Sooner or later, all perfume lovers seem to end up in Paris, don’t they?
Because I’m asked so often for recommendations, I thought I’d toss off a (certainly incomplete) itinerary. If you plan to be very thorough, you’ll need at least three full afternoons to do this…
This first part covers the main spots on the Right Bank. It’s a lot to handle at one go so you’ll probably want to divide it up in two or three sessions, but I’ve tabled on superhuman strength and a couple of pit stops at Ladurée for refreshment…
If you have any other suggestions, please feel free to add them in the comments!
I usually meet up with perfumista friends at the Café Le Nemours (Métro Palais-Royal) on the place Colette, right behind the weird metro exit that looks like it’s been decorated for Christmas, to fortify ourselves with a good express on the terrace under the arcades, before setting out.
Then it’s off to the Palais-Royal. Head under the arcades of the Galerie Valois (on the right with your back to the place Colette) through the gardens of the Palais-Royal for your first stop: Shiseido Salons du Palais Royal, where you can sample Serge Lutens’ fabled bell jar collection. Don’t be put off by the quiet, solemn mood of the shop: the SAs aren’t snobbish, they’re just very enigmatic… Like the master of the premises. Please note, if you’re going in with a shopping list for all your friends back home, that you can only purchase ten bottles at one go, so bring a friend if your order list is longer.
Continue to the very end of the gallery and you’ll find Les Parfums de Rosine’s pretty little candy-box shop: the manager is adorable, extremely talkative and generous with samples.
Now go back by the galerie Montpensier almost all the way to the entrance of the Palais-Royal but take the galerie de Chartres to your right just before you reach the Comédie-Française and take the rue de Richelieu where you’ll find Parfums de Nicolaï’s main shop.
Go back towards the Louvre and take a right on to the rue Saint-Honoré : you’ll pass Penhaligon’s before landing in front of Colette. The famously trendy concept store which is a place of pilgrimage for every style-conscious tourist: there is a perfumery section on the first floor with a Le Labo counter and sundry rarities such as By Mark Buxton or Wienerblut.
As you come out of Colette, cross to the other side of the rue Saint-Honoré, where you'll find Jo Malone and take the first street to your left, the rue du Marché Saint-Honoré. You’ll be walking towards a glass building in the middle of a square, the Place du Marché Saint-Honoré. Once you’re in front of that building, you should see the Comme des Garçons perfume shop to your left, where you can peruse the whole collection.
Go back towards the rue Saint-Honoré and continue westwards: you’ll come across the rue de Castiglione.
If you take to the left, you’ll find Annick Goutal and JAR – there, no notes, no samples, no spritzes: you’ll be invited to sniff and ponder…
On the other side of the street you’ll find Jean Patou’s flagship store: there, you can discover the different materials used for their fragrances. If you’re very lucky, you may be able to take a peek at the perfume bar where Jean-Michel Duriez meets clients for bespoke perfumes.
If you take to the right, you’ll cross the place Vendôme (the Ritz will be on your left): this will take you to the rue de la Paix, where you will find Montale on one side of the street, then a little further on the other side, Amin Kader sells the Santa Maria Novella line.
From there, you have the choice.
You can go on towards the Paris Opéra and make your way to the two big department stores. If you go to your left (facing the Opera) you’ll reach the rue Scribe where you will find the Parfums Divine shop where Hélène will be happy to show you around, shower you with samples or refill your flacons at the fountain.
Then you can visit the Galeries Lafayette, which stocks most mainstream brands as well as a new Amouage counter and, a little further, Le Printemps de la Beauté: head for the Scent Room at the far end of the ground floor, where you’ll find many niche brands including Honoré des Prés, Lubin, James Heeley, Maître Parfumeur et Gantier, Etro, Juliette has a gun, Lost March, Berdoues, along with the usual suspects (Lutens, Goutal, By Kilian, L’Artisan…).
Then there’s Plan B: from the place Vendôme, head back towards the rue Saint-Honoré and cross it: you’ll pass in front of the Hotel Costes and its boutique, the only one in Paris to sell Olivia Giacobetti’s IUNX line: you’ll also find Costes’ room fragrance and candles. The manager, Ronald, will greet you, but please don’t go around trying to spray yourselves – he’s the one who handles the testers!
