The town of Grasse sits in the South-East of France, in the rolling backcountry of the French Riviera.
While Grasse is situated very close to Cotê D’Azur, it is without the glitz and often gaudiness of celebrity-clad cities such as Nice and Monaco. Grasse is surrounded by flower fields and hills overlooking the Mediterranean. The culture here is laid-back, sunny and simple; it is a great place to travel at different paces and experience something truly unique.
Main Sights of Grasse, Vielle Ville (the Old Town) and Place aux Aires
Grasse had a thriving trade industry during the Middle Ages, and its current architecture and town layout is continuing evidence of this. The Old Town is its historic centre, and is still the heart of the town.
To visit the Old Town of Grasse is to step into a piece of the past; a richly coloured oil painting. The narrow streets are lined with 17th and 18th century buildings, all painted in golden earth tones which seem to soak up the lazy sun of Southern France. One of the best ways to enjoy Grasse is simply to explore its streets and admire its subtle beauty.
Grasse’s main square is the Place aux Aires; in the daytime it is buzzing with locals browsing for fresh produce, or enjoying a casual cup of coffee. The elegant Notre-Dame du-Puy Cathedral stands near the centre of the Old Town. This cathedral was built in the 11th-12th Century and is home to three paintings by P. P. Rubens.
Walking and Guided Tours in the Town Centre of Grasse
It has been argued that Grasse lacks the grandiose architecture characteristic of many French towns, and this is indeed true…However, the lack of pretence in the Old Town’s buildings is what sets it apart from the rest. It may be void of extravagantly decorative buildings; but to experience Grasse is to experience a true French village.
The best way to make the most of Grasse is to visit the Office du Tourisme where knowledgeable guides provide everything needed to set off on a walking tour. The different tours available cover a range of interests to suit every traveller.
For travellers preferring to explore independently, a free city map is available from the Tourism Office, to follow the helpful copper plaques at different points around the Old Town. The Traditional Circuit provides an interesting overview of the town, while tours such as In the Footsteps of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille trace some famous inhabitants of Grasse.
Perfume Factory Visits – Fragonard Perfumery and Museum
Not to forget the legendary perfume history of the town, be sure to take a look at the fascinating industry which is such an integral part of Grasse’s way of life. Grasse’s location and high altitude make it the perfect place to grow acres of flower fields, which are then harvested to create the magical scents sold all around the world. In fact, over two thirds of the perfume in France is produced in Grasse.
There are several perfume factories in the heart of Grasse; the most notable of these is the Fragonard Perfumery. This Perfumery is one of the oldest perfume factories in Grasse, established in 1926. Visitors are invited to a complimentary tour of the factory, lead by a team of multi-lingual tour guides.
In the upper floor of the perfume factory is the Fragonard Perfume Museum. Here there are displays of intriguing perfume-making objects and trinkets. No visit to Grasse can be complete without discovering why it is world-famous for its perfume.
Local Cuisine and Dining in Grasse
The local taste of Grasse is extremely accessible in the Old Town, in the form of delicious Southern France cuisine. In the balmy evenings, dine in one of the medieval squares as street musicians play French folk tunes, and taste some of the traditional Grassoise Cuisine.
The warmth of the Mediterranean coupled with Grasse’s abundance of flowers make for sweet and delicate specialty dishes. Try some Squash Flower Fritters such as Le Fougassette – a light pastry infused with orange tree flower aroma.
For visitors wanting an authentic dining experience; check out Lou Pignatoun near the Place aux Aires.
Rail Transport to Grasse and the French Riviera
One of the best ways to reach Grasse is by rail; try taking a local train along the coast and lap up the scenic beauty of the French Riviera. Most trains in France can be pre-booked, or simply boarded at leisure – allow a day on the train to make stops at local towns off the beaten road.
For a rich Southern France experience with a difference, Grasse is the perfect destination to enjoy some honest culture. Grasse is a wonderfully accessible town and a great way to add diversity to any French adventure.