Traveling around Europe in the 18th Century

The 18th century was a time of great change and exploration in Europe. With advances in transportation, increasing political stability, and a growing interest in the arts and sciences, travel became an increasingly popular pursuit among Europe’s elite. This article will take you on a fascinating journey through time, offering insights into the experiences, challenges, and highlights of traveling in Europe during the 18th century.


In the 18th century, the primary modes of transportation for long-distance travel were horse-drawn carriages, ships, and occasionally horseback riding. Carriages varied in comfort and style, with the wealthy traveling in luxurious carriages, while others opted for more modest means of transportation. Ships were commonly used for cross-channel and overseas travel, with busy ports serving as gateways to the continent.

Grand Tour

The 18th century saw the popularization of the Grand Tour, a form of educational travel undertaken by young European aristocrats and intellectuals. The Grand Tour typically involved an extended journey through several European countries, with a particular focus on Italy and its rich cultural heritage. Travelers sought to broaden their horizons, acquire knowledge, and refine their tastes through encounters with art, history, and society.

Road conditions and challenges

Traveling by road in the 18th century was an arduous undertaking. Roads were often unpaved, poorly maintained, and susceptible to banditry. Travelers faced challenges such as rough terrain, inclement weather, and limited accommodations along the way. It took careful planning, adequate provisions, and an adventurous spirit to make a successful journey.

Accommodation and hospitality

Inns and coach houses dotted the routes traveled by 18th-century explorers. These establishments provided rest, food, and shelter for weary travelers. Accommodations varied in quality, from simple lodgings to more refined establishments that catered to the wealthy. Hospitality was a central aspect of these establishments, which served as gathering places for travelers to share stories, local knowledge, and social interactions.

Cultural Encounters and the Enlightenment

The 18th century was marked by the Enlightenment, an intellectual movement that emphasized reason, science, and cultural exchange. As travelers traveled across Europe, they encountered different cultures, languages, and customs. These encounters fostered cross-cultural dialogue, the exchange of ideas, and the appreciation of different artistic and intellectual traditions. The Grand Tour, in particular, played a crucial role in shaping the intellectual and cultural landscape of Europe.

Natural wonders and landscapes

Eighteenth-century travelers were captivated by the natural beauty of Europe. From the majestic Alps to the picturesque landscapes of England and France, the continent offered a wide variety of natural wonders to explore. Many travelers documented their experiences through journals, sketches, and paintings, contributing to a growing awareness and appreciation of Europe’s natural heritage.

Travel writing and literary works

The 18th century saw a surge in travel literature, as travelers documented their experiences and observations in written accounts. These travelogues and memoirs provided insights into the cultural, social, and political landscapes of the places they visited. Influential works by authors such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Voltaire, and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe shaped popular perceptions of Europe and influenced future generations of travelers.

Itineraries and Routes

Itineraries for European travel in the 18th century varied depending on an individual’s interests, goals, and available resources. The Grand Tour, for example, typically followed a well-established route that included major cultural centers such as Paris, Rome, Venice, and Florence. Other travelers, however, ventured off the beaten path to explore lesser-known regions and cities.

Cultural Highlights

Europe in the 18th century was a hub of cultural activity, with significant artistic, architectural, and musical developments taking place. Travelers sought out renowned cultural institutions such as the Louvre in Paris, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, and the British Museum in London. Attending operas, theatrical performances, and musical concerts was also a popular pastime for travelers, giving them a firsthand experience of European artistic excellence.

Health and wellness

Health concerns were paramount for 18th-century travelers. The risk of contracting diseases such as smallpox or malaria was a real concern. Travelers often carried medicine kits containing remedies for common ailments, and took precautions such as purifying drinking water. Spa towns and thermal baths, known for their therapeutic properties, were popular destinations for those seeking rejuvenation and relaxation during their travels.

Language Barriers

With a variety of languages spoken throughout Europe, language barriers were a challenge for travelers. French was commonly used as a lingua franca among the aristocracy and educated classes. However, not all travelers were fluent in the language, necessitating the use of interpreters or the assistance of locals who spoke several languages.

Souvenirs and mementos

Eighteenth-century travelers often collected souvenirs and mementos as tangible reminders of their travels. These might include works of art, books, maps, decorative objects, or even natural specimens. These souvenirs served as personal mementoes and also allowed travelers to share their experiences and knowledge with others when they returned home.

Scientific exploration

The 18th century witnessed a growing interest in scientific research and exploration. Many travelers were not only interested in cultural and artistic pursuits, but also conducted scientific observations and experiments during their travels. They studied natural phenomena, collected botanical and zoological specimens, made geological observations, and contributed to the advancement of scientific knowledge.

Gender and Travel

In the eighteenth century, travel was primarily undertaken by men. Female travelers faced social restrictions and were often accompanied by male family members or traveled as part of a larger group. However, a few notable women, such as Lady Mary Wortley Montagu and Mary Wollstonecraft, dared to travel independently, defying social norms and documenting their experiences.

