Founded in the 7th century, Grasse is a typical Provençal town, with its tasteful mix of Provençal and Genoese architecture, its squares and fountains, its alleyways winding towards the perfumed plains where roses, jasmine and olive trees are cultivated.
For 400 years, Grasse has been considered the capital of perfumes: here, the first perfumers made their fortune at the French court by starting to use the essences of local flowers to aromatise the gloves of noblewomen.
Thus was born the production of fragrances that mixed lavender, jasmine, mimosa, centifolia rose, orange blossom and violet. Still today, it enchants with its noble and aristocratic aura.
Around the middle of the 16th century, Catherine de’ Medici, who loved luxury and exclusivity, grew tired of exotic perfumes imported from the Orient at a high price. Having heard that the shores of the Provençal Mediterranean were home to the most fragrant flowers, she summoned one of her scholars, the Florentine Tombarelli, to use his art to transform wild petals into precious essences.
The famous scholar suggested the production of perfumes to embellish the gloves of court noblewomen, combining natural essences with the age-old knowledge of Grasse tanners. The glove industry declined little by little and the Grasse tanners abandoned gloves completely in favour of perfumes in the mid-18th century.
Even today, Grasse remains the Perfumery Capital of the World, thanks to the concentration of famous industrial plants of aromatic raw materials and its ancestral know-how. Grasse is famous for the quality of its essences and creations for the luxury perfumery, but also for pharmaceuticals, cleaning products and food flavourings.
In the winding streets of Grasse, perfumeries open their doors and allow you to try your hand at the sophisticated art of perfumery. Some historic houses offer to share their fascinating expertise in the mysterious alchemy of fragrances.
Created in 1989 and renovated in 2008, the International Perfumery Museum is the first public institution dedicated to protecting and promoting the world heritage of odours, aromas and perfumes.
It deals with the history of perfume in its various aspects: raw materials, manufacture, industry, innovation, trade, design, marketing, uses. Perfume is expressed through fabulous objects from the five continents such as works of art, textiles, archaeological evidence.
The International Perfumery Museum is also a bold architectural project by Frédéric Jung, built around a 14th century bastion and the private Pontevès Palace: 3,500 m2 of gardens and terraces in an exceptional landscape setting.
The museum is structured to explore the 3 main missions of perfume. Communication: during antiquity, people communicated with the afterlife by means of incense and other sacred ointments. Today, we use the communication function of perfume for other applications such as olfactory marketing. Treatment: in the Middle Ages, the therapeutic virtues of plants and spices were discovered and the foundations of today’s aromatherapy were laid. Seduction: from the 17th century, perfume established itself as an artifice of seduction that will continue to evolve to the creative compositions of today, supported by increasingly strong advertising communication.
Discover every step in the creation of a perfume, from raw materials to design, via industry and innovation. Solve the mystery of Chanel N°5 and many other famous fragrances. Children, aged 7 and up, will have access to an olfactory and playful journey made up of games to touch, manipulate or smell.
Once the place where all perfumes were distilled, produced and assembled, the Molinard Bastide has now become a museum and bears witness to the Maison’s industrial heritage and know-how, welcoming tens of thousands of visitors from all over the world every year.
In the heart of the Bastide, the visit is punctuated by the different stages of perfume creation, where each room hides collectors’ items, old machines and surprising infrastructures that make up the history and heritage of the House.
One enters the majestic Molinard distillery, a unique room with a metal structure designed by the famous Gustave Eiffel. In the midst of the copper stills, you will learn the different extraction techniques of the natural materials used for the composition of Molinard Perfumes.
Also not to be missed is the Perfumer‘s Workshop: in this place of knowledge and expertise, ingredients of exceptional quality compose the most beautiful olfactory partitions. Discover the Perfumer’s secrets in the heart of the 1930s Laboratory, where everything is designed, created, composed.
Compared to other perfumeries, Molinard offers the opportunity to try your hand at creating your own perfume during a 1-hour workshop.
Jean de Galimard, Lord of Seranon, related to the Count of Thorenc, lived in Grasse where he created the Galimard Perfumery in 1747. Founder of the guantai-profumiers’ guild, he then supplied the court of King Louis with olive oils, ointments and perfumes, of which he was the inventor of the first formulas.
For more than 264 years, this ancient perfumery has carried on the tradition of its illustrious founder and perpetuated the processes that made its products famous: despite its expansion and fame, Galimard has managed to remain an entirely family-run factory and has transformed craftsmanship into a source of contemporary creativity.
During the free guided tour, you can learn about the secrets and techniques of manufacturing and a superb collection of museum pieces and antique machines. During a tour of the workshops and conditioning rooms, the origins of perfumery will be traced and the methods of extracting aromatic raw materials, flowers, plants and scented woods will be explained.
You will also discover the organ of this perfume composer we all call the Nose: some of its secrets will be revealed. And with the Perfumer’s palette, you will learn about the precious materials that make up perfumes and reveal your olfactory personality.
Dedicated to perfumery and aromatic plants, the Fabrique des Fleurs is surrounded by a superb perfume plant garden.
Visit the workshops and packaging rooms free of charge to discover the secrets of this ancient knowledge and the work of the perfumers of Grasse. After a close look at the manufacturing techniques and the history of this precious perfume, put yourself to the test with an olfactory game offered free of charge at the end of the course.
This grand Provençal country house, surrounded by beautiful gardens and terraces, was once inhabited by Alexandre Maubert, a light musician, and Jean-Honoré Fragonard, a painter.
Today, the residence is accessible to the public and dedicates 3 rooms to the latter’s works. A painter of gallant love, the artist received the Countess du Barry, favourite of Louis XV, in his house for an order on the theme of love for the new pavilion of the Château de Louveciennes.
