Experience rail travel as it was meant to be with the sublime luxury of decadent interiors and world-class chefs
While its signature route between London and Venice remains ever popular, destinations have extended across Europe to include everywhere from Vienna to Verona and Paris to Prague. Perhaps trace the train’s inaugural journey on a five-night trip between Paris and Istanbul to stop off for a private tour of Budapest’s grand history alongside visits to Romanian castles and Bulgarian countryside lunch stops. And, of course, it’s hard to beat sipping a Bellini as you travel through the Kent countryside one day and waking up to alpine scenery the next. It’s also worth noting that routes are also available in reverse.
Since the 1920s, the carriages of the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express have set the standard for luxury rail travel. Today, each has been carefully restored to the glory of this golden age of travel. Wood-framed picture windows invite in views of green fields and snowy peaks while small details such as lace doilies and embossed panels round off the aesthetic. By day, private cabins feature plush seating then – while you dine – attendants transform them into upper and lower sleeping berths complete with crisp damask sheets and fine blankets. Draw back the oak panel walls to reveal a washbasin while luxuriant, mosaic-tiled lavatories are available at each end of the carriage. And, from 2017, guests can experience even greater levels of luxury, with the unveiling of the train's new Grand Suites. These spacious accommodations, named Venice, Paris and Istanbul, feature double beds and en-suite shower rooms – both a first for the train – all wrapped up in the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express' signature Art-deco opulence.
Dining aboard the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express is an experience in itself. Exceptional European cuisine is prepared on the train by a team of skilled chefs with fresh ingredients taken on board at stops. Think three-course lunches and four-course dinners of lobsters from Brittany and saltmarsh lamb from Mont St Michel. The train features three beautifully restored 1920s restaurant cars each with its own delightful ambience. There’s the L’Oriental with its black lacquer, Côte d’Azur’s Lalique glass and Etoile du Nord’s delicate marquetry. You’ll also enjoy refined refreshments in your cabin with traditional afternoon teas accompanied by glasses of sparkling wine.
The Bar Car – built in France in 1931 – was based out of the Gare Saint-Lazare in Paris. Today, its Art Nouveau interior hosts guests for coffee or cocktails to be enjoyed to the mellifluous background of the resident pianist. And, with a new bar car unveiled in 2016, its new aesthetics are more evocative of a luxury rail experience than ever. Elsewhere, you’ll find the Art Deco interior of the exclusive Champagne Bar equally welcoming as Laurent Perrier Rosé and Louis Roederer Cristal are served, perfectly chilled, in exquisite crystal.
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The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express – the very name conjures up images of 19th-century splendour, of silent film stars and Agatha Christie. All of the glamour and mystique still lingers, the white-gloved service as faultless as one could hope for from the world's most famous train ride.
Impeccable service, fine dining and breathtaking landscapes provide the ultimate luxury rail experience, travelling between Budapest and London on one of the most iconic trains. It all begins with a luxury stay in the Hungarian capital.
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