Just once a year, in August, the classic Venice Simplon-Orient-Express returns to its original route, making the same journey that it did on its maiden voyage in October 1883. While many associate this iconic train with the classic luxury 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. You'll also be treated to a host of experiences, including a visit to Peles Castle in Romania and a guided city tour and Danube river cruise in Budapest. Beyond the places you’ll visit, though, it’s the experiences you’ll enjoy onboard, from the immaculate fine dining to those iconic bar-car cocktails, 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 in to 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 banks of the Danube and your luxury hotel. A converted 20th-century palace, the Four Seasons sets the standards for luxury in the city, offering superb dining, a standout spa and views over the neighbouring Chain Bridge.
As the day draws to a close, we suggest a sunset stroll through the city's 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 lit up.
Breakfast & Lunch 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. You'll then be treated to a cruise on the Danube itself, taking in the views from the water, before heading to lunch at a local restaurant.
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, Lunch & 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'll settle into your cabin again as the train makes its way to Bucharest. Your base here is the grand JW Marriott (or similar), which sits just opposite Bucharest's icon – the monolithic Palace of Parliament. 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. Then, end your day in the company of your fellow guests with an included gourmet dinner at an exclusive city venue.
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 your luxury hotel – a neoclassical icon built in the 19th century to accommodate passengers of the Eastern & Oriental Express. It's here that Agatha Christie, author of The Murder on the Orient Express, penned her works, with the likes of Edward VIII and Ernest Hemmingway joining her on the guestbooks. Expect grand columns, sea views and indulgent spa treatments.
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 4,000 traders barter and haggle.
Finally, after a leisurely breakfast we’ll lay on a private driver to return you to the airport.
"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. "