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Clarkson's Tour set to be 2,666 times Grander than

Lord Byron's

The Grand Tour was the original “gap year” for aristocrats seeking cultural, historical and artistic fulfilment; Byron, Shelley and Mozart all took the Tour. Nowadays, the Grand Tour of Europe is now within the grasp of most people, including Jeremy Clarkson and his team in their forthcoming Amazon Prime show.

MBNA have put together some research into how prices of travelling to the top European cultural destinations have fluctuated over the years and the eye-popping costs of some of the wealthiest aristocrats paid in today’s money.

Fluctuating costs
The research indicates that costs (in today’s prices) have gone up and down over the centuries, but the trend is mostly downward. As low-cost travel options become the norm, people are able to travel further for less.

With the average gap year now lasting between 6-9 months and costing around £5,000 according to gapyear.com1, 21st century travellers would perhaps baulk at the cost of the 18th Century’s traditional rite of passage. Some wealthy travellers are estimated to have spent up to £709,400 on their journeys. James Cecil, 6th Earl of Salisbury, is known to have blown £478,200 on his trip to the continent.

Author Mary Shelley and poet Lord Byron famously spent the early part of the 19th century on tour in Europe. The estimated cost of their travel is a relatively modest £6,062.91 in today’s money.

Orient Express: Murder on the bank balance?

Later, the Orient Express, immortalised by Agatha Christie’s novel ‘Murder on the Orient Express,’ would make inter-continental travel easier than it had ever been before.

In 1936, the cost of a single fare from London to Constantinople (Istanbul) was just £25, 12 shillings and 5 pence – that’s £1,570 in new money.

The Orient Express on its launch in 1883
The Grand Tour Today
Tourists can now visit more of Europe in one month than in a three-year long Grand Tour.

Modern tourists can even board the Venice-Simplon Orient Express to relive luxury travel from a bygone era. A return ticket from London to Venice costs £3,760 per person, while from Paris to Istanbul rises to £6,340 for a one-way trip. 
Amazon Prime’s forthcoming The Grand Tour starring Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond is perhaps the most expensive Grand Tour on record. The online show, which will be released on November 14th has an estimated budget of £160 million.2
Grand Tour Costs in full (All figures estimates based on available data – sources here)




Cost (in today’s prices)


Ferdinand von Fürstenberg, German noble.


£32,850 a month


Allard de la Court, Dutch textile businessman

London, England

£152.85 a day


Jan van Brouckhoven, Count of Bergeyck



18th Century

James Cecil, 6th Earl of Salisbury

Full Grand Tour


18th Century

Wealthy aristocrats

Full Grand Tour



Tobias Smollett, Scottish poet.

France & Italy


19th Century

American Tourists to Europe

Full Grand Tour

£5,575 - £69,696 (depending on level of luxury, and including return sea passage to America)

1816 - 1824

Lord Byron, Mary Shelley

Full Grand Tour




London – Florence (return)




London – Florence (return)




London – Venice, (return) Venice-Simplon Orient Express




Paris – Istanbul, (one way) Venice-Simplon Orient Express


How They Compare: Modern celebrity holidays
Although they were not film stars or pop icons, the aristocrats were the celebrities of the day. Our modern day superstars certainly seem to keep up with the old elite when it comes to spending on luxury travel:




Cost (in today’s prices)


Simon Cowell


£270,000 a week yacht.3




£60,000 estimated hotel costs4


Kim Kardashian and Kanye West


£11,500 a night5


Beyonce & Jay Z

Amalfi Coast, Italy

£695,000 a week yacht6