Between the clanging of cranes, screech of sirens, and having to jostle with approximately two million fellow travellers on the Tube each day, finding an oasis of calm in London can feel impossible.
But there are secret spots where you can wash those daily stresses away and in fabulous style – if you know where to look.
Follow our guide to the most luxurious and serene swimming pools in the city, hidden in hotels, skyscrapers and even a Victorian chapel.
Walking into the Corinthia’s spa pool feels like entering the Alpine lair of a James Bond villain. Polished black marble walls and floors morph, almost imperceptibly, into plunge baths and whirlpools. Crackling fires, which seem to be suspended mid-air, cast flickers of light towards an enormous glass sauna sunk into the floor.
The jet streams in the pool are better than most professional massages, but if you do fancy the real treatment the Corinthia also has an expert team of therapists to provide whatever relaxation you need.
The warmth of both the water and the fire will soon have you nodding off in one of the sleep pods upstairs, complete with cosy blankets, dried fruits and the hotel’s signature herbal tea.
A day pass costs £150.
The chapel of a former psychiatric hospital may not sound like the most relaxing place to do a few lengths on a Sunday morning, but floating on your back underneath the carved stone pillars and arched wooden eaves you can easily forget where (or who) you are.
Light floods in over the 25m pool from the lancet stained glass windows which used to look down on pews where the Victorian patients of Claybury Hospital would sit.
Where the altar would have been you can now be frothed about in a hot tub, while the old confessional box has been converted into a steam room.
The pool is part of a Virgin Active site, Repton Park, to the north east of London and is only open to members (at a cost of £99 a month). Now home to many professional footballers, the rolling grounds and redbrick neo-Gothic spire hark back to Repton’s history as a grand country estate.
Shangri-La Hotel at The Shard
Not one for the acrophobics among us, the infinity pool housed inside The Shard skyscraper is the highest of its kind in Europe.
Just 10 metres long, it is less of a pool more of a watery viewing platform. But what a viewing platform. At a dizzying 200 metres (and 52 floors) above sea level, you can enjoy views over St Paul’s Cathedral, the Houses of Parliament and – clouds permitting – even the arch of Wembley Stadium.
Access to the skypool is reserved only for guests. But by night it transforms into a glittering Asian-inspired cocktail bar, open to the public, which also lays claim to the title of London’s highest bar. Both are part of the Shangri-La Hotel, which occupies 18 floors of the building. With rooms starting from £465, prices are just a little steeper than your average local leisure centre.
The Porchester is London’s oldest bathhouse. The art deco building in Bayswater first opened in 1929 as the Turkish and Russian Vapour Baths.
If you’re not into being slathered with aromatherapy oils and plied with herbal remedies based on your ying-yang balance that day, this is a great place to come for a well-priced, no-nonsense swim and steam.
There’s a proper pool for doing laps, an icy plunge bath, two steam rooms and three authentic Turkish baths – ranging from toasty to volcanic.
During the all-male session expect to see Paddington’s local Turkish population wandering around in their bath towels like sultans awaiting their harem.
The stone statues, dangling plants and tiled floors may seem a little dated compared to the sleek glamour of modern hotel pools but for old-world charm (and affordable prices), the Porchester can’t be beaten. A non-member session costs around £30.
Dubbed Europe’s first ever grand hotel, the Langham’s enormous frontage, freckled with hundreds of windows, has been an iconic landmark on Portland Place since 1865.
Yet few people are aware that buried underneath the hulking hotel is a watery sanctuary that is open to all (all that can afford the privilege that is).
The small pool, lit up in ultramarine, sits at the bottom of a glass staircase. It may not be the largest hotel pool going, but the grey slate walls and bonsai mural create a tranquil atmosphere that isn’t particularly conducive to frenzied front crawl anyway.
The faint rumble of underground trains in the background provides a surprisingly calming accompaniment.
Take some time afterwards to lounge about with a newspaper in the relaxation room where the spa attendants will shower you with healthy snacks and smoky Japanese tea.
To use the pool you must be a guest of the hotel, a member of its Health Club or have booked a treatment at its excellent in-house spa. A 25-minute massage costs from £90 and membership to the Health Club from £190 a month.
A rare find these days: the Landmark boasts of one of London’s only chlorine-free, heated pools.
The natural water avoids irritation to your hair and skin and is considered particularly beneficial for pregnant women and young children.
Even better, it is one of the few London spas that is family-friendly, with children’s hours as well as the usual adults-only time for bathing in peace.
There’s also a hot tub, mosaic-tiled steam rooms, a sanarium where you can ooze out your toxins to a choreographed combination of light, music and natural sounds.
And not forgetting the mind-boggling array of treatments on offer, from reflexology to body wraps and hot stone massages.
You can book a one-off visit or buy full membership for the pool and/or spa.