These Vintage Travel Posters Will Make You Want To Say “Bon Voyage” To The Present

Published July 16, 2014
Updated October 17, 2017

People can spend years writing about a specific place and its people; so how do we present our best selves to “the unknown” with only color and a sheet of paper? While modernism and all of its “instant” capacities are all the rage, there is still a place in the art world that holds tight to its older sensibilities.

And the rich, graphically simplistic art of vintage travel posters is as varied as the countries that they represent. Combining beauty and history, this particular medium has retained popularity well past its heyday:

Vintage Travel Posters Australia
Showing that Australia is not only for the nautical minded, this poster from the Trans-Australian railway puts an emphasis on speed and comfort. Source: Diesel Punks

Vintage Travel Poster For Australia
This poster intended to draw visitors to the Great Barrier Reef gives a taste of what’s waiting in ‘the land down under.’ Source: Diesel Punks

Vintage Travel Posters Austria
Austria is a beautiful land known for Mozart, strong coffee, and the Alps. It is also apparently home to wandering bands that cruise the countryside. Source: Diesel Punks

Posters For Traveling To Vienna
Austria is also known for Vienna; this poster gives just a hint at the art and beauty that is to be found in the country’s capital. Source: Diesel Punks

Though Siam is no longer the name of the area, this poster from Bangkok, Thailand still holds much visual interest. Looking both classical and futuristic, this artist was ahead of his time. Source: Diesel Punks

Vintage Travel Posters Java
A selling point of being “Only 36 hours from Singapore” sufficiently dates this poster for Java. The poster also hints at the exotic location that would await you if you had the time to make the trip. Source: Diesel Punks

The only U.S. entry on this list, this poster’s beautiful depiction of Cleveland, Ohio’s New Union Terminal challenges the city’s derisive nickname, “the mistake by the lake.” Source: Diesel Punks

Vintage Travel Posters French
This poster for a French cruise line seems to step on its own feet in the captions that read: “The gentle art of civilized living” and “Bits of France afloat.” Source: Diesel Punks

Vintage Travel Posters Germany Hamburg
An advertisement from Hamburg idealizing the benefits of Mediterranean cruises was surely a hit for weary German citizens wanting to relax and unwind. Source: Diesel Punks

Vintage Travel Posters Germany Motoring
What’s the best way to experience the countryside of Germany? According to this poster (and such a German response), it would be through the automobile. Source: Diesel Punks

Holland Lady
Holland is known for its windmills, wooden shoes, and…yodeling women with handkerchiefs. Source: Diesel Punks

Vintage Travel Posters India Baby
With colors and fonts indicative of the area, India also tries to sell us on the merits of carrying babies on your head. Source: Diesel Punks

If babies in baskets didn’t snare you into visiting India, here are llamas playing horns at a llama dance. Source: Diesel Punks

Vintage Travel Posters Ireland Bray
When you think about Ireland, the first thing to come to mind probably isn’t strolls down the coastline on California-style boardwalks. This poster shows that in Bray, that is exactly what you should expect. Source: Diesel Punks

Visit Ireland Old Travel Picture
This poster wants you to know that Ireland is “the land of eternal youth”, as well as a great place to travel by train. Source: Diesel Punks

Garda Italy
While impressionistic and colorful, it’s difficult to tell what the artist’s vision was as far as attracting travelers was concerned. Source: Diesel Punks

Vintage Travel Posters Italy
The second example from Italy better shows how to attract new visitors. Boats on the serene water and an old castle in the background were sure to garner the interest of many an adventure seeker. Source: Diesel Punks

Vintage Travel Posters Mexico Bullfight
Touting one of Mexico’s oldest—and imported—traditions, this poster intrigued tourists looking for a taste of Mexican culture. The artist brought out the intensity of the event but in a way that isn’t too graphic. Source: Diesel Punks

Vintage Travel Posters Oaxaca
This colorful entry by the Oaxaca region of Mexico draws one in with bright colors and a promise of traditional culture and ritual. Source: Diesel Punks

Xochimilco, Mexico appears to be quite proud of a river industry of local trade. If river culture is relevant to your interests, this poster probably would have hooked you in for a trip. Source: Diesel Punks

New Zealand Native
Who knew native New Zealanders looked so much like Native Americans? Source: Diesel Punks

Oriental Calls
An exercise is cubism, the ‘Orient Calls’ from 1936 is from pre-World War II Japan. Source: Diesel Punks

Vintage Travel Posters Camel
This poster has a striking resemblance to a ‘Joe Camel’ advertisement. Source: Diesel Punks

Vintage Travel Posters Palestine
Depicting the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, this poster targeted those seeking a religious pilgrimage to the holy land. Source: Diesel Punks

Vintage Travel Posters Paris
The official poster for the 1937 World’s Fair in Paris, France; this poster holds extra collectability as it stands at the crossroads between vintage travel collectors and World’s Fair collectors. Source: Diesel Punks

Vintage Travel Posters French Line
This Paris French Line cruise poster depicts the S.S. Paris, a ship that looks amazingly similar to the Titanic. Tragically, it suffered a fate similar to the Titanic, as it caught fire and capsized on April 18th, 1939. Source: Diesel Punks

Vintage Travel Posters Krakow
Although the gothic art on this poster from Poland is stunning, it likely scared away more vacationers than it attracted. Source: Diesel Punks

Travel To Odessa
The major seaport city of Odessa, USSR (Now part of Ukraine) really plays up its scenic sea view and marine based industry in this travel poster. The poster also shows the strong loyalties held to the USSR. Source: Diesel Punks

Vintage Travel Posters Sweden
Promising the “Most picturesque trip in Sweden”, this poster for the Gota Canal looks as though it could be the cover of a mystery novel. Source: Diesel Punks

Vintage Travel Posters Vikings
The colors, subject, font, and titles seem to have hit the bull’s-eye of what the artist was intending; “We come from the lands of the ice and snow…” Source: Diesel Punks

Whether originating from a travel agency, tourism department or airway, they strike with an instant attraction intended to lure the potential traveler to part with a lump sum of money and head off to their unique destination.

Decades of posters from dozens of countries have created a specific niche for art collectors; many of these vintage posters capture a perfect (and occasionally propagandistic) snapshot of the culture they depict.

And if you enjoyed these stunning vintage travel posters, we recommend you check out our other galleries on hilariously offensive vintage ads and the ten most surreal places on Earth.

Erin Kelly
An All That's Interesting writer since 2013, Erin Kelly focuses on historic places, natural wonders, environmental issues, and the world of science. Her work has also been featured in Smithsonian and she's designed several book covers in her career as a graphic artist.
Savannah Cox
Savannah Cox holds a Master's in International Affairs from The New School as well as a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, and now serves as an Assistant Professor at the University of Sheffield. Her work as a writer has also appeared on DNAinfo.
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Kelly, Erin. "These Vintage Travel Posters Will Make You Want To Say “Bon Voyage” To The Present.", July 16, 2014, Accessed June 25, 2024.