Londoners have enjoyed outdoor swimming for more than 400 years—first in the Thames and then in the 1930s (considered the "Golden Age of Lidos"), more than 169 outdoor pools sprung up across London. Fast forward—lots of ebbing and flowing—and about 17 public Lidos remain in London; still, there are some exciting new outdoor pools, including some very luxurious options at hotels. Hers are our picks for the best outdoor dips.
The Berkeley: This glam rooftop pool in Knightsbridge has just the right mix of serenity and energy, limited to use by hotel and spa guests only, it rarely gets crowded but they keep it fun with different activities. What do we love? Poolside yoga on Friday and Saturday mornings. With sweeping views of Hyde Park, it is hard to imagine anyplace better for a swim and salutation.
The Curtain: A trendy newcomer to East London by the owners of NYC’s Gansevoort Hotels opened to much fanfare last summer, The Curtain has a retractable glass roof and a Moroccan-inspired pool, giving off a Mediterranean vibe. But the pool really is stage-setting for LIDO, a year-round dining destination, a day-to-night brasserie which serves up fresh, seasonal fare with tasty cocktails and big sky views. LIDO is only open to hotel guests and Curtain members.
Shoreditch House: Part of the uber-trendy Soho House group, Shoreditch House boasts a 50-foot rooftop pool surrounded by candy cane striped chairs and daybeds, umbrellas and red blankets. Tip: The pool is fully heated and open all year round until 10 p.m. There are changing rooms on the rooftop and, equally (if not, more) important, a bar. It's for Soho House members' and hotel guests' use only; kids can swim until noon.
Serpentine, Hyde Park: Home to the oldest swimming club in the UK, with the first recorded race here in 1864, it’s as clean and crisp as any natural lake swimming experience you’ll find, and the closest to the Queen and Kinghtsbridge. The Serpentine is open seven days a week from June to early September. Alongside the Serpentine Lido is the Lido Cafe Bar, which has waterside tables and is an ideal place to enjoy a snack, meal or a glass of wine (or two).
Parliament Hill Lido/Hampstead Ponds: For those looking for the true Lido experience, head to Parliament Hill where the 169-by-88-foot uncovered (and unheated) swimming pool is not for the faint of heart! Not far away in Hampstead Heath are three different ponds for swimming: one for men, one for women and one mixed—these are the UK's only lifeguarded open-water swimming facilities open to the public every day of the year. Nestled in one of London’s most glorious parks, swims can be combined with a long walk and a cosy pub lunch at the nearby historic Holly Bush, often rated one of London’s best pubs.