Grand Tour

Lesson at a glance

Curriculum topics: Recreation through time

Do you know anyone who has spent time travelling abroad?

Sometimes older students finish school and save up money to go abroad. They might travel from place to place, looking for paid work as they go. It is an adventure. The idea is to experience new sights, cultures and people – and to learn about the world in a hands-on way rather than in school.

This tradition dates back to the 17th and 18th centuries, when it became very fashionable for wealthy young men (and later women too) to take the ‘Grand Tour’. At school, they would have learned about ancient French literature, Italian art and Greek philosophy from books.

The Grand Tour encouraged students to travel to France, Italy or to Greece to see these things for themselves – to view the original paintings and to walk around famous buildings they had only seen images of in books before.

The very rich could afford to travel in horse-drawn carriages, and sometimes they might even have paid someone to carry them if the paths were too narrow. Only the very rich could afford the luxury of travel for fun, although the coming of the railways did bring the costs down a little towards the end of the 19th century.


Look at document WO 78/419 (27). This map of Italy was drawn in the mid-1700s. Italy was the most popular destination on the Grand Tour.

  • Can you find the following places Holy days – very popular with visitors on the Grand Tour?
  • If you were to visit Italy, which places would you want to visit and why?
  • Look at the drawings on the bottom left of the map. Describe what is happening in each drawing. Can you name the volcano? Why might these drawings have been included on the map?

Look at document COPY 1/497.

  • Describe the scene in this photograph.
  • What are the people looking at? What is the photographer looking at?
  • Are there any clues to help us date this photograph?

The photograph was taken in 1906 from the railway station of Pompeii in Italy. It shows tourists watching Vesuvius erupting. Pompeii had been an ancient Roman city, and a popular summer holiday destination for rich Romans. Fruits and vines grew well in the dark rich earth there. In AD 79, Vesuvius famously erupted killing many of the residents of this city and burying the buildings under layers of ash. There were many further eruptions (including the major eruption of 1631 depicted in the map you looked at earlier). From the mid 18th century, the lost city of Pompeii began to be excavated and became a very popular tourist destination. People loved the idea of travelling back in time and seeing what a Roman city looked like. Railways made it possible for more people to visit historic sites such as Pompeii because travel was cheaper than by horse and carriage.

  • Why do you think Pompeii has attracted so many tourists over the years?
  • Have you ever visited a historic site? What did you like about it? What did you learn about it? How was it different from just reading about it in a book or on the internet?

Look at document COPY 1/209 (362e). During the 18th and early 19th centuries tourists abroad would travel by horse and carriage. Roads were in such bad condition that journeys were difficult and long as well as dangerous. Once a traveller arrived at their destination they tended to want to stay there for some time before making the return journey. This meant that travellers had to bring clothes for all weathers, food and drink to last the journey as well as books and games for relaxation.

  • How many suitcases and packages can you find?
  • What sorts of things do you think this lady might have packed for her journey?
  • The more luggage people took, the more expensive the journey. If you had to choose only 10 items to take on your long journey, what would they be? Could you fit them all in one bag?

Look at document COPY 1/221 (247). Thomas Cook started his travel agency business in 1841. At first, he booked trains to take people out for day trips around Britain. Later when his son took over the family business, Thomas Cook & Son offered tours around Europe too. People liked the idea of having someone to help them have a good holiday- booking tickets, making sure they caught the right train and giving advice on where to eat and what to do.

  • Can you work out who is on holiday and who is the tour guide?
  • Look carefully at the poster. What sort of people could go on a Thomas Cook escorted holiday?
  • What do you think the people are looking at? What do you think they are saying?

Activity ideas

  • Tourists on the Grand Tour loved finding a great view! They loved trying to capture beautiful scenery or buildings through painting and later photography. Find your favourite view and paint or photograph it. Use the painting/photo to create a postcard and send someone a home- made postcard telling them a bit about this view.
  • Plan your own ‘Grand Tour’ around where you live. Which destinations would you choose? What would be the highlights? Are there any great views, buildings, interesting historical sites near you, that could be included? Perhaps you could create your own travel agency like Thomas Cook did and offer escorted tours of your local area to your family?
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Lesson at a glance

Curriculum topics: Recreation through time