Beat the London Heat with These Top Swim Spots in the City – Lonely Planet Travel News | WHs Answers

London may notoriously be cold and rainy, but summer temperatures in the capital are soaring that Londoners are embracing outdoor swimming with enthusiasm.

And now, just in time for London’s latest summer heatwave, a new open-water swimming spot opened this week to keep city dwellers from melting.

Here’s a look at some of the best places to beat the heat with a refreshing dip in the city.

Immerse yourself among the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf

Open: 7am-4pm (times vary); Members swim £8

Right in the center of London’s Docklands, swimmers are surrounded by high-rise office buildings and apartments. This new website has been set up by the NOWCA group who operate over 40 open water swimming sites including lakes and rivers in the UK. The newest venue at Canary Wharf has a 250m or 600m loop as well as mixed changing rooms and toilets. Visit the NOWCA website for participation and booking details. But note: there is no secure place to leave your bag, so don’t take your valuables with you. There’s a similar facility not far away at the Royal Victoria Docks, right where the Emirates Air Line cable car departs, allowing you to combine two London adventures into one day trip.

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There are three bathing ponds on Hampstead Heath © AFP / Getty Images

Not one, but three ponds on Hampstead Heath

Open: 7am-8.30pm; Adults £4.25, Concessions £2.55

Perhaps London’s most famous bathing spot, Hampstead Heath has three lush ponds (don’t let ‘pond’ fool you, these are deep, cool, spring-fed waterholes) in which you can swim. The women-only Kenwood Ladies’ Pond is a secluded swim spot shaded by the heathland by trees and gardens where you can spread out for a post-swim picnic. Entry is subject to availability, but if you’re not there by 7am on a muggy summer’s day, you’ll likely end up queuing. Nearby, the Highgate Men’s Pond does what it says on the tin (men only). It also has changing rooms, cold showers and managed numbers on hot days (also one-in-one-out). The guys also have a diving board that you can see from across the water – it’s quite entertaining even if you can’t swim here. On the west side of Hampstead Heath you’ll find Mixed Pond, which is best served by public transport and has similar facilities, but again, it’s best to leave your wallet and phone at home.

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Members of the public enjoy an outdoor swim in the West Reservoir in Stoke Newington
Swim, kayak, SUP or sail at the West Reservoir © Getty Images

The freshest place for a dip in London: West Reservoir Stoke Newington

Open: 7am to 8pm; single day pass £15

West Reservoir in Stoke Newington (near Manor Park station) is managed by a health and gymnastics consortium, Better, and once provided drinking water for the area and today the water quality is exceptionally fresh and clean. Swimming is only available after pre-booked sessions, book through the Better app and website. There is a mixed changing room and toilets, but no lockers for bags either. The 23-acre reservoir shares space with a watersports club, so after swimming the 400m course you can watch learners kayak, sail and SUP over coffee and a melt-in-your-mouth pastel de nata from the family-run cafe overlooking the lake Water. On Friday 12th August they are hosting a night swim with music, street food and a bar.

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People in pedalos on the Serpentine, Hyde Park, London
Swim or hire a pedalo at the Serpentine Lido in London’s largest park © PA Images / Getty Images

Swim in London’s Hyde Park at the Serpentine Lido

Open: 10am-6pm; Adults £7/ Under £15 £3.50

Can you get any more ‘London’ than swimming in Hyde Park? The Serpentine Lido is a freshwater lake open for public swimming only in the summer. The rest of the year, members of the Serpentine Swimming Club take a dip daily between 5:30am and 9:30am throughout the winter, and since 1864 it has held a Christmas Day race that draws large crowds. There is also a great cafe on the south side of the Serpentine with an outside terrace to enjoy the action of central London. You will also find toilet facilities here. A limited number of lockers are available at the Serpentine for £2.

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People swim in the lake at Beckenham Place Park
Beckenham Place Park is home to an open water swimming lake © Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Take a trip back in time at the Beckenham Place Park Swimming Lake

Open: 7am-3pm (closed Tuesdays and Thursdays); Adults £6 / Children £3.50

The south side of the river has its own open water swimming lake in the rolling green fields of Beckenham Place Park. The 45m wide lake officially opened for recreational swimming in 2019, although before that locals secretly bathed in this Georgian water feature during the summer. As with all open water swimming sites in London, you need to be a good swimmer to enter the water, but the lake has a beachfront, making it a little less intimidating for those with less open water experience. If you want to spend a day with it, the park also includes 20 acres of old growth woods and mansions, as well as a couple of cafes to recharge your batteries.

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A general view of Tooting Bec Lido
Tooting Bec Lido is Britain’s largest freshwater swimming pool © Getty Images

The UK’s largest public swimming pool: Tooting Bec Lido

Open: 6am-8pm; Adults £8.30, Concessions £5.20

London’s largest freshwater pool (91.5m long and 30m wide), the unheated Tooting Bec Lido is another South London favorite. Brightly painted changing rooms in red, yellow and green give this popular lido an iconic turn-of-the-century vibe. With a paddling pool and a shallow end to the main pool, it’s a great option for families with young children or anyone not into the “wilder” swimming spots above. There are also facilities and assistance for swimmers with disabilities. An onsite cafe serves food and drinks, or BYO and spread out in the grassy picnic area surrounded by trees.

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Lifeguards swim at Parliament Hill Lido
Parliament Hill Lido is open 365 days a year © Getty Images

An alternative to the Hampstead Ponds: Parliament Hill Lido

Open from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.; Adults £4.25/Concessions £2.55

If you’re on Hampstead Heath but can’t swim well enough to handle the deep water ponds, head to the Art Deco-era Parliament Hill Lido instead. The midday swim in the 60m unheated pool needs to be pre-booked for the coming week (12pm on a Monday) via an online ticketing website (life belongs to the organized!), but the early morning and afternoon swims do is subject to availability. Facilities include changing rooms, toilets and a sauna. The cafe here is another major reason to come here for delicious Lebanese vegan dishes.

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London Fields, Hackney in East London from a high angle featuring the only heated outdoor lido in the capital
London Fields Lido is the only Olympic-size heated outdoor pool in the city © Getty Images

Idyll in East London: London Fields Lido

Open from 6:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.; Adults £5.40 / Under 15s £3.15

Until revived by local activists in 2006, this popular 50-metre public swimming pool on the east side of London Fields parkland was occupied by raves taking place at the empty pool during the 18 years it was closed. Now the London Fields Lido is a magnet for Hackney residents who come to swim laps or frolic in the small ‘common swimming area’. A small concrete stretch at the flat end is the spot for sunbathing or heading to the green spaces of London Fields, which in summer could be mistaken for a festival site. London Fields Lido is also operated by Better (book your swim via the app or website) and has changing rooms, outdoor showers, accessible facilities, a small cafe and an excellent Hoxton Beach falafel stand out front

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