Outdoor pool at Thames Lido

Thames Lido review

Just a note to say this Thames Lido review has been updated in October 2022, following my most recent visit.

The Thames Lido opened its doors to the public in 2017 after three years of renovation. It had previously been closed for more than 40 years. However, one of the things I love most about it is how many of the Grade II listed building’s original features have been preserved. 

From the moment you step through the doors into the bright and airy rooms, which overlook the outdoor swimming pool, it feels like a secret little oasis away from the busy town centre of Reading.

I’ve visited the Thames Lido many times over the years, with family, friends and on solo spa days when I’ve just needed a little ‘me time’.

Something that is very special about the Lido is that it has such a familiar feel, that after just one visit you feel at home there. Read my Thames Lido review to find out about its swimming, restaurant and spa facilities. 

Thames Lido's bar
I love all of the little details at the Thames Lido, like this “Deep End” sign above the bar

Swimming at The Thames Lido

Swimming at The Thames Lido is a very special experience. Studies have shown that outdoor swimming is beneficial not only for your physical health, but also your mental health and Reading is very lucky to have such a great pool. While there is currently a wait list for membership, guests are welcome to use the pool on a pay-as-you-go basis.

I personally think that one of the best bits about the outdoor pool is that while it is surrounded by the building itself on all sides, swimmers who look up see only the sky and the nearby trees. This means that every visit gives you a different view. My favourite time of year to visit is early autumn, when the leaves are starting to change colour and the odd one will occasionally swirl down into the pool, as though it’s somehow being stage-managed to enhance your experience.

The pool itself is 24.68m long and usually hovers at around 26C. This means it is a nice temperature to swim, even on a chilly day. Another plus point for swimmers is that chlorine levels are kept as low as possible. This means that you don’t leave the pool with that heavy feeling and smell of chlorine on your skin. (All swimmers are asked to ‘wash naked’ before entering the pool to ensure that it remains as clean as possible.)

Once you’ve had your swim you can hop into the outdoor hottub, which is around 37.5C and is a lovely contrast to the pool.

Thames Lido has also recently opened new sauna and steam room facilities, which are much bigger than previously. They really add to the relaxation element of the experience. 

There is also a cold splash bucket if being dunked is your thing and loungers to relax on.

The whole vibe of the swimming pool is very relaxed and I’ve always felt very comfortable there, both when visiting with friends or on solo visits.

A two-hour swim session costs £25. Slots are available seven days a week, from 10am to 3pm.

Eating at The Thames Lido restaurant

No Thames Lido review would be complete without mentioning its restaurant. Eating at the The Thames Lido restaurant is always a lovely, easy-going experience. It’s the place I take friends when I want a meal that feels a bit fancy, but is also relaxed. The menu changes regularly and always has a good selection of dishes. It offers options suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

The restaurant markets itself as “unpretentious dining with a strong Spanish and Mediterranean feel”. Its menu is seasonal, which I enjoy as it means there is something new to try when you visit.

The food is always fresh and delicious and I enjoy some of the more unusual combinations the chefs pair together. I have actually never had a bad meal at the Lido.

The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. As well as the a la carte menu, it also offers a poolside bar menu of small tapas-style dishes. 

On one visit I opted for roasted Iberico ham and celeriac remoulade for starters, slow roasted pork belly with lentils, carrots and quince alioli for my main course and Picos blue cheese, walnuts and raisins for dessert. Each course was beautifully presented and perfectly portioned.

Starter at Thames Lido, Reading
Starter: Roasted Iberico ham, with celeriac remoulade
Main course at Thames Lido, Reading
Main course: Slow roasted pork belly, lentils, carrots and quince alioli
Dessert at Thames Lido, Reading
Dessert: Picos blue cheese, walnuts and raisins

The staff are attentive and the whole atmosphere is very relaxed. Time seems to slow down when you’re eating at the Thames Lido. There’s something quite mesmerising about watching people swimming lengths outside.

The restaurant also offers swim packages. A swim plus breakfast is £40 and a swim with lunch or dinner is £50. (It’s worth noting that towel and robe hire is £3 and £5 respectively. Plus, a 12.5% service charge will be added to your food bill.)

Thames Lido's dining room
The relaxed dining room at Thames Lido

Visiting The Thames Lido spa

The Thames Lido spa is my favourite place to go in Reading when I need a bit of rest and relaxation. While it may not happen as often as I’d like, one morning here can set me up for the month. I usually request vouchers for my birthday/Christmas. It’s a great gift option if you’re looking for something a little bit special for someone.

The treatment rooms are upstairs overlooking the pool. This means you can hear the sound of water and people swimming as you have your treatment. This is something I personally really like, as I find water very relaxing. However, it may not be your cup of tea if you prefer total silence.

A treatment room at the Thames Lido

Treatments on offer include a classic massage, foot massage and hot stone massage. Plus, there are options for a facial, a full body exfoliation and a back, neck and shoulder massage with a facial.

During my pregnancies I also enjoyed the pregnancy back and leg massage.

The therapists are always extremely friendly and accommodating, asking about any focus areas you would like to be worked on. 

My favourite treatment is the hot stone massage, as I find it incredibly soothing. I also love spending time in the small relaxation room afterwards. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a cup of herbal tea and read a magazine, before its time to rejoin the real world!

Treatments at the Thames Lido are £75. There is also a swim and massage package for £55, with a swim at 7am and massage at 8.45am. It’s also worth keeping an eye on their Facebook page, as they sometimes run treatment offers. 

Floor-to-ceiling doors at Thames Lido, Reading
The floor-to-ceiling doors can be opened in summer

Is the Thames Lido child-friendly?

Whenever I read a Thames Lido review I always see people asking, “but is it child-friendly?” So to answer the question, yes the Thames Lido is a child-friendly venue and staff always make our family feel very welcome. Although it doesn’t offer a specific children’s menu, the small tapas size dishes are perfect for little ones and are a great way for them to experience new foods. The swimming pool can also be used by children in the afternoons. 

The first time I ever experienced the Thames Lido I was a new mum with a four month old baby who cried a lot.

I’d been invited to meet friends there, but felt very self-conscious as I walked through the door with my pram into a fancy looking bar and restaurant. I immediately felt very anxious about whether it really was the right place to take a baby. But, as they say, first impressions really do count. I was immediately greeted by a lovely member of staff who told me the Lido is a family-friendly venue, which instantly put me at ease.

For the first time in a long time, I felt myself relax fully as we enjoyed lunch and watched the swimmers doing laps of the pool.

Since then we have returned many times with our two little adventurers. The restaurant has high-chairs and baby changing facilities. However there is no children’s menu, although we find that our little ones love helping to choose a selection of tapas which we can all share. 

In terms of swimming at Thames Lido, children can use the pool between 2pm and 4pm. It costs £7.50 and each child must be accompanied by an adult for one to one supervision in the pool and hot tub. 

Entrance to the Thames Lido
A warm welcome to the Thames Lido

I’m so pleased that Reading has a place as special as the Thames Lido to boast about. I hope you enjoyed my Thames Lido review and if you decide to pay it a visit, please do let me know what you think.

To read more about why I love having mini adventures like this, check out my what is a microadventure? post

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