Grasse

France

Grasse is the sole subprefecture of the Alpes-Maritimes department in the Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur region on the French Riviera.

Considered the world’s capital of perfume, Grasse obtained two flowers in the Concours des villes et villages fleuris and was made Ville d’Art et d’Histoire (City of Art and History).

CountryFrance
RegionProvence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur
DepartmentAlpes-Maritimes
CantonGrasse-1 and 2
Government
 Mayor (2020–2026)Jérôme Viaud (LR)
Area144.44 km2 (17.16 sq mi)
Population (2017-01-01)50,396
Time zoneUTC+01:00 (CET)
 Summer (DST)UTC+02:00 (CEST)

Transport

The Gare de Grasse railway station offers connections with Cannes, Nice and Ventimiglia.

Festivals

There is an annual Fête du Jasmin or La Jasminade, at the beginning of August. The first festival was on August 3–4, 1946. Decorated floats drive through the town, with young women in skimpy costumes on board, throwing flowers into the crowd. Garlands of jasmine decorate the town center, and the fire department fills a fire truck with jasmine-infused water to spray on the crowds. There are also fireworks, free parties, folk music groups and street performers. There is also an annual international exhibition of roses (“Expo Rose”) held in May each year.

Perfume

Grasse has had a prospering perfume industry since the end of the 18th century. Grasse is the centre of the French perfume industry and is known as the world’s perfume capital. Many “noses” (or, in French, “Les nez” (plural)/”Le nez” (singular)) are trained or have spent time in Grasse to distinguish over 2,000 kinds of scent. Grasse produces over two-thirds of France’s natural aromas. This industry turns over more than 600 million euros a year.

Grasse’s particular microclimate encouraged the flower farming industry. It is warm and sufficiently inland to be sheltered from the sea air. Jasmine, a key ingredient of many perfumes, was brought to southern France by the Moors in the 16th century. Twenty-seven tonnes of jasmine are now harvested in Grasse annually.

The trade in leather and tanning work developed during the twelfth century around the small canal that runs through the city. This activity produced a strong unpleasant odor. At the time of the Renaissance perfume manufacturers began production of gloves, handbags and belt (clothing), to meet the new fashion from Italy with the entourage of Queen Catherine de Medici.

The countryside around the city began to grow fields of flowers, offering new scents from the city. In 1614, the king recognized the new corporation of “glovers perfumers”. In the middle of the eighteenth century, the perfumery was experiencing a very important development. Leading companies dating from this period includes oldest French perfumerie and third oldest parfumerie in Europe Galimard established in 1747. Introduction of new production methods turned perfume making into a real industry that could adapt to new market demands.

Grasse parfume

Historical activity

In the Middle Ages, Grasse specialized in leather tanning. Once tanned, the hides were often exported to Genoa or Pisa, cities that shared a commercial alliance with Grasse. Several centuries of this intense activity witnessed many technological advances within tanning industries. The hides of Grasse acquired a reputation for high quality. But the leather smelled badly, something that did not please the glove wearing nobility. This is when Galimard, a tanner in Grasse came up with the idea of scented leather gloves. He offered a pair of scented gloves to Catherine de Medici who was seduced by the gift. Thereafter, the product spread through the Royal Court and high society, and this made a worldwide reputation for Grasse.

Modern industry

A network of sixty companies employs 3,500 people in the city and surrounding area. Additionally about 10,000 residents of Grasse are indirectly employed by the perfume industry. Almost half of the business tax for the city comes from the perfume sector and that is ahead of tourism and services. The main activity of perfumery in Grasse is in the production of natural raw materials (essential oils, concretes, absolutes, resinoids and molecular distillation) and the production of concentrate, also called the juice. A concentrate is the main product that when diluted in at least 80% alcohol provides a perfume. Also food flavorings, which developed since the 1970s, account for over half of production output today.

This represents almost half of the production of French perfumes and aromas and around 7-8% of total global activity. The Grasse perfume industry cannot compete against large chemical multinationals, but it benefits greatly from the advantage of its knowledge of raw materials, facilities, contractors, etc. In addition, major brands such as Dior and Chanel have their own plantations of roses and jasmine in the vicinity of Grasse.

Perfumeries

Three perfumeries, Fragonard, Molinard and Galimard opened their doors to the public and offer free tours that explain the processes of producing a perfume. It is possible to create one’s own perfume, eau de perfume or eau de toilette and participate in all stages of manufacture from picking flowers to bottling.

  • Galimard Perfumery, established in 1747 by Jean de Galimard provided the Royal Court with ointments and perfumes. It is the third oldest perfume company in the world after Farina gegenüber and Floris of London and was revived after the war by Gaston de Fontmichel and Joseph Roux.
  • Molinard was established in 1849 and their perfume bottles were made of Baccarat crystal and Lalique glass. Clients can create their own personalized perfume during the Tarinology fragrance course workshop.
  • The Fragonard Perfumery was established in 1926 in one of the oldest factories in the city. Its museum Fragonard Musée du Parfum displays rare objects that explain the history of perfumery, covering 5,000 years.
  • International Perfume Museum. Opened in 1989, the museum traces the evolution of techniques during the 5,000 year history of perfumery and the large contribution of the Grasse area to perfume making.
Galimard Perfumery

Main sights

Three perfume factories offer daily tours and demonstrations, which draw in many of the region’s visitors. In addition to the perfumeries, Grasse’s other main attraction is the Cathedral, dedicated to Notre Dame du Puy and founded in the 11th century. In the interior, are three works by Rubens and one by Jean-Honoré Fragonard, the French painter native of the town.

  • Grasse – Parfumerie
  • Parfumerie Molinard
  • Napoleon Memorial
  • Fleur de jasmin
  • Blessed Sacrament chapel
Fleur de jasmin

Other sights include:

  • Saracen Tower, standing at 30m.
  • Monumental gate of the Hôtel de ville
  • International Museum of Perfume
  • Musée d’Art et d’Histoire de Provence
  • Church of Plascassier, built in 1644

Contact

PAYS DE GRASSE COMMUNITY TOURIST OFFICE
email
info@paysdegrassetourisme.fr
address
Place de la Buanderie 06130 Grasse
phone
+33 (0) 4 93 36 66 66