For more than a century, glamorous showgirls wearing elaborate costumes have been high-kicking across the stage of the Moulin Rouge, the iconic cabaret in Paris.
Now, for the first time, travelers can spend the night inside this long-running performing arts venue and get a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to pull off a show through Airbnb—all for just a dollar a night.
Interior designers transformed a secret room inside the building’s namesake windmill (Moulin Rouge means “red mill”) that was not previously open to the public—and created a unique opportunity to sleep inside a Parisian landmark. Inside, guests will find late 19th-century-inspired decor and furnishings meant to transport them back in time to the Belle Époque, the “Beautiful Age,” when the arts flourished in France between roughly 1870 and the beginning of the First World War in 1914.
As Sara Lieberman writes for Conde Nast Traveler, the room, which was designed by Amplify Design Agency in about a week, is “glorious—absolutely out-of-this-world dreamy.” She slept in the four-poster bed surrounded by antique furnishings, wrought-iron bird cages, drapey pastel fabrics and other “romantic fairytale” decor.
Travelers who book the Moulin Rouge boudoir can imagine what life would be like as a sought-after cabaret performer while exploring an en suite dressing area brimming with vintage costumes, love letters and perfumes. They can enjoy drinks on a private rooftop terrace outfitted with period-appropriate garden furniture and play pretend with a miniature paper stage inspired by the cabaret below.
The experience includes more than just an overnight stay: Guests also get a private backstage tour of the venue, a meet-and-greet with lead dancer Claudine Van Den Bergh (who also doubles as the Airbnb host) and an opportunity to take photos on stage with the cast. Tickets to the cabaret show Féerie are also included, along with a three-course dinner created by resident chef Arnaud Demerville and a classic Parisian breakfast.
Travelers can book this experience for just €1 ($1) a night.
If all this sounds too good to be true, here’s the catch: The offering is only available for three individual one-night stays (for up to two guests) this summer on June 13, 20 and 27. Booking opens May 17.
(Another catch, according to Lieberman, is that guests have to walk down the stairs to the club next door to use the restroom.)
Co-founders Joseph Oller and Charles Zidler opened the Moulin Rouge in Paris’s Montmartre district in 1889, with a goal of creating “the biggest and most beautiful of cabarets; a temple dedicated to Woman, the Dance and the Cancan,” according to the Moulin Rouge website.
They topped the building with a windmill to pay homage to Montmartre’s past and painted it red “because they wanted it to be seen from everywhere,” Fanny Rabasse, a Moulin Rouge spokeswoman, told CBS News’ Alina Cho in 2020.
People from all walks of life attended the dance hall’s shows, from eccentrics and artists to wealthy socialites. During the Belle Époque period, the peaceful years between Franco-Prussian War and World War I, Parisians embodied la joie de vivre—the joy of living—by indulging in art, high fashion, music and other lavish pastimes that reflected the prosperity of the time.
“Café-concerts became the true symbol of this social and cultural melting-pot,” according to the Moulin Rouge website. “Workers, artists, middle-classes and aristocrats gathered at the same table in a joyful atmosphere of feast and frivolity.”
Music hall-goers quickly become enamored with the cancan, an energetic new dance style inspired by the quadrille in which dancers kicked their legs high into the air—and exposed their petticoats in the process. A fire destroyed the building in 1915, but crews rebuilt it and the Moulin Rouge reopened in 1921.
The historic venue also inspired the popular 2001 Baz Luhrmann movie Moulin Rouge!, an adaptation of the opera La Boheme which follows a young English poet who falls in love with a cabaret performer. Starring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor, the film inspired new generations of cabaret-goers and led to the creation of a successful Broadway musical by the same name.
Though the leadership and the shows changed over time, the venue remained a hub for the performing arts throughout the centuries. Today, the Parisian institution is celebrating 133 years in business.
During the current show, Féerie, 80 dancers from 14 different countries perform twice each evening, donning an impressive 1,000 sequin-studded costumes and elaborate headdresses. The sky-high kicks and choreography are part and parcel of an institution that still serves as shorthand for an era of beauty and excess in the City of Light.
And if their popularity over the last century is any indication, the Paris dancers—and their musical theater counterparts on Broadway—will be dazzling audiences of “reprobates and rascals, artistes and arrivistes, soubrettes and sodomites,” as fictional Moulin Rouge owner Harold Zidler croons in the musical based on Luhrmann’s film, well into the future.