With the ongoing pandemic and international travel being further out of reach, like the rest of the world, Koreans have taken to experiencing different perfumes as a way to brighten up their day. It’s taken a bit of time to scope out where to buy some of my favorite perfumes in Seoul, particularly niche perfumes.
If you’ve been to any Olive Young around the corner, you’ll notice that most of the perfumes in-store are generally very floral and sweet like a bottle of cheap Moscato. I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite perfume stores in Seoul — offline and online — as well as some lesser-known Korean brands that have gained popularity in the last few years.
Read more in Living
What’s in my current fragrance rotation?
Byredo Bal d’Afrique was one of my latest Byredo purchases and though it smells fantastic, the longevity was very disappointing. Within 10 minutes, I only smell whispers of it. I’ve gone through 75% of the 100mL bottle within a year and do not plan on repurchasing as the price doesn’t really justify the poor performance.
Byredo La Tulipe was another Byredo purchase that I couldn’t get out of my head. It smelled so incredibly fresh! However, I read online once where someone compared it to an “upscale Febreeze”, and I definitely see the comparison. For non-Americans, Febreeze is a home fragrance spray that is most commonly found in bathrooms to cover up malodors. I once had a friend from high school, proudly claim, “Sh*t, I can’t afford perfume! How about some Febreeze instead?” I had some second thoughts about La Tulipe due to the Febreeze comparison as every time I smelled it, I couldn’t stop thinking about how it really did smell like Febreeze due to the freesia. In the end, it was complex enough to win me over. I still really enjoy it as I always feel like I just walked out of a florist’s shop and the scent has great longevity.
Byredo Black Saffron is a perfume that I’ve kept for as long as I can remember. It’s one of my signature sexy, going-out scents, and though I sometimes get tired of it, I’ll always come back to it. It’s not for the faint of heart as it projects loudly. I would never, ever wear this during the day. Nowadays, it just evokes memories of nightclubs, cigarettes, chasers, and bodycon dresses — back when we were allowed out of the house at night, pre-pandemic.
Frédéric Malle Portrait of a Lady (by Dominique Ropion) is my holy grail scent and what I wear when I want to be complimented for smelling absolutely fantastic. Though it is expensive, every drop is worth it. I first met this scent in a Neiman Marcus at the Copley Mall in Boston, back when I was too poor to buy this kind of perfume. I saved up for years to finally purchase the big bottle. A little goes a long way.
At the fore, an exuberant dose of Turkish rose — 400 flowers per 100ml bottle, no less. Beneath, a bed of patchouli heart imbued with sandalwood and frankincense. An accord of clove, blackcurrant and raspberry binds the perfume together for a final characterful brushstroke.
I had a sample of Diptyque Tam Dao laying around for ages, but somehow never fully committed to a bigger bottle until recently. I took the sample with me to a recent trip to Rome and fell absolutely in love with it. It’s woody and reminds me of temple incense.
For diptyque, only chypre, a legendary accord with a thousand facets, could pay worthy tribute to the city of a thousand faces. A bouquet of roses verging on excess follows fresh bergamot spiced with pink peppercorns. Freedom claimed: this time not moss, but patchouli. An Eiffel Tower, roses, flowing calligraphy, a peacock with its tail fanned, volutes, lines intertwined… To illustrate Eau Capitale, diptyque and Pierre Marie drew their inspiration from Parisian architecture and iconic Art Nouveau buildings.
Aquatic (oceanic) scents aren’t really my thing. They rose to prominence in the ’90s and every gelled-up guido or guidette in my small New Jersey town wore some version of Acqua di Gio. Diptyque Do Son definitely gives me fresh floral, aquatic vibes without feeling tacky. I still like it, but I don’t love it. I almost feel like it’s missing something as I tend to gravitate towards warmer perfumes.
Santa Maria Novella Rosa Gardenia and Santa Maria Novella Iris were both purchased in Florence, Italy, however, I soon learned while walking around Coex Mall one day that there’s actually a store here. Both are incredibly fresh, clean, and floral which makes me feel like a queen. The Iris is definitely more subdued while the Rosa Gardenia is a bit more of a flower bomb. Neither are terribly original but both are well done.
