While trains may not be the fastest way to get from point A to point B, there is something timelessly romantic about traveling by rail. Today’s luxury trains transport guests back to the Golden Age of travel, offering a dazzlingly opulent opportunity to see the countryside. Among the most elegant of railways is the Venice Simplon Orient-Express, a trans-European line that traces its roots back more than 100 years.
The original Orient-Express made its first trip in 1883 from Paris to Romania, and the Simplon-Orient-Express route was established in 1919. The train served as an intimate, itinerant manor house for blue-blooded travelers, but by the mid-twentieth century, luxury rail lines reached the end of their glory days. This upper-crust institution might have faded away entirely were it not for Orient-Express Hotels chairman, James B. Sherwood, who purchased two old Pullman cars at a Sotheby’s auction in 1977. The restoration of these and other historic cars resulted in the revival of the Venice Simplon Orient-Express in 1982.
Today, a ride on the Venice Simplon Orient-Express looks and feels much as it did in its fin de siècle heyday. No blue jeans, tennis shoes or mobile phones are allowed in public spaces — in other words, no unseemly intrusions from the modern world. All of the carriages date back to the early 1900s and each has a unique story of its own. King Carol of Romania used one car for his love affairs; another served as a brothel during WWII.
Among the train's collection of Continental European routes is a run between Paris and Venice. This overnight experience incorporates dinner in a beautifully restored restaurant car; breakfast served against the bucolic backdrop of Switzerland; lunch taken in the Italian Dolomites; and late afternoon tea sipped as you cross the Venetian Lagoon. Cars adorned with elaborate mahogany inlays and Lalique light fixtures transport pampered passengers through cow-dotted meadows, past quaint alpine villages and across endless sweeps of vineyards.
When seeking a glimpse of Europe's cultured past — whether you're a seasoned business traveler or a newcomer to the Old World — you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more genuine experience.
Learn more about the Venice Simplon Orient-Express.
More Top Train Lines from Around the World
1. The Ghan: Take a trip through Australia’s Outback by train.
2. The Blue Train: Savor the scenery of South Africa on an elegant railway.
3. Golden Chariot: Indulge your senses on an excursion across South India.
Read complete reviews of the top luxury trains worldwide.
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