Grasse: perfume center and town on the map of France

The French city of Grasse

Grasse is the perfume capital of the world, the scents of the meadows and fields surrounding the city rival the handmade fragrances of the French perfumers.

Grasse is a city in the south-east of France, part of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region. Grasse is the perfume capital of the country. This town accounts for three quarters of the world production of essences for perfumes.

View of the city

View of the city

About the city and its history

The city was founded in the XI century. In the next century it became a bishop’s residence and was actively trading with Genoa and Pisa. At the end of the XV century it joined Provence and became part of France.

In the Middle Ages, Grasse was home to tanneries which made gloves. The scent they spread was unpleasant, and they began to interrupt it with a mixture of essential oils of flowers and spices. This was the start of the development of perfumery and many glove makers became perfumery professionals.

The richness of the surrounding flora, the optimum altitude (350 m) above sea level and the assimilation of advanced technologies enabled Grasse to become one of the leaders of the French perfumery by the end of the 18th century. In the following century the town became famous worldwide. Since then the art of perfume manufacturing has been continuously refined. Nowadays it reaches the level of the real art.

Grasse is one of the cities through which passed the “road of Napoleon”. During the famous 100 days, he landed on the coast 15 km from Grasse. His appeal to the people and the army was printed in the town’s printing house. Grasse saw other notable people as well. In winter Queen Victoria loved to vacation here. Already in the XX century. Nobel Prize winner in literature Ivan Bunin lived in the city for 15 years. The famous singer Edith Piaf died in Grasse.

The city is located on a hillside 10 km from the famous Cannes. It is surrounded by meadows of many colors and olive groves. The city has one of the best climates in France. The mountains protect Grasse from the cold winter winds. Winters are mild, summers are not hot, and rainy days are rare. The best time to visit Grasse is from May to September. At this time, the stay in Grasse can be combined with visits to the beaches of nearby coastal cities.

The city has a population of 50 thousand people. Arabs and Africans are a growing part of the population.

On the way to town Château La Colle Noire, inspiration in François Demachy's fragrances

Grasse Vestige Central

Route Napoléon

How to get to Grasse

The nearest international airport to Grasse is in Nice. From Moscow airlines Aeroflot, Russia and others fly there. The approximate cost of the ticket is 10 thousand RUR, flight time is 3 hours and 20 minutes. When buying an air ticket Moscow – Nice you may order at the same time a transfer from the airport to the bus station Gare de Grasse.

If there is no shuttle you can take a bus №500. It departs from Nice to Grasse every 25-40 minutes, making a stop at the first airport terminal. At its terminus in Grasse – Gare Routiere, it arrives in an hour and a half, although the distance – only 45 km. The thing is that the road goes uphill. The cost of ticket, bought from the driver, is 1,5 EUR.

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Another option is a train from the station Gare SNCF Nice – Grasse. It is considerably more expensive – 10 EUR, but reaches in 1 hour. 5 minutes. The interval of movement is 1-2 hours.

You can also go to the city from Paris. The train from Gare de Lyon arrives in Grasse in 6 hours.

18 rue Amiral de Grasse Entrance to the Court de Fontmichel Hotel

Hotel Mandarina

A view from the window of the Chateau de Grasse.

Accommodation and lodging

The preliminary search for hotel accommodation was, as always, in the middle of the price segment of 50 EUR – 100 EUR, which mainly includes 3-star establishments. I excluded apart-hotels and hotels far from the center. I chose the unmarked Hotel Panorama at 2 Place Du Cours Honore-Cresp. A single room cost 82 EUR per night.

The 3 star Aec Village Vacances – Les Cèdres (Avenue Antoine Saint Exupéry) was not selected because of the difference between the distance from the city center in the announcement (850 m) and the main page (2.8 km). From the reviews, a good budget option is the 3-star Résidence Le Virginia by Popinns (10 Traverse Dupont).

Numerous cafes in the city

Cafe Danielle

Where to eat good and inexpensive

Little Grasse has its own specialties. These include pumpkin tarte à la courge, orange-scented buns La Fougassette, pumpkin flower donuts beignets de fleurs de courge and particularly stuffed cabbage lou fassum.

As for the food, there are snacks and homemade wines at L’Oustal des Vins (11 Rue Marcel Journet), yogurts and fruits at Vallala le Paradis du Frozen Yogurt (6 Rue Amiral de Grasse), pastries and ice creams at Le Glacier (26 Rue Eugene Giraud). The fish restaurant Lou Fassum (381 Route de Plascassier) is a good place for lunch.