Nonfiction Gaiac Flower was an impulse buy at Sephora at the Coex Mall after hearing about the buzz about the Nonfiction Santal Cream. Though Santal Cream was soft, warm, and lovely, it just didn’t do it for me. Gaiac Flower isn’t necessarily my favorite perfume, but it was interesting enough for me to pick it up. The notes are described as, “Wildflower, Gaiac, Oriental, Vanilla, Amber.” It’s syrupy on me which I’m not entirely sure how I feel about.
Ever since I smelled the now-discontinued L’Occitane Ambre in the early 00s, I’ve been a huge fan of amber scents. Serge Lutens Ambre Sultan has been on my list forever, and I was able to track it down via Perfumgraphy in Korea. It’s interesting, and it lingers on my skin as soft, cozy vanilla. I feel like a stick of sweet butt-ah.
I discovered Aesop Marrakech at the Aesop in Harvard Square (Cambridge, MA) and it’s one of my favorite winter perfumes. Notes include cloves, sandalwood, and cardamom.
My cousin came to visit from Hong Kong and brought me a Jo Malone sampler set. Out of all the minis, I enjoyed Jo Malone English Pear & Freesia the most and ended up with a full bottle. It was my go-to spring/summer scent for a while until I got tired of it. It’s very fresh and floral, but it’s also a wee bit boring as a lot of Jo Malone scents can end up missing a special je ne sais quoi. On the other hand, you also just smell nice.
Granhand Kyujang is a multi-perfume, or body & home spray, that smells strongly of an earthy, warm cinnamon stick. It reminds me of a hot toddy or unsweetened cinnamon tea in the Winter, cozied up next to a fireplace. The longevity is quite good considering it is not an EDP. The top notes are fig leaf, bergamot, and pink pepper. Middle notes are cinnamon, thyme, geranium. Base notes are wood, fig, eucalyptus.
I’m a big fan of jasmine perfumes, and even when they may be just one note, I don’t find them super boring. Innisfree Jasmine & Green Tea (EDT) satisfies my craving for a light, fresh spring/summer fragrance without being cloyingly sweet due to the astringent green tea. It’s a good daily driver when I want to just smell inoffensive and clean.
Perfume Brands Available in Korea
Le Labo has a list of international locations, including Shinsegae, Hyundai, Space Mue, Galleria, and Shilla I-Park in Seoul, South Korea. There are two dedicated Le Labo boutiques in Seoul, however. I usually pop by the Sinsa store when I’m in the area.
Le Labo Itaewon: 259 Itaewon-ro, Hannam-dong, Seoul, 4348 (Naver Map)
Le Labo Garosugil (Sinsa): 28 Apgujeong-ro 10-gil, Sinsa-dong, Seoul, 6028 (Naver Map)
Do you remember the old Marlboro ads? A man and his horse in front of the fire on a great plain under tall, blue evening skies.
Aesop has penetrated the Korean shores, and you’ll see many a fashionable Seoulite with the Aesop handwash set sitting on their bathroom counter. I was first introduced to Aesop in Boston at their Harvard Square location and still enjoy their spicy, woodsy Marrakech perfume during the winter. You can find an Aesop store just about anywhere in Seoul these days, but I’ve set aside a few of my favorite locations.
Aesop Samcheong: 58-3 Samcheong-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul (Naver Map)
Aesop Garosugil: 54, Garosu-gil, Gangnam-gu, Seoul (Naver Map)
Aesop Hannam: 259-1 Itaewon-ro, Yongsan-gu, Seoul (Naver Map)
Aesop Parnas Mall: Grand InterContinental Hotel B1, 521 Teheran-ro, Gangnam-gu, Seoul (Naver Map)
A raw, unorthodox fragrance distinguished by woody, spicy notes and fresh florals—a deep, rich and alluring homage to the city of the same name.
Some of my favorite fresh, summer fragrances are from Jo Malone. Though you can find Jo Malone at just about any duty-free shop and department store around the world, there’s also a Jo Malone store in Itaewon.
Jo Malone London Boutique Itaewon: 267, Itaewon-ro, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, 4348
Escape the everyday along the windswept shore. Waves breaking white, the air fresh with sea salt and spray. Alive with the mineral scent of the rugged cliffs. Mingling with the woody earthiness of sage. Lively, spirited and totally joyful.