The world capital of perfume since the 17th century, Grasse is world famous for its floral cultures. Named ‘City of Art and History’, Grasse hosts numerous cultural events, exhibitions and festivals centred on perfumery throughout the year.
Visiting Grasse is like strolling through the galleries of a museum of passing time: the town centre is full of historical monuments and restored palaces dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries, which coexist with 19th-century aristocratic mansions and 20th-century villas.
In addition, every spring, for 48 years now, the Expo Rose event takes place. The alleys and squares become lush gardens. For the occasion, some 8,500 rose bouquets, 13,000 roses for sale and 25,000 cut roses decorate fountains and squares. This is the not-to-be-missed event for lovers of flowers and, in particular, roses. Festive events, balls, scented streets, flower shows, each edition is a true anthology of beauty.
The international capital of perfumes, Vieux-Grasse is a medieval maze that enchants with its arcades, squares and chapels with Romanesque and Lombard influences.
Perched on a promontory, the old town has the typical appearance of southern towns and is home to many historic buildings, including the town hall, its fountain and the 13th-century Notre-Dame cathedral. Place aux Aires and its arcades are an excellent starting point for visiting Grasse.
Preferably choose a market day (Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday) to mingle with the popular atmosphere of the district. The yellow, orange and ochre tones of the buildings mark its exquisitely southern character.
The cathedral of Notre-Dame-du-Puy, located in the historic centre of Grasse, is an ancient Gothic monument.
It was the seat of the city’s diocese for almost 600 years, before being annexed to that of Aix-en-Provence, and then to Nice. Inside you can admire many paintings by famous artists such as Rubens, Fragonard, Charles Nègre and many others.
The large stained glass windows represent the four evangelists: St Matthew, St Mark, St Luke and St John looking down on you from above.
It is on the heights of the town of Grasse that one finds the sumptuous gardens of Princess Pauline.
These imperial green spaces bear the name of Pauline Borghese, Napoleon I’s younger sister. This place offers an exceptional panorama of the hinterland and the bay of Cannes and is also one of the most pleasant places to walk.
Much of this green space has been cut up into lots and sold, but 30 hectares have been retained to make it a public park, according to the wishes of Edmond de Rothschild, heir to the estate. Frequented a few times by Ivan Bounine, a Russian writer, you can see his commemorative bust carved in marble.
At the entrance to the historic centre of Grasse, in a beautiful mansion, former residence of the Marquise de Cabris, Mirabeau’s sister, is the Provençal Museum of Costume and Jewellery. In this aristocratic mansion steeped in history, far from the hubbub of the revolutionary court that once occupied it, there are rows of small intimate lounges arranged around a magnificent staircase that lend themselves well to strolling.
The museum today houses a collection unique in its quality and diversity of clothing and jewellery from the 18th to the late 19th century: skirts, caracos, corsets, droulets, chatelaines, crosses, earrings. The museum is one of the few establishments devoted exclusively to traditional Provençal clothing and old-world sophistication.
Located in the historic centre of Grasse, not far from the famous rue Jean Ossola, the Museum of Art and History of Provence is housed in a sublime private mansion.
It houses beautiful collections dedicated to everyday life in the region since prehistoric times. A second part is dedicated to the fine arts from the 17th to the 20th century. There are objects of all kinds: ceramics, paintings, furniture that trace part of the history of Provence.
The museum has the particularity of being housed in a private mansion that has not undergone any changes in the distribution of rooms.
The Rossignol mill is located below the village of Grasse. It is one of the last mills still in operation in the department. Visitors can enjoy guided tours and product tastings.
It was built in 1760 on the banks of the Rossignol river, from which it takes its name. Today, modern machines are used to produce olive oil, but you can still admire the old granite millstones. You can taste and buy a wide range of products such as tapenade, olives and of course freshly pressed fragrant oil.
This villa and its garden were commissioned by Viscount Charles Noailles, a 20th century collector. After his purchase, the latter sought to transform this garden into an earthly paradise.
The olive grove was therefore kept intact because it was, according to the viscount, the most important part of his garden. Terraces with ponds, plantations with English and Italian influences, changing atmospheres: it is a sublime place to discover without haste.
In the following map you can see the location of the main places of interest mentioned in this article
There is no better place to sleep in Grasse than the old town: you will enjoy the life of a small village where you can do everything on foot. The district overlooks the Provençal valleys and offers a breathtaking view of the sea. The Cours Honoré Cresp, not to be missed, is a place for walking and meeting locals. The proximity to many cafés and restaurants is an undeniable advantage. You will also be close to most of the museums and perfumeries to visit. There are several hotels in this area, but they can be expensive: it is a very touristy area and consequently, popular and sought-after. Moreover, it is sloping and difficult to access, especially by car.
Alternatively, if you love nature, you could consider sleeping in Plascassier, the most remote hamlet of the city, located to the south-east on a promontory surrounded by cultivated plains. It was once one of the most important reservoirs of the perfumery industry with hundreds of hectares of flowers cultivated in the 19th century: jasmine, rose, centifolia, tuberose. It is historically a very agricultural area: olive oil, flowers and wine have distinguished the region for centuries. An original way to discover the area’s natural heritage.
The town of Grasse is located behind Cannes, in its enchanting hinterland. Those travelling by car from Cannes must take the D 6185. From Nice, the same route, after taking a section of the A8, or the D 2085 via Cagnes-sur-Mer and Villeneuve-Loubet.
If you choose to fly, the nearest airport is Nice Airport, just 40 km away. From here, you can directly rent a car and drive to Grasse. Alternatively, the Marseille Airport is also a 2-hour drive away.
What's the weather at Grasse? Below are the temperatures and the weather forecast at Grasse for the next few days.
Grasse is a pretty town on the Côte d'Azur, located in the hills north of Cannes, famous for its historic perfume industry