For decades, the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express has been synonymous with everything that is sophisticated and glamorous in the world of luxury train travel. The name echoes like a spell. Since its maiden journey from Paris to Istanbul in 1883 the Orient Express has been intrinsically linked with luxury travel. Now operated by the connoisseurs at Belmond, the train has been restored, refurbished and returned to its Art Deco-influenced origins. Today the enchantment and romance are as strong as ever and, in an age that prioritises speed and efficiency when it comes to conveying you to your end destination, the experience of travelling slowly and being on a (luxury) journey is even more alluring.
Indeed, the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express doesn't simply stand on a par with the world's other great rail journeys, it stands above them – not least because of its fascinating history and enduringly elegant design. The rolling stock is distinctive down to the smallest detail. Made up of original 1920s and 30s European carriages, painstakingly and lovingly restored to their original elegance and splendour. Look out for marquetry panels and designs by artists of the Art Deco movement, including Rene Lalique. The overall result is a beguiling evocation of the golden age of travel. Yet the experience of being onboard transcends its historical origins and feels utterly contemporary and fresh. Luxury at this level is timeless.
The train now visits a number of Europe’s most enchanting cities. Alongside the traditional, classic journey from London to Venice via Paris (or vice versa), you can now take in everywhere from historic Budapest to luxurious Lake Como. There's also a collection of new routes for 2021, taking in the likes of Geneva, Brussels, Florence, Rome and Amsterdam. Or, for the ultimate luxury rail journey, we suggest that the most discerning traveller should secure a berth on the very special, once-a-year departure from London to Istanbul, a nine-day journey that recreates the original 1883 route. The sheer romance of this experience is unmatchable.
There is no more memorable an experience than seeing the train for the first time. Arrive early at the station to get caught up in the giddy excitement reverberating through the air. It could be at London’s Victoria station, where you board the umber and cream carriages of Belmond’s British Pullman or at Calais or Venice, where you’ll get your first glimpse of the blue and gold carriages of the Continental Wagons-Lit. The thrill is palpable and these are memories that will stay with you for a lifetime.
Climb aboard and step back in time to a more refined, congenial and elegant era. Walk through all the carriages to understand that you’re travelling on a page of history, taking the time to read the plaques identifying each carriage and observing the different décor of each one.
Head to your compartment and settle in, meeting the cabin steward who will anticipate and attend your every need. Unpack your tuxedo and ball gown; you can never be overdressed aboard the elegant carriages of the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express. When dressed to the nines, hang out in Bar 3674, the social hub of the train and mingle with other passengers. Listen to a pianist play period pieces as you sip pre-dinner signature cocktails expertly prepared by the head barman. Alternatively toast your good taste with a vintage champagne from the train’s extensive selection.
Then, settle yourself into one of the three beautifully restored restaurant cars, taking note of the fine linen, French silverware and heavy crystal that hint at the extravagance ahead. Perhaps you’ll try lobsters from Brittany or salt marsh lamb from Mont St Michel.
After a four-course culinary adventure, retire to your cabin, which will have been discretely converted into a sleeping compartment. Spoil yourself with a night cap then climb the upholstered ladder to your upper berth or snuggle down under luxury linens on the bottom bunk to be lulled by the movement of the train as it travels across Europe, perhaps having taken steps to arrange a celebration breakfast in the morning so that you can start the next day with another magical memory.
There are 88 double cabins (upper and lower berth) and 11 single cabins modelled on the 1920s originals. Each private compartment is attended by a cabin steward throughout the journey, which means that you are assured of attentive yet discreet service. Want to idle your way across Europe in your pyjamas, plush bathrobes or indeed anything else, mesmerised by the scenery flashing by from the privacy of your bed or sofa? The staff are impeccably trained.
During the day, your cabin acts as a comfortable lounge with a large banquette sofa, footstool and small fold out table. There is a washbasin stylishly hidden away in its own cabinet. While, you enjoy a sumptuous dinner in one of the dining cars and drink cocktails in the bar car, your cabin steward will convert your compartment into a cosy sleeping space with upper and lower berths, complete with crisp white linen. Bathrobes, slippers and luxury amenities by Temple Spa are provided.
For a shot of additional luxury take a Cabin Suite, which comprises two interconnecting Twin Cabins. This way you have more space and, after dark, a choice of bed configurations as the suites afford you option of having two lower berths to sleep in. Alternatively, use one cabin for sitting up during day time and the other for retiring to at night.
Three new incredibly spacious suites bring a new level of luxury to the already opulent train. For the first time, and in a welcome departure from the faithful reproduction elsewhere, each Grand Suite includes a private en suite bathroom with showers, sinks and toilet, as well as a double bedroom and a sizeable living area. Named after the three cities most associated with the train – Paris, Venice and Istanbul – these suites are designed in keeping with the general Art Deco motif but draw on their namesake’s associations; chic haute couture flourishes, renaissance design, Venetian-style glass lamps, grand Baroque touches and opulent embroidered pillows and rugs that echo the Grand Bazaar can all be seen.
For the ultimate experience on your Venice Simplon-Orient-Express rail journey spoil yourself with a Grand suite and enjoy more room in which to relax, your own bathroom to freshen up in, more choices of where and when to dine, including private dining in your own suite, complimentary Caviar on arrival and free-flowing champagne in your suite at all times, which could be incentive enough.
