No, the capital of perfumery is not Cologne. This privilege must be granted to Grasse, a small French town located very close to the Cote d'Azur, where just 50,000 people live.
Although in the 7th century it began to be an important place for the fur trade, over the centuries it became a benchmark for perfumery, until it was considered to be the capital of perfume. And the obligatory question is ... Why?
You won't get tired of its smell
You only have to walk through its streets for five minutes to realize that it smells very good there. It does not have the glamor of Paris, it is true, but the aroma given off by the numerous perfume shops Settling in Grasse makes you stroll with your nostrils wide open.
Obviously, there you will find all the perfumes of the best firms, those that are advertised by hype when Christmas arrives. However, the grace is not in going for one of them, but in betting on those who are made there using the indigenous flowers and following recipes that have remained intact for a very long time.
Jasmines, roses and tuberose are some of the specialties of the area, so you can already imagine how good Grasse smells.
A must see is the Fragonard Villa-Museum, which is a very famous perfumery that will not only allow you to smell some of the best perfumes made there, but you will also know first-hand the process of making essences and other curiosities such as the magic behind packaging starting with the jars and ending with the labels. All this ending the tour in a store that you will hardly leave without buying something.
More points of interest in Grasse? The International Perfume Museum, where it is clear that the city has become a world benchmark for the sector despite the fact that it is not promoting itself as such beyond French borders. There they also show you the stages of perfume production and you can see bottles and labels of all kinds, while allowing you to visit the greenhouse to let yourself be carried away by the most characteristic fragrance of the most floral Provence.
Much more than the perfumery capital
Best of all, Grasse doesn't just live on perfumes. Tourism is attracted by the good smell that its streets give off, but also by the beauty of its medieval architecture. You will walk through cobbled alleys, you will see fountains and even a beautiful 11th century cathedral called Notre-Dame du Puy. Also, you shouldn't miss the old Belle Époque casino either.
The fact of being a medieval city allows us to intuit that walking through its streets requires effort, since there are ramps, stairs and slopes that test knees and ankles. Luckily, you are always in time to take a breather in the squares and in the parks that you will find during the tour. What's more, it has a precious Botanical Garden which is a must see.
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Grasse, the Perfume Capital (December 2020)