A Seductive Wheel of Scents in Paris

Get nosy at Sephora, the smelliest shop in Paris.
By Rick Steves, Steve Smith, and Gene Openshaw

Strolling Paris' grand boulevard, the Champs-Elysées, you'll come to Sephora, an incredible perfume store at #72. Glide down Sephora's ramp into a vast hall of cosmetics and perfumes. It's thoughtfully laid out: the entry hall is lined with the new products — all open with disposable white sniff strips inviting you to take a whiff. Women's perfumes line the left wall and men's line the (shorter) right wall — organized alphabetically by company, from Armani to Versace.

Stop first at the central "wheel of scents." The woman here helps shoppers explore their needs. Interviewing you, she understands what you're after and dishes up samples until you find the scent of your dreams. She then assembles a list of products to match.

The wheel of scents is organized like a wheel of color (clockwise from fresh to strong). Follow the labeled progression: fresh, sea, flower, fruit, herb, wood, spicy, amber, and leather. Lemon is freshest. Civette — eau de cow pie — is strongest. (I'm not kidding. Give it a whiff.) The best seller: chocolate. Worst seller? Guess.

Grab a basket and follow your nose. The mesmerizing music, chosen just for Sephora, makes you crave cosmetics. A stock exchange-type board fills one wall. The red flashing numbers are the current prices of perfumes (cours des parfums) in cities throughout the world — allowing jet-setters to comparison shop.

Steve Smith and Gene Openshaw are the co-authors of the Rick Steves Paris guidebook.