The Best Wild Swimming Spots In London

Cool off in the capital this summer by making a splash at one of London's wild swimming locations

The whole country is longing for some sun to bask in, and working out exactly what their holiday plans are going to look like this summer. If you do end up staying much closer to home this year, then why not have a microadventure in the big city and give wild swimming in London a go.

Despite what you might think, London is actually home to some genuinely great wild swimming spots (or, if you prefer, open water swimming spots). We can’t think of a better way to cool off on a hot day in the city than by going for a swim at one of the locations below

“London is actually home to some genuinely great wild swimming spots”

With countless articles written on the subject, the mental and physical benefits of wild swimming have been the talk of the town in recent years. Combine that with a, not unrelated, cult following for wild swimming on social media and it’s fair to say the activity is “having a moment” right now.

Without further ado, here’s the best places to swim in London.

West Reservoir Centre (Hackney)

First up, we’re heading to a spot in East London. This location is home to 23 acres of water, and comes with an accompanying urban background. If you’re a little bit on the wild side and have a passion for swimming, then you should put the two together and head on down to the West Reservoir Centre in Hackney.

This stretch of water presents you with two open water courses – a 400m loop and a 100m warm-up lane. You can book a 50-minute slot for as little as £10 via the Better UK app.

Over the years, these waters have been home to sailing boats, kayaks, and canoes. When it comes down to it though, you’ll find that it’s open water swimming that’s at the heart of the West Reservoir Centre.

Serpentine Lido (Hyde Park)

A wild swimming in London list would not be complete without a mention of the Serpentine Lido in Hyde Park. It just so happens to have the Serpentine Swimming Club in its waters – the oldest swimming club of its kind in Britain. It’s arguably one of the capital’s most iconic swimming locations, with the surrounding Hyde Park adding extra charm for good measure.

If you don’t want to join the historic swimming club, then the Lido is open to the paying public between 10:00am and 6:00pm on weekends. There is an excellent 100m swimming area, and a children’s paddling pool here for the little ones to enjoy as well. The Serpentine Lido, by the way, is also on our list of the UK’s best wild swimming locations.

London Royal Docks (Newham)

If you went to get a bit Eastenders, take a splash in London’s Royal Docks. It offers up one of London’s most unique and special open water views. Swimming in the city like you’ve probably never done before, the dazzling backdrop of the docklands is a sight to behold when you’re splashing about.

If you wish to go, you can pre-book 60 minutes swimming for £8 via the ACTIO App (it’s £12 for an annual membership fee). At London’s Royal Docks, there are 150m, 400m and 750m loops.  The courses available are dependent upon weather conditions and water temperature, and are determined by the onsite Venue / Duty Manager.

If that all sounds a bit too much like hard work, there’s also a casual dip area. Head here for more information on open water swimming in London’s Royal Docks.

Hampstead Heath Ponds (Hampstead Heath)

Next up, a doggy paddle in the Hampstead Heath Ponds. The 250-year old reservoirs are bound to serve up a great summer swimming memory. Water goers here will have three ponds at their disposal: one for men, one for women, and another for mixed bathing. Each one is shielded by a number of trees for that little bit of privacy and escapism.

From the city centre, these idyllic swimming ponds can be reached in less than an hour by public transport. No booking is required here, and swims cost around £4 for adults. 

Beckenham Place Park Lake (Lewisham)

If you want to get away from London but still be in London, then Beckenham Place Park is the swimming location you’ve been dreaming of. The park’s lake has been in the area since the eighteenth century (it’s a 285-metre stretch of water). Keen wild swimmers need only pay £3 to swim here and if you get there early enough, you can join a team of locals doing their morning lengths.

Tooting Bec Lido (Tooting)

Photo Credit: South London Swimming Club

OK, so for our final wild swimming location on the list we are probably pushing the concept of ‘wild’ swimming to its limits. We’ll admit this one’s definitely more in ‘big outside swimming pool’ territory. Tooting Bec Lido is the largest freshwater swimming pool in the UK.

Having opened in 1906, it’s also one of the oldest swimming pool locations in the UK. This popular place for a splash and a swim can get busy during the summer period. It opens to the public from late May to September, but members of the South London Swimming Club can swim in it all year. 

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