London’s top five open-air swimming pools

Who cares that London isn’t by the sea? When the underground feels like descension into fiery hell and you’re more than a little tempted to flop into the Thames, head to one of the city’s beloved open-air swimming pools.

Shoreditch House, E1

If you can get in, Shoreditch House’s members-only rooftop pool is the hippest place to combine work with play. Kick back on a white lounger with a Mac on your lap and Tweet casual updates to all and sundry as you go over those graphs.


Shoreditch House

Hampstead Heath Swimming Ponds, NW3

Set in nearly 800 acres of serene parkland, Hampstead Heath’s bathing ponds are possibly the loveliest swimming spots in the city. With ladies, men and mixed groups catered for respectively, they’re open to the public from 7am all year round (though you’d need to have been raised by polar bears in the Arctic to go for a dip in winter). In case of any uncertainty – the ponds are indeed dark green ponds, and deep; but that’s half the charm and they feel a world away from Zone 3. Arrive before 11am on sizzling weekends to secure a patch for your towel and picnic. Pack some trunks in your briefcase on a Wednesday if you fancy an evening dive in the mixed pond (the others are open until sunset throughout the working week).

Tooting Bec Lido, SW16

The largest outdoor freshwater pool in England and the second-largest in Europe, Souff London’s oceanic 90m lido is the people’s pool. Lined by a xylophone of iconic changing huts, this historic bathing lake is open for a triumphant 14 hours a day. Go early enough and you’ll be able to swim at a comfortable distance from the most tsunamic of front-crawlers.

tooting bec

Tooting Bec Lido

Oasis Sports Centre, WC2H

One of Covent Garden’s hidden secrets – the outdoor pool at this Endell Street leisure complex is an oasis in the midst of central London’s heaviest-trod pavements. Enough people know about it for the pool and sundeck to get busy (in fact, it’s not unusual to be swimming face to foot on hotter days), but the 27.7m puddle of blue above the city is a little-black-book gem for those who work in the area. Grab an ice cream from the café, stick your shades on and marvel at how you’ve only spent a handful of change to be here.

The Berkeley, SW1X

If your swimsuit is simply too fabulous for any old lido – try The Berkeley hotel. Day membership is steep at £150, but for the use of an uncrowded rooftop pool, loungers, a chic little solarium, complimentary refreshments and views over Hyde Park, it’s worth it for a luxe treat. In 2011, McQueens florist decorated the place as an English garden with birch trees and wild lavender. This year, Bamford Haybarn Spa is taking over with a prim countryside theme. Don’t despair if the heavens open and you’ve pre-booked – a roof slides over to cover the pool area when the sun’s had enough. Ah, life in Knightsbridge.


The Berkeley

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