The Grand Tour : Digital Experience

The Grand Tour : Digital Experience

“The Grand Tour was a widespread phenomenon, with numerous individuals traveling across a vast geography, and that this long reach is a crucial feature of its influence” (Ceserani, 426).

            The Grand Tour is an educational travel experience that immerses people in the culture of different countries throughout Europe. However, an odd thing during the 18th century was that England was a Protestant country, here as most of Europe was Catholic. Since this trip is to immerse oneself in the culture of another place, why would they go somewhere Catholic? The appeal seems to be that they are going for more of the culture rather then religion. French was a common second language in England so by going to France, people were able to truly get a feel for the language and even improve their speaking and understanding of it.

            Jason Kelly sums up the importance of the Grand Tour in his article “Reading the Grand Tour at a Distance” saying that,

Not only did the world of Grand Tour letters play a role in broader philosophical discussions, but it also influenced tastes, fashions, and aesthetic attitudes for elites across Europe. Moreover, participation in the Grand Tour shaped and reshaped social structures and expectations across a host of realms – from the world of sociability to gender norms to nationalist attitudes (452-3).

The Grand Tour was not only an educational experience for the people who were on this journey, but also the people they came in contact with. The men on these tours were like dandelions, spreading their culture and what they have learned across the places they go and the people they interact with like the seeds on a dandelion.

            Typically, this would be a journey for wealthy young men and would last anywhere from a few months to a few years. During the 18th century is when the popularity began to take off, having men not only from Europe but also North and South America making their own journeys. These grand tours differed depending on the individual, but typically Britain, France and Italy were the top three countries to stop in on this tour.

            As men were stopping in many towns and cities for a long period of time, it was common for them to keep a record of their experience in a journal. Once the grand tour was over, they could look back and reflect on what they had learned from this experience. It was also common to try and get it published once they had returned home to share what they had learned with others.


Madeline Pfaff

Title Page of The Feign'd Curtizans by Aphra Behn


Portrait of Aphra Behn

The Feigned Courtesans by Aphra Behn touches upon the topic of the Grand Tour thorough the characters Reverend Mr. Tickletext and Sir Signal Buffoon. Tickletext is a clergy man who is also the teacher for Sir Signal on his Grand Tour. Unfortunately, these characters make a mockery of this experience. Rather then learning the languages of the countries they’re in and appreciate the culture, their main priority is to sleep with women. They also fail to keep a good journal of their experience as noted by the entry, "The twenty-second, nine of our twelve chickens getting loose, flew overboard, the other three miraculously escaping, by being be eaten by me, that morning for breakfast" (Behn, 32). 

Buckingham Palace 

Westminster Abbey

Britain Magazine


For people living outside of Britain, London was the typical starting point of their grand tour. Though, if someone from Britain had never been to London, they could start there as well. However, in the later half of the century, the Gordon Riots take act so it would not be an ideal time to visit. Some popular attractions are St. Paul’s Cathedral, Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey. At this point, Britain had increased the country’s international standing and was able to open up new trading markets. 


Paris was one of the most popular stops on the Grand Tour as French was the most common second language in England during the 18th century. It is important to note that the Eiffel Tower was not built until the 19th century, so though it is the most popular tourist attraction for Paris today, it was not part of the grand tour at this time. However, this century did see the creation of Place de la Concorde and the Louvre Museum. The Louvre opened in 1793 and showcased over 600 different pieces of art (Oliver, 35).

Place de la Concorde


Apollo of the Belvedere - Found in the Louvre Museum 



National Geographic Kids




Italy is the most visited country on the typical grand tour. Popular attractions include the Pantheon, the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Colosseum. The Colosseum started to receive aid in keeping it from falling apart during the 18th century. It was actually as a result of Christians believing that it was a sacred place where Christian martyrs had died though there is no concrete evidence to support that theory (Hopkins and Beard). The architecture of the ruins of Rome was still impressive enough to inspire noblemen to take notes and try to apply what they had learned towards their own property.


