Adhering to the golden age of the lido in the 1930s, outdoor swimming in London and also the UK experienced a continuous decrease, as more and more Brits began jetting off to sunny lands during the summer months. While countless pools across the country were shut, sunseekers at the capital are in fortune – lidos in London are not only some of the best in the nation but also still easy to discover. Read on for our selection of the greatest outdoor swimming pools in London.
1. King’s Cross Pond Club
An oasis of tranquil smack bang in the center of bustling King’s Cross, this naturally-filtered, freshwater pool (the very first man-made one from the UK) began life as an art installation, courtesy of Ooze Architects and artist Marjetica Potrc. Not your normal lido, this pool is surrounded by an ever-evolving landscape featuring wildflowers, grasses, and bushes and with chlorine-free water that’s purified by submerged water plants and wetland. ‘Of Soil and Water’, aka King’s Cross Pond Club, is designed to underline the comparison between urbanity and the natural world.
2. Tooting Bec Lido
This 91.5-meter pool (nearly twice the length of an Olympic-size competition pool) is your largest swimming pool by surface area in Britain, indoor or outdoor, as well as among the oldest, having opened in 1906. The swimming pool is bordered on one side by a row of iconic, brightly-painted changing cubicles, a favorite location for photo shoots and filming.
3. Parliament Hill Lido
House to three famous, fresh-water bathing ponds (one each for ladies, men, and mixed bathing) Hampstead Heath also boasts the large, Grade II-listed Parliament Hill Lido. The pool, which first opened in 1938, is unheated, but following significant refurbishment in 2005 it had been fitted with a stainless steel liner — the first outdoor pool in the UK to own one — which can help retain heat in addition to providing the atmosphere a metallic shimmer. The lido is well worth seeing for its gorgeous 1930s art deco design independently.
4. London Fields Lido
This flood-lit, heated, Olympic-length pool is open till late all year round, whatever the weather. The London Fields Lido was the subject of a nearly 20-year struggle to see off the threat of demolition, reopening in 2006 to grow into one of the area’s most common public venues, and hailed as a significant success story in the struggle to both preserve and repopulate Britain’s lido collection.
5. Pools on the Park, Richmond
Small-fry sizewise among London’s lidos, this 33-meter lido joins an indoor pool, spa, and gym to compose the Grade II-listed Pools on the Park complex at Richmond’s Deer Park, which has been recognized by Historic England as significant. Despite being heated, the lido is only open during the summer months.
6. Brockwell Lido
Another Grade II-listed Olympic-length pool, Brockwell Lido is nearly upstaged by its own award-winning café, a popular weekend brunch place with locals. Built in 1937, it’s another gorgeous example of art deco architecture, using a rugged history to boot — it was closed in 1990 and subsequently saved by its own community. The lido is open daily, throughout the year, thanks to the efforts of cold water enthusiasts, the Brockwell Icicles.
7. The Serpentine Lido, Hyde Park
Not a pool, but it would be sacrilege to talk al-fresco swimming in London without providing an honorary mention to the celebrated Serpentine Lido, home to the UK’s oldest swimming pool, who commandeer this hundred meter stretch of Hyde Park’s Serpentine Lake in the early mornings. The lido is accompanied by a chlorinated paddling pool, sun terrace and access into the adjoining Lido Café.