City of Perfume
Alpes-Maritimes (06130) Population: 41,388 Altitude: 333 m
Grasse, the perfume capital of the world, is a gateway town to Beyond. To the south, only 15 km away, is the city of Cannes with its yachts, fine-sand beaches and luxury shopping. To the east, about a 30-minute drive away, is Nice, with its international airport, pebble beaches and the bustle of a busy city. Turning inland from Grasse, at zero distance, you have the hills and forests and canyons and rivers of Beyond.
Grasse has been a popular tourist town for several centuries, with the smell of flowers and clear air. The altitude of the town, from 300-400 m, and the hills behind give Grasse a fresher climate than the beach during the heat of the summer.
Princess Pauline Bonaparte, the Emperor's sister, spent the winter of 1807-08 in Grasse, recuperating her mental and physical strength. Queen Victoria vacationed through several winters in Grasse, staying at the Rothschild's or at the Grand Hotel.
The old town ("vieille ville") is large, old, and extremely interesting. Tiny streets wind forever between the 17th and 18th century buildings, up and down ancient steps, passing through arched tunnels and sometimes opening out onto large squares. Many of the streets aren't as clean as they should be, but still worth a wander.
The principal square near the top of the old town is the Place aux Aires. A pretty, three-tiered fountain splashes in the center and arcades line one long side. Until recently (2004) this was the site of the daily market of flowers and regional foods, now sadly gone. The nearby shops (butchers, bakers, etc.) are still in business.
Somewhere down in the old village a narrow street comes out onto the Place du Petit Puy (and through the archway into Place Godeau) with the 10-11th-century Notre Dame du Puy cathedral (rebuilt in the 17th c.) and its huge 18th century clock tower. Inside the cathedral are three paintings by Rubens, commissioned from the then-unknown artist in 1601 by the Archduke Albert for the Santa Croce di Gerusalemme in Rome, and offered to Grasse in the 19th century. There's also the 1754 painting Christ Washing the Feet of the Apostles by Jean-Honoré Fragonard.
Also in the Place Godeau is 12th-century "Tour de Guet" (watch tower) at the Mairie, which was the Bishop's Palace.
The French perfume industry began in Grasse in the 16th century. Have a look at our Perfume page.
An historical walking tour of Grasse (about 90 minutes) has been laid out by the Office de Tourisme. A free map has information about each numbered site, and numbered panels are located at the appropriate points throughout the old town. Optionally, you can rent a portable CD with an audio description of the tour.
In the porous limestone hills north of Grasse there are a number of holes and grottos for visiting or exploring (with the local spelunking clubs).
Many of the holes are on the Plateau de la Malle, about 4 km north of Grasse, which rises up to the Plateau de Caussols
- The "Trou du Curé goes down 60 meters.
- The Grotte de la Cascade de St. Sauveur has 150 m of cave developed for exploring.
History of Grasse
First record, 11th century
Prehistoric, Roman: There are a number of very ancient artifacts in the region of Grasse: bronze-age and Hallstatt-era tumulus at St-Christophe and megaliths at the Siagne; oppidum at Pey-Loubet and St-Christophe; ruins of a mausoleum and sculpted items at La Paoute; a funerary stela at La Malle (now in the museum).
Grasse is a true medieval town that withstood Saracen raids in the 9th century.
Grasse was an independent republic in the 12th century, with diplomatic relations with the neighboring city-state republics of Genoa and Pisa.
In 1227, the Count of Provence, Raymond Bérenger brought Grasse into his control.
It was the Bishopric of Antibes from 1244 to 1790.
In 1536, Charles-Quint invaded the city-state of Nice and sacked Grasse, on the order of the governor of Provence.
In 1589, the "Ligueurs" layed siege to Grasse and took the town during the Wars of Religion.
During the French Revolution Grasse was the capital of the Var. In 1860, after the County of Nice became a part of France, Grasse was attached to the Alpes-Maritimes.
Tel : 0493 366 666; Fax: 04 93 36 86 36
Market day: Sat.
