It’s not often that I get to combine a post featuring beauty and true travel tips (that’s not just featuring what’s in my travel makeup bag) in one post. However, 7 years later, I can’t believe I never got around to writing about my trip to CityPharma in Paris, suggested shopping list, and tips for visiting the most popular spot in town for tourists and locals alike.
My experience is based on multiple trips from 2013-2016 and I verified the information with the more recent reviews on Yelp and Google so I think there shouldn’t be too much of difference. I’ll try to break it down because when the travel restrictions are lifted, you will want to book that flight to Paris and make CityPharma one of your first stops in France.
Why are French Pharmacies popular?
French pharmacies are ubiquitous throughout the country and they can be found by the very eye-catching neon green plus sign above the store. In addition to OTC and prescription medicine, they also carry skincare, haircare, nailcare and supplies you’d find in a regular Shoppers Drug Mart store. However, the real reason they’re so popular is that they carry these coveted industry-favourite French beauty products for a bargain – oftentimes 40-70% off MSRP in North America.
The best French Pharmacy… CityPharma in Saint Germain
Although there are plenty of pharmacies throughout the city, CityPharma is the best spot because for some reason, their prices can be even cheaper than other pharmacies (yes, I’ve checked!) It’s so popular that the UK-based celeb makeup artist, Lisa Eldrige and others also make their way there too.
Beyond the pricing, the other reason CityPharma is so popular is that it is where the Pros go during fashion week to stock up on essentials. Word got around and now it is a tourist spot more than being a local spot. However, CityPharma did keep up with their popularity and every time I’ve visited, I’ve found the pharmacy to always be well-stocked with most of the popular French beauty products usually in stock and never having any issues with waiting in line.
And oh yeah, the skincare brands you find at CityPharma are often those you find at Shoppers Drug Mart Beauty Boutique and similar stores here (i.e. Caudalie, Nuxe, La Roche Posay, Bioderma) in North America and can retail for 40-70% off the MSRP here.
So… Where is CityPharma again?
Save and bookmark this address: 26 rue du Four 75006 Paris – located in the heart of the St. Germain des Prés; they also have a website that has detailed opening hours and metro information.
Another tip, you’ll know you’re at the right place when you see line-ups or a bunch of husbands, dads, boyfriends, and brothers waiting and just being on their phone to pass the time.
10 Tips for Shopping at CityPharma Paris
This pharmacy is a tourist spot so just like you would plan your trip to Eiffel Tower, you’ll want to plan your trip to CityPharma
- Use the basket – you’ll be carrying more than you think you’re buying. Save yourself the trouble of having to circle around the store and just grab that basket when you come in
- Get there early – really plan your trip if you want to shop so try to go around opening time is best if you want to browse a bit as well. There will be line ups later in the day
- Know what you want to buy/have a list – part of the experience is browsing but if you can pick up everything you want, it’ll save you the stress of having to keep circle the pharmacy (which is 2 floors) and the aisles are small and quickly packed
- Keep an eye out for value sets – I’m a huge fan of value sets because I can try multiple products from the brand so I always will grab them when available; they often have seasonal or special release sets so keep an eye out for those
- The duo packs are more economical – kind of obvious but if you’re planning to buy multiples, it’s often easier and cheaper to get the duo packs as they’re often priced with the second product discounted anywhere from 30-70%
- Plan to make multiple trips – I recalled that my trips to CityPharma were usually pleasant as I often travel in the shoulder season so probably don’t have to deal with long-line ups during the peak season, but given how popular this spot is as well as how quickly bestselling items run out, you might want to plan a follow up trip if you can’t get everything on your first visit
- Get your VAT refund – Non-EU residents can claim a VAT refund upon exit of the EU if you spend more than €175 bought in the same shop in the same day. You can read more about it through the Paris customs website.
- Leave the big bags at home – tying into point #2 and 3 – the aisles in the shop is very narrow and if you’re walking around with shopping bags and a big purse while trying to carry your shopping basket… just save yourself the hassle
- Feel free to ask for help – no you don’t have to be fluent in French though it helps! You can identify the staff by their white lab coats and most speak English well. They can help direct you to where to find items
- Don’t worry about the line-up – the French are very efficient and the line up may seem daunting but they move fast
What to Buy at CityPharma
I remember fondly the days of grabbing as many Bioderma Crealine H20 that I think I can find into my suitcase. Nowadays, most of the French pharmacy brands can be found here in Canada but at a steep markup so if you’re shopping in Paris anyways, it doesn’t hurt to stock up as they often carry releases / scents / variations that aren’t available in Canada.
- Bioderma Créaline H20 duo packs and mini
- Embryolisse Lait Creme Concentré
- Nuxe Huile Prodigeuse (or the bronzing and mini versions) and Reve de Miel lipbalm
- La Roche-Posay Cicaplast and Toleriane range – baume / lotion / face wash
- Caudelie beauty elixir, hand lotion, lip balm or anything from their range (I happen to really love Caudelie)
- Phyto haircare and nail
- Klorane Dry Shampoo – usually comes in duo packs and cheaper
- Marvis toothpaste (don’t laugh – if you haven’t tried them, they’re pretty amazing!)
- Eau Thermale Avène – thermal water and cleansing bar soap – the whole range is designed for sensitive skin so stock up on whatever you prefer!
Have you been to CityPharma Paris?