The Moulin Rouge and its cabaret show is one of the most iconic attractions in Paris. This world famous cabaret opened in the late 1800s at the height of La Belle Epoque. In Paris, cabarets like the Moulin Rouge were social epicenters where the upper class mixed with bohemians and artists. The first modern cabaret in Paris was Le Chat Noir which opened in 1881. Cabarets were a favorite of artists. Prominent writers like Moliere, La Fontaine, and Jean Racine would frequent the cabarets to enjoy a meal and a show with friends. A few years later, the Moulin Rouge opened in 1889. It quickly set itself apart from other establishments by introducing the iconic cabaret show featuring the cancan dance.
The history of the Moulin Rouge spans more than 130 years and encompasses two world wars, a horrible fire, and all kinds of visitors from commoners to literal royalty. Today, the Moulin Rouge serves as an archive of French cultural history and continues to put on its amazing shows every night of the week.
History of the Moulin Rouge
The early beginnings
Joseph Oller and Charles Zidler opened the Moulin Rouge in 1889 during the height of the Belle Époque. The Belle Époque was a period social and economic optimism marked by industrial progress and the emergence of a particularly rich cultural exuberance. As Paris became increasingly urbanized, the neighborhood of Montmartre remained very much an idyllic community. The early years of the Moulin Rouge were defined by its extravagant shows which were inspired by the circus and featured the popular Cancan dance. Upbeat music, lots of champagne and this provocative dance made the cabaret a popular place to enjoy an evening of revelry.
Renewal of the Moulin Rouge
The Moulin Rouge suffered a major setback in 1915 when a fire engulfed the building. The cabaret was rebuilt in the same site in 1921 and was once again a major cultural epoch in Paris. In the 1930s and 40s, the cabaret’s popularity waned as the popularity of film rose. The Moulin Rouge was eventually acquired by Jo France in 1951 who began extensive renovations the following year to return the cabaret to its former glory. After which, Jacki Clerico took charge of the cabaret and began the Renewal of the Moulin Rouge with the highly successful Frou-Frou show. Clerico’s Frou-Frou and subsequent shows came to define the structure and organization of the cabaret, a legacy continued by their current show Féerie.
The Legendary Acts of the Moulin Rouge
Muse of the famous French Cancan
La Goulue, was the stage name of Louise Weber, a girl from the Paris suburbs who made a name for herself in the Paris cabaret show scene at the turn of the century. Known for kicking the hats off of mens’ heads during her cabaret show and taking drinks from her audiences’ tables in the midst of a performance, Weber earned the nickname La Goulue or ‘The Glutton”. By the time the Moulin Rouge first opened in 1889, Weber had already made a name for herself in the city. She was asked to headline the nightly cabaret show at the Moulin Rouge and became the highest paid entertainer of her day. She also became the muse of famous French artist Toulouse-Lautrec who painted most of the Moulin Rouge’s show posters.
Jeanne Florentine Bourgeois was an entertainer who rose to fame in the early 1900s under the name Mistinguett. Bourgeois got her start working as a stagehand at the Casino de Paris. Here, she developed her performance that captivated her audiences. Her appearance at the Moulin Rouge was the beginning of the more spectacular shows at the cabaret. She also danced at cabarets like the Folies Bergère and Eldorado. At the height of her career, Mistinguett was the highest paid female entertainer in the world. In 1919 her legs were even insured for 500,000 francs.
Famous French and International Artists
Over last century, many famous faces have performed at the Moulin Rouge. Edith Piaf, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Charles Trenet, Liza Minnelli, Elton John, Ray Charles and Charles Aznavour are just some of the big names who have graced the Moulin Rouge stage. But it’s not only on stage where famous people have appeared at the cabaret. In 1890, the Prince of Wales, then future Edward VII, came to the Moulin Rouge to watch one of La Goulue’s famous performances.
When Jacki Clerico took over the Moulin Rouge in 1962, the first performance given under his management was the Frou-Frou show. The Frou-Frou was widely successful and became the toast of the season in Paris. A superstitious man, Clerico decided that the title of each new cabaret show should start with the letter ‘F’ and that every performance should always include a ‘cancan’ during the performance. This decision solidified the cancan’s association with the Moulin Rouge. Today, the Moulin Rouge has maintained Clerico’s decision. Their current show is titled ‘Féerie’ and always includes the cancan dance in the performance.
Féerie since 2000
The Féerie show has been the cabaret show ‘du jour’ at the Moulin Rouge since 2000. Féerie has enjoyed unprecedented success since it was introduced. It has been performed for more than 10 million spectators from across the world in the last 20 years alone. The Féerie show includes a troupe of 80 artists, including 60 Doriss Girls wearing 1000 stunning costumes made of feathers, rhinestones and sequins. All of the costumes are designed by Italian theater and opera costumiers and are made at traditional Parisian ateliers. The performance is set to all-original music recorded by 80 musicians and 60 chorus singers. The cabaret show presents several acts that take you through the history of the Parisian cabaret. The performance pays tribute to the many singers, dancers, and craftsmen who have created amazing shows at the Moulin Rouge for more than 130 years.
