For centuries the town of Grasse has been known as the "capital of perfume". When most perfumes were distilled from natural ingredients (now the scents are mostly synthetic), Grasse was at the centre of hills that were carpeted with flowers. Rose, jasmine, tuberose, hyacinth: the flowers were grown, gathered and distilled into some of the world's most delightful fragrances. The perfume factories of Grasse still exist although there are far fewer of them, and the flowery hills now have more housing developments than rosebushes. (see a street map of Grasse)
What to See in Grasse
Grasse is an interesting town to visit whether or not you're interested in perfume. At an altitude of 333m, Grasse is slightly cooler than the coast and it retains a more authentic, grittier attitude than its slick coastal cousins. Just wandering the crooked streets of Grasse's medieval centre is a pleasure. You'll certainly stumble on the Place aux Aires, the central square bordered by cafes and a small morning flower market. Another worthwhile stop is the Cathedrale-Notre-Dame-du-Puy which displays three works by Rubens.
And then there are the perfume factories. Visits are free! The only "cost" is listening to a sales pitch at the end of your guided tour. Here are the three options:
It's Grasse's oldest perfumery and the most centrally located (20 bd Fragonard)
3km out of town but a professional "nez" (nose) helps you create your own scent
This is the prettiest one to visit as its housed in a traditional Provençal villa. You can also create your own perfume.
The three major museums of Grasse are centred on the city's rich artistic and olfactory tradition. The Villa-musée Fragonard celebrates the life of Jean-Honore Fragonard, the 18th centry painter who was born in Grasse. The Musée d'Art et d'Histoire de Provence displays the furnishings, paintings and daily life of the region. The Musée International de la Parfumerie traces the history of Grasse's most important industry. For opening hours and admission prices see www.museesdegrasse.com/
Where to Eat in Grasse
The best restaurant in town is Le Gazan which serves regional dishes in a rustic ambiance in Old Grasse. In the outskirts La Bastide Saint Antoine Jacques Chibois is a must stop on any culinary itinerary. See my review.
Tourist Information in Grasse
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