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Hot weather in London might not be the norm, but when it does start to sizzle, cooling off in a refreshing pool is often the way to go.
When those shiny sunny weekends finally descend... what could be better than escaping the streets to splash around in the sunshine or go for a long cool dip in one of London's best outdoor swimming pools or ponds? Grab your bikini/shorts, roll your towel up under your arm and head to one of the amazing outdoor swimming pools on this carefully curated list!
The trend for building outdoor swimming pools (known as lidos) in the UK began in the 1930s when outdoor swimming was a popular sport and tanning became increasingly popular. Local councils built over 150 of these pools across the UK, but many closed over the years as foreign travel became less expensive and people chose to head abroad for the sun instead.
Fortunately, regeneration projects and schemes during the last few decades saved a number of these beautiful lidos from closure, meaning we're still able to catch a few rays in the the heart of the city. See you by the diving board!
Also known as the 'Highgate Ponds', the Hampstead Pond trio were originally dug as reservoirs during the 17th and 18th centuries. In 1920 they were transformed for public swimming use, and are now divided into the Men's Pond, Ladies Pond and Mixed Pond. Being located close to the Kenwood Springs the Ladies Pond is the nicest, but all of them are safe and great to swim in.
As natural ponds the temperature is pretty chilly all year round, and while they are most popular in the summer, it is possible to swim here in the winter if you join the Hampstead Heath Winter Swimming Club. Nudity is occasionally allowed in the single-sex pools if you prefer a natural swim, but make sure to check the rules before you strip off!
Address: Hampstead Heath, London NW5 1QR
Phone: 020 7332 3322
This unheated outdoor pool in Finchley, North London may be a little chilly on those overcast summer days, but when the big ball of fire in the sky comes out, you'd be hard pressed to find a better spot. While the lido is only open May - September, this state-of-the-art leisure centre also has a modern gym, fitness studios for classes and an indoor pool too.
Address: Great North Leisure Park, Chaplin Square, Finchley, London N12 0GL
Phone: 020 8343 9830
This pretty Art Deco pool from 1938 is located on the other side of Hampstead Heath from the ponds, near to Gospel Oak Overground and Kentish Town, and is a great option if you prefer man-made lidos to natural pools.
It's unheated, so prepare for a frosty feeling when you first get in, but once you're in, the dazzling stainless steel base will have you forgetting the cold in no time. Open during the day from May - September, brave swimmers can also brace the pool for early morning swims from late September to April followed by a very hot shower!
Address: Hampstead Heath, London NW5 1NA
Phone: 20 7485 3873
Kings Cross Pond
Part art installation, part swimming pool surrounded by grass and wild flowers, the newly opened Kings Cross Pond is situated in the middle of the Kings Cross Development, and can accommodate around 40 bathers at any time.
The water has been purified through a natural, closed-loop process process and is completely free of chemicals. There are changing rooms and showers on site so you can easily pop by for a quick dip on your way to work, followed by a tasty breakfast at nearby Caravan!
Address: 20 Canal Reach (entrance on Tapper walk), London N1C 4BE
Phone: 0203 818 6500
Park Road Lido
The lovely Park Road Lido in Crouch End, North London may have originally opened in 1929, but it's still going strong as a popular local attraction. In fact, it was even awarded the accolade of Best Lido in London by TimeOut in 2004!
The outdoor pool is open between May and October, but during the year you can enjoy the modern fitness studio with flashy new equipment, exercise classes, indoor cycling, three indoor pools and a tasty new cafe for refreshments pre and post lido.
Address: Park Road, London, N8 8JN
Phone: 020 8341 3567
Built in 1937 during the 'golden summer of the lido', beautiful Brockwell Lido is a Grade II listed building with an outdoor pool, sunbathing area, gym and plenty of activities on offer. Known to locals as 'Brixton Beach', it underwent extensive renovations in 2005 and since then has become renowned as one of the best spots in the city to spend a summers day.
The pool is now open seven days a week so you can head for a swim before work too, although be warned that it's unheated all year round so perhaps bring a wetsuit in the winter!
Address: Brockwell Park, Dulwich Road, London SE24 0PA
Phone: 020 7274 3088
Colourful Tooting Bec Lido is instantly recognisable due to the bright changing cubicles, but it's also holds a number of records including the title of the oldest purpose-built pool in Europe (it was built in 1906) and the largest freshwater open-air pool in the UK.
It's open to the public from May - September every year, although at other times you might see it popping up in films and advertising as a popular shoot location - it even featured in Guy Ritchie film 'Snatch' during the boxing pool scene!
Address: Tooting Bec Road, London SW16 1R
Phone: 020 8871 7198
Phone: 0208 856 7389
London Fields Lido is one of the capital's most beloved outdoor pools, but it very nearly ended up lost in lido history when it closed for two decades in 1986 and was threatened with destruction. Fortunately a campaign led to refurbishment and re-opening in 2006, and it's now one of East London's most popular attractions.
The pool is heated at a cosy 25C all year round so it can be used in winter, and even has a retractable roof for rainy days. During the summer the sunbathing terrace and cafe are packed with East Londoners catching some much-needed rays.
Address: London Fields West Side, London, E8 3EU
Phone: 020 7254 9038
The man-made Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park was created on the orders of Queen Caroline the 1730s, and as a result of the lido trend, a portion was cornered off by buoys in the 1930s for swimming. Open during the weekends in May then every day from June to September, the lido has a very continental vibe on warm sunny days as Londoners laze on the banks and enjoy refreshments from the nearby cafe.
The Serpentine Lido also hosts the oldest swimming club in Britain, and they hold an annual dip on Christmas Days where brave (or crazy, depending how you look at it) swimmers plunge into the icy water. Follow up your trip to the lido with an afternoon at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, and you'll have managed both exercise and culture in just one outing!
Address: Hyde Park, London W2 2UH
Phone: 020 7706 3422
Built in 1922, Hampton Lido may be nearly a century old but it certainly looks good for its age! Heated to a balmy 28C all year round, the pool is open 365 days of the year for leisurely dips and speedy swims, and there's a baby and toddler pool and grassy sunbathing area too. Anyone for a Christmas Day swim?!
Address: High Street, Hampton, Middlesex TW12 2ST
Phone: 020 8255 1116
Relaxing Richmond in South West London is already an ideal summer spot with plenty of bars and restaurants on the riverbank and the beautiful Richmond Park, but did you know they have a great lido too?
The Grade II listed Pools on the Park is located a short walk from Richmond Station, and has an indoor pool, outdoor pool and children's learner pool so all levels of swimmers are provided for. Meanwhile the grassy area next to the lido is perfect for sunbathing!
Address: Old Deer Park, Twickenham Road, Richmond, Surrey TW9 2SF
Phone: 020 8940 0561
The outdoor pool at Oasis Sports Centre is surely one of London's best kept secrets - so well kept that we hadn't even heard about it until we started researching this article! Located in the heart of London near Covent Garden, Oasis Sports Centre offers indoor and outdoor swimming, a fitness centre and a sauna in the middle of the action.
Why not come here to work up an appetite before a big, delicious dinner at one of Soho's best restaurants?
Address:32 Endell Street, London WC2H 9AG
Phone: 020 7831 1804