Famed for its perfume industry, Grasse is a town located in the mountains along the Cote d’Azur which is sure to leave a sweet impression in your mind. With an abundance of museums, picturesque old town and incredible views over the mountains, it’s a place I would deffo recommend visiting.
I’ve visited Grasse three times before and every single time it has been raining. Not like ‘oh whatever it’s just drizzle’ kind of rain but full on ‘help, I need to find cover’ downpours which get you soaked through (I know, who would have thought there would be rain on the Cote d’Azur?!) Lucky for me, Grasse has no shortage of undercover museums to keep me dry and, thanks to my student discount, all of them were free to enter! (top tip to any students out there: don’t delete the UniDays app on your phone and you will save £££)
Musée International de la Parfumerie
The torrential downpours may have its bad effect on my hair but it’s a blessing for the surrounding countryside which helps give Grasse such a big name in the perfume world. In fact, it’s even named as ‘the world’s capital of perfume’ and produces over two thirds of France’s natural aromas for perfume and food flavourings – not bad for a little town in the mountains. The ‘Musée International de la Parfumerie’ documents all of the ins and outs of perfumery from its origins, to how its made and changed throughout the years. I first visited with my host family and there were things to do to entertain everyone (even the little three year old who has the attention span of a fly!) Interactive activities, indoor garden and impressive displays of distilling equipment and perfume bottles, it’s deffo not a boring museum in the slightest! There are translations everywhere in English, French and Italian so it’s not just suited to every age range but to plenty of cultures too – it’s even free on a Sunday! If you’re only going to go to one museum in Grasse, I would say to come here!
Fragonard Musée de Parfum et Usine
This is kind of a continuation from the ‘Musée International de la Parfumerie’ but with a bit more writing and less interactive activities. It is run by popular perfume brand ‘Fragonard’ which is based in Grasse and shows more distillery equipment, info on the history of perfume and you can even visit the factory downstairs where all of the perfume is made (I remember receiving a Fragonard perfume from my grandparents for xmas a few years ago so it was cool to see where it originally came from) There is also a gift shop where I spent agesss wafting around those little paper sticks sprayed with perfume in the hope of finding a good perfume at a discounted rate (my fave in the end was ‘Belle Chérie’) Entry is free so there’s no excuse not to find out more about the industry which brought Grasse to fame!
Musée d’Art et Histoire Provence
Literally translated as ‘Museum of Art and History of Provence’, this museum displays just that; art and history of the Provence region which includes towns such as Grasse. Inside are many rooms designed as they would be in the olden days and other rooms filled with paintings from the region. There is also a beautiful garden outside complete with benches and a water fountain which would have been lovely to sit and relax in had the weather been playing ball! The museum costs €2 to enter but free for students and under 18’s (hooray for UniDays!) and there are signs written in English, French and Italian!
Musée Jean-Honoré Fragonard
After seeing the ‘Fragonard’ name in the title, I was expecting this museum to be yet another perfume based exhibition but it actually turned out to be an art gallery filled with work from 18th century Grasse painter ‘Jean-Honoré Fragonard’ (quite confusingly, he is the inspiration for the ‘Fragonard’ perfumery name) The museum contains many of his paintings as well as some from ‘Marguerite Gérard’ and ‘Jean-Baptiste Mallet’. It was a good way to pass some time but there were literally only paintings with a little bit of annotation – if you’re into your art, I’m sure you’ll find it more impressive than me.
Musée Costume et Bijoux
I was excited to visit here as the name ‘Museum of Costume and Jewellery’ instantly appealed to the self-proclaimed clothes-loving shopaholic inside me. The museum is filled with a display of old fashioned clothes and jewellery and, although it is quite small and dark, it’s a great place to go and take a wander (especially considering it’s free to enter!) You have to walk through a small Fragonard gift shop to get there and I couldn’t resist buying a little soap for my mum as a bday present (I mean, when in Grasse you just can’t leave without a cheeky soap or perfume purchase. It was gift-wrapped so nicely as well which saved me a job!)
I was keen to make sure I had ticked every single one of Grasse’s museums off my list so headed across the road to ‘Villa Fragonard’ – the home of Jean-Honoré Fragonard for a year in 1790. After walking around confused as to how to enter and then a very embarrassing accidental trip into an office which I thought was the museum, I found out that it was actually closed when I visited. The museum would normally contain paintings from the artist so quite similar to ‘Musée Jean-Honoré Fragonard’ – I still managed to see 5 other museums so I had got my daily dose of museums for the day!
WALK AROUND THE OLD TOWN/ NEW TOWN
Like with most places I’ve visited, I always like to find the older part of the town as it’s much more scenic and enjoyable to roam around. The old town at Grasse is no exception with its small back alleys, cobbled streets and cute little cafés and gift shops which you can find right next to the main town. My fave place in the old town was just past the ‘Cathedrale Notre Dame du Puy’ in the ‘Place du 24 Août’. If you’re a sucker for a good panoramic view like me, then come here for sure!
PLACES TO EAT
Both the old and the new part of the town seemed to have plenty of places to eat but I just popped into a supermarket to pick up a few snacky bits for my bus journey home. If I had to choose somewhere, I would go the ‘Le Croissant Rose’ or ‘La Brasserie des Artistes’ because they were both very busy and have good reviews on TripAdvisor (if you hadn’t guessed from previous blogposts, I am a big fan of that website!)
Before I visit a place, I always weigh up the pros and cons of buses vs trains. Sometimes, there is little in it but with Grasse, it’s clear that the bus wins the prize. You see, the train station (although it is quicker and more comfortable) is located at the bottom of a steep hill which you need to climb to get to the town. The bus station however is in a very central location and most buses cost just €1.50 per journey. I got the ‘530 Lignes d’Azur’ bus which starts at Sophia Antipolis Gare Routière or Valbonne Village and takes just 30 minutes. There are also frequent buses from Nice and Cannes so, on this occasion, taking the bus seems like a no brainer for me. If you’re insistent that the train life is for you, then you can always get a bus from the bus stop opposite the train station or a taxi (or brave the hike if you’re feeling up to it!)
Come rain or shine, there is so much to do in Grasse which will appeal to everyone – even the rain couldn’t put a dampener on my visits!