Like a Local: London’s Best Outdoor Swimming Pools

by Isla Greenwood  |  Published May 31, 2019

London is not set up for the heat, it’s more like a wood-fired oven and it’s easy to cook when out on the tiles on a day that hits thirty or above. The solution? Swimming! This is something London is set up for. This guide will point you in the direction of some of the city’s finest outdoor swimming spots when the sun seems stuck on the high setting.

Covent Garden Oasis (Photo: Matt Brown via Flickr)

Covent Garden Oasis

Between Tottenham Court Road, Holborn and Covent Garden is the Oasis Leisure Centre. This is a great cheat option if cold water isn’t for you, but you still want to refresh and take the weight off your feet. It’s the only outdoor pool that is heated in London. With a number of changing rooms, there’s even a palm tree or two to inflame your imagination while you swim. If you want your day out to be more like a short holiday, then this might be the place.

32 Endell Street, WC2H 9AG

Hampstead Heath

This oasis in North London is one of the finest places to immerse yourself in cool water. The heartbeats of hills carry in their valleys three or four small ponds that are open to the public for swimming. One of the ponds is specifically for women, and there are three large fields where swimmers can relax and dry off in the sun (or rain; its open year-round) without feeling self-conscious. The gates open at 7am for early morning soak-seekers and they accept applications for yearly passes for those who are interested in going regularly. One of the quirks of this place is that it’s still relatively wild so you’ll sometimes be swimming alongside moorhens and their chicks.

Hampstead Lane, NW3 1BP

Ruislip Lido (Photo: Diamond Geezer via Flickr)

Ruislip Lido

This sixty-acre body of water is more like a lake than a swimming pool and even has a sandy beach. It takes about an hour to get there from Central London and is a great place to put a towel down and take it easy in the heat. The nearby woods are one of the best additional features of this place, where you can wander in the shade to escape the heat. Public transport is a recommended method of arrival, as there is very little parking here on hot days. Better yet, bring a bike and explore the surrounding area which feels a world away from the Big Smoke.

Reservoir Road, Ruislip, HA4 7TT

Stoke Newington West Reservoir

If you’re in East London and have a spare tenner handy, this is a good place to take an al fresco dip. Over the years it has served primarily as a water sports centre, so it is not the most typically beautiful place to swim. However it is definitely quieter than most other city locations so if you’re looking for somewhere with fewer people this is good option. The facilities include a café but picnics are recommended here.

The West Reservoir Centre, Hackney, N4 2HA

Serpentine Lido (Photo: Edward Simpson via Flickr)

Serpentine Lido, Hyde Park

This dreamy basin of H20 is located in central London’s biggest park and is an easy spot to get to. It’s also less of a traditional pool type affair and something closer to a lake. It is heralded as the oldest swimming club in the city and in spite of its reputation it remains unexclusive and entrance fees are reasonable (cheaper than a cinema ticket). It’s open to the public only at weekends in May and then seven days a week from June until September.

Serpentine South Side, Hyde Park, W2 2UH

Crouch End Park Road Lido

A rather run-down spot, and definitely lacking in palm trees, Crouch End Lido is a place to head if you are keen to avoid the crowds. You’ll often have the whole place to yourself, so if you need peace while you swim 50m at a time, this is the spot. There are swimming lessons available for all ages and a reasonably priced membership so it’s also a great place to take tiny humans who are just discovering their fins. It’s open year-round and hosts a special ‘Christmas swim’ on the 25th December, turkey not included.

Park Road Leisure Centre, Park Road, Hornsey, N8 8JN

Tooting Bec Lido (Photo: Sheep ‘R’ Us via Flickr)

Tooting Bec Lido

With separate pools for kids and adults this is a particularly family-friendly location in Wandsworth. The main pool is 100m long, so a welcome break for anybody who’s bored of the monotonous back and forth required in a standard 25m pool. Tooting Bec Lido is the UK’s largest fresh-water swimming pool and one of the busier swimming spots in the city so it’s advisable to get there before 11am to beat the queues. There are also races on Sundays and Bank Holidays in the mornings, when leisure swimming is suspended for a short time. Winter swimming is an option if you apply for membership in advance.

Tooting Bec Road, SW16 1RU

Brockwell Lido

Home to a 50m pool, gym, jacuzzi and a café in a Grade II listed building, Brockwell Lido is somewhere you aren’t going to get bored if you’ve left your book at home. It was built in 1938 and is lined by red brick buildings, whilst the edges of the pool have just been replaced with shiny chrome so it looks extra sleek. Don’t miss the banana bread French toast on the menu in the café and check the website for film screenings in the summer. If your work hours keep you away from the sun in the day there is still an opportunity to dive in at the end of a long week with late openings on Friday.

Brockwell Park, Dulwich Road, SE24 0PA

Parliament Hill Lido

….is beautiful, refreshing and hosts adult only evenings on Mondays, Thursday and Fridays. It was built the year before Brockwell Lido in 1937 and has almost identical architecture. It’s one of the cleanest pools in the city and has a tiny bit of heating to take the edge off the temperature. Beware of busy Sundays which sometimes reach full capacity. Many people choose to buy a whole summer season pass and visit before work in the mornings as it is open from 7am for early risers.

62 Lissenden Gardens