Step behind the velvet curtains of the Moulin Rouge with Airbnb

You can now experience a throwback to the golden era of Paris with a stay at this famed spot!

In its quest for offering unique accommodation, Airbnb has hit upon an especially interesting new property to add to its kitty. A secret room inside the famed red windmill atop the Moulin Rouge will reveal the rich history of the cabaret to guests starting June 13, 2022!

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The secret is out! Image: Courtesy Airbnb/Daniel Alexander Harris.

You may have been enchanted by Nicole Kidman’s Satine in the 2001 romantic musical Moulin Rouge, set in 1890s Paris, but this is a slice of the real thing. As you step into the beautifully appointed boudoir, you’ll be transported back in time to La Belle Époque, the golden era of peace, prosperity and progress, and a cultural exuberance that was unmatched.

Flashback to the early years

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The Eiffel Tower under construction! Image: Courtesy Moulin Rouge.

It is 1889, the 300-metre-tall Eiffel Tower is being completed, the Universal Exhibition is on in the city, and the Lumière Brothers are screening 10 short films on their new invention — the Cinématographe — at a Parisian salon.

These are exciting times indeed. And entertainment entrepreneurs Charles Zidler and Joseph Oller, understand the pulse of Paris. They open the Moulin Rouge, a cabaret that welcomes all, allowing the elite and nouveau riche to mingle with those with artistic flair and little else at a strategic location at the foot of the Montmartre hill, close to the heart of bohemian and creative Paris.

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Image: Courtesy Moulin Rouge.
Moulin rouge, paris, france, cancan, airbnb, pigalle, cabaret
The mischievous Mistinguett at the Moulin Rouge. Once the highest paid female entertainer in the world, she had her legs insured for 500,000 francs in 1919. Image: Courtesy Moulin Rouge.

Dancers in titillating costumes become the talk of the town and go down in history for their talent, flamboyance, and cheekiness — La Goulue, Jane Avril, Mistinguett, La Môme Fromage, Grille d’Egout, Nini Pattes en l’Air, Yvette Guilbert, Valentin le Désossé (Valentine the Boneless), and the clown Cha-U-Kao.

The Moulin Rouge is refined risqué, with rules that are as flexible as the dancers’ bodies and morals. The red windmill on the roof at Place Blanche in Pigalle soon comes to signify a life so vibrant that even artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s 17 paintings depicting it perhaps don’t do it enough justice!

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‘At the Moulin Rouge, The Dance’, a famous painting from 1890 by Henri Toulouse-Lautrec. Image: Courtesy Moulin Rouge.

His famous muse is La Goulue, meaning The Glutton (an affectionate epithet earned as she guzzles the drinks of patrons as she dances!), the protégé of Valentin le Désossé, the most prominent male dancer of the time.

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From 1955. Poster: Courtesy Moulin Rouge.

Named Louise Weber in real life, she shines centrestage, not only capturing the imagination of Toulouse-Lautrec, but making friends with Renoir and many more, the toast of the town, synonymous with the Moulin Rouge and the dance called the French Cancan. 

This saucy, fast-paced dance, which is said to have originated from the final steps of a traditional quadrille, which was danced by men and women together, or even only men, has evolved into a standalone style also adopted by burlesque dancers that is all about a chorus line of female dancers flirtatiously flipping the flounces and frills of their skirts, and performing synchronised high kicks and jump splits. The Cancan is considered scandalous, and many are arrested for dancing it while wearing revealing clothes.

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The attire of show girls from that time. Hand drawing: Shutterstock/Kuco.

The Moulin Rouge is careful to keep it classy though, even though it’s where the Cancan flourishes and gains popularity. Festive champagne evenings and spectacular balls, where people dance as well as are entertained reflect the celebratory spirit of the era. The revolutionary architecture of the auditorium allows for rapid changes of décor in the shows and mingling of classes and genders in the audience.

