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Moulin Rouge: History, Tips for Going & What to Expect When You Visit


The Moulin Rouge is one of Paris’ most venerable institutions. In this post, learn about the history of the Moulin Rouge, tips for going, and more!

Outside it may be raining, but in here it’s entertaining! 

Zidler from Moulin Rouge!

Today I won’t be talking about the great Baz Luhrmann movie Moulin Rouge! (even though I adore it!), but rather about the most famous French cabaret which inspired it. The above quote comes from the movie, but it could not be more perfect to describe the festive spirit that fills this place.

Let’s learn more about the Moulin Rouge, its history, and all the things you need to know before visiting the cabaret under the red windmill!

Façade nuit. © Moulin Rouge® - S. Bertrand
Façade nuit. © Moulin Rouge® – S. Bertrand

Related Read: 100+ Fascinating Facts About France

History of the Moulin Rouge

It is impossible to start telling the story of the Moulin Rouge without illustrating its setting in Paris at the end of the 19th century. The Moulin Rouge opened its doors right in the midst of the Belle Époque, the time when arts and culture were flourishing in France and especially in its heart, Paris. It was a time of peace, optimism, and innovation in many fields, so it is no wonder a sophisticated crowd needed a place where they could enjoy and celebrate life to its fullest.

Prologue Rouge Moulin Rouge
Prologue Rouge © Moulin Rouge ® – S. Franzese

The Moulin Rouge was established in 1889 in the Montmartre district, the same year the Eiffel Tower was constructed, and both of them were destined to become the most iconic places in Paris. Its co-founders Joseph Oller and Charles Zidler, who was also a manager, created a place that perfectly satisfied the demands of the public. From the very beginning of its existence, the Moulin Rouge offered a glamorous and extravagant atmosphere, and, of course, famous French can-can! It’s no wonder many famous artists enjoyed visiting the Moulin Rouge, and even now you can see their paintings and posters inside the cabaret.

The stage of the Moulin Rouge hosted many renowned singers, including Edith Piaf, Dalida, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Elton John, and Ray Charles.

Fun Fact: The building of the Moulin Rouge became the first one in Paris to be lit by electricity.

What to Expect During Your Visit

French Cancan © Moulin Rouge ® - S. Franzese can-can dancing
French Cancan © Moulin Rouge ® – S. Franzese

It goes without saying that you can expect an amazing performance in a place that was fancied by many artists and celebrities from different eras. But the Moulin Rouge has more to offer much than just a dancing show. 

There are plenty of ticket options that you can choose from, starting from buying tickets just to watch the show, paying a little extra to enjoy the show with a half a bottle of champagne, or going lavish and buying a dinner and show experience, which starts two hours before the performance with a great French dinner. You can also get a VIP ticket, which includes some more treats and a few extra perks, such as premium seating and a free cloakroom, some macarons, and a souvenir gift.

Each night there are two shows: at 9 pm and 11 pm. However, if you want the dinner and show option, it’s available only at the 9 pm show, with the dinner starting at 7 pm. Recently, the Moulin Rouge introduced a show during the daytime at 2:45 pm with a possibility of having lunch before, but that’s only available a few selected days each month. 

Fun Fact: After the huge success of the Frou-Frou revue in 1963, all the titles for the next revues were starting with the letter F out of superstition of the Moulin Rouge owner, Jacki Clérico. The current revue has been performed since 1999 and is named Féerie.

Some Useful Tips on Visiting Moulin Rouge

Pirates - Masques Moulin Rouge
Pirates – Masques © Moulin Rouge ® – S. Bertrand
  • Though you don’t have to wear a tuxedo, it is not appropriate to visit a Moulin Rouge show in gym shoes or beach clothes, as you can imagine. So, if you spend the whole day sightseeing, it’s better to go back to the hotel to change before your night at the cabaret.
  • It is forbidden to take pictures or videos inside, so be aware of that and do not plan on taking a gazillion pictures for your Instagram. Even we had to use official press photos for this blog post!
  • Children over 6 years old are allowed to come, as well, but make sure before that you are ok with your kids seeing half-naked dancers.

Fun Fact: The Moulin Rouge is open 365 days per year, but on 23 November 1981, it was closed to visitors to present a special private show to Queen Elizabeth II. 

Final Rose panoramique Moulin Rouge
Final Rose panoramique Web © Moulin Rouge ® – S. Bertrand

(Read more Queen Elizabeth facts here.)

No matter when you go and what ticket you will choose, I assure you, the experience will be truly magical! The Moulin Rouge is truly a must-see institution while visiting Paris and a legend that comes to life every evening after sunset.

Mariia Kislitsyna
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Mariia Kislitsyna
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