Just once a year, in August, the classic Venice Simplon-Orient-Express returns to its original route and makes the same journey that it did on its maiden voyage in October 1883. While everyone associates this iconic train with the classic luxury train journey from London to Venice, this epic alternative sweeps across Europe, through rural France, along Hungarian rivers and over Romanian mountains to Turkey’s great plains and, ultimately Istanbul, the historic gateway between East and West. Beyond the places you’ll see though, it’s the experiences you’ll enjoy onboard the train that make this the most magical journey.
Begin among the Victorian extravagance of London’s St Pancras International Station. Then, let the excitement build as you relax in the lounge before boarding the Eurostar, where you’ll be travelling Business Premier for the journey under the Channel. Enjoy a meal by Raymond Blanc as you emerge onto the Continent and sweep through the countryside into Paris. Here we'll pile on the glamour by taking you to your luxury boutique hotel in the city's famous Latin Quarter, just a stone's throw from the Pantheon. Settle into your designer room before picking one or two of the city's headline acts to explore, perhaps the Louvre, Notre Dame or Eiffel Tower. Whichever you choose, be sure to take time to stroll the city’s boulevards, stopping at pavement cafés to make like a local. In the evening, enjoy a secret assignation at the hotel bar, a vampy space set up for liaisons dangereuses, where you can drink fine wines and creative cocktails. Oh là là …
Order breakfast to your room, take a dip in the indoor pool or book a treatment at the spa. While away the morning strolling along the Seine or exploring Paris further. Then make your way to the 19th century Gare de l’Est, where you’ll get your first glimpse of the iconic blue and gold carriages of the Venice Simplon-Orient Express. Meet your personal steward and let them show you to your cabin. Walk through the lovingly restored train marvelling at the attention to detail. Each original car is a hymn to the 1920s and 30s, with intricate marquetry and Art Deco design. Each carriage has its own name, its unique personality and its own colourful history. Even its own secrets. Settle in to your cabin as you rumble through the suburbs of Paris and enjoy an indulgent afternoon tea. Later, dress for dinner, catch up with other passengers in the bar car and make the most of the fine dining available in the restored restaurant car. While you eat your cabin will be discretely converted into a cosy sleeping compartment, ready for your return.
Breakfast & Dinner included
Overnight the train will carry you across Europe so that you wake to pretty views of rural Hungary. Over a Continental breakfast served in your cabin by your steward take in your new surroundings. Once your bunks are stowed relax in your private sitting area until lunch. Later in the afternoon, tea will be served just before you roll into Budapest. It’s just a short drive from the station to the top of Castle Hill where your hotel, the Hilton Budapest, built around the ruins of a 13th-century Dominican monastery, sits among pretty burgher houses. The sweep of the Danube is down below while the spires of the neo-Gothic Matthias Church stand alongside. We suggest a sunset stroll through the atmospheric cobbled medieval alleyways after the tourists have disappeared for the day followed by a window seat in the Icon Restaurant where you can drink in the splendid riverscape laid out before you, with the Parliament and Chain Bridge lit up.
Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner included
Immerse yourself in Budapest’s cultural treasures on a walk with a local guide. Take in the 19th-century opulence of the Vajdahunyad Castle, discover the city’s hot-spring baths and explore the smart squares surrounded by townhouses. Slip into a café to tuck into coffee and strudel. Restored, cross the Danube on the famed Chain Bridge in order to contrast the morning’s sights with the citadels, cobblestone streets and royal palaces of Buda. Linger as long as you can then return to the station and board the VSOE once again for the journey into Romania. By now you’re practiced at the routine and can slip easily into life onboard, pausing in the bar car for perfectly prepared pre-dinner cocktails before taking your seat in the restaurant, safe in the knowledge your attentive steward will prepare your cabin.
Breakfast & Dinner included
In the morning the self-same steward will bring you breakfast in your cabin and explain where you are; the peaks outside your window are the Bucegi Mountains and your next stop is Sinaia. Disembark among the pines just like the very first Orient Express passengers and marvel at the turrets, neoclassical statues and sculpted gardens of Peles Castle; the summer retreat of Romania’s first king is a fairy tale vision. Back on board you can again settle into your cabin as the train makes its way to Bucharest. Your base here is the Art Nouveau Athenée Palace, which sits on the significant Revolution Square. Step out of the hotel to explore with a local guide and uncover the striking modernist monuments, spectacular buildings and historic ghosts that haunt the city. If Bucharest’s lively eateries and hipster cafés aren’t your cup of tea, try the hotel’s English Bar, where German and Allied spies are reputed to have both smoked cigars.
We’ll take you back to the station where the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express awaits you for the journey south. Leave your cabin door open to glimpse views of the Danube out of each side of the train or to catch up with fellow passengers. Swap stories of your time in Bucharest over lunch before the train pauses in the Bulgarian countryside for you to stretch your legs. Your last evening on board ought to be the perfect excuse to push the boat out. Spoil yourself with signature cocktails in the bar car and make the most of the fine dining available, made unforgettable by the sumptuous surroundings of the Lalique glass- and wood-panelled dining cars as well as the quality of the food, miraculously conjured up in the tiny galley kitchen. Incredible memories are made of such things.
Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner included
Pull back the curtains to look out onto the Thracian Plain before you cross into Turkey. After a morning at leisure and a long lunch you’ll begin the approach to Istanbul, with spectacular views over the Sea of Marmara. You’d be forgiven for feeling a little blue as you disembark from the train at Sirkeci station. Take a moment though to admire the grand ticket hall with its fluted columns, Moorish curved windows and giant stained-glass rose window before you surrender to the beguiling charms of Istanbul. A private driver will whisk you to the Ciragan Palace Kempinski, where you'll be treated to spectacular views over the Bosphorus from the infinity pool. Perhaps spend some time getting acquainted with the spa, before heading for dinner at one of the hotel's four superb restaurants. Then, settle into your room or suite as you look forward to a day exploring the city.
Breakfast & Lunch included
Today, let us arrange a guided exploration of the city in the company of a lecturer on Istanbul’s history. They’ll help you delve deeper into the city’s past and take you back to the Byzantine Empire before showing you the Hippodrome’s 4th-century obelisk and the great dome and minarets of the Sultan Ahmet Camii before introducing you to 500-year-old sultan palaces and the instantly recognisable spires of the Hagia Sophia. Conclude your visit with a chance to immerse yourself in the Grand Bazaar where 4000 traders barter and haggle.
Finally, after a leisurely breakfast we’ll lay on a private driver to return you to the airport, before a private chauffeur drive back to your door ensures you can see out your trip in the same style as you started it.
"Sumptuously opulent and a rich history proving its worth, I have hand-picked this journey because it epitomises exclusive travel. Step back in time – with champagne in hand of course – by travelling on this height-of-luxury train that took its maiden journey in 1883 on this very same route. "
Year Round from: £9,990 pp
Valid for travel:
2 x departures 2019 : London to Istanbul (23 Aug 2019) / Istanbul to London (30 Aug 2019) - sold out
2 x departures 2020 : We are accepting waitlist requests – please enquire for more