Making a splash: London’s best venues for swimming


Yes, it’s true; it may not feel like it, but winter won’t last forever. At some point in the next month we’ll cross over properly into spring and then all visitors to London (those staying at the hotel Park Grand Paddington Court or anywhere else) will be able to enjoy all manner of attractions and pursuits outdoors – as well as those indoors. And that includes swimming.

Indeed, you may not be aware of it, but London has a fine tradition of old-fashioned swimming pools; many of them outdoors. So why not take a dip in one of the following (before, for instance, enjoying an evening in one of the restaurants near Paddington Station)…?

Hampstead Heath Ponds

Offering up three separate pools, each of which is open to a different group (men, women and everyone; the latter including those between eight and 15 years-old, at the discretion of the lifeguard on duty), Hampstead Heath is probably the capital’s most renowned, but far from its only, venue for outdoor swimming. Still, these three ponds are terrific and very well maintained, which is why their history dates back more than a century and they remain very popular with both locals and visitors to the city. Note that the ponds for men and women exclusively are open all-year-round for all comers, but to frequent the other pool you’re obliged to join the Heath’s swimming club.

Serpentine lake in Hyde Park London

Serpentine Lido

The long, slim lake that divides the glorious Hyde Park and the charismatic Kensington Gardens, the Serpentine’s rather a legendary stretch of water in Central London and, don’t doubt it, in the late spring/ summer months, it’s swimming club’s popular with all comers (even if, as with the ponds up on the Heath, the water’s not heated!). There’s also the opportunity on this lake to share your swim with wildfowl, giving your dip something of a oneness with nature, if that appeals to you – after all, for any outdoors swimmers, that’s a big up-tick when it comes to the experience. Moreover, you can sunbathe on sun loungers in a private area next to the lake, order with ease from the next-door Lido Café and relax while your kids enjoy the nearby chlorinated paddling pool and play area.

Brockwell Lido

Shouldn’t you mind heading south of the Thames, you’ll find this 50-metre pool with its particularly atmospheric surroundings; a conglomeration of Grade II-listed art deco buildings, no less. The buildings themselves comprise a particularly good café, a base for kids’ activities and exercise studios that host the likes of Pilates classes. Moreover, the venue’s also home to a wide variety of events come the warmer weeks of the year, such as furniture fairs and outdoor cinema evenings. And, best of all, should you be a visitor to the capital in your advancing years, the lido’s free to enter for over-60s before 10am.

Parliament Hill Lido

Another outdoor swimming site that can lay claim to Grade II-listed status, this 60-metre pool (which also lies in Hampstead Heath, although in its south-eastern corner), may be 80-years-old this year, but thanks to refurbishment just over a decade ago it’s very much up to 21st Century visitor standards. Plus, it happens to be the UK’s only outdoor pool with a stainless-steel bottom, ensuring that when it’s full on a lovely, warm summer’s day, it’s water gives off a stylish metallic shimmer. It’s open between 7am and 9am and 10am and 6pm each day, while adults only can attend on Monday, Thursday and Friday evenings (should they prefer kid-free swimming); that said, families are fully catered for thanks to both an under-fives’ paddling pool and the requisite café.