Swimming is one of the best sports in the world for staying fit and healthy. There is minimal risk of injury in the water and it gives your lungs a great workout. As long as you don’t swallow the water, of course!
From those looking to be the next Michael Phelps to others just looking for some warm water to bathe in, London has it all. Regular swimming improves your mental health while also boosting your overall fitness level.
London is a bustling city but taking time out to get in the water can make it feel more tranquil and peaceful. But where are the best places to swim in London? We have taken a deep dive, pun intended, into London’s best swimming pools, lidos and baths to bring you the very best.
Anyone looking for outdoor swimming but also the chance to catch up with friends will enjoy Brockwell Lido. This 50-metre outdoor pool is wonderfully set against the backdrop of its surrounding Grade II Art Deco buildings. Those buildings house the all-important Lido Cafe which is perfect for a post-swim brew.
“Regular swimming can reduce the risk of chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke”, suggests the NHS. However, if you’re not feeling like taking a dip but you want a workout then you can still enjoy the beautiful pool from the exercise studio that offers yoga and pilates.
For just £8, you can enjoy a 50-minute session in the water, which feels like great value for money. Brockwell Lido doesn’t focus solely on swimming and sports, it also hosts a range of events from film nights to furniture fairs.
Many years ago, bathhouses were all the rage as people often didn’t have washing facilities at home. Their popularity waned with the bathtub entering our homes, plus sanitation wasn’t always a priority for bathhouses of the past. In truth, they were disease and parasite spreading factories.
However, they have experienced a resurgence in recent years and many former baths and spas around London have been spruced up and restored. Thanks largely to improved sanitation methods.
Our pick of the bunch is Porchester Spa, one of London’s finest Turkish baths. The 1920s were an exciting time in London and this wonderful Art Deco building offers plenty of the ostentatious design features you might expect from the time. There are tiles as far as the eye can see and guests are welcomed by a statue of a goddess which adds to the sense of luxury.
Visitors to the spa have their choice of bathing options, from swimming in a regular pool to steam rooms, Turkish hot rooms and plunge pools. Porchester Spa operates men and women-only days throughout the week with mixed bathing occurring only on Sundays.
York Hall Leisure Centre
London is a diverse city and it offers a wide range of activities for its citizens and tourists. Anyone looking to take a dip and follow it up with a relaxing visit to a spa or Turkish bath can enjoy that and more at the York Hall Leisure Centre.
For starters, there is an eight-lane, 33-metre main pool and a smaller, 12-metre training pool for those not confident swimming in lanes. The leisure centre puts on classes for all swimming abilities and fitness levels, so there is no pressure to be an Olympic athlete from your first session.
Swimming and exercising in water are great for anyone recovering from an injury or looking to improve their fitness. When you are in the water much of your body weight is supported, helping you avoid accidental fast or jerking movements.
Once you have finished your swim you can relax and unwind in the Spa Experience, with its steam rooms, Turkish hammam and plunge pools for cooling off.
Parliament Hill Lido
Location, location, location has always been important and it’s also true for London swimming pools. Parliament Hill Lido is tucked away in the corner of Hampstead Heath and it offers wonderful views of the city’s skyline.
The basic layout of the Parliament Hill Lido hasn’t changed since 1938 and it was Grade II listed in 1999. It’s a wonderful place to visit just for the vintage vibes alone. Post swim, you can take a gentle stroll up Parliament Hill and take in the wonders of London. Go on, you’ve earned it!
You’ll certainly have earned some rest and recuperation as this lido is unheated so it’s best to stay moving while in the water. For a fresh swim, however, it’s hard to beat Parliament Hill Lido, especially for just £4 per swimming session.
Swimming in the Thames
It might not be the first place that springs to mind for swimming in London but there are a few spots where plunging into the Thames is encouraged. Wild swimming allows people to push their skills to the limits as they battle against the elements of the open water.
The Port Authority of London recommends that swimmers only enter the Thames between Putney Bridge and Teddington. Which means there is plenty of open water to choose from.
Swimming in the Thames was popular during the Victorian era but in 1957 it was declared too dangerous to swim in. However, great improvements in sewage maintenance and efforts made to clean up the Thames make it possible for swimming.
London’s river is considered one of the cleanest rivers in the world, despite the fact it can look murky and brown most of the time. Join in with one of London’s growing activities by finding your own stretch of the Thames and taking a dip.
There are several reasons why swimming in the rest of the Thames isn’t recommended, with the first being how busy it is. The tidal Thames is a bustling river with fast-flowing water that could sweep swimmers away in an instant.
The biggest dangers to swimmers are the powerful tides that can overwhelm even the strongest swimmers. Eddies and undertows will also exhaust swimmers as they struggle to stay afloat.
The Thames is incredibly cold and the shock of it, especially in busy water, can be debilitating. Finally, raw sewage is a real problem in the Thames as the city’s antiquated drainage often overflows and spills into the river.
Beckenham Place Park Swimming Lake
If setting off into the depths of the Thames fills you with dread but you do want a more natural swimming location, Beckenham Place Park is perfect. Open water swimming is one of the fastest-growing sports in the UK and Londoners have a new outdoor facility to check out. Or rather, it’s an old facility that has recently been restored.
Beckenham Place manor once had a filled lagoon in the 1800s but it had been drained many years ago. Now it is filled once more and the open water community is thriving.
Swimming is one of the most effective ways to burn calories: 30 minutes exercising in the water is worth 45 minutes of the same activity on land. So it’s easy to see why so many are jumping into the water and keeping fit.
Besides swimming, there are a variety of paddle sports and group activities to mix things up with. For trying something new in the water in London, there are few better places than Beckenham Place Park Swimming Lake.