Local Obsessions

Mind Your Bubbles and Nudes at the Moulin Rouge

by Darlene Fiske

Step right up, messieurs-dames. All photos by Darlene Fiske.

Of course you've heard about the legendary Moulin Rouge in Paris. You just don't know if anyone actually goes there. They do, it turns out. Every night. Before you make your way to the red light district for yourself, here's what you need to know.

PARIS – ­POP! go the Champagne bottles — all night long — at the Moulin Rouge.

As a lover of musicals and of all things Parisian, I could not turn down the opportunity to visit the Montmartre location of Satine and Christian's epic love story as seen in (what I consider to be) one of the greatest movies of all time, Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge. And when I'm on vacation, I have a hard time saying no to anything — a fabulous pair of shoes, a mountain of frites, or staying up until 1 a.m. at a French cabaret. I'm game! And so were my girlfriends, which made for an eye-opening, late-night experience of spectacular proportions.

Since 1889 (loooong before the 2001 movie), the iconic Moulin Rouge has been putting on performances that have left visitors' jaws gaping and bellies full of bubbles. The two nightly shows at 9 and 11 p.m. sell out in advance. The cabaret serves 240,000 bottles of Champagne a year. The pops became part of the experience, because all night you hear corks popping throughout the theater. (Such beautiful music…) But those are only a few things you need to know before you make your way to the Moulin Rouge.


Leave your modesty at the door.
I have lots of experience with this. (Have you seen my Fathom story about Korean spas in NYC?) If you're uncomfortable with breasts bared in every direction and perky nips of all shapes and sizes jingle-jangling, this show is not for you.

Notice the shoes.
There are more than 800 pair of shoes in the show, all handmade by Maison Clairvoy, a small Parisian workshop that has been making shoes since 1945. Great shoes are so vital to the performances that the Moulin Rouge actually purchased the shoe company a few years ago.

Prepare to be dazzled.
Not to give too much away, but there are feathers (lots of them), there are lights, there are pythons (five of them!). Plus, tiny horses, screams, acrobatics, singing, a French cancan, and absolute gobs (gobs!) of sparkle.

Have drinks and dinner at Hotel Amour beforehand.
Their garden courtyard makes waiting for the 11 p.m. show all the more pleasurable. (And do order the fish egg spread with toast. OMG.) When you finish, it's a super quick taxi to Moulin Rouge.

Moulin Rouge


Wait to buy tickets.
The 9 p.m. shows sell out first, sometimes weeks in advance. They offer regular and VIP seating, but I don't think there is a bad seat in the house. If you want to have dinner in the theater before the show, that begins at 7 p.m. and comes with an additional fee. (Obviously.) The new executive chef David Le Quellec and his waitstaff of 120 serve 600 meals every evening. If you choose the no-dinner route, you can purchase show-only tickets (with our without Champagne) online.

Miss the intermission shows.
The entire night is broken down into four themes or scenes, and the parts in between are outstanding. All I can tell you is this: rollerskates on a platform in Xanadu-esque costumes. Your eyes may pop out of your head.

Take photos during the performance.
First of all, it's bad form. Second of all, you will probably get reprimanded. (In French.) Third of all, your camera is distracting to the people around you, and it's preventing you from keeping all eyes on the stage.

Panic when you see the line to get in.
The show will not start without you. Your Champagne will be chilled. And from what I saw, you will have a great view. A staff member escorts you to your table, so it's not a crazy free-for-all when you get inside. You can try your luck getting a better seat by showing up early, but buying your VIP ticket in advance is the certain way ensure you get a great spot. So you can spend your time in Paris doing more interesting things than waiting in line for a show to start.

Like eating. That night, as I watched long, lean legs kick and prance across the stage, along with perfectly proportioned 5'8" frames, I kept wondering if any of the 80 svelte dancers had eaten one nibble of my Parisian diet, which consisted of croissants, crèpes, crusty French bread with butter, café crème, tarama a la truffe (fish crème with toast), gratin de macaronis au jambon blanc (macaroni and cheese with ham), and frites (a daily staple).

No way, I thought. And on that note I asked, "Can someone please pass the Champagne?"


Moulin Rouge
82, Boulevard de Clichy
75018 Paris, France


Inside a Parisian Sex Club
Fathom's Paris Guide

We make every effort to ensure the information in our articles is accurate at the time of publication. But the world moves fast, and even we double-check important details before hitting the road.