When the coastal towns of the French Riviera get crowded a trip to Grasse, a short drive away from Nice, provides a welcome break.
Grasse became the world’s perfume capital some centuries ago and still firmly holds the title. Flowers for some of the most famous fragrances are grown and harvested here, including Chanel
N°5. Several perfume manufacturers based in the town are open to the public. The Fragonard Perfume Factory, Galimard, the oldest parfumerie in Grasse, and Molinard offer tours around the premises, demonstrations of some techniques used by perfume makers nowadays, and, in spring and summer months, visits to the nearby gardens and fields of roses, jasmine, violets, lavender. Some of the perfumeries offer short workshops where you can created your own be-spoke fragrance.
To learn about the history of perfume-making head to the International Museum of Perfume (Museé International de la Parfumerie) with the exposition taking visitors 3,000 years back when humans started discovering the world of fragrances.
Explore the charming Old Town in Grasse with its pretty squares, elegant palaces and steep staircases. The main cathedral, 11th century Notre Dame de Puy houses precious paintings by Rubens and Fragonard. If you are in the mood for some frivolous French Rococo art check out the beautiful Jean-Honoré Fragonard Villa-Museum where the famous French artist lived. Another art stop that is worth visiting is the Musée Fragonard where you can see other paintings by Fragonard as well as works by Marguerite Gérard and Jean-Baptiste Mallet.
Other delightful attractions in Grasse include the elegant City Hall, austere Saracen Tower and colourful Jardin de la Princesse Pauline. If you do not feel like walking, there is small train that departs from the Cours Honoré Cresp and goes around the historic centre from April to October.
Every August Grasse celebrates Fête du Jasmin, a beautiful flower festival with spectacular floral floats, fireworks and folk music.
Photos via Flickr by: Ivan Matthieu, Etienne Valois.