This is your chance to retrace the route of the original Orient Express, which departed Paris on 4th October 1883. As this is the reverse route, however, you’ll begin your holiday in Istanbul, taking in its Byzantine and Arabic treasures in the company of an expert historian. It’s then time to step aboard the modern incarnation of that most famous of trains, enjoying the very best in white-glove serve and fine dining as you speed through central Europe, calling in for luxury overnight stays in Bucharest and Budapest, and a host of included tours along the way. Indeed, between private dinners, castle visits and lakeside sundowners, you’ll experience the very best of one of the Continent’s most beautiful regions. It all comes to an end in Paris, where a further included hotel stay will see you right in among the French capital’s Latin-Quarter heritage before a Eurotunnel hop back to London.
Your holiday begins in style with an included chauffeur transfer to airport and access to a VIP lounge before departure. Then, having flown out to Istanbul, a private transfer will whisk you to your central accommodation – a grand Ottoman palace on the banks of the Bosphorus. With its spacious and stylish rooms, sprawling palm-studded gardens and waterfront pool, it’s the perfect place to relax before striking out into the city.
Today’s included tour brings you out into the bustling streets of Istanbul to explore its myriad historical treasures. Indeed, with a lecturer on Istanbul’s history as your guide, you’ll tie together the many cultural strands that make this one of the world’s great cities. Step back to the Byzantine Empire with a visit to the Hippodrome’s impressive 4th-century obelisk, marvel at the domes and minarets of the Sultan Ahmet Camii and trace Istanbul’s Roman roots at the 1600-year-old Theodusius Cistern. It’s then on to the iconic, sky-piercing spires of the skyline-dominating Hagia Sofia before you wrap things up amid the colour and chaos of the city's famous Grand Bazaar.
With the morning left free, perhaps make the most of your hotel’s facilities with either a dip in the pool or a treatment at the spa. Alternatively, you might want to head out into the city to explore further at your own pace. Whatever you choose, be ready to depart at 3pm for your private transfer to Istanbul Sirkeci Station, where you’ll catch your first glimpse of those famous blue-and-gold carriages. Stepping aboard, you’ll be shown to your private cabin – or Grand Suite – before heading to the elegant restaurant car for the first of your included gourmet dinners, prepared by a team of highly skilled onboard chefs. Then, after a piano-accompanied night-cap in the bar car, return to your cabin, converted to a sleeping berth, as you speed towards Bucharest.
Begin the day with a delicious continental breakfast, served in your cabin, as the train winds through the picturesque Bulgarian countryside and into Romania. With a morning on board, it’s the perfect opportunity to take stock of your surroundings, marvelling at the intricate marquetry and ornate wood panelling that sets the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express apart. You’ll also be treated to an indulgent brunch before pulling into the Romanian capital for an orientation coach tour en route to the Athenée Palace Hilton where you’ll spend the night. Ad well as relaxing in the indoor heated pool, you’ll want to get out and explore, perhaps seeking out the city’s 17th- and 18th-century Orthodox churches and grand Art Nouveau villas, tucked away in quiet corners between sprawling parks and delightful cafés. In the evening, you’ll head to a private venue for your included dinner.
Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner included
Rejoin the train this morning for a gourmet brunch in the restaurant car as you continue to Sinaia. This sleepy town, hidden away in the Romania’s Bucegi Mountains, is home to the fairytale delights of Peles Castle – the former residence of King Carol, who personally invited the first guests of the Orient Express to visit in October 1883. You’ll take in the castle’s collection of Klimt frescoes and ornate stained glass on a guided tour before returning to the train for another sumptuous dinner to savour and a restful night on board.
Arrive in Budapest this morning for a coach tour of the city's cobblestone streets, followed by a cruise along the Danube. It’s the ideal way to take in the city sights, from its grand neoclassical and baroque architecture to the healing waters of its hot-spring baths; the Vajdahunyad Castle and Chain Bridge are particular highlights. This evening, having checked into your city-centre hotel, you’ll head to a private venue for a Hungarian-inspired banquet.
Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner included
After a sumptuous breakfast at your hotel, you'll look forward to another day on board the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express and a scenic journey through the vineyards and forests of rural Hungary. It’s a day made all the more special with a scheduled stop at beautiful Lake Balaton, where you’ll enjoy a sunset aperitif. Take time to soak in the views of its pretty upland surrounds, before rejoining the train for a final celebratory dinner and night on board.
Make the most of your last morning on board the train as you tuck into breakfast in your cabin accompanied by views of rural Germany. Then, having crossed into France, you’ll be treated to a farewell lunch before arriving into Paris Gare de l’Est station. But your journey doesn’t end there, as we’ve arranged a private transfer to your opulent hotel in the heart of the city’s Latin Quarter – its themed rooms invoke everything from the grandeur of the Belle Époque to the works of author Marguerite Duras and the 1940s jazz of Juliette Gréco. In all, it's the perfect base for taking in the iconic sights of the French capital, and a fittingly flamboyant end to your travels across Europe.
Breakfast & Lunch included
After breakfast, a private transfer will see you to Gare du Nord for a Eurostar hop back to London where, on arrival, a chauffeur transfer will bring you safely home.
"I've picked this itinerary as it's quite possibly the ultimate showcase for what is the world's most luxurious train. Over nine unforgettable days, you'll travel from the gateway to the Orient, through the heart of central Europe, to Paris, retracing in reverse the original route of the Orient Express. And, alongside the glamour of the train itself, you'll be treated to stays in ultra-luxury hotels as well as some incredible curated experiences that make this journey a trip of a lifetime."