What are the best lakes in London? Our staff picks!

Think London is nothing but double-decker buses, grumpy commuters, and endless grey buildings? Well, surprise! Tucked away within this metropolis are picturesque lakes that are perfect for a dose of nature therapy. 

So, let’s ditch the crowds of Oxford Street and trade the Tube for a leisurely afternoon by the water. After all, sometimes the best way to explore a city is to escape the familiar hustle and see the best lakes in London. 

The Serpentine 

Media credit to mahsa_rafiei

Location: Hyde Park, London, United Kingdom

We recommend you: Rent a pedal boat or rowboat

Designed in the 1730s by Queen Caroline, The Serpentine isn’t just a visually appealing lake in Hyde Park. Its historical roots run deep, having hosted significant events like the 1814 celebration of Hanoverian rule and the swimming events of the 2012 London Olympics.

Spanning 40 acres, this is a fairly large lake with a number of regulars. These include resident swans and ducks, as well as the Serpentine Lido’s historic swimming club (established in 1864). 

And of course, many people come here for a quintessential London experience: gliding across the water in a rowboat or taking a leisurely pedal boat tour.

South Norwood Lake 

Media credit to ghenetactually

Location: Woodvale Avenue, London SE25 4AN, United Kingdom

We recommend you: Sail or fish

With 28 acres of water, this is the largest lake in Croydon and a hub for the Croydon Sailing Club. If fishing is more your style, the lake offers dedicated spots for anglers, making it a year-round destination. 

Beyond the water, South Norwood Lake boasts tennis courts, a cricket pitch, a bowling green, and even a fitness trail. Plus, families will appreciate the children’s playground and the park’s biodiversity. Not all children might like the bats once it starts getting dark, though.

Hampstead Heath Swimming Ponds

Media from hampsteadponds

Location: Hampstead Heath, London, United Kingdom

We recommend you: As the name says, swim!

The Hampstead Heath Swimming Ponds hold a special place in London’s heart. Steeped in history, they weren’t created for leisurely dips.

No, these ponds began life as 17th and 18th-century reservoirs! Yet today, they’re an escape if you’re seeking a natural thrill within this bustling city.

What makes them special? Variety and accessibility. The Men’s and Ladies’ Ponds offer year-round, single-sex swimming in a tranquil setting. Meanwhile, the Mixed Pond caters to all swimmers, turning into an exclusive winter swimming club for a dash of refreshing challenge.  

And don’t worry, these aren’t completely wild – lifeguards ensure safety, while changing rooms and showers bring a touch of practicality to the experience.

St James’s Park Lake

Media credit to rees_eyes

Location: Westminster, Central London, United Kingdom

We recommend you: Watch the pelicans

Nestled between the grandeur of Buckingham Palace and the bustle of Whitehall, St. James’s Park Lake offers a unique blend of tranquillity and royal splendour. As the oldest of London’s Royal Parks, it provides a glimpse into centuries of British tradition.

In the lake, you’ll find the park’s most iconic residents – the pelicans! These charismatic birds have been part of the park since a gift from a Russian ambassador in 1664. You can watch them as they glide across the water alongside ducks and geese!

Alexandra Palace Boating Lake

Media credit to liviustop

Location: Alexandra Palace, London N22 7AY, United Kingdom

We recommend you: Rent a pedal boat

Within the vibrant greenery of Alexandra Park, the Boating Lake offers a charming escape from the urban whirlwind. The allure of this lake lies in its relaxed pace and delightful range of boats. 

With a variety of boats available, including charming pedalos and classic rowing boats, going here makes it a fun outing for families, couples, or if you’re just looking to enjoy a serene escape from the city’s hustle.

After your time on the water, the adjacent Lakeside Café provides refreshments and snacks with a scenic backdrop. By the way, you can check out some of the best cafes in London here!

Regent’s Park Boating Lake

Media credit to chiararoes_

Location: Regent’s Park, London, United Kingdom

We recommend you: Hire a rowboat 

Amidst the lush beauty of Regent’s Park, the Boating Lake is a haven for tranquillity and playful outings. Surrounded by vibrant greenery and curious wildlife (keep an eye out for those herons and squirrels!), it’s a delightful escape for families and anyone seeking a break.

The beauty of Regent’s Park Boating Lake lies in its blend of serenity and subtle excitement. You can stroll along lakeside paths and admire the burst of colours in Queen Mary’s Gardens during the rose season when you need a bit of a break. 

Crystal Palace Park Lake

Media from crystalpalace.park

Location: Crystal Palace Park, London SE20 8DT, United Kingdom

We recommend you: Try RC boating

Born from the visionary 1851 Great Exhibition, the lake and its surrounding park have always been designed for enjoyment.  Picture relaxing on the serene waters and enjoying the scenic views while perhaps taking a leisurely boat ride (offered during warmer months).

Stroll along the lake’s edge, by the way, and you’ll encounter the iconic Victorian dinosaur sculptures – endearingly outdated, but a fascinating glimpse into the past and a quirky photo opportunity.  

