Outdoor swimming isn’t necessarily the first thing you’d associate with London – you don’t usually need a pool to get soaked outside, or so the stereotype about London weather goes.
But given the spate of hot weather we’ve had over the course of an uncharacteristically clement spring, you might not be surprised to learn that there are a number of impressive outdoor swimming options for Londoners looking to cool down.
Here are seven of our favourites, ranging from the urban to the natural, the central to the slightly farther afield, and the distinctly chilly to the artificially-heated.
What could be better than actually going for a swim in Hyde Park? As long as you don’t mind sharing the unheated, non-chlorinated water with ducks, swans and the occasional pedalo, this is one of the most picturesque outdoor swimming locations imaginable, with the London skyline peeking over the horizon. There’s even an accompanying paddling pool for young whippersnappers.
Oasis Sports Centre
Located halfway between Tottenham Court Road and Holborn, the Oasis Sports Centre lives up to its name as an urban paradise in the city centre. With 27.5 metres of open-air, heated swimming pool, there are few ways to more relaxingly escape the clamour of the city then by ducking into this conveniently-located leisure centre.
Hampstead Heath Bathing Ponds
With three bathing ponds catering to men, ladies and mixed groups respectively, bathers visiting Hampstead Heath will be spoilt for choice. But as much as they convincingly come across as natural bodies of water amid the wilderness of the Heath, you may be surprised to learn that thee pools were once dammed-off clay pits which have since been filled with water. Make sure you’re prepared for a shock though – the water is colder than it looks!
Parliament Hill Lido
If the bucolic beauty of the bathing ponds isn’t your thing, you might be more interested in the Grade II listed lido on the edge of Hampstead Heath, at the bottom of Parliament Hill. Don’t expect to be much warmer than you’d be in the ponds though – this lido isn’t heated either!
Did you know there is a beach in London? It’s at Ruislip Lido and while it is, admittedly, man made, it certainly conjures up more than a hint of the tropics. On the edge of a reservoir that was opened as a lido in 1933, you’ll have to be up early in the morning if you want to grab a spot on the sand on a hot day. It’s in zone 6 on the outer reaches of north-west London, but people flock from miles around to visit.
Tooting Bec Lido
The pool at Tooting Bec Lido is a 90 metre-long behemoth and the largest outdoor freshwater pool in the country, flanked by cheerfully colourful changing room doors around its perimeter. The home of the South London Swimming Club, it first opened as an Tooting Bec Bathing-Lake in 1906 – making it one of Britain’s oldest open-air swimming pools as well as one of its largest.
London Fields Lido
A heated swimming pool with excellent lighting, London Fields Lido opens until 9pm most evenings and is perfect place for a uniquely relaxing night-time swim. Reopened in 2017 after an extensive 9 month refurbishment, London Fields Lido is a pristine Olympic-sized swimming pool with an offbeat atmosphere.