London heat wave: 13 places to cool off

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Lying in your underwear in front of a fan seems like the only plausible activity when the temperature in London is around 30°C. But there are options if you still want to get outside and not subject yourself to heat exhaustion. Outdoor swimming is becoming increasingly popular and new venues are springing up in the capital to meet growing demand. There are also plenty of places to laze on dry land, whether in the shade of an ancient wood, in an air-conditioned dining hall, or on an urban beach with a cocktail in hand.

Main photo: Granary Square, King’s Cross (Getty Images)

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Tooting Bec Lido (Getty Images)

1. Tooting Bec Lido, Tooting

Open since 1906, Tooting Bec Lido is something of a grande dame on the London swimming scene – and it still sets the standard for the capital’s lidos. At 91.5 meters, the freshwater pool is almost twice the length of an Olympic pool and is flanked by changing cabanas painted in bright, cheerful colors. Come here and you will immediately feel like you are on vacation. Out of the water there’s an art deco cafe selling sandwiches, cold drinks and the like – enjoy them spread out on the lido’s grassy picnic area or take them out into the vast expanse of Tooting Common beyond the gates.

2. Granary Square, King’s Cross

If you don’t have kids, you might want to offer to babysit so you have an excuse to join them in the 1,000 gushing fountains in Granary Square. On a sunny day, the site is full of children running and jumping through the dancing water jets. There are restaurants around the square, all with outdoor terraces, and a superb ice cream and sorbet shop, Ruby Violet, a short walk away. If you’re here until August 7, wait for free screenings at the open-air cinema by the canal.

Hampstead Heath Ponds, Hampstead, is one of the best places to cool off during the London heatwave
Hampstead Heath Ponds (Getty Images)

3. Hampstead Heath Ponds, Hampstead

Taking a dip in one of Hampstead’s natural swimming ponds, spending an hour or two swaying with coots and moorhens, might be the most bucolic way to cool off in London. You have the choice between three pools (mixed, female and male), each with its own character. The timeless pleasure you get from gently gliding through the water, with trees around you and the bright blue sky above, is common to all. Note that the ponds are open from 7 a.m. to 8:15 p.m. in summer, and reservations are required between 12 p.m. and 4:45 p.m.

K-West Spa, Shepherd's Bush, is one of the best places to cool off during London's heatwave
The Snow Room at K-West Spa

4. K-West Spa, Shepherd’s Bush

If you’d rather freeze well than just cool off when the mercury rises, you’ll want to check out the K-West Spa in West London. Skip the steam room and sauna and head straight for “Snow Paradise”. Based on the Finnish spa principle of combining hot and cold treatments, the cabin is set to an invigorating temperature of -15°C. As the name suggests, it is also full of snow. This may be the only place in London during a heatwave where you feel the need to warm up.

Middle Dock, Canary Wharf, is one of the best places to cool off during the London heatwave
Swimming at Canary Wharf (Sean Pollock)

5. Central Wharf, Canary Wharf

New for summer 2022, this outdoor swimming spot between commercial buildings in Canary Wharf. Dominated by the iconic One Canada Square tower, part of the Middle Dock is reserved for swimmers until the end of September. Where ships once moored to unload their cargoes of sugar, rum and coffee, there are now 600 square meters of clean Thames water to splash around in. This is a good place for extroverts as you will likely be watched by jealous workers from around. office buildings.

Highgate Wood, Highgate, is one of the best places to cool off during the London heatwave
Highgate Wood (Alamy)

6. Highgate Wood, Highgate

When you need natural air conditioning, there’s no better place to escape than the shady coolness of a forest. Fortunately, London has several within its city limits. Highgate Wood is an idyllic patch of old-growth forest that couldn’t feel less urban. There are 70 acres to explore, with plenty of trails under the branches (and in neighboring Queen’s Wood, just across the road). There’s also a lovely cafe in a former cricket pavilion, with outdoor seating and regular live music on weekends.

