It's blazing hot and humid in New York and all I can think about is swimming, which is not too easy to swing for we urban dwellers. New York City has its share of public pools, but as I recently (and audibly) yearned for a swimming hold that was not bobbing with one-fifth of the population, my British friend took the opportunity to tell me about London "lidos."

In her native London, you see, when the rains holds off and the sun is hot, Londoners flock to the public pools, called "lidos." These public spaces are far more sprawling than NYC pools, more of a summer's day destination outfitted with cafes and adjoining parks sand pits for your kids to play in.

In my research, I found they were all over the city. Hot from shopping in Covent Garden? Drop by the Oasis Lido for a dip (below, from 1957).

Historically, lidos have also been known for their social scenes (open 'til 9 p.m. in some cases). So, when in London in the summer, why not pack your swimwear? If the water doesn't fall from above, try submerging with the London locals for some sophisticated swimming.

Some lidos in London proper:

  • 1. Serpentine Lido in Hyde Park (above, top, from 1959)
  • 2. Oasis Lido in Covent Garden (above, bottom, from 1957)
  • 3. Parliament Hill Lido
  • 4. Tooting Bec Lido
  • 5. more

Lily Becker is an assistant photo editor at Travel + Leisure.