A line of boutiques in the old part of Grasse

Old town on the route of Napoleon

Chateau Saint George

A wedding in the Chateau of St. George

What to see in the city in a day

On the first day I took the yellow tram (runs from mid-April to mid-October) around Grasse for 6.5 EUR. The itinerary, which started on rue Honoré Cresp, covered Place aux Aires and Place de l’Evêche, the Bishop’s Palace Palais de l’Evêche and the Cathedral. The duration is 40 minutes and the hours are from 11:00 to 17:00.

Grasse is a fragrant city in the truest sense of the word. From spring to late fall in it blooms alternately mimosa, wild lavender, roses and jasmine. In August, it hosts its Fête du Jasmin festival. May is the month of the traditional Expo Rose exhibition. These days you can admire the thousands of pink bouquets and roses for sale and the city’s rose-decorated facades and fountains.

Man-made incense is also sprayed over the streets of the city. Thus, each street has its own fragrance. On them there are many perfume stores. In them you can buy perfumes, colognes, soaps, scented candles, body care products.

Streets of the old town

Perfume stores in the streets of the old town

Perfume houses and museums

The International Perfume Museum, open since 1989, is located in Grasse. Scents can be “tasted” by pressing the buttons of instruments with dispensers.

The botanical garden under glass, belonging to the museum but located separately, gives a complete overview of the plants and flowers used in the production of essences and perfumes. Here, in particular, you can see the famous stemless rose Centifolia, a native of Syria. After inhaling its scent, the smells of ordinary roses are disappointing. The museum is located at 2 boulevard du Jeu de Ballon. It is open:

  • May through September from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. (Saturdays until 9 p.m.);
  • April from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm;
  • October through March, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., except Tuesdays.
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During the second half of November, the museum is closed. Ticket to the actual museum costs 4 EUR. For extra 1 EUR you can get a combined ticket to the Botanical Gardens and the return trip

You can find out more about the technology of perfume production in another city’s perfume museum – Fragonard. It operates in the perfume factory of the same name, which has been in operation since 1926. Besides distillers, flasks and scales there are vials from different epochs and countries. These are Egyptian vases, Roman glass vessels, Greek amphorae and caskets.

Perfume house Fragonard is located at 20, boulevard Fragonard. It is open to visitors from 9:00 to 18:00 – 19:00 hours. In low season it is closed at 12:30 – 14:00.

Perfume House Fragonard Perfume Museum

In the city there are 40 perfume factories. Three of the most famous can be visited on free tours. In addition to Fragonard (named after a local artist), this is Molinard and Galimard. Galimard was founded as early as 1747, and Molinard is famous not only for its essences, but also for its exquisite bottles.

Molinard Perfume House, at 60 boulevard Victor Hugo, can be visited at 09:30 – 13:00 and 14 – 18:30. In July and August, Molinard is open from 9:30 to 19:00 hours, and in October to March is closed to visitors on Sundays. Galimard is 3 km from Grasse. There is a bus number 600, the ticket to which costs 1.5 EUR.

Organizers of free visits expect that tourists participating in them will not resist the temptation to buy products of these factories without a surcharge at the end of tours. And booklets of these factories (you can take them in the Tourist Office in front of the Palace of Congresses), presented in any store in Grasse, entitles to a 10% discount.

Gardener in the gardens of the Château de Gourdon

Other interesting objects

Grasse is not just about flavor. It has preserved buildings, churches, chapels and Renaissance fountains. To orient tourists in the sidewalk embedded letters G, following which you can visit the remarkable places. As in many French cities, Grasse has its own Cathedral of Our Lady – Notre-Dame-du-Puy. In it you can see several paintings by the young Rubens. Another city landmark is an elegant fountain in the shape of a perfume bottle in front of the Palace of Congresses.

Notre-Dame-du-Puy Cathedral.

Conclusion

The city has almost no visual man-made sights. Grasse strikes the sense of smell rather than the eye. In the city it is pleasant to relax, having plunged into the atmosphere of quiet provincial unhurried France.

Grasse is the perfume capital of the world

Grasse

Grasse is a city in Provence (south of France) that appeared in the 11th century. Thanks to its strategic geographical location between the sea and the mountains the town quickly became an administrative and judicial center. Trade and tanning were successfully developed here, for which Grasse became famous all over the world. When the success of the tannery came to an end, Grasse was able to compensate for the birth and rapid development of perfumery. By the end of the 18th century Grasse was already famous all over the world for perfumes made of local flowers and plants, the richness and fertility of which was favored by a special microclimate. Grasse is now the perfume capital of the world.