What the Féerie Cabaret Show is famous for
The French Cancan is synonymous with the Moulin Rouge cabaret show. The Cancan has been performed by Moulin Rouge dancers since the cabaret first opened. Originally called “le Quadrille”, the dance became popular for its high energy and high kicks. The cancan is anything but easy to perform. On average, it takes a new dancer at least five weeks to learn the moves. You have to be extremely flexible and agile to move your legs in the correct way. It’s why only the best dancers are recruited to work at the Moulin Rouge. Every dancer must complete rigorous training and prove that they are capable of meeting the show’s physical demands before they are allowed to appear on stage.
Although the original building of the Moulin Rouge burned down in 1915, the current structure that we see today is partially responsible for its global fame. When the Moulin Rouge was undergoing renewal during the 1950s, the cabaret made the important decision to hire designer Henri Mahé to manage the interior decoration of the entire establishment. Mahé designed the cabaret’s new auditorium in the Belle-Époque style. The Moulin Rouge’s new look was an instant hit and became an important part of the cabaret’s comeback success after its renewal.
the Doriss Girls
Of course, the Féerie show would not be possible without the amazing Doriss Girls. The Doriss Girls were first introduced in 1957 and were created by Doris Haug. What started out as a troop of just four girls has grown to a chorus of sixty performers. The Doriss Girls are at the center of every cabaret show at the Moulin Rouge. They are highly skilled dancers who are carefully selected from all of the world for their amazing talent.
What would the Féerie show be without its amazing costumes? All of the costumes that appear during the cabaret show are made by highly skilled Parisian craftsmen. In fact, the Moulin Rouge has acquired three French ateliers to ensure that their craft is preserved. Maison Février is the official feather-maker for the Moulin Rouge. Maison Clairvoy creates all of the performance shoes for the cabaret show and Atelier Valentin is responsible for the embroidery on the exquisite costumes.
the Dinner-Show experience
The dinner-show experience is the best way to take in a cabaret show at the Moulin Rouge. The auditorium seats 900 people making it one of the largest restaurants in France. The cabaret employs a ‘house brigade’ of 120 staff to run the dinner services every night. The kitchen is directed by Executive Chef David le Quellec. After Le Quellec joined the cabaret, the popular food guide Gault & Millau listed the Moulin Rouge restaurant as one of the best places to dine at in Paris. It was the first time that a cabaret was included in Gault & Millau’s gastronomic guide. Apart from being able to enjoy stellar food and service, dinner-show guests also get to enjoy live music performed by the orchestra before the Féerie show starts.
Things to know before booking your cabaret show
The dress code
When getting dressed for your night at the Moulin Rouge, there are a few notes you should take into consideration. The cabaret is a formal establishment and has been since it was opened in 1889. While formal dressing is not required, dressing in sportswear, shorts, sandals and t-shirts are not permitted. We recommend aiming for a casual but elegant look. A collared shirt and some dark trousers for men and something dressy for women like slacks, a evening top, or a dress.
Different kinds of tickets available
There are several different ticketing options to choose from at the Moulin Rouge. The cabaret puts on two shows a night. The dinner-show starts with a dinner service at 7pm and then the Féerie performance begins at 9pm. The late night show starts at 11pm. Each ticket also comes with a VIP option which offers premium seating, a bottle of champagne, macarons, and a parting gift.
INSIDR Tip: For the most affordable option, book a seat for an 11pm show during the week when tickets are the cheapest. Make sure you book at least a month in advance to get the best possible price. Make sure you book your seat using our INSIDR Passport! Simply download your INSIDR Passport to get skip-the-line access and VIP treatment at the Moulin Rouge!
The dinner menu
If you’re planning on attending a dinner-show, you’ll get to choose between five different menus: Mistinguett, Toulouse-Lautrec, Belle-Epoque, Pesco-Vegetarian, and Vegan. Each menu has a different price so you can pick the best one for your budget. The menu has been designed by Chef David Le Quellec who is also an expert “caviste” and personally selects all of the wines and champagnes for his dinners. At the Moulin Rouge, you can enjoy his expertly crafted dishes like foie gras with elderflower extract or risotto with barigoule vegetables. If you’re coming to the Moulin Rouge with family, there’s a kid-friendly menu for the younger members of your party.
Combine your cabaret show experience with Paris attractions
The Paris Cabaret website offers ticket packages to the Moulin Rouge and different attractions in Paris like The Eiffel Tower, a boat cruise along the Seine, or an evening walking tour of Paris. Buying bundled tickets can be the best way to save money when seeing multiple attractions in Paris. This is definitely a great way to make the most out of your trip to Paris.
Moulin Rouge Practical Info:
- Address: 82 Boulevard de Clichy, 75018 Paris
- Metro: Line 2 – Blanche
For a dinner-show, please come between 6.45 pm and 7.30 pm. Ends at 11 pm.
For the 9 pm show, please come between 8.30 pm and 8.45 pm. Ends at 11 pm.
For the 11 pm show, please come between 10.30 and 11.00 pm. Ends at 1 am.
- Booking website