Swimming outdoors might be something you only associate with foreign holidays but hurrah, it is possible to swim in the outdoors in London. A multitude of lidos and ponds give city dwellers the chance to dive in a cool off. Many lidos offer kids the chance to splash and play or take swimming lessons. Here are some of the best to choose from when you feel the need to cool off, float or get some aquacise.
UPDATED OPENING STATUS IN RED TEXT – UPDATED AS OF 16 JUNE 2021 – NOTE MOST REQUIRE PRE BOOKING.
After reading about it, I can’t quite believe I’ve never been to Hampton Pool before. It describes itself as “South West London’s best kept secret” and sounds idyllic. They keep a section open for general swimming as well as running holiday activities for the kids, and you can even visit in the colder months as it’s heated 365 days a year. To top it all off, the pool is situated in two acres of woodland next to Royal Bushy Park. Need I say more?
Hillingdon Outdoor Pool
A grade II-listed, 50m open-air swimming pool with cascades fountains at both ends and a heated shallow splash pool for children. Part of the Hillingdon Sports & Leisure Complex managed by Better.
Pools on the Park
This borough appears to be very well served when it comes to outdoor swimming. The leisure complex is in Old Deer Park and within easy reach of the train station.
CURRENTLY CLOSED, message from lido: ‘Unfortunately we are not able to offer public swimming in Hyde Park within the rules of the current Covid regulations. We are exploring the possibility of reopening the facility later this summer. You will be able to find the latest information on this page.’
Now, I’ve walked past the queues for this place on a warm day but have never been brave enough to wait around in the hot weather to take a turn. If you’re a more patient person, head on down to this Hyde Park institution along with nearly every other Londoner.
Wycombe Rye Lido
This was my local outdoor pool as a youngster. It appears to have spruced itself up quite a bit since then and now looks absolutely stunning—well worth a drive up the motorway.
Finchley Lido Leisure Centre
Finchley Lido Leisure Centre is located in Great North Leisure Park in Barnet. It is a great place for family swimming with a leisure pool that includes a wave machine, jets and other fun features. The 25m pool offers a comprehensive ‘Learn to swim’ programme and during the summer the outdoor pool is a great place to swim and have fun.
London Fields London, Hackney
London Fields Lido is a 50m Olympic size, heated outdoor swimming pool open all year round and located in Hackney, central London. The swimming pool has lane swimming available all day, swimming lessons for children and adults, one-to-one swimming lessons. Facilities also include a café as well as a large sundeck and sunbathing area.
Art deco Grade 2 listed buildings that house a cafe and studios surround a 50m pool. Swim lessons are available and the studios offer exercise classes and activities year round.
Tooting Bec Lido
Tooting Bec is the UK’s largest freshwater pool. At 91m long, the lido offers a cafe, lounge area, paddling pool and free parking.
West Reservoir Centre, Open Water Swimming, Hackney
A big reservoir where you can open-water swim and partake in various water sports. There are beautiful views surrounding it and the neighbouring resevoir is a peaceful Woodberry Wetlands, perfect for a post-swim stroll and coffee.
Beckenham Place Park Lake
A lovely lake with swimming and boating areas. The lake was reinstated in 2019 by Lewisham Council as part of the historic restoration of the park. It is based on the Original Georgian lake that once stood.
A 50-metre, heated Olympic-sized pool in Greenwich. The grounds consist of two sun terraces, a café, gym and there are year-round fitness classes on offer.
Park Road Lido
A 50m heated pool in Crouch End surrounded by new landscaping, water features and a cafe.
And one last thing…
Outdoor or “wild” swimming might not be your thing but perhaps you’re feeling a little bit adventurous. If so, the Wild Swimming site lists potential spots all over the country (although, to be honest, I don’t know if I’d be brave enough to swim in the Thames). And one last special mention for that famous west London landmark, the rather confusingly named Ruislip Lido. Of course, it’s not a lido in the sense of the outdoor swimming pools mentioned above, but a 60-acre lake with its very own sandy beach on the edge of Ruislip Woods. At present, swimming is not permitted but there is a playground, a water splash pad, and this is still a natural beauty spot that would be perfect for a picnic.
If you’re planning on visiting any of the above pools, we highly recommend you check the sites first, not only for opening times and price information but also to make sure you’re not going to gate-crash any pre-booked activities or classes. And if it’s a hot day, there’s a very good chance you won’t be the only person taking their family for a dip in the pool—aim to leave early or be prepared to join the queue!
Updated June 2021.