When Paris's legendary Piscine Molitor – Art Deco showpiece, birthplace of the bikini (and, er, the 'monokini'), star of 'Life of Pi', playground for graffiti artists and ravers – reopened in May 2014, it wasn't in order to welcome back its old public. After languishing in redevelopment limbo for two decades, the pool was eventually snapped up by hotel group Accor, who resolved to convert the site's historic appeal into a luxury brand. The result: a high-end hotel-pool resort that looks good, but costs €180 for a day pass. Parisians are up in arms.
Luckily for them, their city abounds in attractive pools that don't cost half a week's wages to access. From the exotic facilities of the Centre Aquatique de Neuilly-sur-Seine (fake beaches, anyone?) to the naturist evenings at the Roger Le Gall, the Olympic dimensions of the Georges-Vallerey to the dramatic steel structure of the Josephine Baker, these venues offer everything that an overheated Parisian could want. So don your gaudiest swimsuit, grab your coppers for the lockers, and head over for a dip.
Not just a pool, but an aquatic centre with three different indoor sites: one training pool, one for learning and one for fun as well as a small outdoor pool, two solariums and one ‘beach’. It also offers a spa, hammams, saunas and UV cabins. Very clean, well-maintained and organised, people are drawn from far and wide, so it can get a little crowded at peak times. It’s aimed at families and those coming for leisure rather than those training for the Olympics, but always a very pleasant place to while away a few hours.
Right in the heart of the Latin Quarter, just steps from boulevard Saint-Germain, this is a beautiful art deco pool with two mezzanine levels. Constructed in 1934 by the architect Lucien Pollet (also behind the famous, now disused Piscine Molitor, plus Jonquière and Pailleron), it's famous for featuring in Krzysztof Kieslowski’s film ‘Trois Couleurs: Bleu’.Registered as a historical monument since 1981, the site features individual changing cabins installed on two walkways bordered by metal railings, a huge glass ceiling and mosaic frescoes: without doubt one of the most beautiful pools in the capital (with entry fee to match). It can get a little crowded given that there is only one pool (the old-fashioned 33-metre style), but by paying a few euros more, you can use the sauna, squash court, cardio room and fitness courses. Open until midnight on weekdays.
Flanked by the Seine, facing Bercy, not far from the Bibliothèque François Mitterrand and Batofar, this place is the star of Parisian pools in many ways.The impressive glass and steel building by architect Robert de Busni houses a stylish aquatic centre. Supplementing the 25m pool (with sliding glass roof) are training rooms, a jacuzzi, hammam, sauna and solarium. It also has a 50m2 paddling pool for the kids and a nice entrance hall with Wi-Fi for parents who want to keep an eye on their kids without going into the centre itself. The late opening hours are also a plus, and the busy schedule of exercise classes.Inaugurated the same year as Paris Plage, it gets so busy these days that one tends it’s best to avoid it at peak times. Luckily, there’s a small café area where you can wait it out with a drink until things calm down – a place to see and be seen.
Built in the 1960s, the Keller pool was totally renovated in 2008, in the image of its host Beaugrenelle neighbourhood. Its changing rooms are particularly luxurious, but it is also a standout due to the fact it treats its water with ozone filtering rather than chlorine. The water is filtered and disinfected in this way every four hours – you can kiss that chemical smell goodbye.Equipped with its 50m long Olympic swimming pool (as well as a smaller pool of 15m), Keller also benefits from an sliding roof, which lets the sun pour in on fine days. Competitive swimmers come here to benefit from the Olympic proportions and when they are in a team, it can put some pressure on the space. That said, the pool opens at seven in the morning, so there’s plenty of space for early risers.
Hidden behind the Marx Dormoy metro in a small, tree-filled square near the beginning of rue des Fillettes, Piscine Herbert offers a clean, calm and light-filled pool, with lines reminiscent of a huge ocean liner.There are two pools – one 14m long and quite shallow, used mainly for aquagym lessons and paddling , the other 25m and surrounded by two floors of individual changing rooms and overlooked by a huge glass roof. Due to its location, this pool is largely forgotten by the noisy crowds, allowing a peaceful swim even on fine days in summer. Aquagym, swimming lessons, water polo and water safety courses are all on offer – and once you’ve worked off some calories, you can go directly to the charming Olive market a few steps away and undo all your good work with some delicious Portugese, Senegalese or Middle Eastern pastries.
Swimming, ice-skating, fitness, aquagym, aquabiking, jacuzzi paddling, tanning, flirting – everything goes at the Pailleron. The large space feels very open, with a large glass roof that overlooks the main pool, but its huge popularity can mean long queues, cramped changing rooms and crowded, not terribly clean water spaces. Best to come off-peak, and avoid weekends.
Built for the 1924 Olympics, this complex features a retractable Plexiglas roof, a 50m pool (often split into two 25m pools) and one for kids. Don’t be fooled by its slightly Stalinist appearance: what the centre lacks in charm it makes up for in spades with its space and light, even if the huge glass ceiling is a little faded with age. In the summer months, and in spite of the huge crowds, the 50m pool is crammed with swimmers, bathers and sun-tanners alike. It is also one of the places where all styles of swimmers seem to be able to coexist happily – whether they are doing laps, aqua aerobics or doggy paddle. There’s even a bar on the first floor during summer.
An unlikely island of greenery on the periphery, the Champerret sporting complex houses a pleasant municipal pool that is particularly good in summer. It may not be exactly luxurious and the main swimming pool is only 25m long, but it looks out onto a pretty, tree-filled garden and the neo-gothic Eglise Sainte-Odile. There’s also a small slide down into the paddling pool, which is fun for the kids. The mixed changing rooms are slightly labyrinthine with a huge number of lockers, which can be confusing. It is, however, a good place for families on fine days.
This listed complex, built in the 1920s, has one main indoor pool and two outdoor pools (open in the summer). The water is a temptingly warm 28°C, thanks to the natural sulphurous spring.
Set somewhere in the twists and turns of the 12th arrondissement, between two major roads and tower blocks,the site at 34 boulevard Carnot is a pleasant surprise with its unique large pool, pleasant outdoor space and welcoming terrace. With three lanes dedicated to specific types of swimming (front crawl, breast stroke, etc.) this pool also offers a large area for less experienced swimmers, ideal for practicing. The whole place is a little run down, so hang on to your flip-flops. On Monday and Wednesday evenings, the Naturist Association of Paris (a sporting club created in 1953 and affiliated with the Fédération Française de Natation), organises evenings for those with a passion for swimming sans clothes (we’d still recommend the flip flops!).