05 Jun The world-famous Moulin Rouge cabaret
The Moulin Rouge first opened its doors in 1889, and with its iconic French Cancan, quickly became the most famous cabaret in the world. Every year, nearly 600,000 spectators from around the world come to attend its extraordinary shows.
Located at the foot of Montmartre in Paris’ bohemian 18th arrondissement, this famous music-hall with its atypical architectural aesthetic is one of the capitals’ most emblematic buildings and one that’s impossible to miss while walking by.
The origins of the Moulin Rouge
Following a terrible period of war and economic depression, France was seeking to rebuild and heal its wounds. Trying to put the pain of the preceding years behind them, the French entered a time where a certain carelessness, and joie de vivre would take centre stage; this period would come to be known as the Belle Epoque, and would last for nearly 40 years before ending with the outbreak of World War I. The city would see a growing a number of entertainment venues with cafes, cabarets and concert halls springing up to meet the needs of the mainly middle-class looking for places to drink, have fun, dance and flirt. The neighbourhood surrounding the Hill of Montmartre was a particularly popular spot and a number of popular venues opened their doors there to meet the people’s need for fun and entertainment.
Two businessmen, Joseph Oller and Charles Zidler, were quick to notice Paris’ growing demand for these party venues and seeing a business opportunity, didn’t waste any time embarking on a project that would, right from the beginning, prove to be highly successful. Both were intimately familiar with Paris’ night life and its denizens, and this would prove very useful in undertaking their new project. They set out to design and build a space with a unique architecture unlike any other; one where girls, music, dancing and drinks mingled freely and all to the rhythm of the inflamed Parisian nights.
Following the opening of its doors on October 6th, 1889, the Moulin Rouge at the foot of Montmartre, became an instant success! The Cabaret would become not only the heart of the debauchery-searching bourgeois but also a place regularly frequented by absinthe-drinking painters and writers in the search of inspiration. One of the most famous of these was none other than the French painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec whose name today is intimately associated with the Moulin Rouge.Afflicted with a genetic disease affecting his growth, the diminutive artist, who was only 1.52m tall, would come to the Moulin Rouge every night, in search of evasion. Seated at his small corner table, and with an ever-present glass of absinthe as company, he would draw the French Cancan dancers and spectators milling around. He became an iconic character at the Moulin Rouge and was at the time, an assiduous witness to the venue’s frenzied night-life which he would immortalize in 17 famous drawings and paintings.
In 1891, Zidler, director of the Cabaret, asked him to draw up theMoulin Rouge‘s first advertising poster. To this day, “Moulin Rouge, La Goulue” remains one of the most celebrated images of the most famous cabaret of all time.
Moulin Rouge: a unique architecture and decor
With its large scarlet-painted mill and singular architecture, it instantly captured the attention of passers-by and left no one indifferent.
Inside, a stage and large dance floor were built; the walls were decorated with mirrors and large chandeliers were hung from the ceiling, all to create a warm and welcoming atmosphere for its cherished clientele.
In the garden behind the mill, drunk and joyous customers would marvel and ogle at the seductive belly dancers putting on their show! A larger-than-life elephant made from plaster, acquired following the 1889 World Exposition, stood proudly amid this fantastically decorated scenery!
To maintain its status as a veritable temple dedicated to the joys of the Parisian night-life, the Moulin Rouge Cabaret recruited the best and most famous dancers of the time.
In 1850, Celeste Mogador invented the Quadrille, the famous dance step that is now called the French Cancan.
Customers would flock to the Moulin Rouge to witness this indecent and mesmerizing dance performed by such famous dancers as La Goulue, Miss Jenny or Nini Legs-in-air.
With impossibly high leg-kicks and the seductive lifting of their frilly skirts, these dancers intoxicated spectators with erotic flashes of sensual legs adorned with garters and thigh-high black stockings!
With catchy numbers danced to a frenetic rhythm by beautiful girls in a unique setting, the Cabaret’s magic formula would quickly become a monumental triumph!
Some fun facts about the famous Moulin Rouge cabaret
This is the first building in Paris to have an electrically illuminated façade. With its singular architecture and scarlet-painted front decorated with a multitude of lights (in the 20th century this would become one of the very symbols of Paris), it is impossible to miss!
