Love Your Lido: Where To Go Outdoor Swimming In London

By Londonist Last edited 11 months ago
Love Your Lido: Where To Go Outdoor Swimming In London
Photo: Parliament Hill Lido

We're giving London's Lidos some love this summer. Whether you're an outdoor swimming fanatic or are yet to dip your toes into the water, there are plenty of options for an al fresco swim all over the capital (yes, even one in central London). So keks off, cossies on — and let's dive right in!

Brockwell Lido, Herne Hill (All year)

Photo: Brockwell Lido

The inspiration for Libby Page's 2019 debut novel The Lido, Brockwell Lido is something of a local legend. Located in the corner of Brockwell Park and surrounded by low line art deco redbrick walls, the unheated 50m pool has a dedicated army of year-round swimmers, and queues often stretch all around the block on summer days. Do book ahead if you can.

Photo: Brockwell Lido

There's also a gym and fitness centre on-site, all operated by Fusion, with the added bonus of an outdoor sauna available during the winter season. The Lido Cafe is open all day, currently operated by pizza restaurant 400 Rabbits. It serves breakfast and brunch, before the pizza menu takes over for the rest of the day.

Brockwell Lido, Brockwell Park, Dulwich Road, SE24 0PA

London Fields Lido, Hackney (All year)

Photo: London Fields Lido

If the unheated waters of Brockwell don't tempt you, head east to London Fields for a 50m long, heated outdoor pool — it's kept at about 25°c all year round. It's floodlit too, making morning and evening swims all the more appealing, and there's often a spectacular sunrise to be seen from the water.

Sunrise at London Fields Lido

Though there's been a pool here since 1930, it was left closed for several years until a campaign by local people saw it reopened in 2006, with the changing rooms and lockers around the perimeter of the pool, painted in primary colours.

There are usually around four lanes dedicated to fitness and lane swimming, with the rest of the pool given over to more casual activities. Hoxton Beach operates the food and drink kiosk, selling hot and cold drinks, cakes, falafel and salads, and an additional kiosk opens on the Sun Terrace during summer months.

London Fields Lido, London Fields West Side, Hackney, E8 3EU

Tooting Bec Lido, Streatham (All year — for members)

Photo: Tooting Bec Lido

The main pool at Tooting Bec is a seriously impressive 91m long, and there's also a 19m long paddling pool for younger swimmers, making Tooting Bec Lido the largest outdoor lido in the UK (and one of the oldest — it's been around since 1906).

There's a cafe and a picnic area so you can make a day of it in the balmy summer months, and the pool is fitted with a hoist to help disabled swimmers into the water. The public season runs April-September, and although the lido remains open all year, you'll need to become a member to use it in the winter months (membership also allows access to Putney Leisure Centre, Balham Leisure Centre, Tooting Leisure Centre and Latchmere Leisure Centre). Don't be put off though — the club welcomes members of all ages and abilities, whether you fancy doing a casual couple of laps a few times a month, or you're carving up the water every day of the year.

Tooting Bec Lido, Tooting Bec Road, SW16 1RU. Membership via South London Swimming Club.

Parliament Hill Lido, Hampstead Heath (All year)

Photo: Parliament Hill Lido

Located at the south-eastern tip of Hampstead Heath, the unheated, Grade-II listed Parliament Hill Lido was first opened in 1938, and is now open to the public 365 days a year.  The 61m long pool draws crowds from all over on summer days, and diving is allowed in certain areas at certain times. Food and drink can be bought at the Lido Cafe, operated by Hoxton Beach.

A smaller pool for under fives sits to the side of the main pool. With the mansion blocks of Gospel Oak overlooking the pool on one side, and the huge expanse of Hampstead Heath on the other, Parliament Hill Lido really is the best of both worlds.

Parliament Hill Lido, Parliament Hill Fields, Gospel Oak, NW5 1LT

Oasis Sports Centre, Tottenham Court Road (All year)

Photo: Oasis Sports Centre

Central London's only heated, outdoor pool, this one comes with the added bonus of being located on a sun terrace. The outdoor pool is just one part of the Oasis Sports Centre, which also houses a gym, indoor pool and exercise studios.

The 27.5m long outdoor pool is surrounded by a patio area and sunbathing deck, with the added bonus of a sauna nearby. Sure, views of the rooftops of Covent Garden mean you can't quite imagine you're in the south of France, but from the street below, you wouldn't even know the pool was there, making it feel like something of a hidden gem.

Oasis Sports Centre, 32 Endell Street, WC2H 9AG

Charlton Lido

Photo: Charlton Lido and Lifestyle Club

Charlton Lido and Lifestyle Club has all the equipment and classes a gym fanatic might need, but we're here to talk about the outdoor pool. 50m long, heated, surrounded by a sun terrace in the summer months (with some of the most luxurious loungers we've seen at a London pool), with drinks available to buy from Coffee Corner in June-September. There are always at least a couple of lanes dedicated to fitness swimming, and if you're not a member of the gym, you'll need to book your swim in advance. Members can take part in classes such as aqua aerobics in the outdoor pool too.

