The Good Hotel London

Weekend swim retreat: The Good Hotel, London

Looking for a London weekend break with a swim in the Thames? Ella heads to The Good Hotel in the Big Smoke

I am often asked about open water swimming in central London. While there is a brilliant selection of lidos in London, some heated and some icy-cold in winter, open water is more of a challenge in a city like London. There are the famous and historic Hampstead Ponds, which are totally worth a visit, but there are also venues like West Reservoir and the Royal Docks, which are popular swim destinations for city swimmers.

The Good Hotel floats in Royal Victoria Dock, which is exactly where you can get up and swim each morning you stay.

The hotel itself is a repurposed floating hotel building that was towed across the North Sea from Amsterdam. If that wasn’t unusual enough, The Good Hotel is a social business, which means excess profits go to good causes across the world and the hotel provides long-term unemployed people the opportunity to build a career in hospitality. Where possible everything is upcycled, re-used or sourced locally and sustainably, which includes everything from the furniture in the rooms to the food served.

The hotel

A floating hotel has a huge appeal to water lovers. Our room was waterside too, so we could see where we were to swim the evening we arrived, the bright-triangle buoys lit up by the city sky on the black
water. Despite floating, once onboard you would never know, but the large windows in the social areas gave ample opportunity for watery glimpses and brilliant light in the morning.

The sleeping levels look very nautical with ship layout and door design. The rooms are small, but perfectly designed with all you need, and the bed was especially comfortable. I loved that they left Guatemalan Worry Dolls on our pillow which come from a community that is supported by the hotel’s social enterprise.

The swimming

Love Open Water operates swimming at the Royal Docks. They are located at the west end of the Royal Victoria Dock on a grass covered year-round in scheduled sessions, which must be booked. They operate all weekend, some weekday mornings in winter and in summer they offer more sessions and events. Royal Dock is also the location of the popular Dock 2 Dock event, where you can swim 1.5km to 15km.

The Good Hotel is a great place to stay for a weekend of exploring London after a morning dip in the dock. The water quality here is always brilliant and regularly reaches high levels of cleanliness required by EU Bathing Standards.

Off the pontoon you are immediately out of your depth, which means in the right conditions jumping and diving is a great way to enter the water. In winter the swim loop is smaller, but big enough to get a decent swim and takes you side by side along the hotel.

The clarity of the water is exceptional when we swim. I loved swimming in the urban environment with the IFS Cloud Cable Car looping over us as we swam, people taking photos and waving as they ascended into the smudgy winter sky. Every now and then a roaring plane would appear just metres above us, taking off from London City Airport. To be immersed in the water with the ducks and swans, but also immersed in city life was a wonder.

The food

After our cool dip it was back to the hotel for breakfast, which was generous and abundant in choices. Many other swimmers and local parkrun attendees also chose to visit The Good Hotel for breakfast, even though they were not guests. The coffee was hot, endless and welcome. You could choose fresh fruit and pastries or hot options like porridge or a full English.

At night the hotel restaurant offers up sharing-style tapas food with a global influence, but nearby there are other options too. We ate at the brilliantly bonkers Heroica Lounge which offers wood-fired pizzas in a red-double decker London bus. Adjacent to the hotel it overlooked the water and was a great place to eat.

Best of the rest

There are plenty of other things to do while you’re in this part of London. Across the River Thames, perhaps by cable car, is the O2 Dome, which hosts regular concerts and sporting events. There are also more restaurants and a shopping outlet nearby. London Excel Centre is also adjacent to the docks, which hosts exhibitions and events. The area is brilliantly connected by public transport, train and tube. You could get the DLR to Canary Wharf and have a dip there too – also run by Love Open Water. Or you could get a Thames Clipper boat upstream to Central London. The options are endless!

Our favourite thing

Swimming under the cable car and waving at tourists! Love Open Water were very welcoming and offer brilliant coaching and advice too.

With thanks to The Good Hotel and NOWCA. For swimming at the Royal Docks visit

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Ella is renowned outdoor swimmer and journalist. As well as leading the editorial, digital and experiential outputs for Outdoor Swimmer she is also Director of Dip Advisor, a swim guiding business helping people enjoy wild water. Ella also teaches swimming to children and adults, is an Open Water Coach and RLSS Open Water Lifeguard.