Alfresco swimming in London with these great places to take a dip in the open air
If you are having a summer break in land-locked London then here’s a guide to the best places for an outdoor swim or to top up your tan (yes, this is possible in London!). Our guide includes chlorinated lidos and pools, and some back-to-nature freshwater swimming and wild swimming – all outdoors.
Hampstead Heath Bathing Ponds
It’s not quite as exciting as a few years ago when nudity was (unofficially) allowed, but the separate Men’s and Women’s Hampstead bathing ponds provide a relaxing natural swim in a beautiful setting. (In terms of nudity it seems that you can get away with it in some of the sunbathing areas). Swimming options on Hampstead Heath include the Kenwood Ladies’ Bathing Pond, the Highgate Men’s Bathing Pond, the Mixed Bathing Pond and the Parliament Hill Lido. The Ladies and Men’s ponds are the only life-guarded open-water swimming areas in the UK and are open every day of the year (yes, even in January!).
For opening times call the Swimming on Hampstead Heath Information Service on +44 20 7485 3873.
Hampstead Heath, London, NW5 1QR
Transport: Tube to Golders Green, Hampstead or Kentish Town; Overground to Hampstead Heath or Gospel Oak
T: +44 20 7485 3873
W: City of London Corporation website
Main Photo of Highgate Men’s Bathing Pond by Todd Hanlon, www.toddhanlon.com
If you feel like a morning dip in the very centre of London then head to Hyde Park and the famous Serpentine Lido. Open to everyone from May to September (you’ll need to be a member of the Serpentine Swimming Club the rest of the time), the water may be unheated (and very chilly!) but it’s fresh and bracing! There is also a chlorinated paddling pool for kids with a playarea and a private sunbathing area. Sun loungers are available for hire.
Check website for opening days and times.
Hyde Park, London, W2 3XA
Transport: Tube to Hyde Park Corner, Knighstbridge or Lancaster Gate
T: +44 20 7706 3422
W: The Royal Parks website
Oasis Sports Centre
An outdoor pool right in the heart of Covent Garden, which attracts a mix of people and is also especially popular with gay men. A sunbathing terrace and cafe compliment the swimming (or on a hot weekend, the splashing). The pool is heated, and open all year round. Oasis also has a large gym, for which day passes are available.
32 Endell Street, London, WC2H 9AG
Transport: Tube to Covent Garden, Holborn or Tottenham Court Road
T: +44 20 7831 1804
W: Oasis Sports Centre website
More Outdoor Swimming
London Royal Docks
If you want to swim in a historic royal dock – namely Victoria Dock, then this place is for you. Swim with an epic city backdrop, whether in the casual swimming area, or the 1500m training loops. Water is apparently tested fortnightly and marked as excellent.
Dock Road, Royal Docks, London, E16 1AH
Transport: Bus 474, Train – DLR Royal Victoria, or parking on Dock Road
South London lido that has recently reopened following a £2 million refurb.
Hornfair Park, Shooters Hill Road, London, SE18 4LX
Transport: Bus 89 or 178
T: +44 208 856 7389
A beautiful Art Deco lido from the 1930’s with a cafe that wins awards and is a great place for breakfast or brunch and some swimmer-watching!
Brockwell Park, Dulwich Road, London, SE24 0PA
Transport: Tube to Brixton; Rail to Herne Hill
T: +44 20 7274 3088
Photo of Brockwell Lido by David Sim Flickr
Tooting Bec Lido
The UK’s largest outdoor freshwater pool – Tooting Bec Lido is a South London institution with its famous multi-coloured changing huts.
Tooting Bec Road, London, SW16 1RU
Transport: Rail to Streatham
T: +44 20 8871 7198
London Fields Lido
A heated outdoor pool in trendy Hackney.
London Fields West Side, Hackney, London, E8 3EU
Transport: Overground to Haggerston or Hackney Central; Rail to London Fields
T: +44 20 7254 9038
Parliament Hill Lido
An Art Deco classic, again built in the 1930’s and also refurbed. The water isn’t heated though!
Parliament Hill Fields, Gordon House Road, London, NW5 1NA
Transport: Overground to Gospel Oak
T: +44 20 7485 3873
Richmond Pools on the Park
1960’s complex that also includes a fitness centre, indoor pool and spa. Make the most of the day and enjoy the deer park at Richmond and a walk along the Thames too.
Old Deer Park, Surrey, TW9 2SF
Transport: Rail or Tube to Richmond
T: +44 20 8940 0561
Beckenham Place Park
A purpose built swimming lake in Beckenham Place Park – a beautiful park land of 98 hectares, plus an old country house. So visit, swim, and have a walk! Lifeguards are on hand to patrol the waters.
Beckenham, London, BR3 1SY
Transport: Bus 54, 320, 208, 181, 136. Rail to Beckenham Hill. Parking available.
T: +44 20 8940 0561
Ruislip Lido Beach
Who knew there was an actual beach on a tube line in London! Head out to Ruislip for a 60-acre lake with sandy beaches and a narrow gauge railway around it, all set on the edge of lovely Ruislip Woods.
Reservoir Road, Ruislip, HA4 7TY
Transport: Tube – Metropolitan line to Northwood Hills or Metropolitan / Piccadilly line to Ruislip; Bus H13, 331; Parking available.
T: +44 1895 556000