Chanel No. 5 has endured endured for decades. This large illustration of Coco greets you when you enter her boutique on 382 Rue Saint Honoré. But, Fragonard? Not on the tip of everyone’s tongue, even though the company is centuries old. Located in Grasse, they create 76 fragrances, including Arielle, Baroque, Beau Gosse, Belle Cherie, Belle de Nuit, Billet Doux, and Caresse. Fragonard has a small museum (free admission) just 2 minutes from l’Opera in an elegant Haussmann-style townhouse, where your nose can sniff a symphony of fragrance while you learn the history of perfume. The Napoleon III building was built in 1860 by Lesoufaché, a student of Garnier, and the decoration is entirely of that period. At the end of the tour (one is in English), peruse a gift shop where perfume related items may be purchased at a discount.
Fragonard Le musée du parfum
9 rue Scribe, 75009
Open from monday to saturday from 9 am to 6 pm
Open on sunday and holydays from 9 am to 5 pm
Opéra metro station
Some history: The word ‘perfume’ is derived from the Latin per (through) and fumare (to smoke) because, long before the use of modern techniques, the first perfumes were obtained by burning woods, resins, and other complex mixtures. Modern perfumery began in the late 19th century with the commercial synthesis of aroma compounds such as vanillin or coumarin, which allowed for the composition of perfumes with smells previously unattainable solely from natural aromatics.
If you want to delve deeper into this world go visit The Osmotheque in Versailles, the world’s largest scent archive—internationally responsible for the authentication, registration, preservation, documentation, and reproduction of thousands of perfumes gathered from the past two millennia. Exclusive to the collection are rare masterpieces including fragrances by Coty, Houbigant, Roger & Gallet, Guerlain and those personalized and worn by Napoleon (an eau de cologne made during his exile on Saint Helena), Eugenie de Montijo and Elizabeth of Poland. Medieval toilet waters and 18th cendury powders have also been preserved.
Visit their website for tour and public access info.
36 Rue du Parc de Clagny, 7800 Versailles
Public transit: Gare de Versailles-Rive-Droite
(follow your nose)
For full perfumery exposure in Paris, visit the first floors of Printemps or Galeries Lafayette, where you can get whiffs of all the contemporary scents and be dazzled by their pretty displays and reps. I have to admit, Chanel No. 5: you’re still my fave.