Grasse, in southern Provence, is found 16 km north of Cannes. It was originally best known as a centre for leather tanners, but this gave way to perfume production, for which the town is still famous today.

It is a pleasant and quite sizable town, with an old town holding an excess of medieval buildings, narrow streets, and cafes and restaurants.

One particular highlight is the town hall – don’t miss the interior courtyard, with its decorative fountain, and the view across the town centre.

There is a daily market in the main arcaded square and there are lovely views from the town.

The Cathedral Notre-Dame-de-Puy is also worth a visit – it contains three paintings by Rubens.

The town has a museum celebrating Art in Provence, and there is also an International Museum of Perfume.

Grasse Perfume

Grasse has had a prospering perfume industry since the end of the 18th century – Grasse is the center of the French perfume industry and is known as the world’s perfume capital (la capitale mondiale des parfums). It produces over two-thirds of France’s natural aromas (for perfume and for food flavourings). This industry turns over more than 600 million euros a year.

Grasse’s particular microclimate encouraged the flower farming industry. It is warm and far enough inland to be sheltered from the sea air. There is an abundance of water thanks to its situation in the hills, and the 1860 construction of the Siagne canal for irrigation purposes. The town is 350 m above sea level and 20 km from the Coast (Côte d’Azur).

Jasmine, a key ingredient of many perfumes, was brought to the South of France by the Moors in the 16th century. Twenty-seven tonnes of jasmine are now harvested in Grasse every year.

Grasse old town street, calm and colourful.

Grasse, Côte d’Azur, France; looking over La Plaine de Grasse, where roses used to grow in their thousands.

Once tiny and awaft with aromas, Grasse is now hulking and pungent with diesel fumes. A hilly place crowded with expatriates dreaming of a quaint, semi-rural home, Grasse is not much of a tourist attraction; it’s one of those sad places with a magical name but an ambience that has slipped away while no one was looking and the town planners were out to lunch.
Still, tourists keep on coming as it’s only 20 minutes or so from Nice or Cannes, the small old town area is of some interest and the perfumeries do a good job of freely entertaining and educating while later extracting €uros for minute, smelly bottles.

Grasse’s famous, historic Fragonard perfume factory, with free museum, multilingual tours and golden gift shop.

Hint: if you’re driving to Grasse leave the wheels as soon as possible in one of the underground parks, trying to find a roadside space is near impossible, not to mention the casual French habit of battering their way into a tight space may cause trouble with the rental agency when they see the dents. This photo was taken from on top of one of the town centre car parks.

The diminuitive, admission-free Fragonard museum displays some fine perfume-related artefacts. Among other Grasse perfumeries with free tours and museums are Molinard and Galimard.

An English language tour explaining the ancient perfume distillation process.

Grasse has been the centre of the world’s perfume trade since the 18thC due to the fine climate and sheltered habitat that permitted extensive flower farming, though of course these days most perfumes are synthetically produced. Still, two-thirds of France’s flavours and scents are produced in Grasse every year and it’s an essential stop for ‘nose’ training.

Testing perfumes on paper strips in the delightful – though slightly pushy – Fragonard shop.

At the beginning of every August there is a Jasmin Festival [Fête du Jasmin or La Jasminade] involving flowery floats cruising through Grasse crewed by nubile maids in who throw flowers into the crowds. The town also hosts free firework displays, parties, music groups and street activities.

Visit Grasse (Provence, Alpes-Maritimes) travel, gites and hotels

Holidays nearby

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Airports near Grasse

Nice airport at 32 km Toulon airport at 105 km

Tourist Classifications for Grasse

– Listed as “Ville d’Art et Histoire” (ie focus on preserving the town heritage)
– approved Station Classée (resort paying particular attention to facilities for tourism)

Places to visit near Grasse, Provence

Explore places of interest within about 70 kilometres on a map at places near Grasse. Some places to visit within 30 km: 24 km: Antibes (Riviera town) 19 km: Biot (attractive town) 25 km: Cagnes-sur-Mer (Village and Chateau Grimaldi) 15 km: Cannes (Important Riviera resort) 26 km: Cap Esterel (Holiday village) 32 km: Frejus (Coastal town) 9 km: Gourdon (Most beautiful village) 23 km: Juan-les-Pins (Beach resort) 22 km: Saint-Paul-de-Vence (Popular hilltop village) 31 km: Saint-Raphael (French Riviera resort) 22 km: Vence (Attractive town)