There are many ways to enjoy the water in London. Relax on a lake in a rowing boat; or in summer, take a refreshing dip in one of the city's outdoor swimming pools or London lidos. Find the best places for boating and outdoor swimming in London.
London's Outdoor Swimming and Lidos
Tooting Bec Lido
One of London's best known open-air pools is Tooting Bec Lido. The 90m pool played a starring role in Guy Ritchie's movie Snatch, and is the oldest purpose-built open-air pool in London, and one of the largest in Europe. The lido is open to the public from May until September, with club swimming all year round. There is also a grass area for sunbathers, a paddling area for children and a café to enjoy.
Brockwell Lido has a sunbathing area, cafe and changing facilities. The lido first opened in 1937 and retains many of its original features, including an impressive square clock, art deco lettering and Grade II-listed pavilion buildings. The lido is situated in Brockwell Park, perfect for a post-swim stroll. Brockwell Lido's outdoor pool is open all year-round, along with an indoor hydrotherapy pool, gym, cycling studio and cafe.
Hyde Park: Serpentine Lido
Hyde Park's Serpentine Lido is open on weekends throughout May and seven days a week from 1 June to 12 September. Swimmers can refuel at the Lido Cafe Bar, which has waterside tables. The Serpentine Swimming Club is the oldest swimming club in Britain. Members meet to swim in the lake every morning and take part in races at 8am every Saturday, whatever the weather. The highlight of the club's calendar is the legendary Peter Pan Cup on 25 December. Swimmers have been competing in this traditional Christmas dip since 1864!
Hampstead Heath and Parliament Hill Fields
There are three freshwater bathing pools on Hampstead Heath, some of the most picturesque spots for outdoor swimming in London. These beautiful ponds attract thousands each summer, and even a few brave swimmers throughout winter! There is one pond for mixed bathing and separate ponds for male and female swimmers. Swimmers must be aged eight and over and may be required to take a short swimming test to prove their competence. For younger swimmers or those who don't feel confident enough to tackle the ponds, there is also an unheated lido and paddling pool on nearby Parliament Hill Fields.
London Fields Lido
London Fields Lido is a heated 50-metre outdoor pool. The temperature is maintained at a comfortable 25C (77F) all year round so it's generally open whatever the weather. London Fields Lido first opened in 1932 and was later closed for 18 years up until 2006 when it reopened, rebuilt to modern standards. Now facilities include a sunbathing terrace and cafe. During the London 2012 Games, the American Paralympic swimming team used London Fields Lido as their pre-games training base.
Set in a woodland area on the outskirts of Bushy Park, Hampton Pool is a 36-metre tiled pool, with water maintained to 28C (82F) in summer and winter. For learner swimmers, there's a 12.5-metre shallow pool, as well as a baby and toddler pool where little ones can find their 'water legs' with their parents. There's also a grassed area for visitors to laze in the sun between swims.
Of Soil and Water: Kings Cross Pond Club
Swim in chemical-free water in London's first man-made natural bathing pond, at Kings Cross. Special submerged plants and wetland plants are present to purify and filter the water at Of Soil and Water: Kings Cross Pond Club; while swimming is timed sessions to enable the water to stay fresh. Facilities are kept simple to match the natural elements of the pool but there is a viewing platform for non-swimmers to enjoy.
Boating in London
The Serpentine Lake covers a large part of Hyde Park, and is the focal point for many of the park's activities. Hire a pedalo or rowing boat to relax on the water. Boating on the Serpentine is open from Easter until late October.
The glorious Regent's Park boasts a large boating lake, with a smaller one for children. Boat hire is available daily from April through to September. The rest of the year, it's a lovely spot to walk or cycle. You can see many species of water birds on the lake, including herons nesting on the islands. The children's lake is open weekends, bank holidays and school holidays only.
You can rent boats in Battersea Park during July and August to row or pedal round the lake (and at weekends in September if the weather's good). Look out for herons, grebes and cormorants.