It’s starting to heat up in Britain now and when temperatures start to ascend, there’s nothing Brits like to do more than soak up some sun and if possible, take a dip.
A lido is basically a fancy word for a public outdoor swimming pool and there are plenty of them dotted around London, thanks to a resurgence over the past few years. They were originally very popular in the UK in the 1930s before holidays abroad became affordable and at the height of their popularity, around 170 lidos could be found up and down the country.
Once international travel did take off (pun intended), lidos started to close down but many have started to open up again, and the UK capital has some of the best around. If you’re in the city when things heat up, here are some of the lidos you should check out.
Address: Hyde Park, South Carriage Drive, W2 2UH
Situated at the centre of Hyde Park, Serpentine Lido is arguably the most iconic of London’s lidos and the closest outdoor swimming space for guests at Hotel Grand Royale London Hyde Park.
The lido measures 100 metres by 30 metres and attracts everyone from keen swimmers to those who just fancy a little paddle.
As the lido is part of a lake, the water isn’t heated but it is fresh and completely free from chlorine, shaping a very natural experience. If you’re lucky, you might find yourself swimming alongside a duck or a swan.
There is a separate paddling pool, which does contain chlorinated water, as well as a sandpit and a swing set, making it especially suitable for families.
Serpentine Lido is open everyday from 10am until 5.30pm.
Hampstead Heath Swimming Ponds
Address: Hampstead, NW3 1BP
Only the brave will enter the water in the winter months but that doesn’t stop visitors to Hampstead Heath Swimming Ponds, which are the only life-guarded open-water swimming pools open to the public throughout the year.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, these ponds were actually used as reservoirs but now they have been transformed into three ponds: one for women, one for men and one for mixed bathing.
As the water can be deep and chilly, only children over eight years can enter the water and even then they need to be supervised by an adult.
Parliament Hill Lido
Address: Parliament Hill Mansions, Hampstead Heath, Lissenden Gardens, Highgate, NW5 1NA
Parliament Hill is famed for its elevated panoramic view of the city of London and that’s what makes its lido an especially attractive fixture, giving swimmers amazing views over the capital.
Measuring 60 metres by 27 metres, it is the only lido in London to feature a stainless steel pool liner, so on sunny days, the water boasts a metallic shimmer. That said, it is unheated but wetsuits are permitted, provided they’re not too thick like a chunky diving suit.
The lido is open all year round, with the summer season occurring between mid-May and mid-September. Between September and April, it opens from 7am until noon for early morning swims, making it one of three unheated winter swimming venues – the other two being Brockwell Lido in Herne Hill and Tooting Bec Lido.
Tooting Bec Lido
Address: Tooting Bec Road, Tooting, SW16 1RU
Seeing as we’ve just mentioned it, Tooting Bec Lido in South London is Britain’s largest freshwater open-air swimming pool, encircled by trees and birdsong, while the water is clear and cold.
So cold in fact that it is set to play host to the UK Cold Water Swimming Championships in January 2019. The lido is home to the South London Swimming Club – one of England’s oldest swimming groups after being founded in 1906.
Address: Dulwich Road, SE24 0PA
Tucked away in the corner of Brockwell Park, this lido is a much-loved local landmark and has been at the heart of the local community since 1937, complemented by a Grade II-listed Art Deco building.
As mentioned, the lido is open all year round, but if the water proves too chilly, there is also a fully-equipped gym, a busy schedule of fitness classes and a luxurious hydrotherapy area.
King’s Cross Pond Club
This man-made lido was one of the most well-known in London and more than just an outdoor swimming pool; it was the UK’s first ever man-made freshwater bathing pond, lined with plants that filtered and purified the water.
Plonked in the middle of a construction site, it contrasted the urban with the rural in a truly unique way as building work surrounded the greenery.
We talk about it in the past tense because, well, it closed down recently. King’s Cross Pond Club was always intended to be temporary and its two-year planning permission expired in January 2017.
We’re only telling you about it in case you had plans to visit it, plans that would surely have ended in disappointment. As you can tell from this list though, there are plenty of other lidos available.