Ice skating at Alexandra Palace, Wood Green is one of the best ways to cool off during the London heatwave
Alexandra Palace ice rink (Alamy)

7. Ice skating at Alexandra Palace, Wood Green

Ice skating? In summer? Proving that the activity isn’t just for Christmas, there are several ice rinks in London that stay open all year round. If diving around what is essentially a large freezer sounds like the perfect way to escape the heat, the ice rink at Alexandra Palace welcomes all levels of skaters, from seasoned pros to complete beginners (lessons are available for the latter) . The terrace of the Phoenix Bar, at the other end of the hill on which the palace sits, is a lovely place to watch the sun go down over London with a cold beer.

Fulham Beach Club, Fulham, is one of the best places to cool off during the London heatwave
Fulham Beach Club

8. Fulham Beach Club, Fulham

You might need a few frozen strawberry daiquiris to imagine yourself on the Riviera, given the number of buses passing by, but Fulham Beach Club is the closest to London to recreate the summer vibe of a European seaside resort. . There are lounging areas on the sand (and plenty of covered areas if you need some shade) as well as beach huts and cabanas for rent. Spot found, all you need is to have a good time. There’s a bottomless weekend brunch as well as regular DJ sessions, drag bingo nights, and theme nights. If that sounds too energetic, join yoga classes on the beach every Saturday morning.

Ruislip Beach and Lido, Ruislip, is one of the best places to cool off during the London heatwave
Ruislip Beach (Alamy)

9. Ruislip Beach and Lido, Ruislip

First, the good news: Ruislip Lido beach is the only one accessible by metro. It’s a lovely spot, with views from the sand over a 60-acre lake and the trees beyond. The bad news? For safety reasons, you cannot enter the water. Regardless, it’s a great place to go on a summer day. Once you’ve had your fill of sunbathing (with perhaps an ice cream from the coffee), you can stroll through the forest backing onto the lake. There are plenty of shaded trails through the ancient forest of the Ruislip Woods National Nature Reserve – or take the miniature railway if the walk seems too much for you.

West Reservoir Centre, Hackney, is one of the best places to cool off during the London heatwave
The West Reservoir (Alamy)

10. West Reservoir Centre, Hackney

Mention the West Reservoir to most Londoners and you’ll get a blank stare in response – that a massive 23-acre body of water remains a secret in the city is a blessing to people who know it. Half of the reservoir is devoted to sailing and the other to swimming, with a 400 m loop marked with buoys. It’s a place where you’re expected to keep moving (there’s no lazing about on your back looking at the sky here) but you can take it slow – there’s no waiting at speed. Once dry, relax at the café (with an essential ice cream maker) by the water.

Hyde Park is one of the best places to cool off during London's heatwave
Summer at the Serpentine in Hyde Park (Getty Images)

11. Hyde Park, Central London

With the most trees of any park in London, Hyde Park is the place to go for outdoor lounging in the shade. There are plenty of supermarkets and delis on the streets on either side, if a picnic under the canopy appeals. There’s also a bar and restaurant to retreat to, with outdoor tables and views of Lake Serpentine. If it’s too hot, you can take a dip in the lido section of the lake or dip your feet in the shallow waters of the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain.

12. Oxford Street Market Hall, Soho

If you’re meeting friends but the heat has made everyone too nervous to agree on a venue, Market Halls Oxford Street is here to save you. The food hall includes eight kitchens and two bars in an air-conditioned building. There’s pretty much something for everyone here, from tacos to tagliatelle, sashimi to shish kebabs. Unlike other food markets, table service means you don’t have to move from a seated position to order or collect your food, so the only energy you have to expend is deciding what to order. There are also market halls in Victoria and Canary Wharf.

Broadstairs, Kent, is one of the best places to cool off during the London heatwave
Viking Bay, Broadstairs (Getty Images)

13. Broadstairs, Kent

OK, OK, it’s not London, but it’s not far. Reached in less than 90 minutes from King’s Cross on a good day, Broadstairs offers everything you could want from the Great British Seaside. There’s all the traditional stuff (bucket and spade shops, beach huts, fish and chips) but the town has become much more chic in recent years, with many stylish, independent shops and restaurants popping up in its pretty streets. There are seven sandy beaches within easy reach, including the curve of Viking Bay, right downtown. The family-run Jetty Broadstairs overlooks the sea and is a good place to end the day with seafood or bistro classics.

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