The Grand Tour was the traditional travel of Europe undertaken by mainly upper-class European young men of means. The custom flourished from about 1660 until the advent of large-scale rail transit in the 1840s, and was associated with a standard itinerary. It served as an educational rite of passage. Primarily associated with Britain (particularly the British nobility and wealthy 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 American 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 less of a burden.
The primary value of the Grand Tour, it was believed, lay in the exposure both to the cultural legacy of classical antiquity and the Renaissance, and to the aristocratic and fashionable polite society of the European continent. In addition, it provided the only opportunity to view specific works of art, and possibly the only chance to hear certain music. A grand tour could last from several months to several years. It was commonly undertaken in the company of a knowledgeable guide or tutor.