Moulin Rouge: A Grand Past, A Shaky Present


It’s not all about Kylie, the Absinth fairy. ;p

The Moulin Rouge is best known as the spiritual birthplace of the modern form of the can-can dance. The cabaret was built in 1889 in Jardin de Paris, at the foot of Montmartre hill, by Joseph Oller, the man who invented a new way of betting on the race tracks, which was later legalized by French authorities. The Eiffel Tower was also constructed in 1889, and the Exposition Universelles took place in the same year too. So the taste of industrial progress and a rich cultural exuberance was in the air.

Moulin Rouge, nicknamed “The First Palace of Women", became a place where workers, residents of the Place Blanche, artists, the middle class, businessmen, elegant women, and foreigners passing through Paris rubbed elbows, and the cabaret quickly became a great success.

My first encounter with Moulin Rouge was, of course, through the excellent movie directed by Baz Luhrmann in 2001, starring Nicole Kidman. My favorite part of the movie was Kylie Minogue’s character, The Green Fairy, the one seen by the company of friends whenever they were high on Absinth.

So, I had high expectations about the place, as we usually do. That windmill seemed to be promising something magical…

And of course it wasn’t anything like that… It was crazy of me to believe in movies. :) We actually came to the area to dine by the recommendation of a friend, so it was quite surprising to see the famous windmill after we left the restaurant. We didn’t even know it was there. I got ecstatic first and quickly reached for my Lomo. But after a few minutes of clicking, I noticed something weird was happening around…

The place was full of sex shops with their windows full of artificial penises and other kinky stuff, filthy looking peep shows, prostitutes, and dangerously looking pimps. It didn’t feel safe at all and the vibe was devilish.
Anyway, as a devoted Lomographer, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to take some pictures of all those neon lights.

Exhausted, we decided to have a drink at one of the numerous bars. How surprised we were to find out that the price of a cocktail in that area was 25 euros per drink, and it was a special Happy Hour price as we were told by the unfriendly bartender. We decided to leave without ordering and the guy told us with a grimy smile: “Welcome to Paris”. Oh yeah…

I wouldn’t recommend anyone to go there and I am surely not going back myself. But if you are a brave Lomographer attached to your ephemeral dreams, go for it but make sure to quickly get out.

82 Boulevard de Clichy,
75018 Paris, France

written by neja on 2012-01-31 #places #location #urban-adventures #city-guides #night-on-the-town


  1. superlighter
    superlighter ·

    permitted or prohibited sex bussines makes the world go round! :)

  2. neja
    neja ·

    @superlighter the attitude in that area was seriously off putting

  3. superlighter
    superlighter ·

    you know, I was there many years ago (1979)and maybe at that time the atmosphere was still...charming (or was just in my young adult italian male eyes), I remember that everything was a little bit more "discrete", the only thing that's still the same is "the prices", apparently!

  4. lakandula
    lakandula ·

    Great shots! Very interesting viewpoint on the Moulin Rouge.

  5. neja
    neja ·

    @superlighter well, 33 years is a long time!:))

  6. neja
    neja ·

    thanks! I hated the place though

  7. superlighter
    superlighter ·

    another world! :) however, my compliments for the great photos on this article!

  8. neja
    neja ·

    @superlighter thanks! I was really impressed with the picture, too. I shot without tripod and really thought they gonna come out shaky

  9. wolkers
    wolkers ·

    Very nice Location article! You really wrote something extraordinary! I like that a lot!

  10. neja
    neja ·

    @wolkers thanks!

  11. emperornorton
    emperornorton ·

    From what I have heard, the inside of the Moulin Rouge isn't like the area around it. The show there still reflects the 1890s. Anyone actually been inside?

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