Monday, 4 May 2015

Perfume shopping in Frankfurt

"Off to somewhere nice?" asked the ueber cheerful sales assistant behind the Boots counter at London City airport. "Frankfurt", I replied, marginally less cheerful because  7 o' clock in the morning is not my time.  "Ah..., OK" he muttered with a traceable slight of pity in his voice. "Hope you have a nice day anyway." 
This brief encounter sums up my hometown's image problem quite nicely. Considered nothing more than a necessary business trip location, it doesn't have Berlin's cool or Hamburg's elegance, isn't conveniently close to Italy like Munich, and its only claim to fame is the European Central bank and questionable sausages. *

But of course, I have to differ. Frankfurt is, despite its skyline, a very human sized and pleasant to live in city. Much smaller than most visitors anticipate, it has a village feel with added skyscrapers. It boasts tradition in an ironic way, knowing full well about its lack of picture perfect. A bad image can be a very liberating thing, and Frankfurt has made the most of it during the decades I lived in it or nearby. When homesickness strikes, it's the local cider pubs (Apfelweinkneipen) and the easy going summer evenings on the greens near the riverbank that I miss the most. So, if  for some reason you find yourself in Frankfurt and you don't know what to do with all the museums, the best opera house and the largest botanical garden in the country, the bars, the theatres, the timber framed cuteness of Bornheim and the grandeur of the Westend, the splendid cathedral and all the tragic history of a 1200 year old German city there is always: Perfume!

Parfuemerie Albrecht was founded in 1732 as a 'drugstore', selling all kinds of ointments and tinctures to the people of Frankfurt. It's now in the good hands of the Albrecht family and has three stores dotted around the inner city. One in the elegant Goethestrasse, one just across the road in the "Fressgass" (this one also has a beauty institute) and the latest one in the 'MyZeil' shopping gallery. The latter is the biggest and more modern in feel and decor, paying tribute to the rather different customer base. 

In all the shops you will find an impressive range of niche perfumes plus skincare and make up from brands like Chanel and Co. This mixture of niche and high end main stream is relatively unique in the perfume world, and can sometimes lead to customer confusion as to why they do have Chanel lipsticks but not the perfumes. I met David Albrecht in his Goethestrasse shop and he very kindly took his time to chat about perfume and perfume shopping in Frankfurt. He explained that his parents believed in niche perfumes from its very beginnings and took the risk to change their stock accordingly. Over the last 20 years the perfumery grew and with it its customer base. Frankfurt might be small, but it's the financial hub of Europe and with it comes an international clientele that isn't all that different from shoppers in London or Dubai. Tourists also make up a high percent of perfume shoppers. Herr Albrecht couldn't give the exact number of brands they have on offer, but it is pretty impressive, especially in the MyZeil shop, where space really isn't an issue. If you're coming from the UK you will be happy to find Ramon Monegal, Profumum Roma, Santa Maria Novella and German brands like F.J.Schwarzlose and Nasengold. There is also F.Malle, Byredo, Etat libre, Dyptique, Amouage, Etro, Lubin, SoOud, Lutens, Ormonde Jayne, Creed, Caron, MMK, CdG, Knize, Patou, Isabey, Lalique, Friedemonin, Clive Christian, Kilian etc etc. 

On top of that, the Parfumerie has created a Frankfurt inspired range  of scents which I sampled only briefly and will keep for my next home visit. The Albrechts also organise smell inspired events throughout the year, a lecture and discussion about how pregnancy can change your sense of smell and perception of perfumes sounds particularly interesting, although I'm nowhere near pregnant myself. 

You can always sense when you meet someone who is genuinely passionate about perfume and not just selling it, and David Albrecht (his favourite scent is Philosykos) and his family certainly fall firmly within the first group. In terms of preference, I like the myZeil shop because you can wander around forever and sniff here and there (you will be asked if you need assistance, but it's not a problem at all if you prefer to be left alone). The Goethestrasse in contrast is more intimate and cosy, but wherever you go - the sales staff is charming and knowledgeable. All shops are just a few minutes walk apart and there are plenty of cafes and eateries along the way. So, if you happen to have urgent business in my hometown, take a stroll and have a sniff. 

* I can get incredibly agitated about proper Frankfurters, which I assume most of my readers never ever tasted. It is sad that the city lost the fight for a PDO against American fast food chains. Whatever they sell you in those hot dogs: It's not the real thing! 


  1. Oh, I did enjoy reading about the Albrecht perfumeries, of which I was quite unaware, having been to Frankfurt only as a business traveller (pre-perfume!). Well, if you discount my visit to Griesheim the other week, when there was no opportunity for exploring further afield.

    I was interested to note that they stock Ramon Monegal, a brand of which there are all too few outlets. And that Herr Albrecht loves Philosoykos. A fig fiend, like my friend Clare!

    I must say I am not sure I have eaten Frankfurters in Frankfurt, but I have done some of the other tourist things - including visiting the very fine Christmas market.

    1. Hi Vanessa, Glad you enjoyed it. It comes too late for the Germany 2015 tour, I know, but there will always be a next time. The Chrismtas market is wonderful, another thing to be a bit homesick about.

  2. Same as Vanessa, I've been to Frankfurt in my pre-perfumista life. But the next time I'm there I'll definitely use your post as a guide.
    Speaking of guides, I've added a link to this post to the Perfume Shopping around the World page on my blog and will share it as an update with those blogs that have that page.

    1. Thank you, my dear. I'm in Madrid at the moment adn I'm glad that others have wrote about perfume buying here. I hope I'll find the time.