Switzerland took a major role in the world of tourism in 19th century. The British bourgeoisie visited Switzerland for its Alpine mountains and Switzerland stood up among many touring sites in Europe in the 19th century.
Tourism in Switzerland began with the British mountaineers climbing the main peaks of the Bernese Alps in the early 19th century, today Switzerland’s tourism industry is booming and is among the world’s top travel destinations.
The Grand Tour began in the sixteenth century and gained popularity during the seventeenth century. Young English elites often spent two to four years traveling around Europe in an effort to broaden their horizons and learn about language, architecture, geography, and culture in an experience known as the Grand Tour. At that time however, Switzerland was only a minor destination for these travellers.
Before the 1850s British only rarely visited the Alps. From the 1850s onwards more and more British went to the Alps and started climbing, exploring and conquering the high mountains. Read more about how the British created modern mountaineering.
The Golden Age of Alpinism is the period between Alfred Will's ascent of Wetterhorn in 1854 and Edward Whymper's ascent of Matterhorn in 1865. Many major Alpine peaks met their first ascents during this period. Although Alfred Will's ascent was not the first one, people commemorate the latter ascent, which marked the start of the Golden Age of Alpinism.
The Golden Age of Alpinism was dominated by British Alpine climbers accompanied by Swiss and French guides. The era ended with Whymper's ascent of the Matterhorn, which caused death of 4 people; 3 well-known British Alpinists and 1 French Alpine guide.
On 22 December 1857 a group of British mountaineers met at Ashley's Hotel in London. All were active in the Alps and instrumental in the development of alpine mountaineering during the golden age of alpinism (1854–1865). It was at this meeting that the Alpine Club, under the chairmanship of E. S. Kennedy, was born. John Ball was the first president and Kennedy, the first vice-president, succeeded him as president of the club from 1860 to 1863. It then moved its headquarters to the Metropole Hotel.
One hundred and fifty years later, the Alpine Club continues, and its members remain extremely active in the Alps and the Greater Ranges, as well as in mountain arts, literature and science.
In 1863 Thomas Cook and his first party of 62 people visited Switzerland, via Paris. A journal of this trip, kept by Miss Jemima Morrell, survives in the Thomas Cook Archives. The first foreign tours went to Paris, via Germany and Belgium, but in 1863 Cook conducted his first organised visit of Switzerland. Thomas Cook transformed Switzerland's tourist industry.
Until the advent of mass transportation in the 19th century, travel to Switzerland was a luxury reserved for the upper classes. It wasn’t until the development of Switzerland’s transportation infrastructure, travel to Switzerland became more common.
The development of Switzerland’s mountain train lines began in the mid-1800’s and many were completed by the early-1900’s. These railway lines were an important part of Switzerland’s tourism industry and have been used to transport thousand’s of tourists. The first Alpine tunnel to be built was the Gotthard Rail Tunnel, built in 1881. The tunnel was under construction for ten years, killing over 200 construction workers.
In 1912, 100 years ago, the Jungfrau railway was completed. It took over 300 workers to build the railway which took 16 years to complete. The Jungfraujoch Railway station remains the highest in Europe.