Shoreditch House Rooftop Pool Shoreditch House Rooftop Pool

Urban swimming in London: the best outdoor pools

Fancy an al fresco dip? London has more to offer than stuffy indoor leisure pools. Head outside this summer to the best lidos, ponds and outdoor pools

From the days of wild river swimming back in the 16th century and Victorian women taking the plunge in the Thames to the heyday of the lido in the 1930s, outdoor swimming was once a favourite pastime of the city dweller. Sadly, over the years, the passion for outdoor swimming in the capital has trickled away, but good news, the tide is turning, and outdoor swimming spots are once again becoming increasingly popular and in demand city wide.

Earlier this year a new natural swimming pool opened up in the heart of bustling King’s Cross and the proposed Thames Baths (a £10m 25 metre open air swimming pool in London’s River Thames near Blackfriars Bridge) is gaining much attention, even campaigning its own hashtag, #backthebaths.

So if you want to jump on the trend bandwagon, or simply need to cool down in the summer heat, here is our pick of some of London’s best outdoor swimming spots...

King’s Cross Pond Club

Kings-Cross-Pond-King’s Cross Pond Club

This is not your typical lido swimming experience, as this newly opened ‘pond’ (yes it is in fact a natural, chemical-free pond as opposed to a pool), is perched amidst the urban Kings Cross development site. But this does not take away from its charm, in fact, quite the opposite. Designed as an art installation that you can swim in, the UK’s first ever man-made freshwater pond thrives on its gritty, urban location, perfect for a cooling dip or even cooler selfie. Morning and afternoon opening times vary – book tickets in advancewww.kingscrosspond.club

Related: What's on in London this summer

The Serpentine LidoSerpentine-LidoSerpentine Lido

For a truly magical outdoor swimming experience in London, there is no better destination than Hyde Park’s Serpentine lake. Home to the oldest swimming club in Britain dating back to the 1800s, many have swum in these clean, clear waters and will do so for years to come. With the backdrop of the magnificent Hyde Park, pedalos passing you by and swans as fellow swimmers, this is picture postcard territory. There is also a gated family area with paddling pool and sandpit as well as grassy sunbathing spots and sun loungers for hire. Open daily from 10am – 6pm June, July and August www.serpentinelido.com

Related: Top 10 pop-ups in London this summer

Shoreditch House

Shoreditch-House-Rooftop-PoolShoreditch House Rooftop Pool

Far from the madding crowds on a rooftop in East London you can find the members only Shoreditch House rooftop pool. The pool itself is so deliciously tempting, that if you are not a member already, it is reason enough to become one. The blue tiled 16 metre pool is everything a city rooftop pool should be – chic, refined, heated, child free after noon and complete with daybeds, umbrellas and of course a bar. Open year-round from 7am-10pm www.shoreditchhouse.com

Related: London's best new openings: summer 2015

London Fields Lido

London-Fields-Lido-by-Purpaboo-FlickrLondon Fields Lido © Purpaboo/Flickr

An afternoon at the lido might not be the first activity that springs to mind if you find yourself in hipster central Hackney, but this pool is an institution. Reopened in 2006 on the site of the original 1930s lido, it is London’s only heated 50 metre Olympic sized pool and open until 9pm every day. There is also a sun terrace and café if lounging poolside is more your style. (Open daily year round 6.30am - 9pm) www.better.org.uk

Related: What to do with children in London this summer

Hampstead Heath Ponds

Hampstead Heath © NickSarebi/FlickrHampstead Heath © NickSarebi/Flickr

Head uptown to the beautiful London landscape of Hampstead Heath and you will be greeted with not only one utterly gorgeous wooded swimming pond, but three – the Women’s Pond, the Men’s Pond and the Mixed Pond. All ponds share a common natural beauty and serenity, and are the ideal escape from the city for a plunge not only into not only cool water, but a bounty of nature. Open daily all year, varying opening times www.cityoflondon.gov.uk

1 King’s Cross Pond Club
2 The Serpentine Lido
3 Shoreditch House
4 London Fields Lido
5 Hampstead Heath Ponds