Arguably one of the most refined cities in Europe, Venice is built on a series of small islands in the northern end of the Adriatic Sea. Typically “Many foreigners stopped in Venice on their so-called Grand Tour particularly for the Carnival season and for the great Ascension Day festival” (Baetjer). Special fairs would be held selling locally manufactured and imported goods with everything from books to glass to lace. Venice was packed with things to do from visiting the theater to viewing the artwork spread across the walls of different buildings.



Reenactment of 18th century Carnival

Greek Reporter

Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore


Florence Vineyard

Trip Advisor


Florence takes on a different feel from the other stops we’ve made as it is surrounded by rural farms, vineyards and orchards. This agricultural aspect adds a more tranquil feeling from the busy cities we have traveled to so far. Some of this city’s “cultural giants” include Leonardo da Vinci, Michelanelo, Dante and Galileo (Silver, Ehrilch, Foot). One of the great pieces of architecture in Florence is the Santa Maria del Fiore, which is one of the largest churches in the world.


Overall, the Grand Tour was a cultural experience where young men got to learn more about other countries. Though today you could equate this journey to a gap year, where a student takes off a year from school and travels. The beauty of the Grand Tour is not only learning about the other countries, but teaching people there about yours as well. 


Postcard Collage. Digital Image. Wise Geek.

Depiction of Westminster Abbey. Digital Image. Britain Magazine.

Dot Clip Art. Digital Image. Clipart Library.

Buckingham House. Digital Image. Wikipedia.

By Mrs Aphra Behn - Title Page of The Feign'd Curtizans (play, published 1679), Public Domain,

By Peter Lely - Yale Center for British Art [1], Public Domain,

By Attributed to Alexandre-Jean Noël (French, 1752 - 1834) (1752 - 1834) – artist (French)Details of artist on Google Art Project - 3wG8U2kGC2S3MA at Google Cultural Institute maximum zoom level, Public Domain,

By Livioandronico2013 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Colosseum. Digital Image. National Geographic Kids.

Pantheon. Digital Image. Civitatis.

By Canaletto - Canaletto, Public Domain,

Carnival. Digital Image. Greek Reporter.

Santa Maria del Fiore. Digital Image. Britannica.

Florence Vineyard. Digital Image. Trip Advisor.

Keith Hopkins and Mary Beard, The Colosseum (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005), 164. Background on the Colosseum specifically used during the 18th century. Aided in what big tourist attractions were like during the time of the grand tour.

Cesarani, Giovanna, et al. “British Travelers in Eighteenth-Century Italy: The Grand Tour and the Profession of Architecture.” American Historical Review, vol. 122, no. 2, Apr. 2017, pp. 425–450. As three Italian cities were talked about, this aided in research about those cities. It explained the significance of Italy on the Grand Tour. 

Bromley, William. “Remarks in the grand tour of France and Italy.” Perform'd by a person of quality, in the year, 1691. 2nd ed., printed for John Nutt, near Stationers-Hall, 1705. Eighteenth Century Collections Online. Covered information about most of the cities talked about in the digital tour. Showed the differences between Italian and French cities. 

Nugent, Thomas. “The grand tour, or, a journey through the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and France.” Vol. 1, printed for D. Browne without Temple-Bar, A. Millar in the Strand, G. Hawkins in Fleetstreet, W. Johnston in St. Paul's Church-Yard, and P. Davey and B. Law in Ave-Mary-Lane, 1756. Eighteenth Century Collections Online. A journal entry from Nugent’s personal grand tour. Good insight as to what it was like to travel almost everyday.

Baetjer, Katharine. “Venice in the Eighteenth Century.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (October 2003) Background on what Venice was like in the 18th century. It was focused more on painting and it’s impact on the culture.

Silver, Larry A., Ehrich, Blake., Foot, John. “Florence.” Encyclopedia Britannica, Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc, 22 Mar. 2018, Provided a lot of background on Florence, Italy. Provided the different cultural giants that have been through the city.