Fancy a dip? We’re not surprised. London in summer has all the mugginess of a tropical island, without the cooling sea breeze and aquamarine ocean views to make it bearable. Plus: if you’re not one of the lucky chaps heading off on holiday this summer, a swim in a London pool might be as close to the Mediterranean as you’re going to get.
As it happens, though, London’s pools have a great deal to offer; and you may even catch yourself thinking, ‘Who needs the French Riviera, anyway?’ as you tally up your lengths. There are some real chlorinated gems in our treasured capital, not to mention the wild swimming options — and when you’re happily ensconced, cocktail in hand, in a rooftop pool, you may find yourself thinking that London in summer isn’t all that bad. On the contrary: it’s pretty good.
To swim like an Olympian: London Aquatics Centre
If you’re feeling the Olympic fervour, you’ll want to head on over to the London Aquatics Centre for your morning swim (or, indeed, your morning dive). We have no doubt that you, like the rest of the nation, are still celebrating Tom Daley’s gold (for the men’s synchronised 10m platform event, together with Matty Lee); and the Aquatics Centre will make any gent feel like an Olympic champion of Daley-esque proportions.
It was one of the main venues of the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, where it was home to swimming, diving and synchronised swimming. Following the Games, it underwent a major transformation and opened to the public in 2014. Benefit from its two 50m Olympic-sized pools, a 25m diving pool with boards and platforms reaching 10m, together with a dry diving zone — and imagine those crowds cheering as you smash your personal record.
London Aquatics Centre
To go back in time: Shoreditch House
It wouldn’t be the first time we’ve waxed lyrical about Soho House and its myriad swimming pool offerings: but the rooftop pool belonging to the indubitably cool Shoreditch House truly is a sight to behold, not least because of its timeless decor.
Those red and white striped loungers, together with the tasselled parasols, are inspired by the 1920s; so Shoreditch House is perfect for anyone looking to escape the hustle and bustle of our overly-digitalised age. Needless to say, you’d have to finally lock down that Soho House membership — or, at the very least, loudly deplore your longing for a swim to someone who already has. The ‘plus one’ life can be quite the thing.
To give yourself a challenge: Brockwell Lido
Its history dates back to 1891; but the challenge doesn’t come in the form of a history exam. It’s a little more physically taxing: at 50m, these lengths are not for the fainthearted (though we can guarantee you’ll get extremely fit if you visit Brockwell Lido regularly).
Plus, it’s unheated; so you’ll want to prepare for a real shock to the system when you first dive in. We all know the benefits of cold water swimming by now, though, so we’d certainly recommend it; and there’s even an outdoor sauna during the winter, to offset some of the subsequent chilliness. There’s a cafe, too — with artisan pizzas and seating overlooking the pool, it’s just the place to warm up after your Olympic-esque swim.
To swim in the city centre: The Langham
‘Just going for a swim in Central London’ feels like a bit of an oxymoron, doesn’t it? The bustling, crowded pavements of Regent Street don’t indicate that a refreshing summer swim is just around the corner; but lo and behold, The Langham hotel can deliver all the aqua goods — and more.
If you haven’t already frequented this five-star luxury hotel, the pool will be a pretty good introduction: this is a pool with the last word in breathtaking aesthetics. It clocks in at 16 metres, so is better suited to a relaxed dip than a series of pounding lengths; and it’s the perfect underground haven for anyone looking to escape the hectic nature of city life for an hour or two.
To take in breathtaking views: White City House
We’re not averse to a rooftop pool — and neither, we assume, are you — and White City House really does offer up the king of rooftop pools. Taking up residence at the former BBC headquarters, the pool itself is a joy to behold, with its bright, colourful aesthetic: but it’s the views that’ll keep you talking about it long after you’ve dried off.
Once again, you’ll need to either get that Soho House membership done and dusted once and for all, or buddy up with someone far more organised than you: no matter how you get there, though, you’ll probably forget to swim altogether due to the overwhelming temptation to take panoramic photo after panoramic photo from the rooftop’s edge.
White City House
To learn what the wild swimming hype is all about: Hampstead Ponds
‘Wild swimming’ has become a health-oriented zeitgeist phenomenon that looks set to entrench itself among the stalwarts of mindfulness, meditation and yoga — such are its apparent benefits to both mental and physical health. We can well believe it; but if you need a little more convincing, we’d recommend hightailing it to Hampstead Ponds.
The Hampstead Ponds continue to maintain their status as one of the most idyllic swimming spots in London. Blissfully natural, swimmers are surrounded by lush greenery and no stranger to the odd duck or two — and as wild swimming goes, this is as gloriously wild as it gets. Take your pick of the Mens’ Pond on the Highgate side of the Heath, or the Mixed Pond on the Hampstead side (strong swimmers only) — either way, give it a try. You won’t regret it: and if you’re lucky, you’ll become one of those chaps talking everyone’s ear off about the benefits of wild swimming at the next dinner party. That just means you’ve done it right.
To wash all your cares away: The Carlton Tower Jumeirah
We’ve sung the praises of The Carlton Tower previously — in fact, we earmarked it as one of the most exciting hotels opening in London this year — and we’d say it’s worth booking a stay just for the pool alone. You’re overdue some rest and relaxation, after all; and your cares will miraculously eviscerate from your shoulders the moment you step within the pool’s vicinity.
The pool is housed within The Peak Fitness Club & Spa (the views here aren’t too bad either, as you may have gathered from the name); and if there’s a better place to unwind in the whole of London, we’ll eat our swimming hats. There’s the sheer amount of natural light, for one; not to mention the neighbouring spa facilities and the fitness club with its panoramic views. By the time you leave, you’ll wonder what you could even have been stressed about in the first place.
The Carlton Tower Jumeirah
To immerse yourself in luxury: The Landmark London
It’s a Grande Dame hotel rife with quintessential London charm: and it oozes luxury at every turn. Taking up residence in Marylebone, it provides a haven of tranquillity with just the right amount of decadence: and the pool is no exception to the bountiful luxury threaded through every inch of this world-famous, five-star establishment.
Housed in The Spa, the 15 metre indoor swimming pool (just the thing for days dominated by torrential rain) is chlorine-free, for a start; so you won’t need to worry about that clinging, chlorinated smell that always tends to linger, no matter how many spa products you avail yourself of in the shower. And with a jacuzzi, sanarium and state-of-the-art gym, this is a pool that knows how to do luxury.
The Landmark London
To swim in style: Mondrian Shoreditch
A (very) recent addition to London’s hotel scene, Mondrian Shoreditch is the epitome of chic, sophisticated style; and nowhere is that more evident than its rooftop pool. We didn’t think it was possible for a pool to give off a laid back, effortlessly cool aura; but such is the power of the talented folk over at Mondrian.
Stunning views of East London extend as far as the eye can see, and the rooftop that oozes nonchalant luxury from the sleek wooden floorboards to the gracefully positioned twinkling lights. The space, aptly christened ‘Altitude’, is reserved for members of The Curtain — a private members’ club you’ll most certainly want to be in, if you’re not already — although hotel guests will have access to the space for breakfast. Get that membership in order: just imagine soaking up the sunset from that pool. That’s what we call swimming in style.
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