Experience Les Folies Bergère, a Classic Paris Cabaret

The stuff of legends

Les Folies Bergere cabaret in Paris

Bruno De Hogues / Getty Images

 

The stuff of legends, Les Folies Bergère is one of Paris' most-revered classic cabarets and "theaters of the people." Opened in 1869 as Les Folies Trevise (after the name of an adjoining street), Les Folies Bergère has hosted performances by legends such as American dancer Josephine Baker, French writer Colette, and Charlie Chaplin. Known for its bawdy, bold acts, Les Folies Bergère has always been anything but highbrow.

The venue continues in this anti-elitist tradition and has even inspired a tribute revue in Las Vegas. Why give this legendary spot a try? In a few words: A night out at Les Folies is guaranteed to give you a taste of a nearly-lost Paris. The place is so iconic that it has been featured in countless films, novels, and even paintings (such as the one below by Impressionist artist Edouard Manet).

The bar at the Folies Bergere by Edouard Manet, oil on canvas England, London, Courtauld Institute and Galleries, 1882
Courtauld Institute and Galleries / Superstock / Getty Images

Pros: Why to Go

  • Experience a legendary cabaret with a genuine throwback ambiance.
  • The historic venue features classic Parisian decor from the late 19th century.
  • The program is varied and entertaining.
  • There is a full drink menu and nibbles, making for a fun and even budget-friendly night out.

Cons: Why Give It a Miss? 

  • The orchestra seating is slightly cramped.
  • For good views, you may need to purchase more expensive seats and avoid the "nosebleed" rows at the back and far sides.

The Ambiance

Walking into Les Folies Bergère, one feels transported to a less gleaming, artistically rough-around-the-edges Paris—the one tourists come in droves to find (usually ending up at Starbucks instead). The decor is a far cry from the posh theaters near the Opéra Garnier or the classic Comédie Française. Its garish wall paintings and faux gold borders make the ambiance nearly circusy. This is, after all, the theater of the people, designed for underground, often bawdy acts. Pretension has no place in this classic "theatre populaire."

Imagine being escorted to your seats at the upper end of the orchestra, which has been set up to resemble a cabaret. You are seated at round tables with small red lamps. The mood is perfect for the ensuing show.

Settling in

The cabaret performance has scantily-clad performers take the stage and blow at saxophones in pre-show fanfare. You can order a glass of champagne (pricey, but can be a worthy added touch of luxury) to help you settle in. The Paris reworking of Cabaret is every bit as delicious and tragic as hoped, and with the orchestra a seeming extension of the set, the audience is made part of the action and drama.

The artistically-charged, libertine spirit of Berlin between world wars came to life at Les Folies Bergère, whose own solid history seemed to summon the ghosts back with added force.

Bottom Line

While it's not "trending" at the moment, Les Folies Bergères offers travelers something that hipper nightlife spots can't: an authentic and entertaining encounter with aspects of Parisian culture that have endured for centuries, well beyond the fickle winds of fashion and social media fads. Social history, theatre, glamour, and architecture: you'll get a taste of all of these by enjoying a night out at this iconic address.

Getting There and Contact Information

  • Address: 32 Rue Richer, 9th arrondissement
  • Metro: Grands Boulevards or Cadet
  • Bus lines: Faubourg Montmartre (bus 67 or 74); Cadet (26-32-43- 49 or 42)
  • Reservations: By telephone—call (+33) 0892 68 16 50 or reserve online.
  • Open: Hours vary according to showtimes.
  • Drinks: Service at bar and orchestra tables. Beer, wine, champagne, mixed drinks. Snacks are also available.
  • Capacity: 1,679 seats
  • Dress code: None is officially enforced. You may feel most comfortable dressing in casual to business casual or formal wear, depending on the event (check the event page for any details or call if in doubt).
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