The Grand Tour

The "Grand Tour" is remembered as the historical travel phenomenon that became part of the social fabric of aristocratic Europe in the late 17th and 18th centuries. At this time, it became fashionable for young aristocrats to visit Paris, Venice, Florence, and above all Rome, as the culmination of their Classical education. Thus was born the idea of the "Grand Tour," a travel adventure which introduced Englishmen, Germans, Scandinavians, and Americans to the art and culture of France and Italy for the next 300 years.

Traveling by boat from Dover to Calais, Tourists would then continue by coach to Paris and where they rented an apartment for weeks to several months. Day trips out of Paris into the countryside to places such as Versailles (the home of the French monarchy) were quite common. Visiting French and Italian royalty, as well as British envoys, was a popular pastime during the Tour.

From Paris, Tourists would embark upon an arduous journey across the Alps or take a boat on the Mediterranean Sea to Italy. For those who made their way across the Alps over the St. Bernard Pass, Turin was the first Italian city visited and some remained while others simply passed through on their way to Venice and Florence. Rome was initially the southernmost point of the Tour. However, when excavations began of Herculaneum (1738) and Pompeii (1748), the two sites became major stops on the Grand Tour.

Upon their return to England, Tourists were expected to begin the responsibilities of an aristocrat. The Grand Tour as an institution was ultimately worthwhile for it has been given credited for fostering a dramatic improvement in British architecture and culture. The French Revolution in 1789 marked the end of the Grand Tour. In the early nineteenth century, railroads changed the face of tourism and travel across the European continent forever.