The Barcelona Perfume Museum (Museu del Perfum)

Whether you’re interested in art, food, fashion or perfume, Barcelona has plenty to offer. The capital of Catalonia, an autonomous community of Spain, it stretches along the Mediterranean Sea and looks towards The Pyrenees. It’s a major cultural hub in Europe, and you can spend an entire vacation simply exploring all of Barcelona’s treasures. While numerous guidebooks will help you build an activity packed itinerary without much effort, I want to highlight a little gem that’s all too easy to miss–the Barcelona Perfume Museum, or Museu del Perfum in Catalan.

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The museum was born in the 1960s, when Perfumería Regia, founded in 1928 by Don Josep Giralt, made its home on Passeig de Gràcia, one of the most glittering avenues in Barcelona. This is where you can find the masterpieces of Antoni Gaudí like Casa Batlló and Casa Milà “La Pedrera” and the delicate mosaics of Casa Lleó Morera by Lluís Domènech i Montaner. Museu del Perfum is more modest by contrast, but its central location and unusual collection of more than five thousand perfume related artifacts makes it a worthwhile stop for a perfume lover.

Walk through Perfumería Regia until you see a sign for the museum and a ticket desk (5€ per person.) The ancient and modern perfume bottles share space with powder boxes, miniatures, porcelain containers and advertising material.  The first part of the museum is devoted to Egyptian, Etruscan, Greek, and  Roman containers for fragrance and cosmetics, and this collection is worth the visit by itself.

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In the second part of the museum, you’ll find creations by 19th century European perfumers such as L.T. Piver, Roger & Gallet, Jean-Marie Farina, and Guerlain.

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Lanvin, Chanel and Dior are showcased as well, in addition to regional perfume houses from Germany, Spain, the Middle East and Russia. It’s thrilling to see long vanished perfumes like Ivoire de Chanel or Lanvin My Sin.

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The downside is that there is very little printed information available, and the small, densely packed space can leave you feeling confused and overwhelmed. Add to this the inability to smell the perfumes in the glass cases, and the whole endeavor might seem frustrating.

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(My heart was breaking when I saw a large bottle of Guerlain Après l’Ondée extrait de parfum, one of the most rare fragrances, cooking in the bright lights.)

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Why do I recommend Museu del Perfum despite all of these shortcomings? The whimsy and diversity of perfume bottles used throughout history. With the costs of packaging increasing every year, many contemporary brands opt for simple, low-budget designs, and seeing the flamboyant presentations like Marquay’s or Dior’s gives you a whole new sense of a perfume bottle.

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Moreover, Perfumería Regia is a great perfume shopping destination, with helpful service and a good collection of fragrance lines. Brands like Atelier Cologne, Tom Ford, Amouage, Kilian, and Byredo are on offer, in addition to makeup and skincare.  After marveling at Barcelona’s architecture and absorbing the vibrant energy of the city, Museu del Perfum makes for a pleasant break.

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Museu del Perfum
www.museudelperfum.com
Passeig de Gràcia, 39, 08007 Barcelona, Spain
+34 932 16 01 21

Extra: Denyse of Grain de Musc writes about her visit to Museo del Perfume

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

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60 Comments

  • Anne of Green Gables: Ha, what a timely post for me! :-) Thank you for the wonderful photos and the information. I think I’ll definitely visit. It’s sad that the actual perfumes have not been preserved well and frustrating that I can’t smell any of them but just seeing those exquisite bottles make me excited. So, it’s OK to take pictures there or did you need a special permission? March 17, 2014 at 7:36am Reply

    • Victoria: There was nobody to even ask, so I just snapped away to my heart’s content. You really have to walk through the store till you get to what looks like office spaces. The museum is all the way in the back.

      All in all, the large collection is interesting, and you can see many famous bottles, including the original Diorissimo extravaganza topped with flowers and foliage. March 17, 2014 at 11:13am Reply

  • Solanace: Your pictures speak for themselves. Love the Dior urns! March 17, 2014 at 8:07am Reply

    • Victoria: I love those too! They are so delicate. March 17, 2014 at 11:14am Reply

  • Cornelia Blimber: The pictures are a treat for the eye. It must be like Tantalus’ vexation to be there and not to smell! On the other hand, the museum is a source of information and the bottles are so beautiful.
    Victoria, do you know how Ivoire by Chanel smelled? March 17, 2014 at 8:29am Reply

    • Victoria: It was an aldehydic floral, with a beautiful ambery note, but next to the perfumes that survived, like No 22 or Bois des Iles, it doesn’t stand out. It was curious to see the bottle, which is so different from other Chanels. March 17, 2014 at 11:28am Reply

  • Phyllis Iervello: What a lovely post. Thank you Victoria. March 17, 2014 at 9:16am Reply

    • Victoria: My pleasure, Phyllis. :) March 17, 2014 at 11:42am Reply

  • Annikky: I’m not really a bottle person, but this museum looks fascinating. I would especially love to see the ancient containers (anything Etruscan makes me disproportionately excited).