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Grasse is the perfumery capital of the world

Perfumes became popular in France at the court of Louis XIII, and more specifically his beautiful wife Anne of Austria. Spanish by birth, she introduced the fashion for perfumed leather (Spanish leather is a sachet of leather impregnated with an aromatic composition) and brought perfumers who knew the secrets of obtaining floral extracts and the science of distillation, adopted from the Arabs during their rule over Spain.

Grasse, situated between the Mediterranean Sea and the Southern Alps, a city where trade flourished, was famous at that time for its tannery. The tanners of Grasse quickly became interested in technologies that could eliminate the unpleasant smell from leather.

At first, essential oils for perfuming gloves were imported from Montpellier, which specialized in the cultivation of flowers and aromatic plants. At the University of Montpellier, pharmacists were taught the art of preserving scents, which were used in that era to prevent contagious diseases and epidemics.

Provence is a region rich in flowers and aromatic plants. Orange trees, lavender, lemon, marjoram, narcissus, cassia, geranium, jasmine, pomander, oregano, sweet pea, rosemary, rose, violet, thyme and tuberose are a partial list of plants used for perfuming the skin.

Grasse’s special microclimate, favorable to the cultivation of flowers, allowed the city to combine the tannery, which has flourished there for several centuries, with distillation techniques developed by the Arabs for the production of perfumes. Gradually the town switched exclusively to perfume production. By the end of the 18th century, there were already about 20 perfumers living and working in Grasse, most of them sons or nephews of pharmacists from Montpellier.

Before the revolution (1789) Grasse surpassed Montpellier in the production of flowers and the number of perfume factories. The colonial conquests of France in the 19th century allowed Grasse perfumers to open factories in overseas territories and obtain new fragrances.

french perfume

Flowers of Grasse

Rose centifolia, or May Rose

roza-santifoliya

Rose centifolia.

An extremely beautiful rose with exceptional fragrance. Very fragile plant: only pick flowers on the day they bloom. That is why pickers go out every day in May, the month in which this rose blooms. Pickers pluck flowers at dawn or dusk and put the plants in a bowl attached to the belt. One picker may pick 10 to 20 kilograms of flowers per day.

Every year on the third Sunday in May, Grasse hosts a “Santifolia Festival” accompanied by popular festivities.

Jasmine

zhasmin

Jasmine

The harvesting of jasmine flowers begins in mid-July and can last until October. The flowers are picked before sunrise. An experienced picker can collect 400-500 g of flowers per hour.

Every year on the first weekend in August in Grasse, there is a “Festival of Jasmine”. There are carnival processions, spectators are sprayed with jasmine water from sprayers, and fireworks are performed in the evening.

Tuberose

tuberoza

Tuberose

Tuberose begins to flower at the end of July. It is a very capricious, not always blooming, plant. The buds are harvested from 6 to 10 a.m. Harvest can last until November.

Fleur d’orange (orange blossoms).

fler-d-oranzh

Orange Flowers.

The flowers are harvested in April and May. The day before, the ground is cleared under the trees and covered with cloth and netting. Gathering takes place in the morning: either the trees are swayed and the fallen petals are collected, or a ladder is climbed and the buds are picked by hand, placing them in a basket.

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Victoria Odorata Violet.

fialka

Violet

Only the leaves of this plant are used in perfumery and are harvested twice a year, in May and August.

Lily

liliya

Lily

Beautiful large lily flowers bloom on long stems. The plant blooms in June.

Iris Pallida

The main fragrance of the plant is concentrated in the root, which is harvested when the plant is three years old. The roots are dried and kept in a dry place for 2-3 years before distillation.

Geranium Rosat

geran

Geranium

A very fragrant plant, valued by perfumers. It adds citrus and spicy notes to fragrances.

Buy perfume in Grasse

Buy authentic French perfumes and watch the process of their production offer perfume factories Fragonard and Molinard.

Fragonard Perfume House

Address: 20, Boulevard Fragonard (bd Fragonard, #1 on the map).

Open every day from 9.00 to 18.00.

The visit of the factory is free and is conducted in all European languages, including Russian. The boutique offers factory prices on Fragonard products.

Perfume House Molinard

Address: 60, Boulevard Victor Hugo (№2 on the map). Open every day from 10/00 to 18.00 (closed from 13.00 to 14.00 and on Sundays from October to March inclusive).

Open daily in July and August from 09:30 to 19:00.

What to see in Grasse

See Grasse on a larger map

Grasse sights

Historic Centre of Grasse

The historical center of Grasse is located on the hill of Puy (la colline du Puy). Here you will find the oldest building of the city – the bishop’s tower – as well as the city’s cathedral (#4), the bishop’s palace (#3), about a dozen medieval houses of Grasse nobles, manor houses of the 18th-19th centuries.

