Of all the things we love about being in France — besides the pastries, the social democracy, the intoxicating architecture — is that we know how to shake it ~just so~… Only Parisians could invent shows such as cabarets — live entertainment combining elements of a theatre, concert, dance show, and a bottle of champagne. With — usually a suggestive ‘coupe’ of sexual liberté…
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, premium show, show with champagne, show with dinner, show with snacks in a guy’s living room even (we dug DEEP, yo) …you get the point). Warning: nips, booty, sometimes guy in Dior lipstick abound, and they ain’t slippin’ — it’s fully intentional. So maybe leave mother-in-law at the Airbnb.
Then there are the hipsters’ version of circus, the classic French folk shows, and some things in-between…
Picture what could go on in Paris at a place called Crazy Horse. If you guessed the sexiest Parisian 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. Ladies be warned — if you were on the fence, you will leave with a certifiably not-less-than 49% gay quotient. Or so my friend says… Note: wear a sexy dress/nice evening attire to look your best and you’ll enjoy it more as you won’t feel so outgunned by the sheer flawlessness of all that booty…
Does this place even need an introduction? Le 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 has brought joy (in the form of exposed bottoms and beaucoup long, sexy, legs) to children those who can appreciate the art. While nowadays fairly commercialised, it still retains 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.
This is another spot for which it’s recommended to wear that sexy dress/ evening wear so you’ll feel comfortable amongst all the eye candy. There are places to dress down, and the chic, classic, burlesque shows of Paris are most certainly not it. Au revoir, mom jeans…
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.
As for what to wear, it’s like Antifa meets Cirque du Soleil. So come as you are and skip the heels unless they are Doc Maarten platforms or some crazy punk shit.
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.
This is the fun, Indie‑, and self-aware option to get a less-touristy night among Parisian entertainers…
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.
After the Big Cooties (Covid) they rebooted as a more experimental show, so if you saw it a few years ago it might be fun to ~come again~…
ADDRESS: 116 bis Avenue des Champs Elysées (8th arr.)
There might be not space betwixt you and thine frilly ladyboys working it like homoerotiic ballerinas but nearly getting kicked in the face by a drag goddess bedazzled with genuine chinese crystals is part of the charm. Sure, the Crazy Horse may have elegant velvet and doormen in suits and a (personally) unsettlingly nonexistant amount of cellulite, but ~holy hell~ here, at Sister Midnight, the cocktails are bedevilingly good and you get Le Real Deal, from the source. Literally, don’t be stingy and chip away at a local drag godesss’ rent with that 20 in your purse. They will pay it forward with pizazz. That’s what life’s about, non???? You wanted authenticity — here it may graze your cheek with its’ stiletto. TIP: Check in advance of they have a show on and don’t expect seating. One of the best nights we passed there involved us in a puddle on the floor (order cocktails for this obv) which made it feel like a velveteen, adult, Lollapalooza ..
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 kids’ taste in entertainment (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).
Don’t worry about the gritty appearance of the neighborhood– it’s not a bad neighborhood (I live there, lol–kw) it’s a trendy and fun part of Paris to really immerse yourself like a local.
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.
They include with every ticket, their house-made cherry cocktail to get the jovial, singalong, vibe rolling. Think Chanson Francaise, old-school folk classics banged out on a piano — almost like a frontier cabaret. No wagging booty in sight so, while it’s still an ~adult~ environment, expect neither titillation nor provocation — as one of my unfortunate dates found out when he could not secure last-minute tickets to the Moulin Rouge and took me here instead; knee-slapping the night away to Granny’s favorite classic piano bits was not what he had hoped for. But great if you (keeping it) Conservative and/or are traveling with your mother-in-law…
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…
Again, dress to impress! Wouldn’t you rather feel like a sleek n’ sexy panther as you walk through the jungle to your table?
NOTE: there is a new, special, children’s cabaret that is NOT a heart-melting, flawless-flesh parade.
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, (and, I surmise, the World Capital of Sexy) 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 ~public~ cabaret scene in the city (22 square feet — still bigger than many apartments here) (keep reading for the REAL smallest below) 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 in the trendy Canal St. Martin neighborhood (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.
If you want to experience a deeper Paris, this is un-miss-ably cool. You’ll laugh, you’ll be impressed, you’ll eat some snacks with the Queen of the show!