While France was not the first country to start manufacturing perfume, French perfume brands are regarded as some of the best in the world. Since antiquity, people have made, bought, and worn perfume. In France, perfume became popular during the Renaissance when Catherine de Medicis started to popularize perfume in the French court. The country began making perfumes during the 17th century, dedicating farmlands in Provence to the cultivation of flowers and herbs that would be made into perfumes of all varieties. Today, that same region in the south of France is still making perfumes and growing the ingredients. In this article, we review our favorite French perfume brands, what makes them so special, and perfume shops in Paris where you can find them.
What are the best French Perfume Brands
Fragonard is a third generation parfumerie founded in 1926 in Provence. All of their ingredients are sourced from the region and most of their products are made in France. It’s one of the most popular companies visited by travellers from overseas when they come to France and is still one of the most iconic French perfume brands out there. Fragonard perfumes are extremely good quality but very affordable, which is one of the reasons why they are so popular. Note that Fragonard offers both traditional perfumes as well as “eau de toilettes”. Traditional perfumes are concentrated, often oil based fragrances that melt into the skin for a long-lasting wear. Traditional perfumes are usually more expensive than “Eaux de Toilettes”. Eau de toilettes are lighter fragrances that can be sprayed onto clothing and other fabrics for a more subtle scent.
The museum displays a great collection of objects related to the perfume industry from the Antiquity until the Modern ages. Presenting rarities dating back to ancient Egypt or limited edition perfume bottles designed by Dali. If you want to learn all about perfume using professional scents and tools with the support of a professional “Nez” (Perfumery artisan), you can attend a Perfumery Training workshop. The workshop is in English and is held on Saturdays lasting for 1h30 and costs 95€. You will learn how to create a real perfume and get a diploma!
INSIDR tip: Fragonard even has their own museum in Paris dedicated to showing visitors how all of their perfume is made! You can take a FREE guided tour of the museum and afterwards shop for perfume bottles perfect for souvenirs! Download your shopping gift voucher here!
The museum is located at 3-5 Square de l’Opéra-Louis Jouvet, 75009 Paris.
Serge Lutens is often credited with inventing the concept of ‘niche perfume’, perfume created with a complex mix of scents to create unique, avant-garde fragrances. Founded in the 1980s, Serge wanted to bring ‘authenticity’ back to perfume. His first scents exploded into the market and were instantly popular. His creations are inspired by scents from his childhood and his many travels. These perfumes are unlike anything else on the market. His perfumes are rich fragrances with strong musk and amber notes that are sure to make an impression. You can see their full range of fragrances at the their store located at 324 Rue Saint-Honoré.
Annick Goutal Paris
Another niche French perfume brand is Annick Goutal Paris. This perfume brand is defined by a desire to create intimate, personal scents that take inspiration from nature, poetry and music. Each fragrance seeks to tell a story through scent and evoke a unique history, culture, or memory for the wearer. Annick Goutal perfumes are also ecologically friendly, using minimal packaging and offering customers the ability to refill and reuse their original bottles as many times as they wish. Their stunning flagship store is located at 14 Rue de Castiglione in Paris’ 1st arrondissement. You can also find their perfumes and much more at Merci Paris.
Guerlain is one of the oldest French parfumeries on our list. It was founded in 1828 and was family owned and operated for more than 100 years thereafter. The company’s goal is to create that one special scent for their customer, a perfume you can call your signature scent. The principal ingredients that their perfumes are inspired by include rose, iris, bergamote, vanilla, and jasmine. Many of their perfumes come in ornate bottles inspired by the history of the brand, from the Belle Epoque to Art Nouveau, making these perfumes perfect for gift-giving.
Best French Perfume Brands for Women
Belle Chérie by Fragonard
For French perfume made with traditional craftsmanship at an affordable price, Fragonard is the best choice. Their collection of perfumes are all designed by expert perfume makers who have undergone extensive training to learn how to make classic French perfumes. Their ingredients are sourced from Grasse, the epicenter of perfume making in France, nestled in the centre of Provence. The Belle Chérie fragrance is a sweet and sophisticated symphony of French tangerine, star fruit, jasmine, heliotrope, lily of the valley, sandalwood, tonka bean and vanilla. The best way to describe its scent is to compare it with a bouquet of fresh smelling flowers, fruits and wood! It’s definitely a great everyday fragrance and one that won’t burn a hole through your wallet!
It’s also worth mentioning that Fragonard’s effort to reducing waste is admirable because all of their perfume bottles are refillable.
Shalimar by Guerlain is perhaps the most famous French perfume after Chanel No. 5. The scent is inspired by the Gardens of Shalimar, which were built for Princess Mumtaz Mahal by Indian Emperor Shah Jahan. The perfume was introduced in 1925 and remains one of Guerlain’s best-selling scents. The main scents found in Shalimar are neroli, vanilla and orange blossom.
Chanel No. 5
No review of French perfume brands would be complete without mentioning Chanel No. 5. This famous perfume was launched by Coco Chanel in 1921 on the fifth day of the fifth month of the year (May 5). Chanel wanted this perfume to capture the essence of the flapper girl and the culture of Paris’ jazz age. She released the perfume to a select group of her high-society friends who quickly made the perfume iconic throughout Paris. Throughout the 1940’s 50’s and 60’s Chanel No. 5 became popular in the U.S. and enjoyed consistently high sales at home in France. In 1952, Marilyn Monroe famously said that Chanel No. 5 was the only thing she wore to bed. The perfume remains one of the most popular scents in the world today.