International Perfume Museum

A unique museum that explores different aspects of perfume history: raw materials, manufacturing, innovations, trade, design, marketing, customs… There are art objects, textiles and archaeological finds related to perfumery. The museum building is also interesting. The museum includes gardens with samples of plants used in perfumery.

perfume museum grasse

Address

Museum: 2, Boulevard du Jeu de Ballon, Grasse (#5)

Museum Gardens: 979, chemin des Gourettes, Mouans – Sartoux (#5a)

Opening hours of the Museum of perfumes:

Summer (May 2 to September 30):

Every day from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

From October 1 to April 30:

Every day from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Off days at the museum: December 25, January 1 and May 1.

The museum gardens are open from 10.00 to 19.00 in summer (May-August) and from 10.00 to 17.30 in autumn (September-November).

Ticket price: 4 euros; during additional exhibitions: 6 euros. For children under 18 years old admission is free. In the winter-spring season (October – March) admission is free for all on the first Sunday of each month.

50% discount on museum ticket for those who have a ticket on the train (TER) to Grasse or Moin-Sartoux with the date of the museum visit or a ZOU card.

Ticket price for the museum gardens : 4 euros. Free admission for under 18 years old; for all on the first Sundays of the months of autumn.

50% discount on the ticket to the gardens for those who have a ticket on the train (TER) to Grasse or Moin-Sartoux with the date of the visit or a ZOU card.

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Museum of Art and History of Provence

Located in one of the most elegant 18th-century manors, formerly owned by the Marquise de Clapier-Cabri. The museum presents the everyday life typical of eastern Provence, from prehistoric times to the 50s of the 20th century. Furniture, faience, paintings and costumes give an insight into Provençal life.

Address

2, rue Mirabeau (#6)

Hours of operation:

Summer (May 2 to September 30):

Every day from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

From October 1 to April 30:

Every day from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Off days at the museum: December 25, January 1 and May 1.

Ticket price: 2 euros (with the same ticket you can also visit the Villa-Museum of Fragonard). Free for persons under 18 years.

Villa-Museum Fragonard

This elegant late 17th-century manor house with a magnificent garden houses the works of the famous Grasse painter Jean-Honoré Fragonard.

Fragonard

The address is

23, boulevard Fragonard (no. 7)

Hours of operation:

Summer (May 2 to September 30).

Every day from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Winter (October 1 to April 30)

Every day from 11.00 to 18.00. Day off – Tuesday.

Holidays at the museum: December 25, January 1 and May 1.

Closed in the second half of November.

Ticket price: 2 euros. Free for persons under 18 years old.

Naval Museum – Memorial in honor of Admiral François-Joseph Paul Count Grass

The museum is dedicated to the life and service of the great Provence naval commander François-Joseph Paul Count of Grasse (1722-1788). Thirty model ships are on display.

navy museum grasse

Address

2, boulevard du Jeu Ballon (#8)

Hours of operation:

Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 12 noon and 1 to 5 p.m.

Summer: Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 12 noon and 1 to 6 p.m.

Closed on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays.

Admission is free.

Museum of Provençal Costume and Costume Jewelry

This museum displays a collection of costumes and costume jewellery from the 18th and 19th centuries.

Address

2, rue Jean Ossala (#9)

Hours of operation:

Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 2 to 6:30 p.m.

Admission is free.

The Grassa Tourist Train

Takes you through the historic center of the city. Route: the old town, Place aux Aires, Place de l’Evêche, Palais de l’Evêche, Cathédrale. The walk lasts 40 minutes. There is an audio guide in Russian.

center of Grasse

Departure from rue Honoré Cresp in front of the Palais des Congrès (#10).

Hours of operation: 11:00 am to 5:00 pm (leaves every hour).

Ticket price:

Adult – 6.50 euros.

Children (3 – 12 years): €3.50

Group (15 and up) €5 per person.

What to eat

Don’t forget about Grasse cuisine! Its traditional dishes include stuffed cabbage (lou fassum), pumpkin flower doughnuts (beignets de fleurs de courge), pumpkin pie (tarte à la courge), fougassette (La Fougassette) – a brioche bun smelling of orange flowers.

How to get to Grasse

The nearest airport is in Nice.

From Nice to Grasse you can take the train (railway – #11 on the map) or the bus line 500.

By car – on road D 2085.

Tip: ride on public transport department (buses, streetcars, trains) can be a unified transport card Pass SudAzur . Pass is sold for a calendar month, its cost depends on the selected zone and varies from 27 to 80 euros.

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