You'd think South Korean tourists would come to France for the croissants or the Mona Lisa. But for skincare-obsessed visitors, Paris's main attraction has become a regular pharmacy in the Fifth Arrondissement.
From the outside, Pharmacie Monge looks totally standard, down to the traditional green cross that adorns all French pharmacy exteriors. But unlike your average shop, this one is usually packed with South Korean travelers stocking up on moisturizers and serums from French brands like Caudalie, Avène, and Nuxe, which retail for much higher prices back at home.
Pharmacie Monge's owner, Alexandre Freyburger, has staffed the place with Korean-speaking employees to cater to its new clientele. "We are spontaneously put in Korean guidebooks!" he told The New York Times. Tourists from China, other East Asian countries, and South America are known to bring business as well.
What's so special about the ordinary French pharmacy? To find out, read on.
Among Pharmacie Monge's attractions is its low duty-free prices, large selection, and bilingual staff, says The Times. Only a few other pharmacies enjoy such attention from tourists (one of which is Citypharma on Rue du Four).
But Freyburger mostly owes his bustling business to sheer luck: Nine years ago, a South Korean writer called out the pharmacy in a blog post. That drew other South Koreans in. Freyburger took note, hired a few Korean-speaking employees, word of mouth spread, and the rest is history.
Though the skincare selection at Pharmacie Monge isn't extraordinarily better than other French pharmacies, the crowds make shopping there a tourist experience in and of itself.
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Speaking of international skincare, don't miss how real girls do nighttime skincare in America vs. France vs. South Korea.