Diptyque L’ombre dans l’eau
Diptyque is a modern luxury, niche perfume brand from Paris. Their bestselling scent is L’Ombre dans l’Eau which translates to The Shadow in the Water. This mysterious-sounding scent balances blackcurrant berries, orange flowers and rose buds with hints of twigs, leaves and earth for a sweet scent with a slightly acidic, fruity element. The perfume was created in 1983 and was marketed as an ‘avant-garde’ perfume that used non-traditional ingredients to create a unique, captivating scent. It’s a principle that is still behind the creation of all Diptyque fragrances.
Best French Perfume Brands for Men
Eau de Hongrie by Fragonard
Fragonard also has a collection of fragrance for men that have varying scents and styles. Our favorite is the Eau de Hongrie which is inspired by a 14th century perfume that combines soft bergamot and lavender with cedar wood, citrus, and jasmine flower. The scent is elegant, warm, inviting, and classically masculine. It never fails to charm. Like all Fragonard products, Eau de Hongrie is 100% made in France.
Ambre Nuit by Christian Dior
Ambre Nuit by Christian Dior offers a unique cocktail of grapefruit, bergamote, Turkish rose and pink pepper. The fragrance was inspired by the lavish soirees of France’s Baroque period in the 18th century. Dior combines timeless elegance and avant-garde nuance into their perfumes just as they do with their couture. You can be sure to leave your apartment smelling like a house of the French aristocracy.
Vétiver Fatal by Atelier Cologne
This unisex perfume by Atelier Cologne combines orange flower, cedar wood and Haitian vetiver to create an intoxicating fragrance. Vetiver is a type of fragrance grass closely related to lemongrass citronella. It has a sharp, woody undertone that many have compared to the smell of freshly cut grass. It’s a distinct scent that is sure to leave an impression.
Best French Perfume brands for the home
Fragonard candles, diffusers, soaps
There’s nothing quite like coming home at the end of a long day to a house that smells like heaven. Fragonard diffusers, candles, and soaps are an affordable way to bring luxury scent into your home. They also come in a beautiful packaging so they’re perfect as a gift. They come in a range of scents like patchouli, lavender, Neroli and so many more! Their new Néféli collection was specially was inspired by Greece and thus crafted to evoke the airy light and the sea breezes caressing Greek shores. We especially love that their Néféli soap comes in a beautiful porcelain soap dish that’s been meticulously sculpted in the shape of an eye! You can shop for these products online.
We also love that Fragonard every so often comes out with limited edition collections of home decor like plates and hand towels.
This year, they’ve even collaborated with Greek designer Sofia Papakosta to create some truly eye-catching Greek-themed accessories (pun-intended). All of these limited collection items are available across all Fragonard boutiques in France!
Officine Universelle Buly
This luxury perfumery was founded in 1803 and offers products ready to dazzle and amaze. Bully candles sell for around 130€ each. They are set in a marble base with an ornate glass lid. The candles are decorative and add refined elegance to the home. Plus, they smell absolutely amazing. Their amazing candles come in fragrances like jasmine, amber, bergamote, and oak. Bully also produces incense in an equally luxurious range of scents at a much cheaper price point of 20€-32€. With any purchase in their store, Officine Universelle Buly will emboss your packaging with your initials in hand-drawn calligraphy. What could be more special?
A slightly more affordable luxury candle is made by Diptyque. Their candles come in classic scents like rose, lavender and vanilla as well as more adventurous fragrances like campfire, fig tree, and amber. Diptyque has a wide range of home scent products including diffusers and linen sprays in a huge variety of scents. Their products are elegantly designed and popular across the globe for their blend of fine fragrances and fashion-forward packaging.
Tips on shopping French Perfume Brands in Paris
Ask the experts
Fragonard’s Musée du Parfum near the Opéra is a great way to spend your afternoon and learn about the history and making of french perfume brands. The museum also offers guided tours and lectures on perfume called ‘Olfactory Talks’ where you can learn about many different topics related to perfume. Best of all, the guided tour at Fragonard’s Musée du Parfum is totally free! Tours begin every twenty minutes and are offered in many languages. It’s the best place to go if you want to pick up real French perfume without travelling all the way to Provence. As mentioned above, the museum also displays a unique collection of objets and rarities from Ancient Egypt to the 20the century. Musée du Parfum is located at 3-5 Square de l’Opéra-Louis Jouvet, 75009 Paris.
INSIDR Tip: You can shop for fragrances at discounted prices after your tour at Musée du Parfum!
Ask for samples
If you love perfume so much that you can’t decide on just one scent, head to Le Labo and pick up some sample fragrances to try out at home. Le Labo Discovery Sets include five different mini fragrance bottles for just 25€. It’s a great way to play around with different scents until you find your perfect match.
INSIDR tip: If you’re visiting Paris and shopping for perfumes, most ateliers will be happy to send you home with a sample of your favorite perfume before you buy to make sure its the right one for you. Don’t be afraid to ask!
Take a perfume mixing class
If you’re super dedicated to finding your perfect scent, check out a perfume mixing class offered at Fragonard’s Musée du Parfum. The sessions last for one and a half hours and are led by a perfumery expert from Fragonard. You’ll get to learn from a perfume artisan about scent profiles, how to build a unique fragrance, and then design your favorite perfume. The 90-minute perfume mixing classes usually cost 95€ to attend but right now you can get free entry by registering through INSIDR. Just email us at email@example.com and we’ll take care of the rest!
INSIDR Tip: If you plan on visiting the Fragonard Musée du Parfum and the surrounding Opera neighborhood, you can download our free guide to the Opera District!