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London’s best outdoor swimming pools and lidos

The time has come to splash in the sun

I

t’s finally hotting up, hurrah! And what better way to celebrate the (belated) arrival of summer than cooling off in one of London’s wonderful lidos.

With lakes, pools and open-water swimming spots dotted in and around the capital, we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to taking a dip.

Here’s our Evening Standard pick of the best...

Open now:

London Royal Docks Open Water Swimming

For a rousing outdoor swim, the Docks are hard to beat. The open-water facility at London Royal Docks is currently running socially distanced, pre-booked sessions. It's offering a variety of swimming experiences, from a dip in the causal area to a 1500m training session. No changing is currently allowed on-site, and you'll also need to wear NOWCA safety wristband, which can be obtained by registering here. Bookings can only be made via the ACTiO app.

27 Western Gateway, E16. Opening times vary. Time slots are released weekly, normally by Sunday evening. loveopenwater.co.uk

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Denham Lake

This lake is primarily used by the Denham Waterski Club, although a portion of the water is cordoned off for swimmers. Again, strict rules are in place, and capacity has been significantly limited. Open seven days a week, swimmers must check in at 8.30am to swim from 8.45am to 9.45am. Bookings are released at 8.30am the day before. From the May bank holiday onwards, check in at 7pm on weekday evenings to enjoy a swim from 7.15pm until 8.15pm. Bookings are released at 7pm the day before.

All bookings must be made through the ACTiO app and all swimmers need to be members of NOWCA.

Various times, N Orbital Road, Uxbridge, UB9, denhamwaterski.com

Parliament Hill

This 60m unheated pool on Hampstead Heath has the distinction of being the only outdoor pool in the UK with a stainless steel liner, which gives the water an unusual and – in the right light – a faintly glamorous metallic shimmer. From now until April 30, there is no advance booking required however, when facilities are full there is a one-in, one-out queuing system in place.

Gordon House Road, NW5. Open daily. From May 1 the Lido will open from 10.30am-5.30pm for pre-booked sessions and 7-10am and 6-8.30pm for free flow (excluding Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday evenings),parliamenthilllido.org

Charlton

A fully heated 50m pool is the highlight of Charlton Lido, which is in tip-top condition thanks to a £2m refurbishment in 2013. There are eight tennis courts close by, so check whether they are open before you arrive if you intend on using them. Swimming sessions last for an hour.

Hornfair Park, Shooters Hill Road, SE18, 6.30am-8.30am on Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm on Saturday and Sunday, better.org.uk

Stoke Newington West Reservoir

One for the hardy types. It's not heated, and there are no lanes or any of that, but there's a tremendous sense of freedom swimming in the open water here. Organisers are strongly urging that only experienced open-water swimmers attend currently, and attendees must book their one-hour time slot in advance. You must arrive ready to swim, too, as the changing rooms are closed.

Green Lanes, N4, 7am-7.30pm Monday to Friday, 8am-4pm on Saturday, 8am-11am on Sunday, better.org.uk

Brockwell Lido

Brockwell Lido has long been one of the most popular spots in south London. Sessions, which allow for 50 minutes of swimming, must be booked in advance via the Fusion Lifestyle app. The pool has been divided up into extra wide lanes and, as with the Stoke Newington resevoir, you must arrive with your swim costume already on, as the changing rooms are closed.

Dulwich Road, SE24. Open daily from 7am-6pm with last entry at 5.10pm, fusion-lifestyle.com

Oasis Sports Centre

Found in the West End, this pool is a great choice for anyone closer to the city centre. It's outdoor pool is currently open, and bookings must be made using the Better UK app in advance. Sessions last for an hour, with lane swimming only and the pool only available to adults over 16 during weekdays. General swim session for all ages and abilities is between 10am-1pm on weekends.

32 Endell St, WC2H, 7am-9pm on Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm on Saturday and Sunday, better.org.uk

Hampstead Heath Ponds

A cordoned off jetty at the Hampstead Heath ponds

The swimming ponds are the highlight of Hampstead Heath. Apart from the Parliament Hill Lido, there are three ponds: one for men, elevated on a hillock; one for women, veiled by oak trees in a corner of the heath, and a mixed pond. There is curently a mixture of free-flow sessions (no booking required) and bookable sessions at all three. The pools are no longer free, either, with a charge of £4 for a one-hour session.

Gordon House Road, NW5. Kenwood Ladies' Pond, Highgate Men's Pond, and Hampstead mixed pond are open 7-10.30am and 5-8.30pm for freeflow (last entries at 8pm) and 11am-4.30pm for pre-booked sessions, cityoflondon.gov.uk

London Fields Lido

Call it "bracing" if you like, but swimming outdoors is chilly. Not here though: the London Fields Lido is, gloriously, a heated open-air pool – so no excuses. The lido was recently restored, too. Sessions will need to be booked online beforehand, and swimmers must turn up ready to swim.

London Fields, West Side, E8, open daily from 6.30am-9pm, better.org.uk

The Serpentine

The Serpentine Lido, slap bang in the middle of London's most famous green space, Hyde Park, is only open to members. Sadly, if you're not a member, you won't be able to join for now, as the Serpentine Swimming Club has currently suspended applications.

Hyde Park, W2, open daily from 5am-9.30am, royalparks.org.uk

Hillingdon Sport and Leisure Complex

Formerly known as the Uxbridge Lido, this is a rather beautiful spot, in all its 1930s, Grade II-listed glory. Slots must be booked in advance using the Better UK app.

Gatting Way, Uxbridge, UB8, 7am-11am from Monday to Friday, 8am-noon on Saturday and Sunday, better.org.uk

Hampton Pool

Despite perhaps not being as well known as some others on this list, Hampton is well worth a trip. It has now reopened its main pool (lane swimming and family swim sessions only) and the learner pool for families with small children. Bookings must be made in advance on the Hampton Pool app. Swim sessions are released six days in advance at 8am each morning, and family swim sessions on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays are also bookable six days in advance.

High St, Hampton, TW12, from 5.45am each day, hamptonpool.co.uk

Pools on the Park

There are two pools here, but only one outdoors. Unsurprisingly, the outside one is chillier, but is kept at a clement 24C, and is the larger of the two. The Outdoor Pool at Pools on the Park is now open for pre-booked lane swimming only. Bookings can be made 7 days in advance through the LBRUT Sports App. Sessions are an hour long and changing facilities are closed.

Richmond Park, Twickenham Rd, TW9 2SF, open daily from 8.15am, richmond.gov.uk

Tooting Bec

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At a smidge over 90m long, Tooting Bec is the largest freshwater open-air pool in the whole of England. Social distancing measures and a one-way system are now in place, and swims at the unheated lido can be booked 14 days in advance.

Tooting Bec Road, SW16. Open daily from 6am-8pm, placesforpeopleleisure.org