It’s the world’s most iconic and glamorous rail journey. But, while many settle for a one-way trip on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, there is the option to do it all twice. That’s twice the elegance, twice the world-class service, twice the gourmet dining, and twice the epic landscapes, all in one incredible holiday. And, the route changes, too, with the southbound journey skirting Switzerland’s snow-bound peaks while the northbound takes a detour via Austria’s plunging valleys and pretty alpine meadows. And between it all, you’ll enjoy a luxury two-night stay amongst the architectural fineries of Budapest, you'll admire the city’s glorious setting astride the Danube river and discover the distinct identities of it two sides – Buda and Pest – uncovering the royal palaces, Ottoman-era spas and wooded hills of one and the museums, Art Nouveau buildings and Jewish quarter of the other, this luxury city stay is just the prelude to the main event, as you re-join the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express to journey home in consummate style.
Begin your holiday in style as your included chauffeur transfer brings you into the heart of London for a champagne reception at Victoria Station. Then, after stepping aboard the restored 1920s carriages of the Belmond British Pullman, a wine-paired lunch will see you across the Kent countryside to Folkestone for your channel crossing. As you arrive in France, you’ll be greeted with the iconic blue-and-gold livery of the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express before beginning your journey south towards Paris. Once on board, settle in to your oak-panelled cabin, or Grand Suite, and take the chance to freshen up before heading to the Bar Car for a signature cocktail or glass of vintage champagne, enjoyed to the sound of twinkling ivories from the train’s resident pianist.
Then, as night descends, make your way to the restaurant car for your evening meal. A highlights of any journey on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, you’ll enjoy the likes of Brittany Lobster and salt marsh lamb from Mont St Michel, all cooked to perfection and served alongside an extensive menu of the world’s best wines. Finally, after a pause in Paris, you’ll settle in for the night as the train races towards the Central Europe.
Lunch & Dinner included
Awake to views of Alpine peaks, flourishing forests and crystal-clear lakes as a continental breakfast is served in your cabin. The morning is yours to relax before a three-course lunch is served later that day. Spend the afternoon exploring the train or reclining in the bar car as you approach Budapest through the picturesque Hungarian countryside arriving later in the afternoon.
You'll begin your cultural odyssey at your luxury hotel, where fine-dining restaurants and an excellent spa are the perfect introduction to the city's bath-house indulgences and famed gastronomy. Spend the next day immersed in Budapest’s Baroque, neo-classical and Art Nouveau architecture as a top guide takes you on a walk through the city. 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. Then, slip into one of the city’s thriving cafés, born from bohemian roots, to tuck into coffee and strudel.
Restored, you'll cross the Danube on the famed Chain Bridge to contrast Pest’s sights with the citadels, cobblestone streets and royal palaces of Buda. At the end of the day, the hotel bar is prefect for a post-prandial drop of something while we suggest you take a table at the Bock Bistro to sample Hungarian ‘tapas’ and dip into the superb wine list. There’s music and cabaret in the next door Orfeum Club, which evokes the glamour and excitement of the famous orfeums of the 19th century when acrobats, singers, dancers and poets performed to a tightly-packed audience.
Breakfast & Lunch included
Wake to a leisurely breakfast at the hotel then spend the morning allowing the anticipation to build as the departure time for your great rail journey on the Venice Simplon-Orient Express gets closer. Eventually, when the thrill is almost palpable, we’ll whisk you to the station where you’ll get your first glimpse of the classic blue and gold carriages. Then, ensconced in your private cabin, you'll unpack your tuxedo or evening gown, order some champagne from your carriage's steward and relax as the spectacular landscapes of central Europe race past.
Later, dressed for dinner, you'll have the chance to mingle with other guests while sipping cocktails to a soundtrack of period pieces performed on a baby grand piano. When the time arrives, settle into your seat in one of the atmospheric dining cars and let waiters with impeccable service lead you through a sumptuous four-course dinner. After eating you may want to linger longer in the bar with a brandy. Finally, satiated, return to your cabin, which has artfully been converted into a cosy sleeping compartment and retire for the night.
Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner included
A gentle knock on the door by your personal cabin steward signals the arrival of your continental breakfast, served in the privacy of your cabin. Keep an eye out of the window as you travel towards Paris and admire the iconic sights of the French capital. There’s just time to take brunch before you arrive at the coast of northern France.
Disembark from your Art Deco bubble to board the Eurostar and cross under the Channel to England. Here, you will be escorted to the beautifully restored Belmond British Pullman for the last leg of the journey to London. As you cross the pretty Kent countryside in period style and unrestrained luxury, take traditional English afternoon tea, accompanied by a glass of English sparkling wine, before pulling into journeys end at London Victoria.
Breakfast & Lunch included
"While it might seem extravagant, taking the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express on a return journey offers many advantages, not least the chance to experience all that the famous train has to offer twice on one trip. The route highlights central Europe's spectacular scenery and the rural delights of Austria and Hungary. What's more we've paired it all with a stay in one of Budapest's most luxurious hotels – the Kempinski Hotel Corvinus in the heart of Hungary’s capital, a city split in two by its famous chain bridge. I’ve allocated two days for this part of the journey, so you'll have time to see both ‘Buda’ and ‘Pest’ in their individual glory before boarding the train again for an unforgettable journey back to London."
Year Round from: £5,365 pp
London to Budapest via Paris & Vienna - departures: 04 May / 08 Jun 2022
Budapest to London departures via Vienna & Paris - departures: 07 May / 11 Jun 2022
London to Budapest via Paris & Vienna - departures: 02 May / 28 Sep 2023
Budapest to London departures via Paris & Vienna - departures: 05 May / 01 Oct 2023
London Victoria Station to Folkestone on the British Pullman including three course gourmet brunch accompanied by an iconic Bellini cocktail
Folkestone to London Victoria Station on the British Pullman