Of all the things we love about the French, one of them is that they know how to party. Only they could invent shows such as cabarets — live entertainment combining elements of a theatre, concert, dance show, and a bottle of champagne. Singing, dancing, bending over…it all happens here all year round and not only on the weekends. If that alone is not enough, in most of those places you can choose from a variety of tickets (show only, show premium, show with champagne, show with dinner, show with…you get the point). Warning: nips abound, and they ain’t slippin’ — it’s fully intentional. So maybe leave mother-in-law at the Airbnb.
Picture what could go on in Paris at a place called Crazy Horse. If you guessed the most all-out avant-garde cabaret, then you’re bang on. Occupying former wine cellars close to the Champs-Elysées since early 1950s, this place has been an institution (and until recently, a family business, btw) ever since (it was referenced in the Rolling Stone’s song, after all). From time to time, instead of catching the glimpse of freed nipple (sometimes even belonging to one and only Pamela Anderson), you may see a stage full of magicians, jugglers, and mimes. The dancing spectacle, however, is one where you’ll need some wild horses to drag you away.
Does this place even need an introduction? Moulin Rouge is not only the most famous burlesque venue in the world, but also the birthplace of that frivolous (but actually very feminist) dance we all know as the French Cancan. Since 1889 (the same year the Eiffel Tower was constructed — coincidence? I think not), it brings joy (in the form of exposed bottoms) to children those who can appreciate the art. While nowadays fairly commercialised, it still has a lot of its old charm (as well as semi-original fin de siècle decor), but you either have to trust our word or swing by yourself, as there’s actually a no-photo policy inside.
For even more info about the Moulin Rouge, check out our article.
In the beginning, Cirque Electrique was sort of a travelling circus, until it moved into a no-man’s land on the outskirts of Paris, where it stands today. This place (literally and figuratively) serves as a link between inner-city and suburban artists through a space dedicated to the creation, dissemination and transmission of circus arts. It’s so much more than just a theatre — there’s a restaurant and a bar here, a bookstore, record store, a circus school and soon probably even more creative spaces (all advantages of having 25 hectares of space — that’s a lot of football fields, yk). And if you’re lucky enough to catch their show during a sunny day, they just might decide to host you outdoors.
Red velvet, colored stained glass windows, carved pillars and a wooden dance floor… I know we’re not here to talk architecture, but this place mixes old and new Parisian Bohemia in a way that is just *sigh* as beautiful as their decor. The agenda is full of concerts (both classy- and trashy-leaning), DJ sets and so-called intellectual fight-clubs, whatever that is (they say it involves chess. Hmmm). Either way, it’s worth checking out, even if you’re just on your way to one of the other venues in the area.
There’s laughter and glamour to be found in this place. Docked right next to Notre Dame (Jesus is looking), their show may be smaller than in other venues, but it’s rocking, alright. Of course their burlesque nights are magical, but they also advocate for women’s (and drag queens’) right to be on scene with standup nights, concerts, improvisations and even children’s theatre. They are also a more budget-friendly (and yet still classy) option if you’d like to eat dinner on a boat, with their French cuisine bar-restaurant.
ADDRESS: 3 Quai de Montebello (water lever) (5th arr.)
Le Lido is another place that has become ~an institution~. It first opened in 1946 (at a time when people needed some fun, for Pete’s sake) and since then it has hosted an endless list of great artists (with names such as Edith Piaf, Josephine Baker, Elton John, Shirley MacLaine and the Laurel & Hardy duo being just the tip of the iceberg). The original cabaret, however, closed its doors in the early 2010s (I feel so old writing this) in order to, behind the closed doors of their venue at the Avenue des Champs-Elysées, create what we now know as Le Lido 2.0. Nowadays, its creative show, while still including their internationally-known Bluebell Girls (not to mention lead roles with acting experiences for days or choreography including dancers in a champagne waterfall), is hosted in the newly remodeled theatre, with the choreography and costumes changing twice a year. Nerd alert: They also offer dinner parties accompanied by a robotic orchestra. Not the point of it all, I guess, but to each their own.
ADDRESS: 116 bis Avenue des Champs Elysées (8th arr.)