    It would be difficult to resist the temptation of rescuing that Apres l’Ondee bottle, though. March 17, 2014 at 9:19am Reply

    • Victoria: I’m with you on anything Etruscan. Their art is a surprising blend of delicate and geometric shapes, and it was interesting to compare similar objects from the other cultures.

      As for Apres L’Ondee, I had to back away slowly and take a deep inhale. :) The bottle is very charming, though. March 17, 2014 at 11:46am Reply

  • Marie: I visited Barcelona last year but no perfume museum. Wish I knew about it then. Thanks for nice photos! March 17, 2014 at 10:12am Reply

    • Victoria: Glad that you liked them! The museum is quite central, so it won’t require a major detour to visit. March 17, 2014 at 11:46am Reply

  • Eric: Great post! What are the blue bow shaped bottles? Guerlain? March 17, 2014 at 10:26am Reply

    • Annette Reynolds: I believe it’s Coque d’Or (Guerlain). I think the bottle was by Baccarat! Not sure though… March 17, 2014 at 11:29am Reply

      • Victoria: I also think that it was Baccarat. Guerlain has had some interesting bottles over the years. March 17, 2014 at 11:50am Reply

    • Victoria: Those are bottles made for Coque d’Or, a perfume created by Guerlain in the 1930s. The blue color is so striking. March 17, 2014 at 11:47am Reply

  • sara: fantastic post! I am going to Barcelona this fall–so this will be a must see for me. March 17, 2014 at 10:56am Reply

    • Victoria: Have fun, Sara! Barcelona is one of my favorite cities, and I fell in love with it. And what’s there not to love–great food, amazing art, nice people? March 17, 2014 at 11:49am Reply

  • Annette Reynolds: I want to be transported there right this minute! I just love old perfume bottles and only have a few of my grandmother’s in my cabinet. Sometimes I open them, but can barely get a sense of what the fragrance smelled like. Thanks for the wonderful post, Victoria! March 17, 2014 at 11:27am Reply

    • Victoria: Me too, Annette! I love taking out the old bottles that belonged my grandmothers and taking a whiff. Well, I don’t have that many of them, only 2, but it’s enough to be transported to my childhood. I also love the musty, vanilla-like scent of old perfume boxes that smell a bit like old books. March 17, 2014 at 11:55am Reply

  • maja: Cooking Apres L’Ondee is truly a crime. ;) But it is wonderful to see so much perfume treasure in one place. I like those, what seem to be, Arpege bottles. March 17, 2014 at 12:16pm Reply

    • Victoria: They look like Arpege bottles to me, and it was the first time I’ve seen so many of them. Yes, it was like a candy shop where you can’t taste anything, but it was still fun. ;) March 17, 2014 at 2:00pm Reply

      • maja: Speaking of candies, I have to admit – I bought a small bottle of Pink Sugar last week. :D So much fun! March 17, 2014 at 5:16pm Reply

        • Victoria: Pink Sugar is one of those perfumes that instantly makes me smile, proving once again that a bit of indulgence is not a bad thing at all. Enjoy it, Maja! March 17, 2014 at 5:40pm Reply

  • George: Nice article, but I am going to pretend that those bottles of Kriss, Ivoire and AL’O are factices……… I’m glad to see that someone finished off that bottle of BDIles though. March 17, 2014 at 12:27pm Reply

    • Victoria: There were a few empty bottles of Guerlain perfumes, too. At least, I pretended that someone used and enjoyed the perfume before the bottle ended up on display. March 17, 2014 at 2:16pm Reply

  • Nancy A.: OMG! What a vast array of treasures and a feast for the senses. Thank you for this review. March 17, 2014 at 12:39pm Reply

    • Victoria: I didn’t expect to enjoy the museum as much as I did. It’s small, but the collection is really impressive. March 17, 2014 at 3:17pm Reply

