Fans of unique, elegant and even bespoke fragrance will find Paris to be a veritable dream: some of the world's most prestigious and expert noses work here, contributing to a tradition that goes back centuries to the medieval period, when fragrance was mostly used for medicinal and therapeutic purposes. These prestigious perfume shops in Paris -- some classic and world-famous, like Fragonard and Guerlain, and others niche and trendy, like Serge Lutens-- may not proffer scents at bargains, but you can be sure that you come away with something of high quality. At these scent shops, you're also guaranteed excellent service and attention from staff, who are trained to help you choose the perfect fragrance for you or a loved one. You might note that many of these coveted shops are clustered in the first arrondissement (near the Palais Royal and Opera) and in the trendy Marais on Rue des Francs-Bourgeois
and environs, so it might be a good idea to choose one of these areas and browse several shops. Get ready to scent-hunt!
Courtesy of Fragonard.
When you think of traditional French perfume houses, you'll likely conjure up the name "Fragonard". Established in 1926 in Grasse in the south of France, Fragonard has built its reputation on classic, elegant scents blended with tradition in mind. If you're feeling nostalgic or are looking for a gift for someone with decidedly classic tastes, this might be the ideal house to browse. Also check out the Fragonard Perfume Museum
near the Opera Garnier
for a fascinating look at the history of scent-making and the complex development of perfumes from the period when the synthetic molecule was developed. From that period onward, chemistry became an essential component in fragrance creation.
Address: Fragonard has two boutiques in Paris: one at 51 rue des Francs-Bourgeois in the 4th arrondissement (Tel: + 33 (0) 1 44 78 01 32), and one at 203 Rue St Honoré in the 1st arrondissement (Tel: +33 (0) 1 47 03 07 07).
Another classic name in the French "art du parfum" is Guerlain, launched in 1828 by Pierre-François Pascal Guerlain as a single shop on Rue de Rivoli in Paris, and now a globally recognized brand with scents often cited as embodying French elegance mixed with a touch of sexiness. There are several boutiques around the city, including in the Marais
and the Champs-Elysees neighborhood
Address: Flagship boutique at 68 Avenue des Champs Elysees, 8th arrondissement (Tel: +33 (0)1 45 62 52 57. For more locations, visit the official website (click "More Info").
Courtesy of Serge Lutens.
A mounting star in the niche fragrance business, Serge Lutens has made his name from creating excellent unisex scents based around nostalgic and whimsical themes. My personal favorite is "Five o' clock au Gingembre", a warm, invigorating scent with strong gingery notes and a hint of citrus.
The opulent boutique at Palais Royal offers 23 exclusive fragrances in addition to the scents sold elsewhere, so a trip there is well worth it if you're looking for something exclusive and special. You can sample as many perfumes as you want on paper swatches, and the staff there is very helpful.
Address: Salons du Palais Royal, 142 Galerie de Valois, 1st arrondissement (Tel: +33 (0)1 49 27 09 09
A newer arrival on the boutique fragrance scene, Annick Goutal and its boudoir-style, romantic aesthetic sensibilities made the "girly frou-frou perfume" hip again. The shops also peddle the brand's signature lingerie collection.
Address: Flagship shop at 14 rue de Castiglione, 1st arrondissement (Tel: +33 (0)1 42 60 52 82)
Launched in 1961, Diptyque is a French perfume house that helped usher the business into modernity, offering unisex scents and home fragrances in sober, elegant bottles, and with an emphasis on subtle, complex and fresh notes. Their collection of scented candles is also much-appreciated.
Address: 34 boulevard St Germain, 6th arrondissement (Tel: +33 (0)1 43 26 77); 8 rue des Francs-Bourgeois, 4th arrondissement (Tel: +33 (0)1 48 04 95 57
This very English perfume maker has managed to win over the French with its collection of elegant, mostly unisex colognes organized by fanily (woody, spicy, floral, light floral, fruity). My favorite, Black Vetyver Cafe, features heavy notes of coffee and vetiver, in a foodie-woody dream combination.
Address: 326 Rue Saint Honoré, 1st arrondissement (Tel: +33 (0)1 47 03 01 66
Courtesy of Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier
Another Parisian perfumer (and glove-maker, as its name betrays) steeped in tradition, Maître Parfumeur et Gantier offers classic women's and men's scents in opulent, old-fashioned bottles, and scents tend toward the heady, bold and romantic, with strong classic floral or spicy notes.
Address: 5 rue des Capucines, 1st arrondissement
Maison Francis Kurkdjian
At the tender age of 25, perfumer Francis Kurkdjian concocted the bestelling men's fragrance for Jean-Paul Gaultier, "Le Male"-- and launched his career as a superstar nose. He has since been responsible for the creation of well-known staples such as Guerlain's "Rose Barbare" and Armani "Mania". These accolades allowed him to strike out and create his own range of scents for men and women, beautifully presented at his new boutique. A favorite is APOM (A Piece of Me), featuring a heady yet subtle combination of cedar wood, orange blossom and ylang ylang, and offered in both men's and women's versions.
Address: 5 rue d'Alger, 1st arrondissement (Tel: +33 (0)1 42 60 07 07)
Not far from the ultrachic and once-literary Saint-Germain-des-Pres district
, you'll find the flagship boutique of one of France's most beloved modern noses, Frédéric Malle. Launching his unisex scent line in 2000, Malle has created fragrances featuring strong spicy, floral, or "oriental" notes; his musks are a particular favorite.
Address: 37 Rue de Grenelle, 7th arrondissement (Tel: +33 (0)1 42 22 76 40)
Finally, if you don't have the time or energy to visit these excellent fragrance boutiques individually in search of the perfect scent, a trip to one of the city's cream-of-the-crop department stores or grands magasins
will allow the convenience of browsing several luxury and artisan fragrance brands under a single roof. Galeries Lafayette
and Bon Marché
on the left bank offer particularly good selections of perfumes from both internationally renowned fragrance houses and from more artisanal, local but high-quality noses. Au Printemps
is also a very good bet for fragrance-hunting, as are Paris concept shops such as Colette