A dozen travelers gather around Martin Schaffner’s 16th-century painting “Christ in Limbo,” and take a deep breath. Thanks to hand-held scent diffusers these tourists are getting a whiff of smoke and sulfur to evoke the fiery gates of hell depicted in the Renaissance artwork.
It’s all part of a “Follow Your Nose” tour at Museum Ulm, in Germany. By pairing artworks depicting odorous things—flower gardens, a perfume ball, or a table full of food—with reconstructed scents, the cultural center hopes to further immerse patrons in its collection.
A growing number of museums, hotels, and fragrance experts are offering smell-based adventures to help travelers connect more deeply with destinations.
Scent is the only sense that is directly linked to the memory and emotional learning centers of the brain, says Rachel Herz, a neuroscientist at Brown University and an expert on the psychological science of smell.