  • Marcella: I have just arrived to live in Barcelona and I obviously have sought for everything that is perfume related. I discarded this Museum since I thought it would be very disappointing not to be able to smell anything, but maybe I will change my mind after your post. I think Barcelona has been devaluating its perfume heritage with the Spanish crisis. I have found some trendy shops selling dupes in “Le Labo” kind of bottles and also you can find dupes everywhere from drugstores to supermarkets. By the way, all Barcelona smells like Narciso Rodriguez For Her, or probably its dupes. March 17, 2014 at 1:23pm Reply

    • Victoria: Enjoy your time in Barcelona, Marcella! One of my favorite scented places is Casa Gispert, where they sell the best nuts, dried fruit, spices and coffee. If you haven’t visited yet, I highly recommend it. March 17, 2014 at 3:18pm Reply

  • Austenfan: I admire your restraint about Après l’Ondée. I don’t know if I would have been capable of keeping quiet. The exhibit looks lovely though, and rather random, which is a good thing in my book.
    I’ve only visited Barcelona once. In 1991 to be precise. I vaguely remember the Sagrada Familia, but having only spent one day in the city I didn’t really have much time to make a proper visit. March 17, 2014 at 5:27pm Reply

    • Victoria: They had plenty of other treasures I wanted to carry away, but if the bottle have been sitting there since the 1960s, the contents have already turned to vinegar. On the other hand, seeing Dior next to Chanel, next to Lanvin, next to Red Moscow, etc. was unexpected and very interesting. March 17, 2014 at 5:42pm Reply

      • Annikky: Red Moscow! They really had that?! March 17, 2014 at 5:49pm Reply

        • Victoria: Yep! Here is the proof. :)
          March 17, 2014 at 6:01pm Reply

          • Austenfan: What is Red Moscow? A Sovjet perfume? Excuse my ignorance! March 18, 2014 at 7:19am Reply

            • Victoria: Yes, a Soviet era perfume based very much on Coty L’Origan, a soft powdery floral with a carnation in its heart. It’s still made today, but it’s really awful. The vintage perfume (the stoppered bottles like in my photo) is very good.

              I wrote an article on it a while back, in the early days of Bois de Jasmin. :)
              http://boisdejasmin.com/2005/06/russian_perfume.html March 18, 2014 at 12:38pm Reply

      • Austenfan: You are absolutely right in re the vinegar. I would just find it so hard to not vent my frustration about a rare juice made unusable. Mind you, if I’m ever in Barcelona I will visit this museum. It looks quirky! March 18, 2014 at 7:21am Reply

        • Victoria: It is! Plus, its location is unbeatable, so it doesn’t take much effort to plan a visit. March 18, 2014 at 12:36pm Reply

  • Ariadne: Umm, this post is good chocolate at the end of a very annoying Monday. I ‘ate’ every photo with relish!
    Somewhat unrelated but the New Orleans Museum of Pharmacy on Chartres is also a dust bitten gem of exotic containers and oackages (and contents) worth every cent of the $5US donation.
    Thanks so much for sharing your travels!!! March 17, 2014 at 5:54pm Reply

    • Victoria: I love to visit these kind of obscure museums devoted to a very niche subject (well, that’s obvious from my post today, I suppose. :) But I’ll send a note about Museum of Pharmacy to a friend who lives in New Orleans. She actually trained as a pharmacist, so she might find it up her alley. Thank you, Ariadne!

      Here is to wishing for a great rest of the week, an annoying Monday notwithstanding. March 17, 2014 at 6:06pm Reply

  • Grain de Musc: Despite all the shortcomings you mention — I don’t know what I found most frustrating, the lack of a catalogue or seeing the rare juices cooking — I always visit the Museu when I’m in Barcelona. There’s actually great charm in that usually deserted room, like something out of time. March 17, 2014 at 7:09pm Reply

    • Victoria: There was not a single person there when we visited. Even the staff took a while to show up to collect our ticket fees. So, it really was a lovely, calm break after the crowds of Passeig de Gracia. March 18, 2014 at 12:42pm Reply

  • Ann: Just beautiful. Thank you. March 17, 2014 at 7:12pm Reply

    • Victoria: You’re welcome! Ah, all of these pretty bottles. :) March 18, 2014 at 12:40pm Reply

  • Daisy: What a wonderful gem! I wish that I had known about it the last time I was in Barcelona. In any case, I have a good friend going in a few weeks and I will pass on the info. She also is getting a shopping list for the Ramon Monegal store with those 27 euro minis! March 17, 2014 at 7:59pm Reply

    • Victoria: Do you like any of Ramon Monegal’s perfumes? I don’t remember if we talked about it. March 18, 2014 at 12:40pm Reply

      • Daisy: We might have . . . I don’t remember every perfume in the line but I remember thinking that Impossible Iris was lovely and Entre Naranjos was also delicious on skin.

