Below is the lovely account about perfume shopping in Paris by my friend Sandra, an American living in Vienna and a loyal, long-time reader of Olfactoria’s Travels. Sandra is a perfume-nut and mother of an incredibly cute three-year old. I’m very happy she agreed to relate her Parisian adventures for us.
I have fallen completely and utterly in love with Paris. My husband and I have traveled to Paris three times in one year and we still discover new and beautiful sights.
As a lover of perfumes, I have known about 68, avenue des Champs-Élysées the Guerlain headquarters for years. For some reason or another I never made it to the main store and just sniffed the perfumes at the major department stores such as Printemps and Galeries Lafayette. I saw pictures of it on the internet and still I only managed to make it into the pop-up store next door this past Christmas. Well, this time I made it a mission to make it to 68, avenue des Champs-Élysées and I dragged my dear husband and son with me on the very first day after we checked into the hotel.
Nothing on the internet or in the guidebooks prepared me for La Maison Guerlain. I was a bit apprehensive as well thinking that it might be difficult to find a friendly SA. Nothing could be farther from the truth! We walked in and we were welcomed with friendly smiles. I decided to climb the spiral staircase and was greeted by a painting of the woman from La Petit Robe Noire on the wall (it was as if she was winking and whispering in my ear of the magic that awaited upstairs). As I climbed up the stairs the decor became golden and serene in a way. Upon reaching the top, three friendly SAs asked if they could be of assistance and Aurélie was the one who walked me through everything I wanted to smell. She guided my husband and son to a comfortable chair (near the bee bottles on the wall for pete’s sake! Talk about a heart attack on my side and hoping for the best behavior of my three year old. In fact he was perfect and did not touch a thing) so that they could read and talk to each other while I walked around the main room and the side room.
Aurélie was wonderful and knowledgeable and most importantly very patient as I wanted to work through all of the L’Art et la Matière, Une Ville, Un Parfum and Les Parisiennes. They allowed me to photograph the spectacular perfumes and take my time. As a side note I have loved the youthful campaign for the launch of La Petite Robe Noire and enjoyed seeing the special display next to the bee bottles on the wall. Needless to say having such a wonderful SA left me almost bankrupt at the end of the day but I was so impressed with Guerlain that I went back a second time before we left Paris.
No stay in Paris should be without a visit to Sens Unique in Le Marais.
When I walked in with my men, Svetlana, the lovely SA, greeted us warmly and even remembered that it had been about six months since our last visit. What I love about Svetlana is that she tells me the stories behind the perfumes I am smelling and she takes her time. The experience becomes multidimensional when I understand an inspiration or a memory of the creator. Charming and eloquent Svetlana even made my husband understand and appreciate perfume as an art form (near impossible feat when he usually mumbles an approval or disapproval).
Sens Unique has a plush golden chair in the corner which can be seen as ostentatious, but is in fact comfortable and well situated as my husband can attest to. There are many cafés in the area and we discovered that there is a carousel around the corner, which helped keep my son entertained, while I spent some time in the store this time around.
If you want to smell several difficult to find perfumes in one place, Printemps and Galeries Lafayette are good stops. The halls are usually brimming at the seams with shoppers and it can be quite overwhelming if you don’t have a specific perfume you want to try, but they are well worth the visit. I was unable to make it to the Dior boutique but was able to smell all the La Collection Privee at Printemps. The SA was friendly enough and I will certainly go back there again.
I had had big hopes for Jovoy but was disappointed by the service and the lack of assistants.
The above is by no means a guide to perfume shopping in Paris; it is a recollection of a few of my experiences and my suggestions. Most importantly Paris has so much to offer in sights, sounds and smells and I savor every single experience I have there.
Maison du Guerlain is simply wonderful – it’s a must for me every time, when I’m in Paris.
I was tickled pink with every aspect of it. I agree with you now that it will be one of my stops every time I go back.
Thank you both, Tara and Sandra for this beautiful travel. In fact Maison Guerlain is what she says and more, pics are incredible, as well as perfumes, because they have there, and only there, all fragrances created by all monsieurs Guerlain, which can turn all of us nuts, LOL.
One thing for Sandra’s next visit to Paris, she must go to Les Salons du Palais Royal Shiseido, where all Serge Lutens perfumes are sold. Not only that, the place is as beautiful as Maison Guerlain, and the people there are very kind, showing you all the rooms.
I was waiting for the post of today and, I loved it, because I dream one day to come back to Paris and, be able to visit the 3 Maisons Guerlain in the city, I would wish to have all the fragances they made (I know it is impossible because they are too expensive), but well, some of them yes, lol.
Oh my, it is really difficult being a perfume nut, you never have enough, don’t you?
love, Silvia xoxo
although it is Sandra’s post, I’m just quickly jumping in to clarify who is who at Olfactoria’s Travels. I’m Birgit, aka Olfactoria, and most posts are written by me. The lovely Tara is guest posting regularly (as she did yesterday’s Monday Question for instance). Welcome to the blog!
Okay, now I’ll be quiet (at least until tomorrow) and give over to Sandra. 🙂
Nice to meet you Birgit, wow, this blog is really busy busy lol. Great to know you are Olfactoria, and Tara and Sandra guests posting. Thanks for the welcome!!!
And congrats, love this site, never post in a blog before, so am very glad to have found you all, hugs, Silvia.
