Photo (c) Christian Lagat
First up, the Suzanne Berlioux swimming pool in Les Halles, named after a former coach of the French swimming team. I remember when I used to visit Paris in the eighties, I found walking through Les Halles and looking down at this olympic size pool underground impressive and bizarre; there are windows at ground level that look down through the tropical hothouse onto the water.
I used to swim here in the afternoons when I was working odd hours at the Novotel hotel nearby. It's great to have a huge pool practically to yourself. However, go in the evenings after work and the place becomes a kicking factory and elbow punchup. Anyone who dares to go slower than the others in his/her chosen aisle will be shown no mercy! Note that the water is pretty cold, which is actually a godsend when you're doing endless lengths.
A couple of other things that always amused me there: quite a few men standing up in the shallow end, very obviously showing off their pecs, and the signs in the men's locker room stating that no 'dubious' behaviour will be tolerated (I've even heard stories about men being thrown out after being found together in cubicles).
For: late opening (until 10 or 11pm weekdays), big pool, 5 minutes from the apartment
Against: quite dear (4 euros), swimming cap obligatory, not for leisurely swimmers, often not open before 11am (check opening hours here), tricky to find? (click here for the entrance to take and turn left at the bottom of the escalators).
Swimming not enough for you? Need to 'pump iron'? The most stylish choice in the area would be the brand new Usine gym.
When I arrived in Paris, this 18th Century building was a Moroccan restaurant called "At the Camel's Foot" and the "Casablanca Private Club". Not sure any of us miss those very much. Now it is the latest branch of the ultra-hip (and consequently pretty damn expensive) Usine gyms. Usine means Factory, which sound very 80s New York to me, but once inside the ambience is very much Parisian: cold stares and perma-tans obviously, but also solid stone arched ceilings, careful lighting and designer changing rooms.
Yes, they made me take the whole tour (I tried to look suitable impressed). Yes, they were a bit bristly and didn't quite understand what I was doing there. No, they wouldn't let me take photos. Idjuts!
Anyway, the place only opened a few weeks ago, and although they prefer not to shout about it they will let visitors in for a cool 45 € a day, "space permitting" (they were very careful to stress this, although during my visit - mid-afternoon admittedly - I only saw about five people). Their address is 16-20 rue Quincampoix (map here) and you can check out their site here (click Paris-Beaubourg on the right. I found it a bit difficult to navigate their Flash menus with Firefox). They're open weekday from 7am - 11pm and weekends 9am - 8pm.
For: brand new, fairly quite for the moment, 3 minutes from the apartment, stylish
Against: eye-wateringly expensive, major superiority complex