Continue on the rue Saint-Honoré and you’ll come across the rue Cambon: take a right to go to Chanel’s historic shop at number 31. This is the place to go to buy Cuir de Russie, Bois des Iles, N°22 and Gardénia in the extrait… But any Chanel will smell better in that beautiful black and white bag!
If you can stand another detour, go down the rue Cambon almost all the way to the rue de Rivoli: just before you get to Rivoli, you'll find a small side street, the rue du Mont-Thabor. Facing Rivoli, take a left on Mont-Thabor and you'll find a tiny Frédéric Malle (in case you don't make it to the larger shop on the Left Bank). It's really blink-and-you-miss-it, so keep your eyes open!
Now retrace your steps back to the rue Saint-Honoré and keep going westwards: it will become the rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré once you cross the rue Royale. This is where you can stop for a break at Ladurée Royale, to your right… They now sell beauty products and house fragrances: worth sampling for those with a gourmand bent, and the pastel-colored packaging is utterly French, totally adorable.
A little further and you’ll reach the Hermès flagship store – the shop windows are always a treat. If you’ve still got the energy, continue on the same sidewalk all the way to Parfums Caron – a better option than their avenue Montaigne shop where the service is a little off-putting. You’ll find the urn perfumes and can ask to smell their two ouds, very true to the house spirit.
If you want to skip Hermès and Caron, when you come out of the Chanel boutique you can take the rue Cambon down to the rue de Rivoli, hop on the metro (line 1, direction La Défense) and get off at the Franklin Roosevelt station. Walk towards the Arc the Triomphe, right-hand sidewalk facing the Arc and you’ll stumble on the famed 68 Champs-Élysées, Guerlain’s flagship store. Waste no time and go right up to the first floor where the goodies are.
A huge Sephora is just a step away, if you’ve go any breath left. To recuperate, you can cross the Champs and enjoy tea and macarons at Ladurée Champs Élysées.
Still up for it?
Turn your back to the Arc, cross the Champs-Élysées, walk back to the rue de Marignan: at the end of the street you’ll find the newly renovated Nina Ricci boutique, which stocks the classics in the extraits, including the über-rare Coeur-Joie composed by Germaine Cellier to celebrate the end of WW2. Across the street, the Dior boutique sells Diorling, Diorama, Eau Fraîche as well as the three fancy boutique exclusives, Passage N°9 (tuberose), Passage N°8 (violet) and Passage N°4 (rose) in flacons reproduced from the original Miss Dior bottle.
If you've missed Chanel on the rue Cambon, they have another just on the avenue Montaigne, if you go from Dior towards the Champs-Élysées...
And now, you can officially collapse.
Shiseido Salons du Palais Royal: 142 Galerie de Valois 75001
Les Parfums de Rosine : 105 Galerie de Valois 75001
Parfums de Nicolaï : 28 rue de Richelieu 75001
Penhaligon’s : 209 rue Saint-Honoré 75001
Colette : 213 rue Saint-Honoré 75001
Jo Malone: 326 rue Saint-Honoré 75001
Comme des Garçons : 23 place du Marché Saint-Honoré 75001
Annick Goutal : 14 rue de Castiglione 75001
JAR : 24 rue de Castiglione 75001
Jean Patou : 5 rue de Castiglione 75001
Montale : 26 place Vendôme 75001
Amine Kader : 1 rue de la Paix 75002
Divine : 3 rue Scribe 75009
Costes (IUNX) : 239 rue saint-Honoré 75001
Chanel : 31 rue Cambon 75001 / 42 avenue Montaigne 75008
Frédéric Malle: 21 rue du Mont-Thabor 75001
Ladurée Royale : 16 rue Royale 75008
Hermès : 24 Faubourg Saint-Honoré 75001
Caron : 90 Faubourg Saint-Honoré 75001
Guerlain : 68 avenue des Champs-Élysées 75008
Ladurée Champs-Élysées : 75 avenue des Champs-Élysées 75008
Nina Ricci : 39 avenue Montaigne 75008
Dior : 30 avenue Montaigne 75008
Edit, July 2012: Since I wrote this post, fabulous new multibrand niche shops have opened in Paris. Pending an updated itinerary, please click on the following links to Sens Unique and Jovoy.
Image: Tour Eiffel sticker at Amikado.