British perfumer, Jo Malone, created Jo Loves after departing Jo Malone London which is now owned by Estée Lauder. You can reserve a short “Fragrance Tapas” experience at the store via Naver Reservation where you can test different products and enjoy different fragrances.
Jo Loves (Lotte World Tower): 1st floor, Lotte World Mall, 300 Olympic-ro, Songpa-gu, Seoul (Naver Map)
Inspired by memories of summer holidays, white sandy beaches, fresh linen sheets and sparkling iced water, this mouth-watering Grapefruit-infused Citrus is sharp, refreshing, and instantly energising.
Granhand is a Korean perfume brand with locations all over Seoul, South Korea. They offer multi-perfumes (home, body, fabric sprays), candles, diffusers, and EDP bottles. Many of their products can be stamped as a gift which is a nice touch. Like most homegrown (Korean) perfume brands lately, the scents seem to lean mostly earthy and natural.
They recently opened a store at the top of Namsan Tower, or North Seoul Tower, in Yongsan-gu. I quite like visiting the Bukchon location as it’s intermingled with all the hanok-style houses.
Granhand (Bukchon): 19, Bukchon-ro 11-gil, Jongno-gu, Bukchon (Naver Map)
Luvfume is a Korean beauty brand that sells scented hand lotions and cleansers.
It provides a refreshing and lively scent that makes you feel good by harmonizing the freshness of blackberries that are fresh and sweet as if they have been added to fruit juice. TOP: Blackcurrant, Grapefruit MIDDLE: Rose, Peony BASE: Musk, Cedarwood
Tamburins is a Korean beauty brand that sells mostly earthy-scented hand sanitizer, scented lotions, candles, and multi fragrances (body/home spray). You can view all their locations and stockists here.
Tamburins Sinsa: 44, Apgujeong-ro 10-gil, Gangnam-gu, Seoul (Naver Map)
Sandalwood | Patchouli | Earth Still light, elevated air, soil and roots. The exalted air felt in the vast land and the still light in it, the signature scent of Tamburins 000 reminds us of the deep and calm movement of soil and roots, which symbolizes the cycle of nature.
Nonfiction is a Korean perfume brand that is probably most famous for its Santal Cream EDP. You can also buy Nonfiction perfume at Sephora KR, 10 Corso Como Seoul, The Conran Shop, and even Ssense.com.
Nonfiction Hannam: Itaewon-ro, Yongsan-gu, Seoul 55ga-gil 49, 3rd floor (Naver Map)
A lovely conversation in the arms of a lover on a lazy afternoon with the warmth of light. Santal Cream is a fragrance that represents the mood of non-fiction, with a fresh fig and soft woody fragrance in an appropriate balance. The spice of fresh cardamom, freshly crushed between the calm of vetiver and sandalwood, gives expression to even the most serene and drowsy moments. The vivid and warm fragrance expressed creamily on the skin will make the moment with you remembered for a long time.
Santa Maria Novella
Santa Maria Novella is an Italian perfume shop based in Florence that’s been around since 1221. Their Acqua della Regina was gifted from the famous Caterina de’ Medici to the King of France. You can find Santa Maria Novella perfumes at major department stores in Korea like the Hyundai, Shinsegae, and Lotte Department Store. You can also purchase their products directly on their Naver Store.
Santa Maria Novella Coex: 524, Bongeunsa-ro, Gangnam-gu, Seoul (Naver Map)
You can also purchase Erbario Toscano products in South Korea at erbariotoscano.kr. Just for price comparison, the Italian website lists the price of the 100 mL perfume below as € 68.00 — around 91,774 KRW from today’s conversion — and the Korean website lists the price as 120,000 KRW. Unfortunately, the price increase is a reality of living in South Korea and buying imported products.
Erbario Toscano Gangnam: 1st floor, Atre Bldg. 31, Dosan-daero 49-gil, Gangnam-gu, Seoul (Naver Map)
Warm and captivating aroma glowing with floral head notes, a woody and sugary heart touched by hints of Sandalwood and Patchouli and the seductive lingering base notes of spicy Vanilla from Madagascar and delicate Amber resin. To unleash an irresistible bouquet, spray delicately at the beat of your heart: the pulses and the base of the neck.
Buly 1803 is a French-based parfumerie. You can also buy their products directly from their Naver Store.