Walthamstow Wetlands

Media from walthamstowwetlands

Location: 2 Forest Road, Walthamstow, London N17 9NH, United Kingdom

We recommend you: Explore the walking paths

Walthamstow Wetlands isn’t your typical London lake. It’s a sprawling 211-hectare oasis, Europe’s largest urban wetland, offering a refreshing escape from the city buzz without venturing far.

This Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) is a haven for wildlife. Keep your eyes peeled for grey herons, tufted ducks, or even the occasional peregrine falcon soaring through the skies.

Victoria Park’s West Boating Lake

Media from visitlondon

Location: Grove Road, Bow, London E3 5SN, United Kingdom

We recommend you: Rent a pedalboat

Victoria Park’s West Boating Lake has been a cornerstone of East London life for centuries.  Sunlight dapples the water, swans glide gracefully, and the iconic Chinese Pagoda stands proudly on its central island – a scene that exudes both timeless charm and a playful London spirit.

The park itself was commissioned by Queen Victoria way back in 1845,  lending any boat trip a touch of historical charm. The lake is just the beginning too! Venture into Victoria Park’s sprawling grounds to discover hidden paths and the vibrant energy of the Sunday market.  

You can end your perfect day with a delicious meal at the Pavilion Cafe to enjoy views as captivating as your food.  

Beech Hill Lake

Media from mylittlevictorianhome

Location: Barnet, London, United Kingdom

We recommend you: Bird-watch

Beech Hill Lake is like your adventurous friend with a surprisingly soft side. Think less about manicured lawns and polite swans, and more about woodland trails, eager fish, and a chance to escape the city without feeling isolated.

This lake didn’t just appear yesterday. It was created back in the 1880s as an estate lake, adding a dash of historical intrigue to your visit. 

But Beech Hill Lake’s true charm lies in its versatility. Casting a line is an obvious choice – the lake’s full of various fish thanks to careful restoration. Yet, even if you’re more into boots than bait, there are plenty of woodland paths to explore.

Beckenham Place Park Lake 

Media from beckenhamplacepark

Location: Beckenham Hill Road, Beckenham, BR3 1SY, United Kingdom

We recommend you: Swim or boat

Opened in 2019, Beckenham Place Park Lake is all clean water, clear lanes, and lifeguards keeping watch, which makes it perfect for those who crave a safe, open-water swimming experience.

This 285-meter-long beauty is a portal to the past too. The park itself underwent a massive renovation, bringing back to life a historic Georgian lake that had been lost for decades. Talk about swimming through time!

Battersea Park Lake 

Media from batterseaparklondon

Location: Battersea Park, London SW11 4NJ, United Kingdom

We recommend you: Rent a rowboat

Nestled within the vibrant Battersea Park, the lake is a delightful blend of history and playful recreation. It’s more than just a pretty spot for a stroll – think of it as a hub of activity tucked within a green oasis on the Thames.

Battersea Park itself is a London treasure trove. The lake, born from grand Victorian ambition, adds a dash of timeless charm to the park’s modern energy.  This isn’t just about admiring the views (although those are lovely!).

But hold on – there’s more to Battersea Park than meets the eye. Tennis players, runners, and those seeking a tranquil escape amidst the city hum will all find their niche. 

Burgess Park Lake 

Media from burgessparkrun

Location: Burgess Park, Albany Road, London, SE5 7QH, United Kingdom

We recommend you: Stroll around the lake

Burgess Park Lake offers a surprisingly delightful blend of serenity and urban buzz. Nestled in the heart of one of Southwark’s largest parks, it’s a haven where anglers can cast their lines against a backdrop of the London skyline. 

But the lake itself is just the beginning. Burgess Park unfolds around it like a treasure chest of unexpected delights. Tennis courts, a cricket pitch, a thrilling BMX track, and even an outdoor gym. 

There’s history hidden in this green oasis too. The park was born from the transformation of post-war industrial land into a vibrant haven for the community. 

Hollow Ponds

Media from marcohackney

Location: Epping Forest, Whipps Cross Road, E11 1NW, United Kingdom

We recommend you: Fish from a boat

Hollow Ponds offers something rare and precious: a vast expanse of open sky. It’s the breathing room your city-weary soul craves. This former series of gravel pits has been transformed into a serene lake surrounded by the ancient beauty of Leyton Flats. 

While you soak up the natural vibes here, remember, there’s history here too. Hollow Ponds was born from industry in the late 19th century and dug for gravel to build local roads. This adds a layer of local grit and ingenuity to the peaceful scene.

Hollow Ponds might not be the fanciest lake in London, but sometimes the best escapes are the ones that offer space to breathe, a touch of activity, and a reminder of the city’s past.

Best Things to Do in Central London

Previous Post

What are the best things to do in Central London? Here are the unmissable spots!

Next Post

Street savvy: Do you need a car in London? Things you need to consider

Do You Need a Car in London