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Text by Simon Fry.
Photos by Molitor, Marc Bertrand/Paris Tourist Office, Mairie de Paris/Gérard Sanz, Mairie de Paris/Déborah Lesage, and Mathieu Saulinier
1. Magical Molitor
Where Tarzan icon Johnny Weissmuller worked as a lifeguard, the modern bikini was launched and the star of Life of Pi got his name, this recreated art deco masterpiece was reopened in 2014 after an €80 million rebuilding project. Its new incarnation includes indoor and outdoor pools, a 124-room hotel, Clarins spa and rooftop terrace with Eiffel Tower view and entrance fee to match. Expect a playful mood – a Rolls Royce formerly belonging to Eric Cantona stands beside the outdoor pool.
Molitor, 2 Avenue de la Porte Molitor
2. Swimming showgirl
Swim on the Seine – on a barge! Josephine Baker swimming pool offers a memorable, slightly surreal experience with bateau boats and coal-laden freight vessels passing alongside at eye level. Numerous windows let in plentiful light (the feel is almost of swimming outdoors) with the barge’s eye-catching metal beams lending a sci-fi art deco look. The transparent ceiling is removed come summer. Intimate and understandably popular – be prepared to queue at busy times.
Piscine Josephine Baker, Quai François Mauriac
3. Pool purity
If swimming is your religion, Butte-aux-Cailles is your church. Opened in 1924, its redbrick exterior celebrates art nouveau neatly. Within, white walls and an arched ceiling give this piscine a pristine feel with its serene, tiled changing cubicles lending a cloistered air. Formerly filled from an underground spring (which still serves the drinking fountain outside where locals fill mineral water bottles,) its outdoor pools are open in the summer. Be ready to look after your locker key.
Butte-aux-Cailles, 5, place Paul Verlaine
4. Sublime Pontoise
Visitors get their own cubicle, tended by a cabinier, at this historical monument where swimming until midnight is accompanied by classical music and dimmed lighting. Open continuously since 1933, Pontoise featured in arthouse classic Three Colours: Blue and its stunning surroundings offer aesthetic beauty enough to rival The Louvre. Amid such splendour, a trip to the pool becomes an immersion in the arts – a Paris must-do. Gym, cardio and squash also onsite.
Piscine Pontoise, 19, rue de Pontoise
5. Cruise control
Designed by architect Lucien Pollet (as were Pontoise and the original Piscine Molitor,) Pailleron’s swimmers can be forgiven for thinking they are on an ocean liner, with cubicles rising to a spectacularly visible sky. This centre, complete with ice-rink, opened in 1933 but its pools were closed between 1990 and 2006 and it was registered as a historical monument in 1998. Today, ornate railings lead into the water and blue and yellow tiles evoke sea and sand with this breathtaking space at its most magnificent on sunny days.
Pailleron, 32 rue Edouard Pailleron
This article was first published in the May 2015 issue of Finnair's monthly in-flight magazine Blue Wings.