The Orient Express — Recreating The Luxury Train Journey
Travel5 Minutes Read

The Orient Express — Recreating The Luxury Train Journey

April 3, 2022 Share

The Orient Express — the classic train voyage from Paris to Istanbul evokes adventure in style and is a journey that has been lost to the ages.

Various routes of the Orient Express operated in some capacity until 2009 — when the trains were finally shut down for good. Or maybe not? Luxury services running at least part of the journey are springing up allowing travellers to recreate the experience.

The Venice Simplon-Orient Express, run by luxury train company Belmond, now offers four-day train journeys from London to Venice in the original, restored carriages of the Orient Express.

The cars have been painstakingly restored with marquetry panels and designs by Art Deco artists, giving this train the authentic feel of the original luxury liner.

Starting at St Pancras in the heart of London, a chauffeur takes you to your business class Eurostar train where you will travel to Lille and then take a short trip to Calais. Then, you see it.

The classic blue and gold carriages of a train from the past — the golden age of luxury European rail travel. Notice the elegance of the oak-panelled walls of your cabin or suite as you unpack your things.

The Eiffel Tower in Paris, France. The traditional starting point of the Orient Express.
The Orient Express traditionally began in Paris. Credit: Cyril Mazarin

In the evening, head to the bar car to sip expertly crafted cocktails while listening to an esteemed pianist. The train has extensive champagne and wine lists for those who fancy some bubbly or vino.

From here guests will head to one of the three restored dining cars to feast on lobster from Brittany or salt marsh lamb among other offerings.

After a nightcap guests will be surprised to find their cabins turned into sleeping compartments. Let the rocking of the train lull you to sleep as you speed towards the Alps in the heart of Europe.

Awake to the stunning beauty of the Swiss alps passing your window while breakfast is served in your cabin. The stunning scenery transforms as you pass into Italy through the Dolomites.

After a luxurious 3 course lunch, the train arrives in Venice where guests will be melancholy to be transported from the 1920s back to the present.

The trip is not over yet, however. Take a water taxi to the Baglioni Hotel Luna — one of the most exclusive in Venice. From there explore Venice’s famed architecture in the evening, and watch the sunset over San Marco’s square.

Domes and canals in Venice.
The Venice Simplon-Orient Express typically ends in Venice, Italy. Credit: Henrique Ferreira

In the morning enjoy breakfast on the rooftop terrace with panoramic views of the incredible domed city. The day is spent exploring the city, with a tailored holiday planner catering to your interests.

Some favourites are exploring the Venetian waterways via Gondola or taking a private tour of the islands. When finished exploring head to the Hotel Metropole, which was frequented by the likes of Ernest Hemmingway, and enjoy an expertly crafted Bellini.

Another night in the luxurious Baglioni Hotel Luna and you will be expected to head home from the trip. Cabins start at approximately $4,850 in the low season and $5,250 in the high season. The price includes the 5-star hotel stays as well as meals and a return flight to the UK.  

A palace in Budapest.
Once a year, the Venice Simplon-Orient Express continues on to Budapest and on to Istanbul. Credit: Gabriel Miklos

But ‘Venice is not Istanbul’ you say? Surely, this is only half of the journey. You would be right and once a year, Belmond offers the full journey from Paris to Constantinople.

The journey begins in Paris, however, instead of heading to Venice, the train continues on to Budapest where travellers will stay overnight in the Gresham Four Seasons and have time to explore the city.

The train then crosses into Romania stopping at Peles Castle on its way to Bucharest. Travellers stay at the JW Marriot in town and take a sightseeing tour of the city.

Then, cross the Danube into the rolling countryside of Bulgaria where guests enjoy the scenery as they make their way overnight to Istanbul.

Travellers arrive in Istanbul after lunch the next day to explore at their own leisure or on guided excursions arranged by Belmond. Guests will stay at the Four Seasons Sultanahmet Hotel where they can explore the Blue Mosque, the famed Hagia Sophia and the Grand Bazaar.

Istanbul, the final destination of the Orient Express.
Istanbul, the final stop on the Orient Express, where east meets west. Credit: Fatih Yuryur

If you are lucky enough to book tickets on this rare journey, expect to shell out approximately $23,000 per passenger for the trip. Truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience, there is no way to traverse Europe that is more luxurious or more comfortable.

But what if you can’t book the full journey? Trains are often sold-out years in advance due to the rare nature of the trip.

Beginning in 2023, a new luxury service continues the journey across the Balkans and the Bosporus, completing the famed luxury train journey from Italy.

The new Orient Express La Dolce Vita, owned by the Accor hotel group, will hit the tracks in 2023 heading to various destinations in Europe including the classic final half of the Orient Express route — Italy to Istanbul.

Destinations include several cities around Italy including Rome, Milan, Florence and Venice but notably, it will travel to international destinations including Paris, Split and Istanbul.

Rome, a departure point for the Orient Express La Dolce Vita.
Many of the journeys of the new Orient Express La Dolce Vita depart from Rome. Credit: Christopher Czermak

The interior of the train is being designed by Milan-based design firm Dimorestudio. This competition with the Venice Simplon-Orient Express looks not to emulate the famed train but provides a new interpretation of the journey.

“We’re not creating a replica, but our own interpretation of the train, with an eye towards our heritage,” Emiliano Salci, one of Dimorestudio’s co-founders, told Conde Nast Traveler, “The interiors will draw influences from the golden age of Italian design — the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s — and combine retro touches with a more modern aesthetic. Every aspect of it will be a balance between the historical and the contemporary.”

The train itself eschews the 1920’s Act Deco look of the Venice-Simplon Orient Express for a post-modern, colourful 1960s and 70s design.

It boasts 12 deluxe cabins, 18 suites and an honour suite — for those who wish to shell out for the ultimate luxury.

A train on a bridge in the countryside.
Train travel is seeing a resurgence in Europe. Credit: Roland Losslein

Although exact details have not yet been released, each train will have dining cars with five-star menus catered by international and Italian chefs and sommeliers — with a specific focus on Italian wines and foods.

As travellers await more details of this new service opening in 2023, it is thought that riding these new luxury trains will cost around $2,300 per person — although this isn’t set in stone.

All of this comes amid a resurgence in the popularity of train travel across Europe. More sustainable than jet-setting across the continent, both luxury and regular sleeper class trains are making a comeback in Europe.

This so-called ‘slow travel’ allows travellers to relax and take in the scenery that will be missed during plane travel. More and more, travel is becoming about the journey rather than the destination. Harkening back to an era when style and comfort mattered more than reaching a destination quickly.

One can be sure that you travellers will experience both on these luxury train journeys across Europe.

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Author: Matthew Dooley
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