Hi Silvia. Paris has so much to offer. I have been to Palais Royale in the past but did not get a chance this time around. As I did not photograph it, I left it out. You are right in saying that it is worth the trip there. The other Maison Guerlains are just as wonderful with their staff and service. There is never enough perfume!
I’ve never been to Paris, hope to visit one day
You will love it when you do get the chance!
I’m sure you’re right. The fact is that as I live in Poland there’s a train that can take me to Paris in one night but I never had time to go there and money to buy some perfume there.
Too bad S. did not have a wonderful shopping experience at Jovoy. When I was there this spring the staff was simply wonderful: they offered drinks and gave me samples of Irisss and Aedes de V. even without a purchase.
I know it got rave reviews and perhaps I will give it another chance on my next trip. It was beautiful I must admit.
Looks like a wonderful trip! Thanks for the photos — they’re great 🙂
It was lovely like always. Thank you!
Thank you so much Sandra for this wonderful post on your sniffing experience in Paris. I loved it! Such gorgeous photos too. I would love to try all those exclusives and own a beautiful bee bottle one day. Would you mind sharing at least one of your Guerlain purchases, please? I’m very curious and who knows when I will get to Paris, so I’d like to live vicariously through you!
Thank you Tara! Oh such a tough choice – which purchase to reveal that is. Hmmm, suffice it to say that I purchased several and I am loving Shanghai and Myrrhe & Délires in the heat and a couple of others are waiting for the weather to cool off. Yes, I went overboard. 😉
Sandra, visiting the Guerlain mothership in Paris is the perfect time to go overboard. It would be criminal not to!
Thanks for revealing two of your purchases – very exciting! Shanghai sounds very Guerlain and I need to re-try Myrrhe & Délires but I liked it a lot on first spray.
As for your other purchases, now you have good reason to look forward to the colder weather!
Sandra, I enjoyed reading about your Guerlain experience. The last time I was there was in 1994, and I think it is much better now. I especially liked how nice the SA treated you. That has not always been the case. On my visit I went WAY over my budget, but it was impossible not to. I am almost too old to go through the long airplane trip from the U.S., but I am trying to get my courage up and try it again. Thanks for the encouragement. I have searched in this country for “Plus Que Jamais” but none of the major stores carry it, so I have a reason to travel.
Hi Anita. If you have the opportunity, do go back. It is a different experience to travel now. The Parisians have become downright sweet in my opinion. As far as I am aware, Plus Que Jamais has been discontinued.
Sandra, your guest post is such a treat! I feel like I got to retrace my steps through those same boutiques, and your descriptions are so accurate. The SA’s in Paris truly are amazing: I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that they are downright enchanting. 🙂 I found that to be the case at Jovoy too, so I’m hoping you’ll go back there again sometime.
Loved your photos!!! I can understand your fear for the bee bottles, but it sounds like you had nothing to worry about.
I read your post Suzanne and thought you guys must have had a ball together. I know I will stop in Jovoy again and I will let you know how it goes the second time around. My son was so well behaved that the SAs welcomed him back the second time around without shuddering – he is quite the flirt at 3.
Great post, Sandra. Do you think it is better to go to Les Printemps or Galeries Lafayette to sniff? I will have a very limited time in Paris.
Les Printemps is a little bit less crowded so go there to sniff. But don’t miss out on Galeries Lafayette – just peek in to see the inside of the dome. Besides they are right next to each other, so have a good time.
Thank you, Sandra. They are both wonderful stores, i really like the foodand wine floor at Galeries.
I have been to Paris a few times, but it was in “pre-perfumista” era 🙂
Can’t wait to go back to Paris in December for a big shopping trip 😀 I’m not sure if the Guerlain house is really up my alley – I can’t imagine them being quite as friendly to ME! Haha. Still, it might just have to be one of those things which every perfumista neeeeeds to do.
Christmas in Paris is lovely. Do go to Guerlain, they will be very friendly. Enjoy you trip.
I’ve never been to Paris. On my “must do” list. Until then I will live vicariously through those who have been, lol! Thanks for sharing your experience Sandra.
Thank you. I hope you get to Paris one day.
I would definitely recommend visiting Caron boutique, it’s lovely, SA are very friendly, helpful and generous with samples. Caron has some really worth trying fragrances.
I agree with you about the Caron boutique Dominic. It is just lovely and those urns- wow. A must for a perfume lover in Paris.
this was lovely. especially since I have a three year old and i’m giggling nervously at just the thought of him sitting next to those bee bottles!
Giggle away. I am now after the fact, but I almost fainted when I saw the chair and the bee bottles. I suppose as mothers we have to trust our little ones to behave when needed – and they usually do. 😉
I loved reading about your trip to Paris. I was wondering if you had any trouble finding SAs who spoke English? I will get back to Paris one day….
Not at all. Paris is extremely tourist friendly and English is spoken or understood by almost everyone we met. As soon as they hear my atrocious attempt to speak French they are all too pleased to switch to English.
Thank you for recalling! I’m utterly excited for my trip to Paris May 17-27 and this added to it! So much to see and explore! My trip can not come soon enough!
Thanks for the write up. I had a totally different experience at Jovoy. The SA was incredibly friendly and helped me work around the store – showing me lots of stuff I had never seen before. I love their Private Label and Psychedelique scents!
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