The Moulin Rouge was ravaged by fire in 1915 and remained closed for 6 years. It was only in 1921, three years after the end of World War I, that it opened its doors again.
After surviving catastrophic fires, multiple economic crises and two world wars, the cabaret is proudly celebrating its 130th birthday in 2019!
On its 125th birthday, the Moulin Rouge made it into the Guinness Book of World Records with a truly remarkable performance: 29 leg lifts in just 30 seconds!
Louise Weber experienced unprecedented success as “La Goulue” (The glutton). During her years working at the Moulin Rouge, she was Paris’ highest-paid artist. She was also a muse to Toulouse-Lautrec.
Many films featuring the iconic cabaret have been made, most recently and notably ”Moulin Rouge” in 2001, starring Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman.
The necklace worn by Nicole Kidman during the shooting of the film contained 1,308 diamonds and a 2.5 carats sapphire clasp! Its net worth? A paltry $3 million!
Modern shows at the Moulin Rouge are called Revues and consist of many different scenes. Every night, during the Féerie cabaret show, which traces the history of this most famous of dance halls, up to 80 artist-dancers go up on stage, dazzling audiences with their elaborate costumes adorned with glitter, rhinestones and feathers. It’s a veritable visual feast that gets even better with a glass of champagne in hand! All of this and more is possible at the Moulin Rouge!
The famous Doriss Girls, who get their name from Doris Haug, one of the Moulin Rouge’s great choreographers, are recruited worldwide and according to strict criteria of beauty.
The Moulin Rouge is definitely one of the go-to places for enjoying spectacular dance performances, the French Cancan in particular, but did you know that many legendary singers and artists have performed there over the years? Here’s a sample: Edith Piaf, Yves Montand, Lyne Renaud, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, Liza Minnelli, Elton John, La Goulue, Mistinguett… (To name but a few!)
With more than 240,000 bottles served every year, the Moulin Rouge is the world’s largest consumer of Champagne!
Moulin Rouge pricing:
A night at the cabaret averages out at about 100 Euros per person (depending on drinks and dishes ordered of course).
There’s a reduced price for children under the age of 12.
How to get there?
Metro: Metro stop “Blanche” on Line 2 is the closest.
Bus: Numbers 30/54/68/74
Car: You can park at the Parking Clichy Montmartre for the duration of your evening at the Moulin Rouge. Just show your “Moulin Rouge” ticket at the pay point to get a discount.
Address: Moulin Rouge, 82 Boulevard de Clichy, 75018 Paris
Phone: +33 1 53 09 82 82
Moulin Rouge Show times
The Moulin Rouge is open daily from 9 am to midnight.
Is it necessary to book in advance?
An evening cabaret needs to be reserved in advance, but the wait is soon forgotten when one has the opportunity to dine in this sumptuous room steeped in history and frequented by many artists.
We recommend arriving 30 minutes before the show. Drinks and table service are paused during the show.
For “Dinner Belle Epoque” evenings please try to arrive between 6.45pm and 7.30pm. The show finishes at 11pm.
For shows beginning at 9pm please try to arrive between 8.30pm and 8.45pm. This show finishes at 11pm.
For shows beginning at 11pm please try to arrive between 10.30pm and 11pm. This show finishes at 1am.
Photos and videos:
For copyright and safety reasons, it is forbidden to film, record or photograph all or part of the show. Photographs of the ballroom are also forbidden.
If you’d like a souvenir of your evening, a team of professional photographers is on hand to take your picture inside the Moulin Rouge.
Children over the age of 6 are allowed if accompanied by an adult.
Proper dress is required. A jacket and tie are strongly recommended. Shorts, Bermuda shorts, sportswear and sneakers are not allowed.
An additional charge applies for cloakroom service. The cloakroom accepts bags, coats and umbrellas.
The Moulin Rouge is a strictly no-smoking venue.
This applies to anywhere inside the building.
Hearing aids are available.
The Moulin Rouge provides a Wi-Fi-based hearing aid service. Just download the free “Sennheiser Mobile Connect” application from the Apple Store or Google Play. Once you’re wearing your headphones, just connect to the MobileConnect wireless network and adjust the audio to suit your needs.