Where to swim in London

Ruislip Lido

by Anna Scott

We’re guessing this activity might be quite high on your to-do list this summer holiday. Not only do we have a great selection of local pools to choose from, but living in the city need not mean going without taking a dip in outdoor waters. If you have access to wheels, there’s even more choice outside of the city. Whether you’re after wave machines or slightly calmer currents, here are a few pointers to help you plan your summer swimming excursions.

Local Pools

Fancy taking the kids for a morning dip? There’s nothing wrong with using your local council-run pool. Pretty much every borough is catered for in this respect, with popular options being New Chiswick Pool, the Janet Adegoke Swimming Pool in Shepherd’s Bush and Brentford Fountain Leisure. To save you searching for the relevant pages on the council websites (a more time-consuming task than it sounds), we’ve done the hard work for you:

Hammermith and Fulham



Kensington and Chelsea



Outdoor Pools

Yes, they do exist in west London, which is a very good thing indeed because on an extremely hot day (like last Friday), the craving for an outdoor swim takes over and nothing else will do.

Hampton Pool

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” (people really need to shout about it more as this is probably why I’ve never visited) 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

Formerly known as Uxbridge Lido, this was re-opened in 2010 after having been restored to its former 1930s glory and is now reputed to be one of the best lidos in the country. We are very lucky west Londoners indeed.

Richmond PoolPools on the Park – Richmond

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.

Serpentine Lido

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

Technically not west London but rather west of London, 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 40-minute drive up the motorway.

Hampstead Heath Swimming Ponds

Choose from four options in Hampstead Heath: Parliament Lido, men’s pond, women’s pond or the mixed pond. All ponds are kept between 21-22c all year while the lido is unheated.

Leisure Pools

To define “leisure pool”, I’ve gone with places that have additional features such as water slides and wave machines. Brentford Fountain Leisure Centre has both of these on a smaller scale in their own leisure pool, but here are a couple more options a short distance outside of London.

Windsor Leisure Pool

Situated in Windsor Leisure Centre, this is another of my childhood favourites and has all the classic leisure pool staples (fountains, slides, waves). It’s very easy to get to by car, being just a short trip down the M4.

Coral Reef Waterworld – Bracknell

Another Berkshire one, this has heaps of facilities suitable for older and younger children and, judging from the photos and features listed, appears to be the pick of the bunch when it comes to water parks in this part of the southeast.

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 water splash pad, and this is still a natural beauty spot that would be perfect for a picnic.

Ruislip Lido

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 2018.