Is there a database, or something, available to find out what the average time for travelling inside Europe was in the 18th century for somebody not from nobility or diplomatic service.

Was carriage travelling was accessible to nearly anybody (I suppose not...)? Where all "low class" people then only travelling by walking?

Do you think using only google map in "walking mode" or Orbis would be enough to assume a length (let's see average of 8hours walking a day at 5km/h)?

I'm interested in the travels of a musician going in the 1720ths from Milan to Brussels, and then Brussels to London (including a boat then obviously). And possibility direct travels between Milan and London.

Many thanks for your help


3 Answers 3


To get answers to your specific questions, you are probably going to have to piece together bits of information. Here are a few bits that might help, and a few websites at the end which might prove useful.

The time a journey took would have depended not just on what mode of transport someone could afford but also on the points of departure and arrival. Some places were far more accessible than others - terrain, weather & season, availability of river or coastal transport (often a faster option than travelling by land) and size of the town played a large part in determining the quality of roads and the transport options available. Roads in, near or joining major cities were usually better, but not always:

In London itself the Edgware Road was often deep in sludge, while one irate resident complained that the road from Kensington to Westminster had 'grown so infamously bad that we live here in the same solitude as we would do if stranded on a rock in the middle of the ocean'. (from Asa Briggs 'A Social History of England')

Carriages weren't just for the rich - they had cheap seats too (a basket on the back or sitting on the roof). The average speed seems to have been around 4 miles per hour. Ox-drawn carts were mostly used to carry goods but perhaps they accepted the odd hitch-hiker too. I'm not sure if your musician would have been able to hire a horse - that would perhaps have depended on how much he was able to earn from his profession.

You mentioned travelling from Milan to Brussels. One option would have been through the Alps which took 5 or 6 days if going via Mont Cenis, depending on the season. This had been a popular route since at least the thirteenth century. Another option would have been going from Milan down to Genoa and then taking a boat to Marseille. Jordan Girardin's PhD thesis Travel in the Alps gives more details on this, as well as options for travelling through the Alps. Once in Marseilles, the (modern) map below gives an idea of how someone might get to Amsterdam largely by River. You can find information on travelling up the Rhone on this Wikipedia page Rhone (History). enter image description here

As for crossing the channel:

the crossing from Dover to Calais could take anywhere from 3 to 12 hours depending on the wind and waves. A traveler might have to wait in Dover for a week or more for the wind to be in a direction that favored crossing the English Channel. In 1772, Dr. Burney, the music historian, spent nine days waiting for good weather. (from Grand Tour)

Sources: Asa Briggs, ' A Social History of England'

Elizabeth Anne McFarlane, 'French travellers to Scotland, 1780-1830 : an analysis of some travel journals' (PhD Thesis, 2015)

Jordan Girardin, 'Travel in the Alps:The Construction of a Transnational Space Through Digital and Mental Mapping 1750s - 1830s'

Channel Ferries and ferry Ports

Grand Tour

Carriages: 17th century

How could you travel across Europe in the 1800s?

18th Century Transportation

  • I'm intrigued that the map places Amsterdam overtop Rotterdam's location, rather than its proper location right at the south-west corner of the Zuider Zee. Is that your oversight or the originator's? Jun 12, 2021 at 11:54
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    @PieterGeerkens The originator's, but I hadn't noticed to be honest. I can't find the original online anymore - I think it came from the broken (Grand Tour) link, but I didn't source it very clearly (which I'm now kicking myself for). Jun 12, 2021 at 12:30
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    Few will notice - I noticed because my dad grew up in Schiedam, a few miles west of Rotterdam proper. Jun 12, 2021 at 13:28

An average traveller, at least in France, had 3 ways of travel. By foot, renting a horse, inside a coach. My ancestors had a coach company, unfortunately I can not ask them anymore for obvious reasons. I think by foot you can walk 4 hours a day in plains, therefore explaining the average distance of 16 kilometers between villages. Renting a horse, if you had the money, would allow for faster travel, maybe 28 kilometers between 2 post relays. Sources : https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malle-poste https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Relais_de_poste https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lieue

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    Sources would improve this answer. (My estimate is roughly similar to yours, but I cannot back it with sources)
    – MCW
    Sep 6, 2017 at 12:01
  • A good riding horse would be able to trot for 6 to 8 hours a day, depending on conditions, at 8 to 10 mph (13 to 16 kph) again depending on conditions. However trotting requires the rider to post on every second step - and only very experienced riders would be able to do that for a full day. Wealthier travelers might have two such horses, riding each on alternate days and thus being able to get a couple or three more riding hours in each day. Jun 12, 2021 at 12:10

I can guarantee you can walk a lot more than 16km a day when travelling. 16km was the commute to the fields.

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    It's possible to travel faster indeed, but you'd need a pretty well maintained road network and reasonably dense travel infrastructure (i.e. places where you can buy food or stay for a night) to do so consistently. Sep 6, 2017 at 13:20
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    You should not forget we're talking about ancien times. No trainer shoes but only wood sabots. No comfortable backpack but only a nap at the end of a stick. No roadsign. No concrete nor tarmac, only gravel or mud. Sep 7, 2017 at 7:41
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    Still. I can do 30km a day on trail. 16km is an easy hike (unless it's very hilly). Dec 16, 2017 at 13:53
  • @EmileDeFavas: By 1780 every sovereign state west of the Oder-Neisse is constructing arterial post roads: metalled roads with regular post stations where horses could be exchanged, coaches changed, and accomodations found. Probably Poland as well, though perhaps less densely, though I cannot state it as a fact that far east. Jun 12, 2021 at 11:58

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