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Last Updated on June 4, 2019

Can you imagine what some of the most famous cities in the 1800s were like? As you can tell by the name of my website history is something I am passionate about – to be able to time travel to bygone eras would be my dream! So I thought I would share something very special to me – over 117 years ago my Great-Grandfather was awarded a book entitled “One World in Pictures” for Proficiency and Punctual Attendance at school.

cities in the 1800's

Contained in the book are photographs of so many of the cities and landmarks with which we are familiar today – however what you will see is not familiar! It is a glimpse into the past – into a world long ago.

So I thought I would share – I am starting with 10 and I would love feedback about these photographs. What surprises you the most? Would you recognise the city if you were to travel back in time?

Enjoy a view from the past of these cities in the 1800s (If anyone has a modern photograph taken in roughly the same spot I would love to see it and add to the post)


a view from the past - Paris in the 1800s

PARIS view from Montmartre


paris montmartre in the 1800s


Top tips when visiting Paris France for the first time


stockholm in the 1800s


”There are the ferry-boats of Stockholm and take the place of horse cars in our cities.”

I have yet to visit Stockholm though have visited Malmo in the south of the country. If you are visiting Malmo or the Danish capital Copenhagen find out how to travel easily between the two cities.


lucerne in the 1800s

Luzern switzerland

Lucerne is one of my favourite European cities – beautiful scenery, fresh air, lakes and mountain walks. If you are visiting Lucerne I would highly recommend taking a trip up Mt Pilatus. It will take a day but will be a memorable trip not only because of the wonderful views but because of the many methods of transportation you will take on your journey up and down the mountain!

A Complete Guide to the Golden Round Trip to Mount Pilatus Lucerne Switzerland


austria vienna in the 1800s



milan cathedral in 1800s

milan cathedral in italy

Not a huge change!

If you are considering a trip to Milan check out my guide to what you can see and do in this northern Italian city in a day. There is a lot to do so be sure to plan ahead!

One day in Milan - an itinerary to make the most of your visit!


copenhagen denmark in the 1800s

THIS IS ONE OF MY FAVOURITE PICTURES IN THE BOOK! QUOTE – “Copenhagen has two very noticeable characteristics, cleanliness and cheerfulness. Cheerfulness seems with them a universal trait. ” Seems hygge was around in the 19th century in Denmark too!!


And how it looks 117 years later – photograph courtesy of Erin of Oregon Girl Around the World

Best things to do in Copenhagen Denmark (+ tips & itinerary)


cape town south africa in the 1800s

CAPE TOWN BUT NOT AS I KNOW HER! “The town is quite regularly built – the houses are of good size and are mostly of brick or stone , and generally have a veranda in front. The Castle is on the right side of the town and commands the anchorage of Table Bay.”

Cape Town view of table mountain

Things to do in Cape Town South Africa - an insider guide


brazil rio harbour in the 1800s


usa washington dc in the 1800s


Washington DC - what you can do on a daytrip from New York!


cities in the 1800s


Alexandria in the 1800s


I hope you enjoyed a view from the past – a glimpse back into life around the world over 120 years ago! It is quite incredible how much things have changed in a relatively small period of time.

I have lots more photographs of cities in the 1800s around the world to share. It would be fantastic to compare even more cities in the 1800s to see what has changed over the past 120 plus years.




15 amazing UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Europe to visit

25 of the Best Cities in Europe (to add to your bucket list)

20 Best Destinations in Europe to Visit (Part 1)



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This post may contain compensated links. Please read our disclosure for additional information. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

42 thoughts on “A view from the past – 10 world cities in the 1800’s

  1. Jurga says:

    What an interesting idea for a post, Tracy! Really enjoyed looking at the pictures. Would be fun to compare today’s cities photographed from the same angle, just like the one from Milan. It’s also interesting to see how some places haven’t changed much, and will probably stay the same for many other generations to appreciate.

