London’s hardiest swimmers normally take to the waters all year round. Unfortunately, lockdown restrictions have turned us all into fair-weather swimmers. But the good news is that open-air swimming is back on. The weather is fairer, the prices are decent, and the water is lovely. From heated lidos to rooftop pools, and wild(ish) swimming, here are five of London’s best outdoor swimming pools.
Top tip: Most of the pools listed can be booked via the Better UK app and slots book up fast, especially when the temperatures get above 20°C. Please check with venues for Covid-19 guidelines.
1. London Fields Lido, Hackney
Outdoor swimming can be a chilly affair, but London Fields Lido hits the jackpot by being heated to a very clement 25°C all year round, with a 50 metre long pool. Normal opening hours are 6:30 am to 9 pm, and it’s floodlit too for late sessions.
It’s also one of London’s best known and busiest outdoor pools and slots fill up quickly. But there are proposals to expand the facilities for the first time since 1932, so there should be plenty of space for swimmers of all levels.
London Fields Lido, Hackney
2. Oasis Swimming Pool, Covent Garden
Rooftop pools in London are usually reserved for members clubs, bougie hotels, and expensive private residences. But there is one public rooftop pool in London, and it’s slap bang in central London, just a stone’s throw from Theatreland, and close to Covent Garden, Holborn, and Tottenham Court Road Stations. It’s the only heated pool in central London too, with water at a very agreeable 27°C, and there is a small sun terrace too.
Oasis Swimming Pool, Covent Garden
3. Brockwell Lido, Herne Hill
This South London swimming spot has a 50 metre outdoor pool. It’s unheated, but still pretty popular for wetsuit-clad winter swimmers. Temperature aside, it’s a rather lovely spot for a swim, with art deco architecture, a cute café, and nearby Brockwell Park. It’s lane swimming only, so it’s a better option for more serious swimming sessions, rather than a relaxed dip.
Brockwell Lido, Herne Hill
4. Tooting Bec Lido
One of the other major lidos in South London is Tooting Bec Lido, which is a whopping 91 metres long. It’s actually the largest fresh water swimming pool in the UK—fresh being the operative word as yep, you guessed it, it’s unheated. Unlike some of the other lidos listed, it’s not available to the general public all year round. It’s open from late March to late September, although winter swimming is available to members.
Tooting Bec Lido
5. Hampstead Ponds, Hampstead Heath
For those who want to dip a cautious toe into wild swimming, the three swimming ponds on Hampstead Heath are a great place to start. The surroundings are stunning, and you’ll see fantastic birdlife, like swooping herons as you swim. It’s also got changing facilities and lifeguards as well as life buoys, so you don’t need to be a super-strong swimmer to go.
The waters are bracing, but incredibly refreshing and the ponds are separated by women, men, or mixed. The ponds are usually open year-round, and it’s another popular spot for those brave enough to take to the waters in winter. Some sessions will need to be pre-booked, check websites for each pond for details.
Note: Summer opening times differ depending on time of year. See below for more information on individual swimming areas at Hampstead Heath:
Hampstead Health Mixed Bathing Pond
Kenwood Ladies’ Pond
Highgates Men’s Pond
For cool down options beyond London swimming pools, check out our seaside day trips guide.
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