Olfaction is the sense of smell that influences many primitive behaviors for survival, e.g., feeding, reproduction, social interaction, and fear response. The olfactory system is an evolutionarily ancient sensory system and composed of the olfactory epithelium (OE), the olfactory bulb (OB), and the olfactory cortex. The OE gives rise to olfactory receptor neurons (ORNs), i.e., primary sensory receptor cells whose axons project directly to the OB. The ORNs are unique in the way that they are continuously replaced during physiological turnover or following injury throughout life. In the OE, horizontal basal cells, i.e., flat and quiescent cells attached to the basal lamina, are now thought to be tissue stem cells. Although OE cells, especially ORNs, were hypothesized to be derived from the olfactory placode (OP), recent genetic fate-mapping studies using Cre reporter mice indicate a dual origin, i.e., the OP and neural crest (NC), of the olfactory system. The NC is a transient embryonic tissue that is formed between the dorsal neuroepithelium and epidermis. Neural crest cells (NCCs) are multipotent cells that migrate into various target tissues and differentiate into various cell types, including neurons and glia of the peripheral nervous system, cranial cartilage and bone, and melanocytes. Recent studies have revealed that neural crest-derived cells (NCDCs) are widely distributed in adult tissues, and that a subset of NCDCs still possesses NCC-like multipotency. Here, we review classical and recent studies of the olfactory system, especially focusing on the contribution of the NC and OP to the OE development.