Considering that once upon a time I was obsessed with the movie Moulin Rouge, it makes sense that one of the places that I thought I should see in Paris, shoule be Moulin Rouge.
Why Moulin Rouge is so famous
The Moulin Rouge is a cabaret built in 1889, at the Montmarte district during the Belle Epoque. It held the most extravagant shows and is responsible for making the can can dance famous. When it first opened, it was referred as the Palace of Women, set to be the place for music and dance. Back in the days, men from all walks of life came here to see young ladies seductively dirty dancing, making feisty moves. The men don’t just watch, they get “down”, too — Moulin Rouge wasn’t just a cabaret, it was also a brothel.
Today, Moulin Rouge has lost much of its notoriety. The dance toned down, the brothel business shut down. Despite that, today it still holds cabaret shows with a kick, watched mostly by the wealthy.
Moulin Rouge, a movie inspired by the cabaret, was one of the movies I loved, as a teenager. For years I’d imagined the real Moulin Rouge to be as glitzy and glamorous as the one I’d seen in the movie. Hundreds of lightbulbs fabulously decorating the red windmill and the signage. See this:
So you should understand why I was disappointed when I saw the real thing for the first time -_-‘
It was a WTF moment. I thought it looked so plain!
“This is Moulin Rouge???”
Reza (who’s been there before) tried to console me by saying that it looks better at night.
Toward the entrance, the wall was decorated with pictures of the shows, mostly girls dancing in elaborate costumes. There was also this thing explaining the history of Moulin Rouge. Pretty useless since it’s in French.
After taking pictures we roamed around the area. Moulin Rouge might have toned down in the past century, but the environment at Montmarte gives you a glimpse of what the place is known for. Reza earlier warned me that we need to be extra careful, because the area is a little sketch — from the stores to the people. We walked along a straight road and saw very “interesting” things. Like adult shops, stripclubs (with windows for all to see, late at night) and an erotic museum — it’s like the red light district of Paris. Montmarte is definitely not one place to bring kids!
You know what I found strange though… halal kebab outlets were aplenty -_-‘ Makes me wonder why they’re always present at the red light districts in the cities I’ve been to.
We spent the evening climbing the hill at Montmarte and the sun was about to set. Moulin Rouge’s very near to the metro station we’re supposed to return to. It was my chance to see it at night!
Moulin Rouge at night
With the lights on, it looks so much better!
Found it funny that, while usually it’s the guys task to take pictures of their girlfriends, at Moulin Rouge, it was the other way round. There were several men in front of the windmill, striking poses while their other halves took pictures for them. Expect to help your man take pictures of him and the Moulin Rouge when you reach there.
I don’t think Moulin Rouge is a compulsory visit when in Paris. However, it’ll still be good experience to see the place that helped define French entertainment (which later inspired the world e.g. Vegas). If you want to do more, you can also watch the topless cabaret performance that’s held at night.
To visit Moulin Rouge, take the metro and exit Blanche station (M2). It’s just around the corner.