One of the best free things to do in Paris is to visit the Museum du Parfum by Fragonard in the 9th arrondissement
Located around the corner from Palais Garnier, Musée du Parfum is easily accessible from the Opera metro stop and a short walk up rue Auber and a left at Square de l’Opéra-Louis Jouvet. Auber, an RER A stop, is also nearby.
For whatever reason, I was under impression that the free tour—it turns out that the free tour is a guided tour. There’s no need to book in advance, tours are held every 20 minutes.
You can choose to take the guided tour in French or English. I would highly recommend taking the French tour if you can understand the language because it’s a more enriching cultural experience—the French already know the basics of perfume, so the tour guide can explore some details in more depth.
The tour guide explains how the perfume is made, the basics of the olfactory pyramid and perfume’s cultural significance in France. The tour ends with a perfume workshop—think of it as a wine tasting, but with luxurious French scents instead of French wine. Participants are invited to guess the different fragrance notes in the perfumes and the tour guide will give additional tips like what distinguishes masculine and feminine scents and how to best apply perfume.
The Musée du Parfum is run by Fragonard—and you’re obviously encouraged to buy a souvenir in the perfume shop at the end of the tour—but the overview of perfume’s manufacturing, history and application is an excellent way to engage with French culture.
If you would like a more “next level” experience, there is the Connoisseur Tour for those interested in both art history and perfume, as well as Olfactory Talks, which feature perfume experts once a month to discuss the history of perfume within their area of expertise. Check out more information on the museum’s website.
Note: Musée du Parfum by Fragonard is not to be confused with Le Grand Musée du Parfum in the 8th arrondissement on rue Faubourg de Saint Honoré.