Heatwave: Refreshing outdoor swimming pools and lidos in London

Illustration of woman swimming in pool at resort

Take a dip in the city (Picture: Getty Images/fStop)

The UK heatwave is officially here, bringing highs of up to 32C in parts of England.

It’s great news for sun worshippers, but Britain wasn’t built to withstand such heat, so we need to find ways to cool down, whether that’s putting up a paddling pool or heading to one of our beautiful outdoor swimming areas.

Although London is a built-up metropolis, there are little pockets of space where you can relax and unwind dotted around the city.

From lidos to wild swimming, we’ve rounded up the top places to go swimming outdoors in the capital.

Always check the website before heading to the pools, and continue to follow restrictions where they’re in place.

Hampstead ponds

One of the OG wild swimming destinations (Picture: Getty Images)

If you want a wild swimming experience without having to head to the countryside, try Hampstead Heath Ponds.

Split between mixed, and men’s and women’s ponds, you’ll encounter ducks and hardened swimmers, given the water can often go below 10C.

Make sure you go to the lifeguarded ponds, as all swimming in the non-lifeguarded ones is currently not allowed.

Tickets are £4.00 for adults and £2.40 for concessions for 60 minutes of swimming.

Brockwell lido

Put a towel down and enjoy the sun (Picture: In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images)

Nestled in the corner of Brixton’s Brockwell Park, this lido is truly stunning on a warm day.

The 50m Olympic-sized pool sits beside an art deco building, with a great café where you can refuel after a swim.

Lane swims cost £8 for up to 50 minutes, and must be booked in advance.

Charlton lido

This one’s heated, so no goosebumps for you (Picture: Tolga Akmen/AFP)

Another South London gem, heading a little further out to Charlton is a guaranteed lovely day in the water.

The Olympic-sized heated pool is complemented by a summer sun terrace and coffee bar, and outdoor gym equipment.

If you’re lucky, you’ll see the local parakeets flying above while you backstroke.

Adult swimming sessions cost £10, with different prices starting at £3.50 for concessions.

Parliament Hill lido

The lido gets pretty packed in the summer (Picture: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Originally opened in the 1930s, this unheated outdoor pool is open to the public 365 days a year.

Located near Gospel Oak, it’s ideal for those who live close by but don’t yet feel ready to brave the ponds.

The changing rooms, hot shower, and sauna are currently at a reduced service due to Covid restrictions, so where possible come ready to swim and go.

Swimming sessions cost £4.05 for adults and £2.43 for concessions, with no need to book ahead (but you may need to queue if it’s busy).

Ruislip Lido

Like a mini beach in London (Picture: Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images)

This is technically in Hillingdon, but you can get there on the tube so we’re counting this zone 6 entry.

Within Ruislip Woods Nature Reserve lays a sandy (man-made) beach with a swimming lake beside it.

This one’s ideal for families, with an ice-cream shop and play areas suited to little ones. Worth the journey if you fancy a day in nature (when we’re allowed to travel a little more, of course).

Hackney West Reservoir

Go from Shoreditch to swimming in no time at all (Picture: Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images)

On Green Lanes in Stoke Newington, you can go for an open-water swim or participate in sports like kayaking at the West Reservoir.

It’s not for the faint-hearted as the water can get to temperatures in the lower single digits, but it’s a great spot to get used to the cold water in a beautiful setting.

Open water swimming costs £10.50 for non-members or £5 for members.

Beckenham Place Park

The lake was part of a multi-million pound redevelopment (Picture: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

The largest green space in Lewisham has refilled its swimming pond, in a first for decades.

Although you’ll get the feel of wild swimming, lifeguards are on hand to ensure everything is safe, and you can hire kayaks or paddle boards at certain times too.

50-minute swimming sessions cost £5 (£6 for non Lewisham residents) for adults and £3 (£3.50 for non Lewisham residents) for children. Book ahead here.

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