After the success of the 2012 Olympics and an increased awareness of healthy eating habits, the London
is alive with fitness fever. This move toward an active lifestyle has led to a revival of the 1930s outdoor pool trend. Pools around the capital are being built, reopened and refurbished. With the opening of an organic, self-cleaning freshwater public bath at King’s Cross, we take a look at 15 places to go to in London for a swim.
Opened in 1937, this Olympic-sized 50m pool is nestled amongst Grade II listed art deco buildings. Narrowly avoiding closure in the ’90s, it has now been refurbished to house a gym, studios and a pool-side cafe perfect for refueling after a great swim. Nicknamed by locals as ‘Brixton Beach,’ this popular pool also hosts outdoor screenings in association with Luna Cinema on Thursday nights throughout the summer.
Brockwell Lido, Brockwell Park, Dulwich Road, London + 44 020 7274 3088
Formerly known as the Richmond Baths, this 1960s swimming pool is popular with lane swimmers. The recently updated complex, operated by Spring Health Leisure, also features an indoor pool and learner pool.
Pools on the Park, Twickenham Road, Richmond, London, +44 020 8940 0561
Created during a dam project on Hampstead Brook in the 1700s, Hampstead Ponds are one of the oldest public pools in London. The two single-sex pools have been popular since the 1920s, and the mixed bather pond is perfect for a family outing. There is a small fee of £2/£1 for concessions that was introduced in the ’90s, but it is well worth it to maintain this beautiful public facility. The water clarity and condition is regularly checked, and the freshwater means you might be swimming along with the ducks.
Hampstead Health, London, United Kingdom, +44 020 7485 5757
In the centre of busy Covent Garden, this outdoor heated pool is one of the most popular in London, becoming extremely crowded on weekends. Abandon thoughts of swimming lengths or refining your butterfly stroke. However, this sun trap has an excellent terrace to relax on, an indoor pool and gym facilities for those seeking the full leisure experience. Additionally, it’s free for Camden residents ages 55 and over, Monday through Friday mornings.
Oasis Sports Center, 32 Endell Street, London, UK +44 020 7831 1804
Opened 1932, this 50 metre pool is heated, which means the water will keep you toasty no matter the air temperature. This pool is great for lane swimming, with plenty of space to overtake. Even on busy days, you’ll be able to do laps up and down the pool. A large sun deck means that this central Hackney lido may just be your new Sunday afternoon spot.
London Fields West Side, London, United Kingdom, +44 020 7254 9038
Dating back to the 18th century, Serpentine Lido has become renowned as an outdoor swimming spot thanks to the excellent Serpentine Swimming Club. The club swims year round and famously put on the Christmas Day Races. The grassy banks are perfect for sunbathing before you swim, and a gated family area means you can relax knowing that the kids won’t wander to the water without you.
Serpentine Lido, Hyde Park, London, United Kingdom, +44 020 7706 3422
This minimally heated 50 metre pool is another 1930s wonder and the last to be constructed by London City Council in 1939. The original buildings were refurbished in 2007. This pool is slightly less well-known than some of the others on this list, making it a bit quieter. It is ideal for the more serious swimmers or those who care to escape the crowds.
Charlton, Hornfair Park, Shooters Hill Road, London, United Kingdom, +44 020 8856 7389
Sitting at the southern edge of Hampstead Heath, this massive pool (a shocking 60 x 28 metres) is like many other lidos and a relic of the 1930s swimming boom. Like Brockwell, it is a Grade II listed building and was refurbished in 2005 to rejuvenate its old art-deco glamour. For those who enjoy a quieter swim, they have adult-only evening sessions on Monday, Thursday and Friday. The stainless steel lining around the pool gives the water an extra sparkle, making it look super clear and refreshing.
Parliament Hill, Hampstead Heath, Gordon House Road, London, United Kingdom, +44 020 7485 3873
This Edwardian Lido dates back to 1906, and is the longest pool in the UK at 90 metres. It is freshwater and unheated, and largely due to its length, unlaned. It is a favourite among the hardcore cold water swimmers, and certainly not for the faint at heart.
Tooting Bec Lido, Tooting Bec Road, London, United Kingdom, +44 020 8871 7198
While the original 1931 Lido was closed in 1992, the site is now part of a larger complex which houses a cinema, restaurants and a sports club, including indoor and outdoor pool facilities. The redeveloped leisure centre provides a much more comprehensive range of recreational activities, while still retaining its original purpose.
Finchley Lido Leisure Center, Chaplin House, Great North Leisure Park, Chaplin Square, London, United Kingdom, +44 020 8343 9830
Formerly the Uxbridge Lido built in 1935, this unusually shaped ’12-sided-star’ hexagonal cold pool was closed in 1998 and fell into disrepair. It was heavily vandalised, but was revived to its former glory in 2008, with the hopes of using it for Olympic swimming practice. It has a separate children’s pool, and the original art-deco fountains at each end have been retained, lending it an authentic charm.
Hillingdon Outdoor Pool, Gatting Way, Uxbridge, Middlesex, United Kingdom, +44 0845 130 7324
Park Road Leisure Centre
Sports Center, Gym, Fitness Studio
Opened in 1926, this heated outdoor pool features a separate children’s pool and diving area. A sizable 50 x 23 metres, it recently underwent an £8 million refurbishment to bring its facilities up to date.
Park Road Leisure Center, Park Road, London, United Kingdom, +44 020 8341 3567
After the threat of closure in the 1990s, the Hampton Pool rebranded itself as a leisure, swimming and BBQ club. Originally opened in 1922, this heated pool is a cosy 28 degrees year round. Perfect for an afternoon with friends or private functions, Hampton Pool blends the social and fitness elements of swimming.
Hampton Pool, High Street, Hampton, Middlesex, United Kingdom, +44 020 8255 1116
Frequented by the cast of TOWIE, Kings Oak is one of the most luxurious outdoor pools on the list, hidden away in Epping Forest. An unheated 1930s pool, it has been transformed into London’s very own Marbella, with champagne and cocktails from the tiki bar while you lounge poolside. The complex is walled, giving swimmers added privacy, and making it perfect for an elegant BBQ or sophisticated pool party.
Kings Oak Lido, Paul’s Nursery Road, High Beach, Loughton, Essex, United Kingdom, +44 020 8508 5000
The newest addition to London’s open-air pool facilities, King’s Cross Pond was created by the Dutch company Ooze Architects and Slovenian artist Marijetica Potrč. The pond is both a modern art concept and a public leisure facility. What separates this pool from others is the flora that cleanses the pond as opposed to chemicals like chlorine. This unique man-made, freshwater self-cleansing public bathing pond is opened to a limited number of bathers each day.
King’s Cross Pond Club, 20 Canal Reach (entrance on Tapper Walk), London, United Kingdom, +44 020 3818 6500