The New Life of Paris’s Mythical Molitor

  • The central pool at the Molitor.

    The central pool at the Molitor.

  • One of the building's original stained-glass windows.

    One of the building's original stained-glass windows.

  • The bar at the Yannick Aleno-run Le Restaurant.

    The bar at the Yannick Aleno-run Le Restaurant.

  • A poolside swimwear presentation, circa 1938.

    A poolside swimwear presentation, circa 1938.

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After sitting derelict and graffitied for 25 years, Paris’s legendary Molitor swimming complex is back in business, this time as part of an MGallery-branded hotel. Though the ocean liner–inspired structure has been largely rebuilt, it retains much of the Art Deco allure that graced it when it first opened in 1929, including the original stained-glass windows. In its heyday, this was the city’s most fashionable bathing spot, attracting the bon chic, bon genre to its pools (one indoor, one outdoor) and sand-strewn lido decks. Olympic swimming champion and future Tarzan actor Johnny Weissmuller famously spent a summer at the Molitor giving swimming lessons, and in 1946, the first modern bikini was unveiled here at a poolside photo shoot. The party finally ended in 1989 when the decaying building was closed and left to the devices of ravers and graffiti artists, but that chapter too is now closed thanks to a multimillion-dollar resuscitation headed by French hotel group Accor. Today, the pools have been returned to a semblance of their former splendor, topped by a new annex that houses a Clarins spa and most of the Molitor by MGallery’s (8 Ave. de la Porte Molitor; doubles from US$366) 124 mod-Deco rooms. The bad news? Non-hotel guests will really have to splash to use the pools—day passes cost more than US$200. –Gabrielle Lipton

This article originally appeared in the August/September 2014 print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“In the Swim”)

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