Buly 1803 Cheongdam: 80-13, Cheongdam-dong, Seoul (Naver Map)
Frama is a Danish design brand that sells furniture, home goods, lighting, and beauty products. Many of their apothecary products like body oil, edp, and hand washes can be found on SSFshop.com.
Evocative of the Japanese notion encapsulating the feeling of light as it travels through, Komorebi is a delicate scent captivating the senses. A light floral formulation that embraces the connection to textured and organic spatial experiences. Washi paper and woven straw. A passage of time and significance.
Mihàk is a newly launched Korean perfume brand with only three scents at the moment, Vetyver8, 424, and Oud Noir. EQL, Hago, 29CM, WConcept, and SSF have all picked up the brand online. Offline, you can find Mihàk at On and the Beauty (Lotte World Tower, Jamsil, Seoul) and Peep Show (Daegu).
A cup of bitter black tea to enjoy at a leisurely retreat in the forest where the sound of a bonfire is peacefully resounding, the smell of soil from fallen leaves in the wind, and sensual musks and woods that gently wrap around you, and tobacco leave a deep lingering impression.
Nelan is another Korean perfume brand that sells fragrances and liquid hand soap. You can view their stockists here. There are only three perfumes at the moment: Ending Credit Santal, Noire 1972 Pin, and 21-25 Bergamote.
Awakening with a well-balanced combination of dew-filled, transparent muguet florals and bergamot-filled citrus fruits full of fresh flesh. And the calm weight of sandalwood and musk that you can feel immediately draws a time somewhere between the fluttering of young grass before it blooms and the sensual of beautiful flowers.
SW19 is a Korean perfume brand that seems to have been inspired by the postal code of Wimbledon in London, UK. They have only three perfumes at the moment: 6am, 3pm, and 9pm. There doesn’t seem to be a dedicated space to shop online for SW19 yet, but you can find their products stocked offline at the GOALSTUDIO store.
GOALSTUDIO Garosugil Flagship: 1st floor, 7 Apgujeong-ro 10-gil, Gangnam-gu, Seoul (Naver Map)
“The sweet scent of ripened fruits combined with lustrous grass under the beaming sunlight” While the forest’s morning dew dries away in the beaming afternoon sunlight, feel the scent of the fully blossomed flowers in the park come together with the freshness of lemon floating on a cup of black tea at 3PM in Wimbledon.
TODAY(IS) is a Korean perfume brand that sells fabric sprays, fragrances, and room diffusers.
Visum is a Korean perfume brand with only three perfumes at the moment: Black the Night, Let Me Adore You, and Tea Moments.
A unique green citrus scent with a harsh yet pleasant grassy and tea scent. The refreshing sweetness of bergamot and the bitterness of tea leaves are in a subtle balance. At the end, the scent of Gaiac wood and leather that wraps around gives you the drowsiness of the afternoon.
Maison de Thé
Maison de Thé is a Korean brand that sells room diffusers, fabric dress sprays, and perfumed fabric softeners.
‘Dance and Balance’ expresses peace of art. The importance of dream and rest along with the journey focused on the essentials of the life at the exotic places for collecting artistic inspiration have been expressed lyrically. The piquant pepper scent softly rises above the spicy scent of just-mashed cardamom. Juniper Berry and Vanilla musk for warm balance boosting vitality snugly covers all the inspiration in myself.
Urban Apothecary London
Liber is a Korean beauty brand that sells home fragrances, hand care products, and perfumes.
TOP: Lemon, Orange, Bergamot, Aqua MIDDLE: Muguet, Lotus, Rose, Peony BASE: Musk, Sandalwood
Youssoful is a Korean fragrance brand that carries room diffusers, candles, and EDP fragrances.
Online & Offline Retailers in Korea
Major department stores in South Korea — Lotte, Hyundai, Shinsegae, for example — will carry a large selection of popular fragrance brands like Byredo, Dior, and Chanel. I won’t get into each department store as it’s pretty standard across the country.
Chicor is a major beauty store owned by Shinsegae — much like Sephora — which carries many mainstream perfumes, including some in-store finds like Ariana Grande and Acqua Colonia.
Though the selection of Olive Young varies from store to store, most do carry the most popular feminine perfumes like Chloé Roses or Prada Candy. I’ve noticed that the selection has been getting a bit better as more niche and local brands are gaining in popularity. Some of the major Olive Youngs like the one in Myeongdong and in the middle of Gangnam-daero also carry Byredo.