        At Sniffapalooza, we met (I think?) Ramon Monegal’s daughter who told us that one of the fragrances was given as a gift to her brother’s wedding guests and was crafted to match the flavors in the wedding cake so people would remember the day every time they smelled it.

        I wish I had written down the name. Since the event, I have read that the wedding fragrance was Lovely Day, but for some reason I vividly remember the description of the cake which makes me think of Entre Naranjos more!

        Regardless which one it is, it’s such a lovely story! And a such a great wedding souvenir! March 18, 2014 at 7:33pm Reply

        • Victoria: Love this story, Daisy! I was asking, because I’m still on the fence about the whole line–it’s so large and some perfumes are interesting, but others seem bland and overpriced. But your comments help me as I approach it again. I’ll try Impossible Iris and Entre Naranjos again. March 19, 2014 at 8:09am Reply

  • Kaori: All I can say is “wow”. It is a well-kept secret indeed. Thank you for sharing. March 17, 2014 at 9:12pm Reply

    • Victoria: My pleasure! I had no high expectations, but I enjoyed my visit. March 18, 2014 at 12:39pm Reply

  • Melinda: Oh my this looks beautiful! I’d love to visit here. March 18, 2014 at 9:48am Reply

    • Victoria: It’s a charming, serene place. March 18, 2014 at 12:31pm Reply

  • Lauren: This is really exciting…when my grandmother sadly passed away, I inherited some of her long-lost (and sometimes not even opened) perfume bottles. It was a real surprise to me that she had these, because I never knew her to wear perfume. But among them are both the 4711 and the Christian Dior “urn” you feature here. Seeing them in a museum made my heart beat faster! I miss my grandmother! And this is what I love about perfume in the first place: beautiful enough to take up museum space; intimate enough to be connected to people and memories. Thanks for this post. March 18, 2014 at 4:13pm Reply

    • Victoria: This is such a beautiful way of putting it and the best argument for having perfumes in a museum. How lucky you’re to have such treasures from your grandmother. Are they opened? Which Dior perfumes did she have? March 18, 2014 at 5:23pm Reply

  • Lynn Morgan: Gorgeous post, Victoria! I am fascinated by Spain (great Gothic architecture, Gaudi, divine red wines, etc.) so I will have to add this to my bucket list! Too bad they don’t have sniff stations1 Why don’t hey hire you as a curator? PS. LA has a perfume museum that I have never visited! March 18, 2014 at 5:58pm Reply

    • Victoria: They probably don’t have enough funds to even print the catalog, so I’m glad that they exist at all. And speaking of Spanish perfumery, they had several different collections, including Myrurgia.

      If you visit LA’s perfume museum, please let me know what it’s like. March 18, 2014 at 6:54pm Reply

  • Aisha: I’d be pressing my face against the glass, hoping to smell some of those gems. LOL!

    I love perfume bottles. I’ll probably keep my bottle of Lauren after I finally use it all up. I wish I had kept that smaller dagger-ish shaped bottle (my first bottle of Lauren) that I used up long ago. March 18, 2014 at 8:22pm Reply

    • Victoria: The place doesn’t smell like perfume, that’s for sure, but when I was looking at the bottles, I imagined the scents of No 5, Arpege, 4711 and Mitsouko. :) March 19, 2014 at 8:15am Reply

  • Sarah: I missed this post! I loved that museum when I visited back in 2007. Doesn’t it have one of Marie Antoinette’s perfume bottles on display? Loved the perfume bottle displays from different countries too. Fragrance is the most important thing but the beautiful bottles from years and years ago make you realise that women always want a pretty bottle on their dressers :) May 3, 2014 at 4:13am Reply

    • Victoria: I now don’t remember off the top of my head, and I don’t have my notes with me to check. It definitely had quite a selection, and some bottles were very rare. I wouldn’t be surprised if something of Marie-Antoinette’s trousseau ended up there. May 3, 2014 at 3:05pm Reply

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