If there is one country that has perfume written all over its history, industry and daily beauty procedure, it’s France. So when a friend and I decided to spend a long weekend in Paris, I knew we had to squeeze in as many perfume stores and boutiques as possible. Here are the highlights of my Paris perfume tour.
I knew from the start that I could not visit every store as there are just too many perfume places in general and specifically too many for one day. I was lucky to be in Paris with one of my best friends whose interest in perfume has grown over the years (I may have played a part in this) and when she asked me which perfume stores were on my list, the first one I mentioned was the Serge Lutens Boutique.
Now, Serge Lutens’ regular perfume line is widely available but, as most people familiar with the line know, the brand carries some fragrances that are exclusively available in Paris. And with these exclusives in mind, we went to 142 Galerie de Valois which is located in a garden close to the Palais Royal and the Louvre.
Entering the boutique, we found ourselves in a dark sales room that was held in black, purple and gold, quite fitting to the brand’s and creator’s dark-ish and sometimes spooky appearance. The regular line and the exclusives were seperated and each fragrance had a test strip in front of the bottle. While my friend discovered the regular line, I went straight to the exclusives and smelled every single test strip, narrowing down my favourites to Douce Amere and Fumerie Turque.
The Sales Assistant was always at our side when we needed advice or wished to try a scent on skin. She would write down every scent we tried as well as where it was sprayed and I found her whole attitude very pleasant in general: she was calm but friendly and helpful and knowledgeable but not pushy.
The Serge Lutens Boutique was a great start to our perfume shopping day and for me, it is a must-visit for every perfumista in Paris. Although the exclusive fragrances can also be found in other stores in Paris (e.g. in Printemps), the whole atmosphere and set-up is quite unique and the sourrounding garden and streets are wonderful for a stroll as well.
Marie Antoinette is a small parfumerie on 5 Rue d’Ormesson, a little side street not too far away from Notre Dame. I was not sure whether to visit it or not as it seemed to be a bit off the beaten track, however, it is actually located in a district that is very much worth a visit (you’ll find a number of perfume stores and boutiques such as Frederic Malle or Etat Libre d’Orange in the Quartiers Marais and Les Archives).
Entering the store, we found ourselves in a 15 sqm sales room with shelves almost as high as the ceiling, each one equipped with some of the most exquisite perfume brands. We were lucky to be welcomed by a lovely sales assistant who let us test and sniff various scents before he assisted us in exploring the scent categories that we were most interested in. As we were the only customers, he gave us his full attention and showed us scents that none of us had heard of before (such as the Gri Gri fragrance Ukiyo-e which includes an interesting rice note). We actually left the store not with perfume but with several bars of Claus Porto soap and each of us cocooned in our favourite scent discoveries (mine was Mona di Orio’s Nuit Noire).
Marie Antoinette has a special charm: it is such a small shop that we almost missed it and I can not believe how many high quality fragrances (click here for a list of the available brands) they managed to put inside. Moreover, if you are like me and appreciate a helpful and friendly sales assistant, I highly recommend paying Marie Antoinette a visit.
Before going to Paris, I asked the Bois de Jasmin community which perfume places they would recommend when visiting Paris. Several of them mentioned Jovoy on 4 Rue de Castiglione, saying that Jovoy’s service and range of brands would exceed that of the prominent department stores. And really, I did not count the number of perfume cabinets that were filled with brands such as Amouage, Ormonde Jayne, Atelier des Ors and many more but please take a look at their website where all brands are listed and that should give you an idea of the store’s dimensions.
I am sure the sales assistants did a great job with assisting some of the other customers but my friend and I felt a bit lost and almost overwhelmed by the amount of bottles. We were randomly trying some scents, wandering between the shelves before giving up and only concentrating on one brand each. She was most interested in trying Nasomatto while I was happy to find some Andy Tauer fragrances (it was actually the first time for me to see Tauer fragrances in a store, I have no idea why there is such a discrepancy between their online and their offline availability). To my surprise, I enjoyed Une Rose Chyprée the most (rose? me?) and now I am genuinely considering buying a decant of it. Sadly, not all Tauer fragrances were displayed, e.g. the most prominent one (L’Air du Désert Marocain) was missing.
Jovoy offers a lot to every perfumista’s heart but I recommend going there before you have already visited other stores or boutiques. I admit that we could not fully appreciate the shop as we felt quite drained which resulted in us making use of the comfortable seats in the back of the sales room. Next time I come to Paris, Jovoy will be first on my list!
Perfume all over the place
Short and sweet: if you walk along Rue Saint Honoré and Rue des Francs Bourgeois and take a glimpse at the bordering streets every now and then, you will see the boutiques of almost every European perfume brand you can think of. I enjoyed visiting the Annick Goutal boutique on 14 Rue de Castiglione (yes, same street as Jovoy) as well as the Chanel boutique on Rue des Francs Bourgeois (Chanel is literally everywhere in Paris but I found this boutique to be less intimidating as it was not guarded by a doorman wearing black suit + it had the most lovely Chanel sales assistant ever).
We finished the day with a trip to the department store Printemps right in the city centre which proved to be full of niche perfumes but, I am sorry to say, also to be mostly dominated by grumpy and ignorant sales assistants (minus the friendly Miller Harris representative!). We found the whole location (in- and outside of Printemps and especially around Lafayette) too crowded and were relieved when we were back to our hostel – smelling fabulous and with several scents strips, bottles, samples and soaps in our bags.
Is one day enough for a perfume tour in Paris? Yes, if you can limit yourself to only a handful of stores. If possible though, try to have two or more days, each with some garden or culture strolls and little breaks inbetween. Paris has so much to offer and apart from discovering one perfume store after the other, I found that I enjoyed the surrounding little streets and cafés just as much.
Which is your favourite city for perfume shopping?