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A poster from the opening of the cabaret in 1889; announcement of The Bal au Moulin Rouge in 1953; and the poster for ‘Féerie’ from its launch in 1999. Posters: Courtesy Moulin Rouge.

Many types of shows beyond the bawdy are put on here, even during the Nazi occupation of France. Singer Edith Piaf is a regular performer on the Moulin Rouge stage in these years.

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Just a year before the fire that destroyed the original building in 1915; flourishing after reconstruction even during the wars; and Moulin Rouge today. Images: Moulin Rouge, Bundesarchiv, and Priya Pathiyan.
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A ticket to a show here is the ticket! Image: Courtesy Moulin Rouge.
Moulin rouge, paris, france, cancan, airbnb, pigalle, cabaret
Postcard from 1921 showing the exterior and the city beyond. Image: Courtesy Moulin Rouge.

Later, it becomes a hub for entertainment that draws the world’s biggest names both on and off stage apart from tourists curious to get a sense of the colourful side of Paris.

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From singer Elvis Presley (1959) to actress Marlene Dietrich (1946) to artist Salvador Dali (1977), many legends visit! Images: Courtesy Moulin Rouge.

Be it factory workers or famous film stars, artists or poets, businessmen or Parisian bourgeoisie, everyone has a Moulin Rouge memory and is part of the gritty glamour of this ‘Palace of Women’ that has enchanted visitors to Paris for 133 years.

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Cancan dancers from the Paris Folies Bergere at the premiere of the film ‘Moulin Rouge’, which opened the 54th Cannes Film Festival in May 2001. Image: Shutterstock/Paul Smith/Featureflash.

Making memories at the Moulin Rouge today

The Moulin Rouge is unveiling a secluded room inside the iconic red windmill that has been sumptuously designed to transport guests back in time to the late 19th century. Few are aware of the space inside the windmill, which has never been open for public access and is now bookable for an overnight stay on Airbnb.

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Inside that famed red mill is a portal into the past. Image: Courtesy Airbnb/Daniel Alexander Harris.

Here’s what you can expect…

  • The windmill interior has been transformed into a Belle Époque-inspired boudoir, reminiscent of the cabaret era. When recreating the decorative and stylistic details of this celebrated time in history, Airbnb worked with the renowned historian Jean-Claude Yon, specialising in French cultural and social history of the 19th century, to authentically renovate the windmill, exactly as it would have been.
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An opulence of charm and romance. Image: Courtesy Airbnb/Daniel Alexander Harris.
  • The opulent boudoir is filled with exquisite art nouveau features, including a miniature paper stage to immerse guests in the spirit of the cabaret. The dressing area features glamorous accessories from the era, including vintage costumes, heady perfumes, and effusive letters from admirers.
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Sensuous scents and sensibilities! Image: Courtesy Airbnb/Daniel Alexander Harris.
  • Three special one-night stays, for only €1 per night, will offer a peek behind the velvet curtains of the world-renowned cabaret and a glimpse into the spectacular world of French glamour.
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The bed chamber has all the bells and whistles of La Belle Epoque! Image: Courtesy Airbnb/Daniel Alexander Harris.
  • A private tour of the Moulin Rouge: its history, its costumes makers, and its backstage area.
  • A carefully curated evening designed to embrace the grandeur of the illustrious cabaret, with the best seats in the house during the Moulin Rouge show, Féerie, a fantasy world of feathers and sequins, featuring sensational performances, sumptuous sets, and original music.
  • A meet and greet with lead dancer and Airbnb Host, Claudine Van Den Bergh in her dressing room and photos on stage with the cast of the show.
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A rooftop to remember. Image: Courtesy Airbnb/Daniel Alexander Harris.
  • Step onto the private rooftop terrace adorned with an ornate pagoda and garden furniture characteristic of the period. Enjoy a complimentary aperitif on this romantic rooftop terrace, followed by the Belle Époque menu three-course dinner prepared by resident chef Arnaud Demerville. A classic Parisian petit déjeuner will also be served here the following morning.

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