El Molino Theatre Barcelona: Welcome to the Raunchiest Cabaret Show in Town

With its sizzling cabaret shows, electrifying live music performances and fascinating history, Barcelona’s El Molino theatre provides an unforgettable night out.

El Molino Performers Barcelona

Words by Ben Holbrook, photos and video supplied by El Molino

In a nutshell: El Molino is Barcelona’s answer to Paris’ Moulin Rouge.

Watch saucy cabaret performances that “convert sins into laughter, coldness into awe”, as well as live flamenco, jazz, blues and Catalan rumba.

The perfect night out in Barcelona for couples of all ages, as well as groups of friends.

Book tickets now or read on to hear the full story. 

A Little Taste of Paris in Barcelona

Opened in 1898, this ancient venue has worn many different hats and morphed multiple times under the management of various owners.

Many gave up after struggling with audiences made up of anarchists, gangsters and the city’s saltiest sea dogs.

In fact, it wasn’t until 1908, when it was taken over and renamed from La Pajarera Catalana to Petit Palais, that Barcelona was introduced to the joys of classy Parisian style cabaret.

Three years later, under the artistic guidance of Antoni Alstell, it was renamed Moulin Rouge, complete with red-lit rotating windmill sails and its own brand of bohemian irreverence. 

Show Must Go On – Surviving the Civil War and Franco’s Dictatorship

Old photo of El Molino theatre in BarcelonaSuccess ensued and the theatre became an emblem of all that this artistic playground provided, until, alas, the Spanish Civil War erupted and Franco’s rebel army banned all French vocabulary, and indeed any other language apart from Spanish (including the locals’ native Catalan).

It was then that the theatre was rebranded with its “Spanish name”: El Molino.

The theatre became a sort of cultural symbol of freedom, a beacon of hope.

Despite the oppression and censorship that came with Franco’s dictatorship, as well a new law against cross-dressing, El Molino managed to survive what could have been a fatal period.

This was in no small part due to the fact that many of police officers carrying out the raids (in search of cross dressing performers) would often later be seen sipping a cold one in the audience and enjoying the show.

Operating on its own terms and providing a much needed haven of relief for the then subdued residents of Barcelona, El Molino’s shows continued with their own unique blend of humour, grandeur and healthy eroticism.

The theatre became a sort of cultural symbol of freedom, a beacon of hope.

The Final Curtain

Somewhat surprisingly, it wasn’t until after the fall of Franco that the theatre started to really struggle. Democracy now ruled and, as if over night, people were legally allowed to do pretty much whatever they wanted (within reason).

El Molino’s audience began to look elsewhere for their fix of hedonism and the doors were closed in 1997.

Resurrection

The closure wasn’t taken lightly by the Barcelona’s residents, especially by those still with fresh memories of its importance during Franco’s rule and its priceless cultural heritage.

El Molino Barcelona

Credit Ben Holbrook

After sitting vacant for a decade, a local company bought the theatre and lavished it with a spectacular refurbishment.

El Molino’s curtains rose once again and it quickly regained its position as one of the city’s most popular performance venues.

I spoke to the team at El Molino and asked what visitors can expect to see and experience at El Molino today.

“Our cabaret shows are sure to get your heart racing, with humorous and boundary-breaking charm. And we stay true to our roots with our Catalan rumba evenings, showcasing music and dance that was created by Barcelona gypsies in the 50s, mixing flamenco with Cuban rhythms.”

A Window into the Past

Merche Mar El Molino Barcelona HostIt’s the whole experience that makes El Molino so special. The space is small and intimate and many of the performers actually come to the door to take your tickets and help you to your seat.

The magnanimous vedette and Master of Ceremonies Merche Mar personally sees to it that you are furnished with a glass of whatever tickles your fancy before she takes to the microphone. You really couldn’t wish for a more graceful host.

In fact, Merche Mar’s heels first touched the stage of El Molino at the age of 13 when she entertained audiences with her accordion.

She performed on the same stage until the closing of El Molino, performing her last show, Pluma y peineta, on 14 November1997, not knowing that she would return to grace its stage many years later.

Vanessa Garcia, the lead choreographer, also has a special connection with the venue. Her mother worked as dancer here and her father was a comedian.

But it wasn’t until the reopening of El Molino many years later that Vanessa Garcia followed in her parents’ footsteps and went on to direct the cast of professional performing artists, bringing El Molino’s colourful history back to life whilst elevating the experience with modern twists and even steamier routines.

Make it Happen

Tickets cost around €30 per person / get them here

Address: Carrer de Vila i Vilà, 99, 08004

Nearest Metro: Paral-lel (L3 Green Line)

/// MORE BARCELONA ///

Essential Things to Do and See in Barcelona ~ An Inside Guide

Best Luxury Hotels in Barcelona ~ A 4 and 5 Star Guide

Moments Restaurant ~ 2-Michelin Star Fine Dining in Barcelona’s Glitzy Eixample Neighbourhood

Best Boutique Hotels in Barcelona ~ A Grand Guide

Why You’ll Love the Barcelona Food Sherpa Market & Home Dining Experience

Pillow Talk: Romantic Hotels for Couples in Barcelona ~ Sultry Siestas Await

Live Barcelona’s Highlife with the Gourmet Gaudi Food & Architecture Tour

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *