Hottest European cities: the Grand Tour

By Sergio González | 13:02

Lyon, the last stop in France before facing the Alps

Oh, the old continent. Europe is in most poeple’s minds as a fine destination, a place you must tour around at least once in life. An Eurotrip it’s like driving across Australia or all along Route 66 in the USA. It’s a crazy adventure you want with friends, a life-changing experience to tell your grandchildren.

Driving away the vast spaces of North America or the Outback was promoted by 20th century movies but Eurotrips date back as late as 1611, when Thomas Coryat published his personal travel journey, Coryat’s Crudities. His travel manual across Western Europe brought back to England the news of a wonderful Renaissance world and other fashion form the continent. Some of them simple yet very effective tools like the fork.

Soon afterwards, an overwhelming interest for ‘discovering Europe’ arose in English nobles’ hearts and in other men of means and the Grand Tour became one of the most famous trips in the continent -pilgrimages will remain the most popular for some more centuries.

You could start your Grand Tour wherever you wanted, but the main important itinerary would see you part from Dover, waiting to cross the English Channel and arrive in the French coast, Calais or Le Havre, or the Spanish Netherlands, in Ostend.

The Grand Tour was about visiting the best cities in Europe, just the same as nowadays, but was also an enlightening voyage, from which you were supposed to come back home smarter and more cosmopolite, a man of the world if you may.

In Paris, you and your entourage would be visit Montmartre and Le Jardin du Luxembourg but most of your time would be spent learning the fine French manners and customs: dancing, fencing and riding. Paris was seen like a modern Ivy League University, the place where to learn sophistication and leadership for a future career in politics or diplomacy.

From Paris, heading South you’d arrive to Orleans and the Burgundian country side. You’d admire the Champagne region and keep on traveling to Lyon, getting closer to the Alps. The Grand Tour was all about becoming a greater man and getting inspired by picturesque rural scenery was a great deal of it -Romanticism is at its peak. Learn from these fellows and spend some time discovering France, which is much more than just Paris.

Once you trained your palate with the finest wines and cheese and recited some poems to enough naive sephards’ daughters, Switzerland is waiting for you.

The cradle of Protestant Reformation was a place where science, medicine and other fields -banned by Catholic faith- flourished away from Rome’s veto. Many breakthroughs of that time where made in Geneva or Zurich and their universities always burst with students from all the continent.

While in Geneva, you were supposed to learn physics and maths but also to display some of your education and charms acquired in Paris. Not a big capital city, Geneva housed some of the most prominent and wealthiest families of Europe, where they ruled a little kingdom of who was who. Must you be a fine single young man, this was the place to leave that behind to the heir of a beautiful and lovely fortune.

For 21st century Grand Tour travelers, we boast the ideal accommodation for you in Switzerland. If you feel to impress your future bride, show off all your finest charms at NH Rex in Geneva. If you just want to focus on your personal travel experience, NH Zurich Airport and NH Geneva Airport are both four-starred modern hotels with all the facilities and so convenient to allow you to move on.

In Italy it’s all about art, art and art

You would say goodbye to Switzerland crossing the Alps in your way to Italy. Practising some healthy mountain sports was in order during this crossing -here lay the origins of alpinism- but not to get dirty with mundane things. Your servants would carry your luggage and dismantle your carriage while you would ride happily; Giacomo Casanova’s style.

In Italy we must spend some more time, learning from Renaissance marvels in Pisa and Florence or admiring ancient Roman architecture. During this time, many buildings or places like Pompeii were being discovered, gained from the past; the Grand Tour travelers were some of the first tourists here.

Rome and Venice, where curiosity should lead you to improve your Arts knowledge, would be the following stops in Italy. We’ll be talking about Italian cities in the next weeks so stay with us to learn about the coolest Italian urban destinations.

From Venice you would start your way north, back home, but first you would meet some musicians and composers in Austria and maybe you would make a turn to Berlin, which was as thriving back then as it is nowadays.

With all your recently acquired knowledge, a lot of new experiences and stories to tell you were ready to get back to England and start a prominent life as a respectable Victorian subject.

Photo credit: Pierre Metivier

Photo credit: Marcus Obal

 

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