Once one of the French capital’s most fashionable summer hotspots, the sexy new Molitor hotel is a chic, nostalgic escape for sporty and artsy types looking for a romantic weekend in the city of love.
Used as an ice rink in winter and a catwalk in the summer months, the 46-metre outdoor pool opened in 1929 and has a rich 60-year history: the first modern bikini was unveiled there in 1946, Tarzan actor Johnny Weissmuller was a lifeguard there and the protagonist in Life of Pi was even named after it. It was a place to see and be seen: bathers would lounge amongst the rich and famous, stretched out topless on sparkling white deckchairs, and its cruise ship-like design provided a backdrop for many a gala and fashion show. The building closed in 1989 and was later occupied by artists, gradually becoming a haven for the Parisian underground street art scene before reopening as a hotel in 2014 as part of the MGallery Hotel Collection.
Where is it?
On the western side of the city, in a leafy neighbourhood on the fringe of Bois de Boulogne park and adjacent to the famous Roland Garros stadium, home of the French Open. It’s just a 25-minute taxi from the Gare du Nord and city centre and there are two metro stations within a five-minute walk if you’d rather take the underground. The Eiffel Tower is a 40 minute walk along the river.
The hotel’s designers were keen to retain many of Molitor’s original features: leaded-glass windows, mosaics, lamps and the iconic yellow paint on the outside of the building. The pool’s glass ticket booth has been kept as an artefact framing the indoor bar and a graffitied Rolls-Royce sits in the lobby when you walk in, a nod to the building’s street art days. Expect contemporary vibes – exposed industrial ceilings, sleek low-hanging lights, Hans Wegner-style shell chairs – and artsy touches. The former changing rooms now function as the hotel’s own unique art gallery, each decorated by various street artists and containing a different piece of artwork. Book in for a guided tour of the cabins with Art Director Sylvia Randazzo if you want to learn more.
All 117 rooms and seven suites are designed by French architect Jean Philippe Nuel and look out over the outdoor pool, the lower floors made to look like retro changing cabins when you look up from the pool. All are surprisingly minimalist – white, grey, beige and black – compared to the rest of the hotel and each comes with a Bose docking station, safe and 40-inch flatscreen TV, plus a Nespresso coffee machine for a pre-breakfast boost.
The fridge comes stocked with two complimentary bottles of water (still and sparkling) and there’s a book on the coffee table for flicking through photos of Molitor’s colourful history. Bathrooms come with a walk-in rain shower, Dyson hairdryers and Clarins toiletries, and slippers and bathrobes are provided for making your way down to the spa. Choose The Pool Suite for a balcony overlooking the water or upgrade to The Grand Suite for ultimate indulgence: a luxe, 60-metre squared suite featuring a king-sized bed, bathtub and private lounge.
Food & drink
Molitor’s seasonal roof terrace and restaurant is a summer hotspot, serving food and cocktails alongside sparkling views of the Eiffel Tower. Back down at ground level, art deco-styled Brasserie Urbaine serves a luxe buffet lunch and three-course dinner from octopus carpaccio to pan-fried foie gras, soundtracked by a rotating collection of resident DJs. Ask to sit at an outdoor table next to the pool and choose the signature pomegranate and citrus pop art salad for starter and the raspberry and elderflower cheesecake for dessert – puddings are displayed ready in the fridge so they’ll arrive in seconds. The next morning, breakfast – everything from eggs and avocado toast to French viennoiseries and crepes made to order – is served as a buffet downstairs or in your room. One way to capitalise on the view from bed.
Molitor’s 46-metre art deco “summer pool” is naturally the hotel’s piece-de-resistance, heated all year round for summer bathing, pool-float posing and winter dips (there’s a steady stream of serious, cap-wearing swimmers whatever the weather). There’s also a matching 33-metre indoor pool and everything else you could need for an active retreat in the French capital: fitness classes from boxing to ballet, a luxe poolside gym, yoga studio and the largest spa in Paris: a subterranean Clarins haven on floor -1. Expect eight treatment rooms, a 50m-squared private suite, plus sauna, steam room, hammam, reading room and hairdressing salon. Sports massages are the USP here: choose from six options – swimming, running, tennis, golf, boxing and skiing – and book in for a deep, 60-minute recovery. The swimmer’s massage by therapist Camille Lacourt is full-body but focuses on the shoulders, neck and lumbar region in particular – just what you need at the end of a weekend spent gliding up and down the lanes.
What to Instagram
The giant summer pool, from every angle (the sun lounger, the rooftop bar, your bed). There’s a steady stream of swimmers charging up and down the lanes from first thing in the morning to last thing at night, rain or shine.
Sporty types with an interest in art and design. You won’t get traditional Parisian romance but you will get two giant swimming pools, artsy decor and a giant subterranean spa for post-swim massages with Clarins products. It’s only a 40-minute walk (or 15-minute scooter) to the Eiffel Tower.
How to get there
Hop on the Eurostar from St Pancras – you’ll be in Paris in just over two hours and it’s just a 30-minute taxi ride from there. Upgrade to Standard Premier to save that panicked queuing in M&S before you board – you’ll get spacious seating, dinner and vino on tap, perfect to get you in the mood for a night out in Paris when you step off the train. For ultimate luxury, choose Business Premier, which includes access to a shiny business lounge for pre-train bubbles, plus free Sunday papers, then you’ll get a three-course meal on the journey home – champagne included. One way to keep the holiday going right until you get home.
When should I go?
Summer is perfect if you want to combine a city break with sunbathing, but the summer pool is open all year round and ideal for a Sunday morning refresh – it’s kept so warm you can see the steam coming off the water on cooler days. Molitor’s bright colour scheme will brighten even the gloomiest of weekends.
Room rates start from £198 per person, per night on a room-only basis. (13 Rue Nungesser et Coli, 75016 Paris, France, mltr.fr)