By Evie Andrews for Squarely Magazine
What’s wet, consistently 20-25 degrees Celsius, and has 1500 people on its waiting list?
That’s right, it’s the Bristol Lido & Spa. Just a short walk from The Square Club, the Lido is a hidden oasis of silken water and exclusivity: membership is one in, one out. Those lucky enough to bathe in its crystal clear waters enjoy unlimited access to the facilities, which include a poolside hot tub, sauna, steam room, and cold drench buckets.
Having been saved from demolition by a campaign from the local community, the Lido is a point of pride for Clifton. Built between 1849 and 1850, it is an excellent example of one of the first Victorian baths developed for public use, and it was the first in the country to be heated with electricity. The architecture was inspired by Egyptian design, and has been brought into the 21st century with a modern yet respectful vision that reflects its status as a Grade II listed building.
All of this is to say that the Lido is steeped in history, and people really like it. But…why? Is a lido not just an antiquated term for an outdoor pool? What makes 1500 people want to pay £76 a month so badly that they will wait on a list for years?
I and fellow Features Editor Pascale Loftus went to find out. We did, understandably, have to spend some time at reception explaining that we were not in fact chancers erroneously claiming to be on a press trip. Having established that we were actually super serious journalists who coincidentally forgot to bring towels, we were in.
Speaking of towels, they were really nice. I’m no towel expert, but they definitely had a high thread count and were probably not from England. A friendly member of staff showed us around, pointing us in the direction of the facilities. We retired to the boudoir (!), furnished with vintage dressing tables, hairstyling tools and big mirrors in which to admire oneself post-sauna.
As per the Lido’s shower naked policy, we each picked one of the tastefully tiled private shower cubicles and washed with their in-house RUDIE NUDIE toiletry range. This is to prevent contamination of the water, which is noted for its low chlorine levels.
I can’t speak for the science, but I can speak for myself: the water at the Lido feels different. Smoother, silkier, and certainly tastier, the water is naturally more buoyant. We found it easy to float side by side and bitch about the rest of the editorial team, smelling vaguely of bergamot and the distinct aroma of self-satisfaction. Emerging from the (1.2m) depths, we swanned over to the the poolside hot tub. Surrounded by tropical foliage, we certainly did not conduct a hot girl summer photoshoot and instead sat discussing mature topics in the tub like the responsible adults we are.
After Pascale dragged me from the comfort of the bubbles and into the chilly air of this past summer, we sauna’d, steamed, and dumped cold buckets of water onto our heads, all in the name of wellness. The sauna was large enough that it didn’t feel oppressive, as intentionally hot rooms that contain lots of people often can.
Having both turned into lobsters in the steam room, we cooled down back in the boudoir, before sauntering out into the world as superior versions of our former selves.
The hype was indeed, lived up to: like signing up to a gym in January, the Lido’s atmosphere is oddly aspirational. I imagined myself waking up, obnoxiously tucking into some chia seed pudding and washing it down with some ethically-harvested green tea, before going for my morning dip. Then I’d do Tai Chi and achieve world peace: all before 10am. Such is the impact of the Lido.
Although the waiting list is closed, you can still book a 2 hour time slot or spoil a special someone with their package deals. Check out their website for more information.