Travel ideas: Take a trip on the Orient Express

Caroline Cassidy
Dining on the Orient Express
Dining on the Orient Express

Pic: Orient Express

There can be few journeys quite so famous as the Orient Express, with its reputation for mystery, romance and luxury. The brainchild of Belgian entrepreneur Georges Nagelmackers in 1883, and it quickly became a byword for luxury and opulence.

Today, travellers on the Orient Express experience the very same elegance, luxury and excellence, from the stunning cabins and dining cars, to the sumptuous food itself.

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If you're considering splashing out on this once-in-a-lifetime trip, here's what you can expect to enjoy.

The journey
Originally running between Paris and Istanbul, the Orient Express now runs a number of new routes. Perhaps the most popular of these is the two-day London to Venice trip aboard the iconic Art Deco Venice Simplon train, which takes in Paris and Zurich along the way, not to mention the glorious countryside in between, from the snow-capped Austrian Alps to the vineyards and orchards of Italy.

Other European journeys include Istanbul to Venice, a six-day extravaganza taking in Bucharest and Budapest, and Prague to London or Budapest to London.

The facilities
The original 1920s carriages of the Venice Simplon have been lovingly restored to their former glory, and the opulent interiors are truly something to savour. A double cabin aboard the train serves as a lounge by day, with banquette sofa, footstool, table and washbasin cabinet, and by night as a cosy haven with upper and lower bed. For the ultimate luxury experience, cabin suites comprise two interconnecting cabins which can be used as a bedroom and lounge, or as two separate bedrooms, depending on your preference.

Also aboard each carriage is a mosaic-tiled lavatory, and the train boasts three stunning 1920s restaurant cars - the Cote D'Azur, with its Lalique glass, the Etoile du Nord, decorated with the finest marquetry, and the L'Oriental, fitted with elegant black lacquer panels. The 1931 Bar Car, meanwhile, has been designed in the Art Nouveau style, to give travellers a real sense of the train during its heyday.

The food
Fine dining is all part of the Orient Express experience, and travellers can look forward to exceptional European cuisine aboard the Venice Simplon, all freshly prepared by chef Christian Bodiguel. The finest ingredients are taken on board at stops along the route, from Brittany lobster to Provencale tomatoes, and the mouth-watering set menus are included in the price. Drinks and a la carte options are also available, though at an additional charge, and guests can enjoy a continental breakfast on board, while taking in their stunning panoramas unfolding outside.

The Bar Car also takes travellers back to the opulence and luxury of the 1920s, chatting over coffee to the sounds of the train's resident pianist, or enjoying classic prohibition era cocktails, from Manhattans and Cosmpolitans to Singapore Slings and Brandy Alexanders.
The price
As one might expect, a journey so luxurious does not come cheap. A London to Venice return trip, for example, comes in at a pricey £2,990 per person, though you can travel one way for £1,990.

At the top end of the scale, the Istanbul to Venice, or Paris to Istanbul journeys, including six days and five nights aboard the iconic train, will set you back a hefty £5,700 per person.

But a trip on the Orient Express is truly an unforgettable experience, one to savour and enjoy to its fullest extent, so if it's a real treat you're after, you'll find it is worth every penny.

Have you taken a trip on the Orient Express? Tell us about your experience below...