfect place to rest weary feet after a long, hot day shopping for bikinis. The Berkeley pool is a cultural landmark in itself, being the first rooftop pool in London, originally opening in the seventies.

The new Tuscan-style terrace is only available to hotel guests, but it’s worth splashing out for the night and recuperating in one of the Art-Deco style suites, beloved by A-Listers from Penelope Cruz to Gwyneth Paltrow.

Mondrian Shoreditch

Mondrian Shoreditch London (Niall Clutton)
Mondrian Shoreditch London (Niall Clutton)

Inspired by LA’s Laurel Canyon, this east-London rooftop pool is dripping in seventies Hollywood Hills glamour, think Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, without the murderous Manson family.  The former Curtain hotel is a five-minute walk from buzzing Shoreditch High Street, and the perfect alternative to the heaving deckchairs at nearby Shoreditch House.

Open from midday to midnight, the rattan furnishings, live DJs and hanging fairy lights mean that this place comes alive as the sun begins to set. Book lunch at the poolside restaurant Laurel’s On The Roof to gain access to the turquoise plunge pool and, while you’re at it, order a smorgasbord of LA treats like the California Lobster roll and Malibu Shrimp cocktail followed by Japanese Garibaldi cocktails.

The Ned

 (Soho House)
(Soho House)

Perfect for city-slickers, The Ned’s opulent rooftop pool is another string in Nick Knight’s seemingly endless bow. Sadly this is only open to members and their guests, as is the case with most of the Soho House franchise, but there’s ample time to befriend a Ned member before summer really hits.

Unlike the artsy crowd at the rest of the houses, this is a haven for suited and booted young professionals, stepping straight off the stock exchange and into the crisp depths of the raised plunge pool. With views across the City of London, with its higgledy-piggledy spires and imposing renaissance-style banks, it’s a world away from the rat race below. You’re more likely to bump into the chairman of the Bank of England here than any thespians, but if you can stomach the sight of a hedge fund owner in speedos this is the place to go.

Shangri-La at the Shard

 (Shangri-La)
(Shangri-La)

Boasting the highest rooftop pool in Western Europe, this is not one for vertigo sufferers. The infinity Sky Pool is 52-floors high and arguably has the best views in London. Technically not an outdoor pool, that would probably be a recipe for disaster, the super-chic ten-metre pool is surrounded by glass with views stretching all the way to Wembley Stadium in West-London.

Designed by award-winning Hong Kong architect Andre Fu, the undulating white statement ceiling is based on a “dou-gong” — interlocking brackets from Chinese architecture. You don’t have to fork out £450 for a room to use the pool either, with the hotel’s Sky Pass system anyone can access the pool and spa for the day. The sauna is truly a thing of magic, with the traditional wooden benches facing a floor-to-ceiling window overlooking the entirety (it seems) of London.

The Birch Hotel

 (Birch Hotel)
(Birch Hotel)

Just outside London, the chic Birch hotel is just 30-minutes from Liverpool station, shorter than most commutes. But it’s worth the trip for a dip in its exclusive 25-metre Lido, tucked away behind a secret walled garden. This impressive stretch of water makes the rest of its inner-city cousins look like paddling pools in comparison. At the Birch you can thrash around to your heart’s content, or just do a couple civilised lengths — whatever floats your boat.

After working up an insatiable appetite treading water for a couple of minutes, sate yourself at the pool-side BBQ before falling upon the very-well stocked bar once the kids have been kicked out at 3pm. Nothing says summer is here quite like a couple of perfectly-charred bangers and an ice-cool cocktail. Although it’s called a Lido, there is nothing unrefined about this pool, the brainchild of former Ace Hotel MD Chris Penn, the pool area and hotel are an eclectic milieu of contemporary, modern finishes mixed with old-school glamour.

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