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Modern tourism can be traced to what was known as the Grand Tour, which was a traditional trip around Europe (especially Germany and Italy), undertaken by mainly upper-class European young men of means, mainly from Western and Northern European countries. In 1624, young Prince of PolandLadislaus Sigismund Vasa, the eldest son and heir of Sigismund III, embarked for a journey across Europe, as was in custom among Polish nobility.[35] He travelled through territories of today’s Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, where he admired the Siege of Breda by Spanish forces, France, Switzerland to Italy, Austria, and the Czech Republic.[35] It was an educational journey[36] and one of the outcomes was introduction of Italian opera in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth.[37]

The custom flourished from about 1660 until the advent of large-scale rail transit in the 1840s, and generally followed a standard itinerary. It was an educational opportunity and rite of passage. Though primarily associated with the British nobility and wealthy landed gentry, similar trips were made by wealthy young men of Protestant Northern European nations on the Continent, and from the second half of the 18th century some South American, US, and other overseas youth joined in. The tradition was extended to include more of the middle class after rail and steamship travel made the journey easier, and Thomas Cook made the “Cook’s Tour” a byword.

The Grand Tour became a real status symbol for upper class students in the 18th and 19th centuries. In this period, Johann Joachim Winckelmann’s theories about the supremacy of classic culture became very popular and appreciated in the European academic world. Artists, writers and travellers (such as Goethe) affirmed the supremacy of classic art of which Italy, France and Greece provide excellent examples. For these reasons, the Grand Tour’s main destinations were to those centres, where upper-class students could find rare examples of classic art and history