You’ve heard about the Cirque du Soleil, right? Well, Cabaret Cirque at Le Zèbre is quite similar, but French (=better. Sorry, Quebec, we’re on our land here). With its history going back to World War II, Le Zèbre embraced the spirit of troubled artists wanting to share their craft with a broader audience (a very Bellevilloise thing, may I add) and created an amazing show with jugglers, trapeze artists, tightrope walkers, magicians and all. that. jazz. With many shows dedicated to the young public (and their parents), it’s a great spot for a family evening; and the only animal that will be hurt is a giant fabric zebra that the kids always ask to hop up on (even though it’s 2D).
Any jazz fans in the house? If so, you’re gonna like this one. This Parisian jazz club is located in medieval cellars dating from the 13th century and has been fully devoted to traditional jazz since the early 1950s. Ever since, the club has welcomed big names in jazz, including Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, Champion Jack Dupree, Mezz Mezzrow and many others. They’ve also put a great emphasis on shows that have been refused elsewhere, for example due to social injustice. More recently, they are also focusing on nurturing young, bright, jazzy minds. If all that doesn’t scream « I’ll be seeing you », I don’t know what can.
Opened circa 1860 (and first known as « Where the Thieves Meet » or even « The Assassin’s Cabaret »), this is another place that (literally) bleeds history. Located in Montmartre, once a perfect neighbourhood for struggling artists, it has seen (and heard) a lot over the years. Sit down in one of the tables once occupied by Picasso, Modigliani, Baudelaire and Apollinaire and try to grasp the true meaning of art (when in Rome, you know…), with the accompaniment of musicians and poets who perform traditional French songs, some of them even dating back as far as the 15th century. Don’t let the pretty pinkish façade fool you though — the place (or maybe more like the neighbourhood) still attracts some ~intense~ public, so maybe don’t go too heavy on the booze, just in case.
First opened in 1807 by the orders of Napoleon Bonaparte, Paradis went to hell and back before it became the place it is today. It was closed and then reconstructed multiple times (notably in late 1880s by the one and only Gustave Eiffel), was later abandoned, then turned into a workshop, and then a warehouse. At some point, there were even plans to turn it into an apartment complex — but the planners changed their minds after seeing Eiffel’s original work and decided to restore it instead. Phew for us. Now the Paradis hosts up to 700 people and multiple shows a day, each one with a special menu signed of by Guy Savoy and Pierre Hermé. Feels like Heaven again…
Recently reopened after the death of its namesake creator, Chez Michou combines things that Michou loved most — the Montmartre quarter, the color blue, and cross-dressing. From the beginning, Michou realised that in Paris, the French capital of drinking and partying, it was important to stand out in order to be successful…and since Édith Piaf or Josephine Baker could only be in one place at a time, why not have someone dressed as them? Since then, the drag queens and kings alike, called les Michettes (AKA « the crumbs »), perform seven days a week. On the smallest cabaret scene in the city (22 square feet — still bigger than many apartments here) they sing their hearts out dressed as beloved French and international stars. Once a month, there’s a lunch show for all the elderly papys and mamies in the neighbourhood as a tribute to Michou’s grandmother. Good for when you’re feeling blue (or rainbow‑y).
Always living in the shadow of that certain somewhat more famous neighbor, Moulin Rouge,The New Eve at times struggled to keep its head above water — until it decided to completely reinvent its image. Entirely redecorated in Belle Époque style in the 1960s, the place accommodates up to 300 guests around its 1970s-styled dance floor, making it way more intimate (and less commercialised) than its ultra-famous crimson neighbour. Their newest show, Paris je t’aime, is a tribute to the artistic history of City of Light as well as Montmartre’s biggest star, Edith Piaf. Come see the show full of dancers, jugglers, acrobats, and even Piaf’s « La vie en Rose » anthem, done up tango-style.
Silvano Jo performs one-man (one-drag queen?) shows in his atelier/living room (unless he is invited by other venues around the country, which happens more and more often these days). Accompanied by a master pianist, he takes his guests on a musical journey through time — over a century of French (and Parisian) music. Called « All the women in my life », his show is a maybe a bit niche, but it’s every bit as cabaret‑y in terms of costumes and talent as the previous ones we’ve mentioned. And here, you have dinner with the showman himself! And, there’s no sitting in the nosebleed section! VIP, indeed.