There’s no beach or waterpark and the coast is at least an hour away in any direction, but that doesn’t stop London visitors and residents from getting outside for a swim. You just have to know where to go. Check out these five places to take an alfresco dip in the British capital.
Three swimming spots sit on Hampstead Heath: the Ladies’ Pond, the Men’s Pond and the Mixed Pond. The Ladies’ and the Men’s stand as the only lifeguarded, open-water swimming facilities open to the public every day of the year in the country. Even on the coldest days, you’ll find plenty of people willing to tough it out to wade around here. The pools open around 7 a.m. and close just before dusk. Bring the kids: Children ages 8 and older can swim at Hampstead as long as an adult accompanies them.
The Berkeley is the only West London hotel with a rooftop swimming pool, and boy, is it a beauty. Unwind on the sun loungers poolside or in the suntrap of a courtyard, and take in the views across Hyde Park and Knightsbridge while sipping on the complimentary water, coffee, juice or (of course) tea. When the weather gets cooler, the roof slides over the top of the pool to keep out the chill. It’s worth booking a room at this Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star hotel just for access to this rooftop paradise.
Head to one of the city’s coolest rooftop pools at Shoreditch House in East London. Lie out poolside on the chic red-and-white-striped lounge beds and enjoy the surrounding cityscape or venture into the Secret Garden, a relaxing seating area that’s part of this retreat, and doze by the open fires or the fragrant herb garden. You can order food up here (everything from granola to eggs for breakfast, and pizza, pasta, salad and more for lunch), and the pool itself is the just the right size for a few laps. The pool offers some privacy, too, as you must be a member or book one of Shoreditch’s 26 rooms to get into this sixth-floor haven.
London was once awash with lidos, but just a few remain today. This spectacular 300-foot pool is generally considered the best. It originally opened in 1906 and features beautiful architecture, including the brightly colored doors of the changing cubicles in the film Snatch behind a boxing Brad Pitt. Catch some rays in the sunbathing area, let the little ones play around in the children’s paddling pool or dine in the picnic area or the café.
You wouldn’t know it from walking around the neighborhood, but there’s an outdoor swimming pool in the heart of Covent Garden. Aptly named the Oasis, this 90-foot pool at the Oasis Sports Centre (where you can also play squash, join in some group classes or hit the gym) is open until 9 p.m. year round and offers separate patio areas for adults and for families to relax and enjoy. It’s popular with local office workers, so avoid coming around lunch and after 6 p.m. if you’re in need of a quiet swim.
Photo Courtesy of Maybourne Hotel Group and Shoreditch House