Our most vivid travel memories are tightly intertwined with our most powerful sense: smell. Think of a waft of pine on a forest walk, the spiciness of ginger in a souq, or the aroma of freshly ground coffee, and the mind wanders all over the planet.
Candle maker and scent expert Tiffany Mondesir has travelled the world in search of signature city scents for TM Candle Co. Here are seven destinations she says are guaranteed to work olfactory wizardry on your travel plans.
NOTES OF... Vanilla laced with dried fruits and tobacco
TAKE ME THERE Prague is a city of church spires and terracotta roofs mounted by a fairy-tale castle good enough for the Brothers Grimm. To see the city in its best light, take a stroll across Charles Bridge and imbibe a steady stream of pilsners while dipping in and out of the old-fashioned Czech pubs.
THE EXPERT SAYS “Prague is such a classic and traditional city – the buildings and streets feel so well preserved, reminding me of classic scents like vanilla and tonka bean. Cool museums and the brilliant drinking scene add another interesting dimension. This makes me think of a combination of dried fruits and tobacco, which compliments the vanilla really well.”
NOTES OF... Fresh coffee and nutty sweetness
TAKE ME THERE Rome is all about la dolce vita. Lazy coffee-filled mornings in echoey piazzas stretch out effortlessly into afternoon ambles with gelato around historic districts such as Tridente, Monti and Trastevere. The medley of marble fountains, elegant townhouses and ancient ruins makes visitors feel like they’ve slipped into a movie scene.
THE EXPERT SAYS “For me, Rome is all about the food and drink. There’s pizza and pasta, of course, but what really jumps out is the coffee culture. Cappuccinos in the morning. Doppio espresso after dinner. And tiramisu for dessert. Sweetness is also important: chocolate, cannoli, biscotti and baked notes reminiscent of gelato cones all come through in Rome’s scent.”
NOTES OF... Salty sea air, Mediterranean fruits and Champagne bubbles
TAKE ME THERE Santorini’s dramatic shelves of volcanic rock make this Greek island the perfect platform for gob-smacking terraces. Cascading white-washed villages drip down to the sea from lofty heights. Sipping fizz while ogling the sunset from a sea-view patio is one of Santorini’s biggest attractions.
THE EXPERT SAYS “The town of Oia is absolute luxury. Imagine platters of Mediterranean olives, meats and grapes with clinking glasses of Champagne. Of course, this all overlooks the sea so fresh aquatic notes really stand out here.”
NOTES OF... Pine, bergamot and zingy mint
TAKE ME THERE Oslo may be a rapidly expanding city with a quirky architectural imprint, but it’s also a green idol. It was crowned European Green Capital for 2019 and has one of the lowest carbon footprints in the world. Overflowing with parks and pop-up floating saunas, it’s a city of waterways and islands, surrounded by forests and nature reserves.
THE EXPERT SAYS “I have a vivid memory of flying into Oslo across what seemed like miles of pine trees. As soon as you depart the plane, you just get this wave of crisp Nordic air. It’s absolutely refreshing. Notes of bergamot and a dash of mint seem fitting as well. Oslo’s scent is cool, just like the weather and the people there.”
NOTES OF... Winter berries, warm spice and orange with a dash of vanilla
TAKE ME THERE Lederhosen and dirndls, oompah bands and beer halls... Munich embraces its Bavarian roots with gusto, but it's also a sophisticated city of royal palaces and serious art pedigree. Visit its dedicated art quarter, the Kunstareal, and time your trip for the annual beer-soaked Oktoberfest or Munich’s lavish Christmas festivities.
THE EXPERT SAYS “Just imagine a pub crawl but for Christmas markets, where you can collect unique mulled wine – gluhwein – mugs as you go. For me, Munich's scent is the warmth of the city at this time of year: a base of baked goods captured through vanilla, but also a core of berries, spice and orange all coming to life to represent the city’s famous gluhwein.”
NOTES OF... Ginger and cinnamon, inflected with wood and leather
TAKE ME THERE Nothing transfixes visitors to Marrakech more than a wander through the souqs. Head due north from the hammering beats of the Djemaa El Fna and the twists and turns of market life are immediately arresting. Hillocks of earthy-hued spices vie for attention with artisans carving fragrant cedar wood and leather workers fashioning babouches in dimly lit cubby-hole workshops.
THE EXPERT SAYS “Marrakech is a bold city and it’s complex. A scent to capture it needs ginger and cinnamon, sure, but also a sweet note as a nod to the desserts and breads you’ll find in the souqs. And lastly there's the city itself: the material of the buildings reflected in cade and rich woods, the stunning gardens and importantly leather from the tanneries.”
NOTES OF... Orange, amber and musk
TAKE ME THERE Sultry summer nights are a trademark of Seville. Locals take to lounging in squares and gardens flanked by the Andalusian capital’s famous orange trees, while fiery flamenco sessions are tapped out on the streets and in steamy underground clubs.
THE EXPERT SAYS “Seville is most famous for its oranges and for good reason, but the city is also full of warmth – from both the weather and the people – so notes of amber and musk come to mind too.”