Charlton Lido, Hornfair Park, Shooters Hill Road, SE18 4LX

Hillingdon Lido (formerly Uxbridge Lido)

Photo: Hillingdon Sports & Leisure Complex

They take their swimming seriously in Hillingdon — the fitness centre boasts both a 50m indoor pool and a 50m outdoor pool. The Grade-II listed, heated open-air offering has plenty of paving around the edge for soaking up rays, and fountains at either end, lending a playful vibe. A gym, football pitches, fitness studios and athletic track can also be found on-site, if that's your bag. Us? We're all about the pool.

Hillingdon Sports & Leisure Complex, Gatting Way, Uxbridge, UB8 1ES

Finchley Lido (Outdoor pool summer only)

Photo: Finchley Lido Leisure Centre

After an extensive refurb in 2019, Finchley Lido Leisure Centre's three swimming pools are looking better than ever. The outdoor pool's opening is weather dependent, but generally May-September is when you can indulge in open-air swimming followed by a relaxing afternoon in the garden area.

The indoor offerings comprise a 25m pool (with hoist for accessibility) and a leisure pool complete with wave machine and rapids, and unlike most leisure centres, there's plenty of natural light inside, meaning you can *almost* convince yourself you're outside, without having to brave the unpredictable British weather.

Finchley Lido Leisure Centre, Great North Leisure Park, Chaplin Square, Finchley, N12 0GL

Hampton Pool (All year)

Photo: Hampton Pool

Hampton Pool is well-known for its famous moonlight swims, taking place late at night in the summer months. Not a night owl? During the day, two outdoor pools are available — a 36m one for the adults, and a 12.5m long one for learners and toddlers. They're heated year-round, and there's a grassy area next to the water for a post-swim sunbathe, and you're right on the edge of Bushy Park too.

As well as the moonlight and Christmas Day swims, Hampton Pool offers other special events including picnic concerts in the summer months. The pool operates as a charity, so fundraising events help with maintenance costs.

Hampton Pool, Bushy Park, off the High Street, Hampton, Middlesex, TW12 2ST

Park Road Lido, Crouch End (All year)

Photo: Park Road Pools & Fitness

You're spoilt for choice pool-wise at Park Road. In addition to the 50m lido, there's also a 25m indoor pool, a teaching pool, paddling pool and... drumroll please... a diving pit.

If you're willing to brave the outdoor pool in the winter months, moonlight swims are held regularly. More of a fair-weather bather? You'll enjoy the grassy area surrounding two sides of the pool, which is packed with towels during hot days.

Park Road Pool and Fitness, Park Road, Hornsey, N8 8JN

Pools on the Park, Richmond

Photo: Feel Good Fitness Richmond

With a main and indoor teaching pool, and an outdoor pool in the summer months, Pools on the Park is one of west London's finest swimming facilities. The open-air 33m pool comes with the added bonus of an adjacent garden area to explore.

Pools on the Park, Old Deer Park, Richmond, TW9 2SF

Wild swimming spots in London

Prefer your swimming spots with fewer tiles and more ducks? Read on.

Hampstead Bathing Ponds, Hampstead Heath

The banks of the ponds bustling with swimmers
Image: Oxyman in Creative Commons

The Ladies', Men's and Mixed Bathing Ponds on Hampstead Heath are the stuff of legend, and due to a quirk in the political management of London, Hampstead Heath's ponds are operated by City of London Council.

All three are natural bathing ponds (so yes, ducks, yes, weeds, and yes, can be on the chilly side), but that does mean that they're open to strong swimmers only, age 8+ — and younger swimmers have to do a swimming test to prove their competency before they're allowed in.

Changing room and shower facilities vary between ponds but are generally limited, and there are no locker facilities available at any of the ponds — your local leisure centre it certainly isn't. But for swimming in nature, this is London's finest offering.

Hampstead Heath Bathing Ponds. Mixed pond is on the south side of the heath, while the Ladies' and Men's Ponds are towards the eastern side.

Serpentine Lido, Hyde Park (Public swimming summer only)

Serpentine Lido in winter. Photo: Serpentine Swimming Club

Best-known for the famous Christmas Day swim, the Serpentine Lido is open all year-round for anyone who wants to give it a go. At 100m long by 30m wide, it's a whopper — and it's a beauty too, located in the Serpentine lake and overlooked by the gorgeous pavilion-style cafe and Serpentine Bridge.

To take part in that festive swim though, you need to be a member of the Serpentine Swimming Club, apparently the oldest swimming club in Britain. They also hold various other races and events throughout the year.

Serpentine Lido, Hyde Park

Looking for a lido further afield? Take a look at our guide to outdoor pools surrounding London — ideal for a day trip out of the sweltering capital.

Have we missed something? Let us know in the comments below. We can also recommend Swimming London by Jenny Landreth, an excellent guide to both indoor and outdoor swimming in the capital.

Last Updated 08 July 2022

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