Paris’s infamous nightlife district seems tame these days, with the advent of all that the Internet offers. Every conceivable sort of pornography and sex appliance and amusement is at the touch of your finger.
Place Pigalle at the base of Montmartre, was named for Jean-Baptise Pigalle one of Paris’s most popular mid-18th-century sculptors. One could ponder the thoughts of Monsieur Pigalle at what his surname has come to signify in Parisian life.
Place Pigalle is still a popular nightlife area, with the famous Moulin Rouge maintaining its landmark status. Fans continue to flock for its the glittery show, sparkling costumes, colored lights, and bare breasted women. Of course there are other nightclubs offering lesser shows at lower prices, right down to the few remaining peep shows and lap-dance places.
Pigalle is not particularly sinister or dangerous, day or night. In fact, the clubs, adult video/toy stores, and an occasional prostitute take up far less of the district than do its many sidewalk cafés, bars, boutiques, restaurants, souvenir shops, banks, and other more risque businesses. As this writer’s favourite area in Paris is the Montmartre, there have been several walks (alone) through Pigalle during the day and at night on several occasions. It is a safe neighbourhood with single people and families going about their days. Older neighbours congregate and visit while relaxing on benches that line the avenue.
Many tourists who venture to this part of the city are actually on their way up the the hill to the Montmartre. Its majestic views, Basilique du Sacré-Coeur, Église de Saint-Pierre de Montmartre and the artist-filled Place du Tertre will enchant you, and its picturesque winding streets will lead you onward for a memorable journey.
In Amsterdam you can find the infamous Red Light District. In Paris, this section of the city is Pigalle. During World War II the GI’s referred to it as “Pig Alley”. It was the more colourful or seedier side of Paris. While Pigalle does not boast the window dressed “working girls” of Amsterdam’s Red Light District, it does have a rather notorious past.