While London hasn’t yet got anything as wonderful as Paris Plages to look forward to in the sweaty summer months (come on Boris, sort it out), we do have some great outdoor pools in London perfect for bronzing or burning your body beside.
Wash off the memories of a sweaty, hectic work week with a swim in one of these lovely lidos, and until that unfortunate moment when you get hit by a five year old cannonballing into the pool, you could almost be on an actual holiday.
Built in 1937, beautiful Brockwell Lido (also known as ‘Brixton beach’) is a Grade II listed building with an outdoor pool, sunbathing area, gym and loads of activities. Ideally for the lucky buggers who don’t work in offices it’s open 7 days a week, but do be warned that the pool is unheated all year round…so maybe just sunbathe by the side if it’s under 25C.
Where: Brockwell Park, Dulwich Road, London SE24 0PA
If you’re one of those people who have always fancied swimming in the Thames despite all the grim stuff floating around in there, you’ll love Hampstead Ponds. Originally dug in the 17th century and transformed into public pools in 1920, they still maintain the separate sex rule with different ponds for men and women, as well as a mixed one if you’re feeling less Victorian.
As natural ponds you can expect some, er, nature in them (mud and suchlike), but they are completely safe to swim. Nude swimming is allowed occasionally in the single sex pools if you feel like skinny dipping too.
Where: Hampstead Heath, London NW5 1QR
London’s latest outdoor pool has just popped up at Kings Cross, and is pretty much the epitome of a hipster pool having been described as an ‘art installation’ surrounded by grass and wild flowers, as well as having purified, chemical free water.
The little pond can only fit 40 people at any one time so try to go on a weekday if you can, and there are changing rooms and showers on site too. Pick up some kind of vegan-soy-chia-latte from Caravan afterwards after shaking the water from your beard, and the London Dream will be yours.
Where: 20 Canal Reach (entrance on Tapper walk), London N1C 4BE
Just across Hamstead Heath from the ponds, Parliament Hill Lido is a solid choice for those who prefer to swim in chlorinated rectangles. Built in 1938 it’s got plenty of Instagrammable Art Deco appeal, and is open from may until September every year. However, like Brockwell Lido it’s also unheated, so prepare for a shock if you jump in. We can recommend this as an excellent hangover cure though.
Where: Hampstead Heath, London NW5 1NA
Channel Guy Ritchie’s ‘Snatch’ with less gangsters and murder at Tooting Bec Lido, a colourful outdoor pool which has been used in loads of films and adverts across the years, including in a ‘Snatch’ boxing scene.
Trivia fans should know that Tooting Bec Lido is both the oldest purpose-built pool and the largest freshwater open air pool in the UK, but more importantly it’s open every year from May until September and is a sweet spot for catching some rays.
Where: : Tooting Bec Road, London SW16 1R
London Fields Lido may be one of the Big Smoke’s most beloved outdoor pools, but it very nearly ended up lost in lido history when it was threatened with destruction and closed for two decades from 1986. Fortunately for sun-loving East Londoners, a campaign led to refreshment and re-opening in 2006.
Heated at a cosy 25C all year round it’s worth a visit even on rubbish summer days, and there’s even a retractable roof for when it inevitably rains. There’s also a sunbathing terrace and cafe for all your tanning and ice cream-ingesting needs.
Where: London Fields West Side, London, E8 3EU
Get your tan going in Hyde Park this summer at the Serpentine Lido, a cornered-off section of the Serpentine Lake designed for swimming. Created in the 1930s it’s open from June until September, plus there’s a cafe and plenty of space for lazing around too. On a rare sunny day it feels positively continental, as long as you avert your eyes from all the sunburned backs.
Where: Hyde Park, London W2 2UH