Often described as the most romantic river in the world, the Seine in Paris is poised to open a new chapter in its mythology with the revival of an old heritage: the return of public swimming.

In 2025, locals and visitors alike will be able to swim and sunbathe at three points along the river. But you may be surprised to know that there are already several outdoor swimming pools across the city where you can escape the heat and cool off, some with views of the Eiffel Tower blinking in the distance.

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Over the last few years, herculean efforts to clean the river in time for the 2024 Olympic Games have been underway, as open water swims, triathlon and paratriathlon competitions are scheduled to be held on the Seine next summer. After the games, the city will open its first three sites to public swimming in 2025 at Bras Marie, Bras de Grenelle and Bercy.

It’s not the first time the river has hosted Olympic sporting events. When the French capital hosted its first summer games in 1900, swimming events were also held on the Seine but further out between Asnières and Courbevoie bridges north of the city limits. This time, the starting line will be beneath the most ornamental and extravagant bridge in the city center: the Pont Alexandre III.

But the €1.4 billion overhaul isn’t just for the Olympics. The clean-up is also meant to have a long after-life and help Parisians reclaim the waterway which, during the 19th and early 20th centuries, had been a popular public swimming hole for Parisians. Though the city officially banned the practice in 1923, locals continued to take illicit dips until the 1960s, when the degradation of water quality made swimming impossible.

The transformation of the Seine is also part of Mayor Anne Hidalgo’s battle plan against the warming effects of climate change. Last year, the mercury broke the 40ºC (104ºF) threshold in Paris and by 2050, it’s estimated that the city will face temperatures as high as 50ºC. A study published in The Lancet this spring found that of all major European capitals, the risk of mortality from heat waves is greatest in Paris, due to a variety of factors including urban heat islands and air pollution. And remember: unlike the aggressive AC culture in North America, air conditioning is still relatively rare in private apartments, spotty in public buildings and available only on select metro lines. Along with the greening of public spaces, the opening of free, outdoor bathing sites is a strategy aimed at mitigating extreme urban heat.

In the meantime, you don’t have to wait until 2025 to take a cooling swim between your visit to the Louvre and dinner. Shake up your summer Paris itinerary with a dip in one of the several existing outdoor swimming holes in the city. Here are five reasons to pack your swimsuit.

People swim and sit on docks on the largest artificial body of water in Paris
Head to Bassin de la Villette in northeast Paris to swim outdoors for free © Guillaume Bontemps / Ville de Paris

1. Swim for free with the locals in Bassin de la Villette

Since 2017, as part of its annual Paris Plages (Paris Beaches) festival, the Bassin de la Villette in the northeast part of Paris has set up a free outdoor swimming area in the city’s largest artificial body of water. The pool is divided into three distinct areas: a paddling pool for children, a small pool with a maximum depth of 1.2m (4ft), and a large pool reserved for experienced swimmers with a depth of 2.1m (7ft). Water quality is monitored every day. The pool is wheelchair accessible, and limited to 500 bathers a day. Though Paris Plages at the Seine is the main event, the programming at the Villette edition draws more locals than tourists as it’s further out from the city center. Other water activities here include kayaking, canoeing, and paddle-boarding. 

Local tip: Another popular water activity on the Bassin de la Villette is to rent electric boats from Marin d’Eau Douce for leisurely rides up and down the canal. You don’t need a license and you can also bring a picnic lunch or dinner on board.

Swimmers swim back and forth in an indoor lap pool beneath white arched ceilings
The airy, light-filled interior of Butte-aux-Cailles offers an elegant swimming experience © Emilie Chaix / Ville de Paris

2. Butte-aux-Cailles is one of the most beautiful and historic pools in Paris 

One of the most beautiful and oldest (1924) public pools in Paris, the Butte-aux-Cailles is classified as a historic monument for its art nouveau architecture. The dense red-brick exterior belies its airy, light-filled interior and cathedral-like ambience where swimmers perform laps under a vaulted ceiling and elegant, soaring arches. Along with two indoor pools (one for adults, the other for kids), the venue was the first to open an outdoor Nordic pool that is heated to 28ºC (82ºF) by reusing the heat produced by computer servers in the basement. The outdoor pool is open year-round.

Local tip: Make a day of your visit and explore the neighborhood the pool is named after, a village-like spot in the 13th arrondissement that is home to artisans, sloping cobblestone alleyways, interesting street art, quaint bars and cafes. 

An open-air swimming pool complex floating on the edge of a river
The Josephine Baker pool floats on the Seine © irena iris szewczyk / Shutterstock

3. Feel like you’re in the Seine in the floating Josephine Baker pool

Come summer, the Josephine Baker pool (named after the American-born dancer, singer, actress) in the 13th arrondissement removes its glass canopy and becomes a floating, open-air pool on the Seine, offering sweeping views of the iconic river, its bridges and its banks. Want to squeeze in a workout?  The pool features four, 25m-length (82ft) lanes with depths ranging from 0.9 to 2.1m (3 to 7ft). If you’re less about the swimming, more about the sunbathing, the pool also has a 500sq-m (5400sq-ft) sundeck where you can relax on one of the deckchairs and get your daily dose of vitamin D.

An Olympic-sized lap pool on a sunny day
In summer, the canopy above Roger Le Gall pool is removed so swimmers can enjoy the open air © Gerard-Sanz

4. Nude swimming is possible at Roger Le Gall pool

Named after a French resistance hero during the WWII, the Roger Le Gall pool is located in the city’s east end in the 12th arrondissement and features two swimming holes: an Olympic-sized pool that’s open to the public for serious swimmers keen to get in a few laps, and a smaller second pool reserved for sports clubs. In summer, the canopy above the bigger pool is removed so that you can swim in the open air. But take note: in partnership with the Paris Naturist Association, the pool opens up to nudists who prefer to swim in the buff every Monday, Wednesday and Friday night.

 luxury swimming pool in Molitor hotel MGallery by Sofitel hotel in Paris XVI
As the birthplace of the bikini, the outdoor pool at the Hôtel Molitor Paris – MGallery deserves a mention © Eric Isselee / Shutterstock

5. Take a dip in the outdoor pool at the luxury Hôtel Molitor Paris

This listing is admittedly a big departure from the public outdoor swimming pools listed so far, as it’s located in a luxury hotel, where the pool is normally reserved for hotel guests or to its private members’ only club who pony up about €4500 a year. But as the birthplace of the bikini, the outdoor pool at the Hôtel Molitor Paris – MGallery in the city’s swanky 16th arrondissement deserves a mention.

It was here in 1946, that former automotive engineer turned fashion designer Louis Réard chose to debut a revolutionary, teeny weeny, two-piece bikini described as “smaller than the smallest swimsuit in the world" during a swimwear competition. Though normally closed to the public, in summer the pool offers day passes for guests that gives access to the sprawling art deco-style pools, rooftop restaurant and bar, hammam, sauna and fitness rooms. But access to one of the most exclusive open-air pools in the city doesn’t come cheap: day passes are priced at €230.

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