There’s something excruciatingly romantic about the golden age of travel. It was the early nineteenth century, and the world was finally opening up. It was a time that must have been packed with excitement, exploration and more promise than you could shake a passport at; a descriptor that could equally be applied to the travel industry of today, in our post-lockdown world. The parallels between travel’s golden age and our gradually reopening travel industry are abundantly apparent.
So why was travel so much more special a century ago? Perhaps it was the new modes of transport that were taking off; from the jet plane, to the airship. Perhaps it was the huge swathes of the world that still remained unexplored. Or perhaps it was the travel posters — bright, bold works of art created to show exotic locales in their best, most tantalising light.
We’re great fans of these retro, vintage-style travel posters as home decorations. Whether they’re hung as memories of destinations visited or inspiration to fuel your wanderlust list, your home doesn’t contain enough of them — so here are a handful to get your collection started…
Sun yourself with a work of art from the Riviera
Stretching from Cassis to the Italian border, the glamorous, decadent sun trap of the South of France has been home to the rich and famous for decades. And we can see why. With rolling green hills, sparkling blue waters and some of the best-dressed socialites this side of Paris, it’s a sophisticate’s paradise.
These travel posters paint the picture perfectly. From this balmy, bountiful representation of Nice to this many-flagged, many-yachted depiction of Cap d’Antibes, the feel of discreet luxury seeps off the paper. But our favourite has to be this sun-drenched La Côte d’Azur par Avion option; a reminder of how exciting the advent of widespread international air travel really was.
Return to the frosty glory days of the Alps with a resort poster
As Taki Theodoracopulos, the last playboy, writes in his Gentleman’s Journal column: “Such was the rarity of ski resorts back then, that people believed nobody could be unhappy on the slopes.” Take even a cursory look at these splendid retro posters, and it’s easy to understand why.
This first captures Gstaad‘s Palace Hotel: an internationally renowned retreat that sits at the junction of three picturesque valleys. Emblematic of the Art Deco period, this St Moritz-set example features both innovative design and an exotic location. Or, if you’re seeking a reminder of a resort with a nightlife as good as the powder, check out this bright depiction of Verbier.
Gstaad: ‘Palace Hotel — Day’
St. Moritz: ‘Ski-Jumper’
Verbier: ‘Perfect Powder’
Capture the thrill and magic of cities with these works of art
Ski and beach resorts are all well and good, but the real thrill of the golden age of travel came when you touched down or docked in a foreign city. Hubs of culture from cuisine to architecture, these capitals and cities are best seen through excited eyes — something captured in the charming simplicity of these travel posters.
Who wouldn’t want to head to Rome, to watch the sun set from the Ponte Sant’Angelo across the magnificent Tiber, after seeing this poster? Or take a Bentley R Type Continental on a sweep through Paris past the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe? Or, if you’re going a little further afield, tear across the Brooklyn Bridge towards the glittering metropolis of Manhattan? The possibilities are endless.
Broaden your mind with these one-sheet travel inspirations
And, while we’re on the subject of ‘further afield’, why not venture out of cities altogether and really explore the world? With planes taking off around the globe, far-flung corners were suddenly accessible — and nowhere did these paradises look more exotic, exciting and within reach than on a poster.
Take Cuba, for example, where renowned bar El Floridita has been serving daiquiris for over 200 years. Or Egypt, home of the iconic Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx — and a key stopping point for nineteenth century air travel pioneers, Imperial Airways. Or even South Africa’s Table Mountain: a topographical testament to the promise of these posters — the promise that travel truly does broaden the mind.
La Floridita — Cuba
Egypt — Imperial Airways
South Africa, Table Mountain