  2. Lolo says:

    Fascinating post! Whenever we travel anywhere, I always try to imagine what it looked like 50-100 years ago, before cars and shops, tourists and modern technology took over the city! #CityTripping

  3. Cathy (MummyTravels) says:

    This kind of thing absolutely fascinates me – especially when it’s somewhere I know well, to see how much it’s changed (or not in Milan’s case!) I love the story about receiving it for attendance as well, what a great memento. Thanks for linking up with #citytripping

  4. Liza says:

    All of them looked so different! I wish there was a time machine and it was possible to travel in time to explore and see how the life was in the cities few hundreds of years ago. Such an amazing post, Tracy!

  5. Alex says:

    I love this! And I love that your grandfather was given it too – maybe that’s what inspired you to travel!? The Copenhagen one made me happy too – how nice to be known to be a cheery city for all those era’s. I want to see more now though!

  6. Laura @ 48 No Interstate says:

    What an awesome book to have inherited! I’ve only been to a couple of these cities but loved looking at the pictures! When I was in college, I walked around our town taking present-day versions of a few late 1800s photos I found somewhere and made a collage to hang in my dorm room. It would be really cool to do something similar with the photos in your book!

  7. Angie (FeetDoTravel) says:

    What a great idea, I love historical comparisons such as this and I have a plan to do something similar in the future (but not quite the same, although great minds think alike eh lol). Love the old pictures, especially Cape Town, mainly because I like to see the old sailing ships which always look so romantic. I know you had fun doing this post, and we have all had fun reading it! #feetdotravel

  8. Anna says:

    It’s always so interesting to see old photographs. But is it just me, because I actually don’t see that big of a difference in the European cities! I think many European cities are already so old with so many well preserved architecture, that they don’t even seem to have changed that much! I haven’t been to Cairo before and I’m surprised that the old photo of it looks quite beautiful and built up!

    • Tracy Collins says:

      I know what you mean – I was fascinated by the transport and the clothes people are wearing! And I love looking at places through the eyes of someone from so long ago ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Shelley says:

    Oooh, these photos are just fantastic. How lovely that your grandfather had this book and kept it in such great condition. I’ve visited several of these cities, but the one that struck me the most was Rio. Wow!! Big change since then…

  10. Stephanie (1AdventureTraveler) says:

    How fascinating to look at cities from a different time. Amazing how transportation, clothing and people looked. Most buildings have changed and some stayed the same. Love this idea of a post. Thanks for sharing ๐Ÿ™‚ #feetdotravel

  11. Travel Lexx says:

    What a fascinating look into the past with some amazing photographs capturing what life was like in some of our favourite travel destinations! Really cool post – thanks for sharing

  12. Kat says:

    Ooh, I love old photos! I’m happy to see that these European sites have not changed a bit since the olden days. It’s good that they preserve history and heritage. Unfortunately, in Asia, some government authorities prefer to tear down the old buildings or change the old landscape in favour of skyscrapers/high rise buildiings to show progress and modernisation ๐Ÿ™

    Thanks for sharing it, cheers!

  13. Sarah Christie says:

    Oh I love this post so much and how some of those cities have changed but still some elements remain is just beautiful and fascinating, thanks so much for linking up #MondayEscapes x

  14. James says:

    It’s wonderful to see how much these cities have changed (or not in some cases). What I see in a lot of the pictures are horse drawn carriages, classic ships / sailing boats, they really give a feel of the era. Today we can take better pictures than we could in the 19th century but in the case of the Milan Cathedral, the original picture is better than the new picture because the building was over a 100 years younger!

    Can I request a future post? I would love to read a similar post but of how cities were in the 1970’s/80’s. I’d love to see a comparison of cities like Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok, London, New York etc.. I’d imagine the difference is huge in just a few decades and cities like Shenzhen were probably non-existent.

  15. Garth says:

    Great idea Tracy, and fascinating to see how some of the world’s most popular cities have changed. I wonder how 2017 will change we look back on current cities in the future!

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