I’ve had nothing but success with Perfumegraphy and tracking down some hard-to-find perfumes in South Korea like Serge Lutens’ Ambre Sultan. I’ve also purchased Diptyque perfumes here at a reasonable price. They do give out random samples of perfumes as well with each purchase. You can also purchase specific samples of perfumes you want to test like Maison Francis Kurkdijian Baccarat Rouge 540.
Here’s a weird trick that I noticed with Lotte On. If I search for the exact same product on Google and click the affiliate link to Lotte On via the Google Shopping tab, I can sometimes get a slightly lower price. Double-check the seller that you’re buying the perfume from, however, as sometimes the individual sellers are shipping from overseas which can incur extra duties/taxes. I usually opt for the larger department stores like Lotte Department Store, so that I know it’s shipping domestically.
You’ll find a wide selection from Byredo, Diptyque, Calvin Klein, Jo Malone. Recently, I’ve also noticed Buly 1803 pop up in stores and online.
10 Corso Como
Though not available on their website, if you go to the 10 Corso Como Seoul shop in Apgujeong, there is an interesting selection of hard-to-find perfumes like Ex Nihilo Viper.
Samsung Fashion Group, or SSF, carries fragrances from SW19, Santa Maria Novella, Maison Louis Marie, By Rosie Jane, Mihak, Frama, Sisology, Malin+Goetz, Visum, Montblanc, Lavoir, Jennifer Lopez, Boucheron, Coach, Anna Sui, Jimmy Choo, Lanvin, and more.
You can find a lot of the cheapies and perfumes that have been around forever. I’m looking at you, Elizabeth Arden Green Tea. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend Coupang for higher-end perfume brands as you’re buying mostly from third-party sellers, but you occasionally find some gems that you wouldn’t find otherwise. Just double-check the seller’s policy and purchase at your own risk.
SIvillage carries perfume brands such as Ex Nihilo, Memo, Hermes, Oribe, Eisenberg, Boontheshop, Jo Loves, Diptyque, Byredo, Santa Maria Novella, and DS & Durga.
W Concept has a really nice selection of both Korean perfume brands and popular foreign brands like Byredo, Ariana Grande, Lush, L’Occitane, Tory Burch, YSL, Santa Maria Novella, Acqua di Parma, Anna Sui, Bottega Veneta Beauty, Kenzo, Diptyque, Byredo, Goutal, Tocca, Jo Malone, Dior, and Gucci.
I love the curated selection of fashion & beauty on W Concept in general. Price-wise, it’s usually fair and you know you’re getting an authentic product. The only reason I don’t shop with them more is my complaints in Where to Buy Plus-Sized Clothing in Seoul, Korea 2021 where I mention that it’s ridiculously hard to find non-free size clothing or bigger-sized shoes in Korea, and W Concept is no exception. Still, the beauty and the accessories selection are usually on point.
Sephora in South Korea carries popular Western and Korean brands like Nonfiction, Van Cleef & Arpels, Atelier Cologne, Kenzo, Gucci, and Fragonard. I recommend shopping in-store if you can rather than online as popular products sell out online quickly.
The Conran Shop
The Conran Shop is a lifestyle and furniture store based in the UK that recently opened a flagship store in Seoul, South Korea. You can find a few premium brands like Frederic Malle, Nonfiction, and Buly 1803 here.
Danawa doesn’t sell perfumes directly, but it’s a an aggregator which can show you the best deals. Considering most of the perfumes that I buy are imported, you can get an idea of the cheapest place to buy them from. I usually opt to buy from recognized department stores like Shinsegae or Lotte — even if the price is higher — because the last thing I would want is to find out that my perfume purchase is a fake.
Did you find this article useful?
Are you an expat woman in Seoul?
Join me on the Geneva app to chat about life in Seoul! My mission is to create a safe space, networking opportunity, and vital resource for female expats in Seoul, South Korea.
What is Geneva? Geneva is an up-and-coming group chat app that is WAY more organized and more private than Facebook groups, similar to Slack. It is available on iOS, Android, web browser, and Mac desktop.
It’s still VERY new, so I’m still tinkering with it. If you’re interested in becoming a moderator, let me know. I decided to start out with a group directed towards the female expat community based in Seoul to start with and will perhaps expand in the future.