Before we went to Paris I was looking around online for suggestions of interesting shops to visit, and one name kept coming up again and again – City Pharma.
Imagine a shop that’s small to begin with, and then fill the aisles with shelves a little too close together. Then pack those shelves with cut-price finest French skincare. Then let hundreds of women (and a few brave men) on the hunt for a bargain loose in the place.
As you can imagine, it’s carnage. Gorgeously scented carnage, but carnage nonetheless. If like me you are an introvert, you may need a stiff drink afterwards. It’s like a battlefield for your FACE. But if you’re in Paris and you’re serious about skincare, then it’s a must-visit.
The City Pharma experience
There is a French pharmacie on every corner in Paris, but what makes City Pharma different is
a) the incredible range of brands in quite a small space
b) deep discounts and mucho bargains to be had
One thing you won’t be able to do is browse the shelves, perusing the brands and translating ingredients. It’s simply too crowded and busy for that. You need to be aware of what you want in advance and bring a list – the shop is full of people waving paper and digital lists.
You’ll also need plenty of space in your suitcase because many of these bargains come in multi-packs.
So although I’d done some research, thanks to the mayhem my haul was a bit haphazard.
I grabbed some Nuxe (named after Nature + Luxury) because I’d heard that was a good French brand.
The Nuxe Rive de Miel Ultra Nourishing Lip Balm seems to have a lot of fans worldwide, so I swiped the last one off the shelf. UK price – £9.50. City Pharma price EUR6.48 (£4.60)
I got a double pack of the Nuxe lipstick lip balm for EUR 5.95 (around £4) – UK price is £5.50 for one.
At this point I was going a bit nuts and also managed to grab a double pack of Nuxe …er…deodorant. Always first with the glam purchases, me. UK price – £8.50 each, City Pharma price EUR 8.89 for two (£6.40)
Nuxe Shower Fondant shower gel was another random grab off the shelves. It’s a soap-free shower gel, delicately fragranced with orange blossom and almond blossom petals. UK price – £9 for one, City Pharma price EUR 7.89 for two (£5.65). I smell so good you could lick me right now.
I also got a double pack of Bioderma makeup remover – this seems to be a City Pharma must-buy because it’s a great product at around half the regular price. The double pack was around 15 Euros, whereas normally in the UK it’s £15 for one.
Yes, I was a total sheep. I got all the stuffs that the people on the internets told me to buy.
I also got some Roger et Gallet Fleur de Figuier (Flower and Fig) perfume. You can get this for not much more in the UK Marks and Spencer but of course on holiday it doesn’t really count so it’s basically free.
It was a very bracing experience shopping at City Pharma – the complete opposite to the online hauling I usually do.
People weren’t rude – you’ll see more pushing and shoving at Disneyland Paris than here. There is a lot of Pardon and Excuser-moi! to be heard as shoppers navigate around each other. It’s like sailing in a very crowded harbour with all the ships trying to fill up at once.
I made a second visit to browse but had to give up without buying anything. The place is simply too small and crowded to browse. You need to know what you want and once you see it, make like an eagle and swoop.
City Pharma is close to the Boulevard Saint-Germain in Paris, on the corner of Rue du Four and Rue Bonaparte. It’s closed on Sundays but open all other days from 8:30am to 8pm. Don’t wait for a quiet time, there isn’t one.
I also did some shopping at Sephora in Paris and bought a beauty accessory which has made my whole family hoot with derision. If I’m feeling brave I might tell you what it was next time…