Feb - Route d'Or 2CV (Deux Cheveaux cars) gathering of this iconic car and rally coinciding with the Mimosa fetes.
Apr - Grasse-Alpine Auto Rally
May - Expo Rose - International Rose Festival, for 4 days
Aug - Fete de Jasmin - The famous Jasmin Flower Festival with flowered floats
• GPS: 43.658555, 6.923547
IGN (1/25,000) #3543 ET "Haute Siagne"
The GR51 Balcony of the Cote d Azur runs through the hills just a short way above Grasse. A shuttle bus from the town goes up to the swimming pool. Around the bend of the road (the N85, Route Napoléon) are the Grasse tennis courts.
The GR51 west crosses the road and goes down the hill towards the west, eventually passing Auribeau-sur-Siagne and on into the Massif des Maures.
At the left end of the tennis courts (nearest the road), the GR4 hiking trail goes straight up the hill (zig-zagging of course) to the Plateau de Caussols and on to the Plateau de Calern where it passes the domed telescopes of the observatory.
Musée d'Art et d'Histoire de Provence
This museum of Provençal art and history, located in the old "hôtel particulier" (town house) of the Marquise de Clapier-Cabris, an 18th-century mansion that's also called the Petit Trianon. features archeology and ethnology as well as painting, pottery and history.
Musée International de la Parfumerie
You'll find here information about the entire process of creating perfume, and antique items relating to 3000 years of perfumery. The key treasure is Marie Antoinette's travel case, and there's also a very fragrant greenhouse growing aromatic plants.
The Jean-Honoré Fragonard museum is located in the 17th-century Villa Fragonard where the painter and his family stayed while visiting Grasse in March 1791.
Musée de la Marine - Amiral de Grasse (Navy Museum)
This museum is in the old 18th century Hôtel Pontevès-Morel, at the top of the steps leading down past the pretty little park at the bottom of the Bvd. du Jeu de Ballon (the main street through Grasse). Featured is the career of the Amiral de Grasse who fought actively in America's war of independence, especially in winning the battle of Yorktown.
Grasse-Nice. The Grasse-Nice bus line pass through Pre-du-Lac, Le Rouret, Roquefort, Villeneuve-Loubet, Cagnes-sur-Mer, Nice Airport and Nice. There are at least 10 busses a day in each direction, 7 days a week.
Local Towns and Villages. The STGA bus line provides service between Grasse and: Antibes, Auribeau-sur-Siagne, Biot, Gare de Biot, Cannes, Magagnosc, Mouans-Sartoux, Mougins, Peymeinade, Le Plan-de-Grasse, Pont du Loup, Plascassier, Sophia Antipolis, Spéracèdes, Le Tignet, Valbonne, and Vallauris.
Castellane-Grasse-Nice. Bus service is provided once a day, every day (including Sundays) between Castellane, Grasse and Nice.
Bus Line 600 Cannes - Grasse
- Bus line 600, Cannes - Grasse, serves Cannes, Mougins, Mouans-Sartoux and Grasse. The route near Grasse is the Cannes-Grasse road via the Quatre Chemins. The full trip takes about 50 minutes and costs 1 euro.
An official list of Alpes-Maritimes bus lines, with links to the schedules for each line (PDF), is available on the following link:
- Web: www.cg06.fr/fr/servir-les-habitants/deplacements/transport-collectifs/lignes-et-horaires/lignes-et-horaires/
Grasse - St Cézaire Bus (Sillage, line 33)
- Grasse - Saint Cézaire, Sillage bus line 33, has stops at: Moulin de Brun, Grasse SNCF, Grasse Gare routière, Cabris, Spéracèdes, Le Tignet, Saint Cézaire.
Trip time between St Cézaire and Grasse is about 50 minutes.
See Beyond's Bus Schedules Page 3: Grasse region, Alpes-Maritimes for downloading bus schedules for Grasse - St Cézaire and the other Grasse region bus lines.
- Web: www.sillages.eu/nos-lignes/index.htm