Cities are full of urban revival stories, and Molitor’s is a very distinct one – a legendary Parisian Art Deco pool that sunk into despair in 1989 was recently turned into a unique type of resort.
We went to explore the place ourselves and discovered the amazing history, which surrounds this legendary pool. Molitor used to be the most famous public pool in Paris – a place where locals came to swim, mingle and experience some of the city’s most chic moments. The pool was built in 1929 by the architect Lucien Pollet. Throughout its history, Molitor was always more than just a swimming pool – it portrayed a spirit of times, hosted numerous events, and celebrated the changing Parisian lifestyles.
From the very start Piscine Molitor (as one would say in French) became the place “to see and to be seen” for affluent Parisians and trend-setters. For example, imagine a scene from 1946: fashion designer Louis Réard presents the first modern two-piece bathing suit – bikini – during the fashion show at Molitor. Consequently, it is safe to say that Molitor was a birthplace of the modern bikini, or even the idea of topless sunbathing. This is a time when the pool served as the venue for fashion shows and top events. During the same period in cold winter months, Molitor served as a skating-rink.
Unfortunately, the pool had to be closed in 1989 due to the high maintenance costs and decreasing popularity. There was an eminent threat that the building itself would be demolished, as the city of Paris planned new housing development. Luckily, protesters saved it and kept the building intact; however, the lack of maintenance brought a period of decay and a new “underground” life for the pool.
Now imagine the new scene: graffiti all over the place and abandoned pool serving as a home to the alternative scene – skateboarders, ravers, graffiti artists, squatters – Molitor became a symbol of urban, street-culture for the Paris of the 1990s with spray-painted murals on the changing rooms and the pool as the stage for underground concerts. At those times, Molitor became the hotspot of another kind of Paris.
Finally, in 2007, a deal was struck to recreate the whole building and breathe-in a new life into this once famous pool. Fast forward a few years to 2014, the new concept resort – based on the style and history of Piscine Molitor – opened its doors.
This new project aims to live “old” Molitor’s legacy – it is more than a pool, it is more than a hotel – it is a multi-faceted resort that incorporates indoor and outdoor swimming pools, 5-star hotel, restaurants and bars, luxury spa, art gallery spaces and artists’ residence to name a few… Molitor became a place in the buzzing city, where one can spend the entire weekend forgetting about the life outside.
The new Molitor was developed on the basis of public-private partnership; the building is owned by the city of Paris and leased for the period of 54 years. Thus, after 20 years of being abandoned, the most famous Parisian swimming pool was reborn as the Hotel Molitor, part of MGallery by Sofitel/AccorHotels Group.
- One of its first lifeguards was an Olympic Gold Medalist, swimmer Johnny Weissmuller, who also starred as Tarzan in this popular movie.
- The world’s first bikini debuted here in 1946 along with the topless bathing revolution
- Don’t expect a typical hotel…there are two gigantic pools (outdoor pool is heated at 28°C), Clarins (!) spa, gym, different club/lounge areas with cool furniture, a rooftop terrace with amazing views of the pool below and the Eiffel Tower on the other side, an art gallery and lots of urban art everywhere.
- Clarins toiletries in all rooms
- The pool is free to local school kids a few days a week
- Located in the stylish 16th arrondissement, surrounded by beautiful, old buildings and just a stone’s throw away from the Roland-Garros and Paris Saint Germain stadiums, and Bois de Boulogne with its botanical gardens, Jardin des Serres d’Auteuil.
We stayed in Molitor in March 2018 and we loved it despite of a really, really bad weather – we will be coming back for more detoxification from our busy every-day lives.
Overall, Molitor is ideal for any tourist who wants to have a moment of a real Parisian experience. It is ideal for travelers and locals alike – for anyone seeking relaxation, or fine dining, swimming aficionados, or simply those who want to chill on the rooftop terrace during warmer months.
Molitor is one of those few historical places that preserves stories from the past.