When you think of French music, you immediately think of the cabaret. And when you think of the cabaret, you immediately think of the Moulin Rouge. Back in 1899, Paris was in the midst of a rare period of peace after a few wars. It was a time of great artistic renaissance, openness and a desire for the joie vivre (the good life). At the heart of this was the artistic hub of Paris, Montmartre and that’s exactly where the Moulin Rouge was established. Its famous theatre topped with the spinning windmill and young girls dancing the sexy Can Can, was a magnet for all Parisians.
The cabaret show, featuring beautiful topless dancers, has become world famous and today, draws thousands of visitor every year. Though I still haven’t met too many Parisians who have been to the Moulin Rouge, it’s definitely a top thing to do in Paris, even if you’re just visiting for a few days.
Why should you visit the Moulin Rouge?
The Moulin Rouge is the birthplace of the Cancan and the cabaret. Men will obviously appreciate the fact that the dancers in this show are for the most part, topless. But aside from that, the Moulin Rouge puts on a great show, filled with special effects, elaborate costumes and even some comedy.
Before heading to Paris, pick up your copy of The Rough Guide To Paris (only $17 on Amazon). Together with this guide, it’ll be your best friend in The City of Lights.
How to get to the Moulin Rouge?
First of all you’ll need tickets and those aren’t cheap at all. Visit the Moulin Rouge website well in advance of your trip to Paris and pray that there are spots for the dates you want. Keep in mind, there are few types of tickets you can buy: VIP tickets (include show, dinner, champagne and DVD and more souvenirs & services), dinner & shows tickets and regular tickets (can add champagne). The cheapest tickets will start around 80€ and VIP tickets can go up to over 200€ per person. There are three shows per night (prices vary) and expect to pay an average of 110€ per ticket (you might as well have some champagne while you watch the show). Keep in mind that shows are changed every few years so visiting more than once is certainly an option.
To get there physically, take the metro to the Blanche Metro station. As you’ll get out, you’ll recognize the famous spinning red windmill!
What to expect at the Moulin Rouge?
The show runs like a well oiled machine. There are three shows per night after all, so staff are very efficient at getting you in and out of your seat. The show itself runs for about 90 minutes and there is absolutely no photography allowed inside. There are rumors that cameras have been confiscated but yours truly managed to sneak a few pictures nonetheless (I apologize for the crappy quality but I really had to be sneaky).
I must admit that watching the show is an unbelievable experience. Sure, the crowd is 99% made up of tourists and I’m pretty sure the songs are lip synced to playback music – but all the hype and fame around the Moulin Rouge makes seeing it live, a real thrilling experience (and yes, the fact that beautiful dancers are topless does add a thing or two to the experience).
There a few story lines depicted, all the way from a Far East romance story to the history of Paris. And let’s not forget about the famous Can Can, which is the of course, the climax of the show. All the numbers include amazing costumes and the level of detail is more than you’d expect. What’s even more amazing is that the show is actually pretty high tech. The stage takes on a brand new look every few minutes, with props coming in from the sides, from the top and even from the bottom. I don’t want to give too much away but let’s just say there’s even water and giant snakes involved!
Aside from the dance numbers, there’s a pretty funny comedy act that involves the crowd and an out-of-this-world acrobatic act performed by a duo that seems to be straight out of the Russian Olympic gymnastics team. I mean, the guy pretty much hoists the girl in the air on one of his hands, while maneuvering himself in and out of unthinkable positions. Believe it or not, this was one of the show’s highlights, and it didn’t even involve any topless dancers!
Though super touristy, seeing the Moulin Rouge is a definite highlight and a recommended thing to do in Paris. Sure it’s super expensive and in many ways like a Las Vegas show, but the costumes, the dances, the hype and the magic – along with a bottle of champagne – make this is a very special night in Paris!