10 Refreshing Play Fountains In London For Cooling Down

By Zoe Craig Last edited 21 months ago
10 Refreshing Play Fountains In London For Cooling Down
Image: Shutterstock

Indulge your inner kid by splashing around in one of these refreshing play fountains — ideal for cooling off in a London heatwave. Just remember to pack a towel and spare clothes.

1. Jeppe Hein's Appearing Rooms, Southbank Centre

Image (C) South Bank London

First installed in 2006, and returning annually pretty much ever since, Jacob Hein's aquatic structure Appearing Rooms has become the big daddy of London's play fountains. Jets send walls of water high into the air creating 'rooms'; they then disappear as quickly as they emerge.

For some people, Appearing Rooms represents chin-stroking art: the temporary versus the permanent, playing with our perceptions of sculpture and architecture, and conceptual minimalism.

For kids, it's about getting as wet as you can, as often as possible, even if it's not 'fountain weather'.

Open until 29 August 2022. Free, no booking required.

2. Diana Memorial Fountain, Hyde Park

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Located in Hyde Park, the Diana Memorial Fountain is made of 545 pieces of Cornish granite, creating an oval 'stream' in the surrounding grass.

There are three bridges you can cross into the centre without getting your feet wet: but really, it's a great place for kids (and grown-up kids) to paddle in. The two sides represent the two sides of Diana's life: happiness in the calmer pool; and turmoil in the choppy waters.

Don't worry too much about the symbolism, just be careful not to fall over: three people were hospitalised after doing just this when the fountain first opened in 2004. These days, Royal Parks ask visitors to sit on the edge and refresh their feet, rather than walk through the memorial.

Open all year (except in extremely cold or severe weather, for safety reasons). Free, no booking required.

3. Granary Square fountains, King's Cross

Photo: Londonist

Granary Square features 1,080 individually controlled and lit water jets. The result is a brilliant splash park for kids of all ages; the perfect way to cool off on a warm day, and one of the best things to do with kids near King's Cross station.

The fountains start off rather mellow first thing in the morning, becoming more boisterous as the day goes on (a bit like kids sometimes). After dark, the fountains' personalities change again, with the addition of colours to the seemingly random squirt patterns.

Open in warm weather. Free, no booking required.

4. More London/London Bridge City fountains

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There was outcry back in 2018 when one of London's most infamous water features, The Rill, was filled in. The gullies of water ran through the More London/London Bridge City estate, and though they've gone, the more kid-friendly fountains down by the river — an installation officially known as "The Riverside" — are still in situ. 200 water jets form the play fountains, which spring up at surprising intervals — to the cost of one mini Londonist team member recently.

The result is an odd mash-up of suits on mobile phones marching between meetings, and south London mums hollering at soggy, squealing kids. It's always fun to keep an eye out for any newbies/tourists caught out by the deceptive 'water benches' nearby too. Pick your picnic spot carefully.

Visiting in summer 2022? Look out for the 28 chimpanzee sculptures on display around here until October.

Open all year. Free, no booking required.

5. Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park fountains, Stratford

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Head to the south of the Olympic Park to find the Waterworks Fountains outside the ArcelorMittal Orbit and near the London Stadium. 195 individually controlled jets form walls of water, and a maze to splash through and cool off.

Open March-October, except major event days such as West Ham United home matches. Free, no booking required.

6. John Madejski Garden fountains, V&A Museum

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Inside the inner courtyard at the V&A you'll find a calming elliptical pool dotted with the occasional fountain water jets.

It's a fantastic space to sit and enjoy some tranquility after the bustle of the museum — on hot days, it makes for a sophisticated, secluded paddling pool.

Free, no booking required.

7. Edmond J Safra Fountain Court, Somerset House

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The 55 jets that make up the playful Edmond J Safra Fountain Court inside Somerset House aren't always available to splash around in, as the courtyard is often used for special events such as film screenings in summer (and the seasonal ice rink covers them in the winter months).

Image: Shutterstock

Check out the Somerset House website before you visit to avoid disappointment/going home without getting your feet wet.

Free entry, no booking required.

8. Russell Square Gardens fountain

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The pretty garden in Bloomsbury's Russell Square gained a fountain when it was re-landscaped in 2002.

It gushes from the centre of the square: small, yes, but still offering a perfect paddling opportunity for kids and kidults alike.

Free, no booking required.

9. Leicester Square Fountains

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Following a couple of spruce-ups (in 2012 and 2014), Leicester Square now boasts a lovely play fountain surrounding the statue of Shakespeare in the centre. Cool off while watching celebs get sweaty in their tuxes at film premieres across the road.

Free, no booking required.

10. Elephant Springs, Elephant and Castle

kids plays in the fountain's pools
Image: Charles Emerson

Part of the new Elephant Park development, Elephant Springs is crafted from igneous porphyry stone in an organic-looking way, featuring miniature waterfalls, mounds, ravines and babbling streams. Like all the best play fountains, it encourages interaction: kids can use hand-operated pumps, and block certain channels, diverting the water flow. Adults who prefer to stay dry can watch from the comfort of hammocks dotted around the edge of the fountains.

Free, no booking required.

Have we missed any? Let us know in the comments below.

Last Updated 15 July 2022