Venice Simplon-Orient-Express: A festive journey to Venice
4 days from £3,965 pp incl. flightsSave up to £110 pp – ends 31 October
Enjoy festive perfection on this pre-Christmas journey across Europe, pairing luxury hotels stays in Paris and Venice with the delights of the world's most famous train.
Venice Simplon-Orient-Express: London to Venice
4 days from £3,585 pp incl. flights
Between indulgent fine dining, champagne receptions and private city tours, this elegant journey pairs the ultimate in luxury rail travel with a palace stay in the heart of ancient Venice.
Venice Simplon-Orient-Express: Venice to London
4 days from £3,615 pp incl. flights
A counterpoint to the classic London to Venice route, this journey aboard the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express starts among the exquisite architecture of Italy's floating city before crossing the Alps in style en route to London.
Venice Simplon-Orient-Express: London to Cannes
5 days from £5,335 pp incl. flights
Enjoy a slice of the high life as you pair the world's most iconic train with the glamour of the French Riviera – a summer journey not to be missed.
Venice Simplon-Orient-Express: Verona to London
4 days from £3,430 pp incl. flights
Beginning with a luxury city stay and included walking tour in Verona, you'll board the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express for an unforgettable journey across Europe, steeped in the elegant traditions of 1920s rail travel.
Venice Simplon-Orient-Express: Florence to London
4 days from £4,765 pp incl. flights
Journey aboard the iconic Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, starting amid the exquisite architecture of Florence before crossing the Alps in style en route to London.
Venice Simplon-Orient-Express: Rome to London
4 days from £4,205 pp incl. flights
A counterpoint to the classic London-Venice route, this luxury journey aboard the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express takes you in unmatched style between Rome and London.
Venice Simplon-Orient-Express: Venice to Brussels
6 days from £5,225 pp incl. flightsSave up to £35 pp – ends 31 October
This journey aboard the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express starts among the exquisite architecture of Italy's floating city before crossing the Alps in style en route to the gastronomy, architecture and cafe culture of Brussels.
Venice Simplon-Orient-Express: Venice to Amsterdam
6 days from £4,260 pp incl. flights
This journey aboard the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express starts among the exquisite architecture of Italy's floating city before crossing the Alps in style en route to the canals and museums of Amsterdam.
Venice Simplon-Orient-Express: Geneva to Venice
6 days from £5,195 pp incl. flights
Take the world's most elegant train on a journey to savour, travelling in unmatched style through the pristine heart of alpine Europe between Geneva and Venice.
Venice Simplon-Orient-Express: Vienna to London
4 days from £3,175 pp incl. flights
Board the world’s most elegant train for a luxury journey to remember as you're transported not just from Vienna to London but all the way back to the glamour of the Roaring Twenties.
Venice Simplon-Orient-Express: Budapest to London
4 days from £4,215 pp incl. flights
From the Ottoman treasures of Budapest to the 1920s fineries of the world's most elegant train, this is luxury rail travel at its finest.
Venice Simplon-Orient-Express & Lake Como
6 days from £4,935 pp incl. flights
Travel from London to Verona onboard the world’s most famous train, finishing off with a truly opulent stay on the shores of Italian lake country.
Venice Simplon-Orient-Express & Venice’s Islands
4 days from £4,525 pp incl. flights
Before travelling on the world’s exclusive train, hop between Venice’s archipelago, centring on a luxury stay on your very own private island.
Venice Simplon-Orient-Express Grand Suite Experience
4 days from £7,870 pp incl. flights
From free-flowing champagne to complimentary caviar, experience the ultimate in luxury rail travel with the butler-served indulgences of the new Venice Simplon-Orient-Express Grand Suites.
Venice Simplon-Orient-Express: Return to Venice
5 days from £5,965 pp
Travel from London to Venice, and back again, aboard the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, enjoying all the luxury and elegance of the world’s most famous train.
Venice Simplon-Orient-Express & Verona Opera
4 days from £3,705 pp incl. flights
This spectacular short break combines a journey on the world’s most elegant train with a stay in a converted palace and of opera at the iconic Arena di Verona.
Venice Simplon-Orient-Express & Northern Italy River Cruise
11 days from £6,700 pp incl. flights
Discover Venice and its surrounds in unmatched style as you pair the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express with a five-star cruise.
Northern Italy Cruise & Venice Simplon-Orient-Express
12 days from £6,945 pp incl. flights
Experience one of travel's great pairings as you combine a cruise among the treasures of Northern Italy with the luxurious delights of the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express.
Venice Simplon-Orient-Express: London to Prague
4 days from £3,135 pp incl. flights
A journey on the legendary Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, travelling from the heart of London to medieval Prague. Enjoy a city stay in luxurious hotel accommodation and, of course, a night onboard the train itself.
Venice Simplon-Orient-Express: Return to Budapest
5 days from £5,275 pp
Swap Budapest's Ottoman-era spas and grand Art Nouveau architecture for the 1920s glamour of a return journey on the iconic Venice Simplon-Orient Express
The Adriatic by Silversea & the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express
15 days from £10,105 pp incl. flights Silver NovaSave up to £1,945 pp – ends 10 October
This is a unique chance to pair two of travel’s great pleasures – the world’s most famous train and a sailing to some of the Mediterranean’s most iconic ports aboard Silversea’s latest ultra-luxury ship.
Venice Simplon-Orient-Express: London to Istanbul
9 days from £19,150 pp incl. flights
Experience the glamour and style of the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express as it returns to its original route, sweeping across Europe through France, Hungary and Romania to the gateway between east and west – Istanbul.