Le Moulin Rouge

Paris' famed cabaret club and the red light district of Pigalle

At the base of the slopes up to Montmartre lies the Metro stop Pigalle marking the northwest edge of Paris's red light district.

This area is centered on the sex shop–lined boulevard de Clichy, home to that most famous of old-time Paris cabarets, the Moulin Rouge.

The Moulin Rouge

The "Red Windmill's" can-can shows of scantily clad (and sometimes less-than-clad) women have been legendary since 1889, when the five-foot-one Boho artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was commissioned to paint the posters for its shows.

Many great singers have graced this Belle Époque stage, from Edith Paif to Frank Sinatra to Liza Minnelli—but it's the dancing girls that steal the show.

It must be said that the show (now called "Feerie") continues to be rather spectacular, in a small-stage kind of way—a bit like a proto–Cirque du Soleil, only without the pretense and acrobatics (and with a lot more nudity).

What's the show at the Moulin Rouge like?

The current Moulin Rouge troupe consists of 80 musicians, 60 chorus singers, and 80 dancers—60 of them the famous Doriss Girls who jiggle and high-kick their way through elaborately choreographed musical numbers that involve numerous quick changes between some 1,000 sequined, rhinestoned, and be-feathered costumes.

(You'd think that, with a thousand cosutmes to work with, they'd be able to find a few to cover all those naked breasts, but no.)

They occasionally throw in a juggling act, acrobat, or ventriloquist to give all the male tourists in the crowd a few moments to tear their eyes away from all the jiggle.

You can also eat dinner before the show (7pm seating). Meals are à la carte or a set-price menus ranging from classic French—fois gras, duck a l'orange, brie—to vegan.

The early show starts at 9pm; the late show at 11pm.

Arrive early to get in line for a good seat (you want a table, not a seat at the bar).

The show lasts 105 minutes.

How much does the Moulin Rouge cost?

The Erotic Museum
If the show and its seedy district arouse your, uh, curiosity, just up the street from the Moulin Rouge is the surprisingly quasi-tasteful Musée de l'Erotisme, or Museum of Eroticism.

72 boulevard de Clichy
tel. +33-(0)1-42-58-28-73
Open 10am–2am

The show itself costs €95 without beverages, or €105 with champagne or drinks.

Want a full meal? Expect to drop €175 to €200 a head for a three-course dinner, champagne, and the show.

Due to its fame (and massive tour bus business), tickets do actually routinely sell out, so if you want the experience it pays to book it ahead of time.

Believe it or not, there are a children's rates for those under 12. (Funny. My parents took me to Paris when I was 12, and I remember going past the Moulin Rouge. Wonder why we didn't go in?)

Moulin Rouge tips

Planning your time

Dinner starts at 7pm.

The show starts at 9pm and lasts 105 minutes.

There's a second show at 11pm.

No matter whether for dinner or just the show, try to get there at least 30 minutes early to get a good seat (at a table, not the bar).

If the showgirls inside don't intrigue you but you feel the need to at least ogle the entrance to the Moulin Rouge, get off Métro at Blanche, snap a photo of the place, then just walk up the hill to explore Montmartre.

» Paris suggested itineraries

Dress well

You don't need a jacket and tie, but you must dress "elegantly" or they won't let you in.

That means no shorts, no sneakers, and no sportswear.

Button-down shirt and slacks for men; blouse and slacks/skirt or a dress for women.

Get tickets to the Moulin Rouge show





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Can Can at the Moulin Rouge
The classic can-can at the Moulin Rouge. (Photo courtesy of Mouline Rouge)



The Féerie show at the Moulin Rouge
The Féerie show at the Moulin Rouge. (Photo courtesy of Mouline Rouge)