Opulence on the Orient Express 

Rachel Carr
By Rachel Carr  - Junior Travel Editor 6 Min Read
Train interior, dining car

An epic journey on board Europe’s first transcontinental train, travelling through scenic cities and mountainous vistas, served with an abundance of extravagance, the Orient Express offers decadence and delight at the blow of a whistle.


Selling the dream of steam, the Orient Express is synonymous with luxury, mystery, and vintage glamour.  

As the subject of many films, the two most famous being Murder on the Orient Express, based on the 1934 detective novel by Agatha Christie, and From Russia with Love, the legendary train is embedded in popular culture across the world. It conjures up images of an elegant, bygone epoch of time, inviting you to return to the 1920s with its Art Nouveau and Art Deco interior. Still, its history dates back even further than that.  

When the famous, grandiose first-class travel wagon was incepted in 1867 by young Belgian engineer Georges Nagelmackers, the long-distance train heralded an era of extravagance. Passengers sported bowties and tiaras and sipped champagne as the Orient Express embarked on its inaugural trip in 1883 from Paris to Constantinople, as Istanbul was known back then. Much has changed in the world since, but the experience remains the same.  

Train interior, sleeper car

ON A NEW TRACK

Whilst the Direct Orient Express retired in 1977 when it made its last trip between Paris and Istanbul, the original continued to run a regular service from Strasbourg to Vienna until 2009; having been reinstated and reincarnated, it took its maiden voyage to Venice in 1982. The modern-day version of the train transports passengers back to the golden age of travel, still featuring sumptuous upholstery and antique features.  

Today, the ‘rolling palace’ is as close to the original as possible, evoking glamour and nostalgia, and the Belmond train has been renamed the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express.  

The train currently runs from London through Paris, Verona, and Venice on the southerly route, and Venice through Verona and Paris to London via Innsbruck, where it joins the Alberg route. Other journeys to European cities are available — for example, Prague, Budapest, Amsterdam, Istanbul, Florence, and Geneva. 

Alternately, the Orient Express La Dolce Vita is a tribute to the joie de vivre of the 1960s, dedicated to the spirit of freedom and pleasure. Embarking on a journey through Italy, it embraces Italian design; with deluxe cabins and suites, each carriage is the epitome of luxury.   

Gastronomically speaking, the ultimate Italian cuisine and wine await, from the ‘Grand Tour of Italy’ breakfast to afternoon tea, to an appetising aperitivo, and the Le Grand Soir evening dinner. Rendezvous at the Ristorante, where the décor is eclectic with geometric design, soft sage lacquered walls, and sconces that project a deep light.  

Itineraries include Rome, Venice, and Portofino on the Italian Riveria, whilst Palermo, Agrigento, and Taormina offer a Sicilian adventure leading to Mount Etna. Alongside these panoramic views and cultural and historical experiences, there are options for five more journeys into Italy for unparalleled adventures. 

Train interior, sleeper car

A PEEK INSIDE THE MAIN TRAIN

The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express is where luxury and comfort collide. The plush furnishings and theatrical décor facilitate encounters under the vaulted ceiling of the Bar Car, where large windows reflect the passing landscapes. Lamps designed by Lalique punctuate the space, while bon viveurs converse over cocktails over the sound of a resident pianist twinkling the ivories.  

The full-board gourmet dining menu invites you to sample the flavours of Europe, chosen to mirror the type of ingredients found along the route. Chef Jean Imbert blends the rich heritage of the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express with his passion for fresh, seasonal produce.  

Relax after an adventurous day on the rails in the romantic setting of an historic cabin. The banquette seating will give you a vantage point for watching the scenery go by, and, by night, soft bedding will transform the space into an intimate retreat.  

The suites are inspired by the landscape and infused with design from the Art Deco period, and the reimagined accommodation was restored by French expert craftsmen.  

If desired, the decadent world of the Grand Suites’ handcrafted living quarters allows for a private dining experience with a 24-hour butler service and free-flowing champagne. Meanwhile, the marbled en-suite bathrooms mean you can refresh in style.  

Prices may be eye-popping, but so is the scenery. The train travels through the majestic alpine vistas, with glassy lakes, imposing mountains, and impossibly picturesque villages looming as breakfast is served on its journey south through Switzerland’s Gotthard Pass.  

It truly is the ultimate experience for any discerning traveller seeking old-fashioned Hollywood glamour whilst powering through sublime surroundings in an exquisite setting.  

Train Carriage

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