Impact on European Society

Individual travel in the 18th century had a profound impact on European society. Exposure to different cultures, ideas, and artistic movements broadened horizons, challenged traditional beliefs, and contributed to the development of a cosmopolitan European identity. The knowledge and experience gained during these journeys influenced various fields, including literature, art, philosophy, and politics.


Travel in eighteenth-century Europe was a transformative experience marked by adventure, cultural exploration, and intellectual enlightenment. It allowed individuals to witness the rich tapestry of European societies, encounter diverse traditions, and appreciate the natural and artistic wonders of the continent. The transportation challenges and cultural exchanges of the era contributed to the development of travel literature, shaped the collective understanding of Europe, and inspired future generations of explorers. The 18th-century journey across Europe remains a testament to the enduring human desire for discovery, knowledge, and connection to the world.


How long did travel take in the 1800s?

In 1800, a journey from New York to Chicago would have taken an intrepid traveler roughly six weeks; travel times beyond the Mississippi River aren’t even charted. Three decades later, the trip dropped to three weeks in length and by the mid-19th century, the New York–Chicago journey via railroad took two days.

How long did the Grand Tour last in the 17th and 18th century?

two to four years

Young English elites of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries often spent two to four years touring around Europe in an effort to broaden their horizons and learn about language, architecture, geography, and culture in an experience known as the Grand Tour.

How did people travel long distances in the 18th century?

Many people, who could afford it, had a wheeled vehicle at their disposal as well. Farmers, especially, used carts and wagons for work around the farm and to cart supplies into town for sale or trade. The Conestoga Wagon (shown above) was used to transport large amounts of materials over long distances.

How long was the Grand Tour of Europe?

In the 18th century the so-called Grand Tour became a rite of passage for aristocratic young men. The journey typically involved three or four years of travel around Europe and included an extensive sojourn in Italy, as Rome was considered the ultimate destination…

Who was the first to Organise a round trip to Europe?

Inventor Sir Francis Ronalds‘ journals and sketches of his 1818–20 tour to Europe and the Near East have been published online.

Which country were most commonly visited during The Grand Tour?

Italy was exceedingly the most travelled country on the Grand Tour, no less than three cities had to be visited, but often five or six cities would be visited. The Grand Tour was a literary voyage through society, and the Romans left Italy as the redoubtable cradle of Western civilisation.

How long did it take to cross the Atlantic in the 18th century?

Another very useful account, Square Riggers on Schedule (Princeton University Press, 1938), gives the following New York to Liverpool passage times for North Atlantic sailing packets in the period 1818-1832 as follows: Fastest crossing – 21 days. Slowest crossing -29 days.

How long did it take to travel in the 1700s?

18th-century travel time

Over land, the trip would take 10-14 days.

How long did it take to get from London to Edinburgh in 1750?

It would take more than three days to travel from London to York by stagecoach in 1750, and almost 10 days to get to Edinburgh.

How long did it take to sail from England to America in the late 1800s?

The voyage took between 40 and 90 days, depending on the wind and weather. In steerage, ships were crowded (each passenger having about two square feet of space) and dirty (lice and rats abounded), and passengers had little food and ventilation.

How long did it take to get across the Atlantic in the 1700s?

Tell students that Henry Hudson was a European explorer traveling across the Atlantic during the colonial period. It took Hudson more than two months to sail from Amsterdam to New York City on his sailing ship, the Half Moon. A modern ocean liner, such as the Queen Mary 2, makes the trip from Europe in seven days.

How long was the transatlantic voyage in 1800s?

The passenger liner era roughly lasted for about 100 years, from the mid-19th century to the mid-20th century. Its evolution can be divided into four distinct phases: Introduction. The steamship Great Western can be considered one of the first liners in 1838, crossing the Atlantic in 15.5 days.

How long did a Grand Tour last?

They are bound for Italy.” How long did they go for? Originally, the Grand Tour was expected to last about three and a half years: six months of travelling and three years of living abroad, allowing gentlemen to absorb the cultures they were visiting and improve their language skills.

When did The Grand Tour end?


Series Episodes Originally released
Last released
1 13
2 11
3 14

Why did The Grand Tour end?

In April 2019, Mr Clarkson appeared to well up as he spoke in the final episode of season three. This was because the trio were announcing that they would no longer be doing shows from their tent, meaning there would be no more studio audiences.

Which movement in 16th 17th century Europe led to the phenomenon of cultural tourism ‘?

The Renaissance was a cultural movement that began in Italy in the 14th century, and spread to the rest of Europe during the 15th and 16th centuries.

When did Traveling begin?

Mankind has come a long way in transportation since Christopher Columbus sailed to the new world from Spain in 1492, an expedition which took over 10 weeks to arrive at the final destination; to the 21st century where aircraft allow travel from Spain to the United States overnight.

When did mass tourism start?


The beginning of mass tourism is largely related to various changes, which occurred in the industrial societies in the second half of the twentieth century. In fact, the history of mass tourism began in 1851 when Thomas Cook led a mass of tourists to the Great Exhibition in London (Page 2012).

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