As summer looms, Paris residents without air conditioning turn their thoughts to the city’s phenomenal public pools. To visitors it’s a little-known fact, but within the 20 arrondissements there are 39 large, serious establishments—all of them accessible for under $5.50 to anyone with a one-piece and a swim cap.
In anticipation of the season, Figaroscope, the indispensable culture guide, has done a helpful assessment of the top 10 public pools. (The swim cap isn’t a joke, by the way: you can’t get in anywhere without one, though most pools have vending machines selling cheap disposables.) As you’ll see from Figaroscope’s chart, while there is a certain amount of liberté and quite a lot of fraternité at these pools, among them there is no egalité. Like Prime Ministers and wine bars, some are marvelous and some are moldy.
Figaroscope’s ranking is based on four categories: hygiene, the state of the changing rooms, the size of the pool, and the cover charge. The all-around winner is the Centre d’Aquatique de Neuilly, in the posh western suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine, with the runner-up the modern, quai-side Piscine Josephine Baker, near the Bibliothèque François Mitterand in the unsung 13th arrondissement.
Peruse the grid to find the one nearest you, or search the city of Paris’s own website for a full list.