• Recreate the maiden journey of the Orient Express
  • Claim bragging rights on a trip that runs just once a year
  • Explore Paris, Budapest, Bucharest and Istanbul with expert-led tours in each
  • Stay at seriously stylish hotels throughout
  • Treat yourself to champagne cocktails and delicious gourmet meals

Just once a year, in August, the classic Venice Simplon-Orient-Express returns to its original route, making the same journey that it did on its maiden voyage in October 1883. While many associate this iconic train with the classic luxury journey to Venice, this epic alternative sweeps across Europe, through rural France, along Hungarian rivers and over Romanian mountains to Turkey’s great plains and, ultimately Istanbul – the historic gateway between East and West. You'll also be treated to a host of experiences, including a visit to Peles Castle in Romania and a guided city tour and Danube river cruise in Budapest. Beyond the places you’ll visit, though, it’s the experiences you’ll enjoy onboard, from the immaculate fine dining to those iconic bar-car cocktails, that make this the most magical journey.

Day 1

From London to Paris

Begin among the Victorian extravagance of London’s St Pancras International Station. Then, let the excitement build as you relax in the lounge before boarding the Eurostar, where you’ll be travelling Business Premier for the journey under the Channel. Enjoy a meal by Raymond Blanc as you emerge onto the Continent and sweep through the countryside into Paris. Here we'll pile on the glamour by taking you to your luxury boutique hotel in the city's famous Latin Quarter, just a stone's throw from the Pantheon.

Settle in to your designer room before picking one or two of the city's headline acts to explore, perhaps the Louvre, Notre Dame or Eiffel Tower. Whichever you choose, be sure to take time to stroll the city’s boulevards, stopping at pavement cafés to make like a local. In the evening, enjoy a secret assignation at the hotel bar, a vampy space set up for liaisons dangereuses, where you can drink fine wines and creative cocktails. Oh là là…

Hotel Les Dames du Pantheon

Paris skyline

Paris from the Arc de Triomphe

Day 2

The city of lights

Order breakfast to your room, take a dip in the indoor pool or book a treatment at the spa. While away the morning strolling along the Seine or exploring Paris further. Then make your way to the 19th century Gare de l’Est, where you’ll get your first glimpse of the iconic blue and gold carriages of the Venice Simplon-Orient Express. Meet your personal steward and let them show you to your cabin. Walk through the lovingly restored train marvelling at the attention to detail. Each original car is a hymn to the 1920s and 30s, with intricate marquetry and Art Deco design.

Each carriage has its own name, its unique personality and its own colourful history. Even its own secrets. Settle in to your cabin as you rumble through the suburbs of Paris and enjoy an indulgent afternoon tea. Later, dress for dinner, catch up with other passengers in the bar car and make the most of the fine dining available in the restored restaurant car. While you eat your cabin will be discretely converted into a cosy sleeping compartment, ready for your return.

Breakfast & Dinner included

Pont Alexandre III , Paris, France

Early morning at Pont Alexandre III, Paris

Venice Simplon-Orient-Express

Departing on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express

Day 3

Arrive into Budapest

Overnight the train will carry you across Europe so that you wake to pretty views of rural Hungary. Over a Continental breakfast served in your cabin by your steward take in your new surroundings. Once your bunks are stowed relax in your private sitting area until lunch. Later in the afternoon, tea will be served just before you roll into Budapest. It’s just a short drive from the station to the banks of the Danube and your luxury hotel. A converted 20th-century palace, the Four Seasons sets the standards for luxury in the city, offering superb dining, a standout spa and views over the neighbouring Chain Bridge.

As the day draws to a close, we suggest a sunset stroll through the city's atmospheric cobbled medieval alleyways after the tourists have disappeared for the day followed by a window seat in the Icon Restaurant where you can drink in the splendid riverscape laid out before you, with the Parliament lit up.

Breakfast & Lunch included

Danube River, Budapest

Budapest, on the banks of the Danube

Day 4

Budapest – a tale of two cities

Immerse yourself in Budapest’s cultural treasures on a walk with a local guide. 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. Slip into a café to tuck into coffee and strudel. Restored, cross the Danube on the famed Chain Bridge in order to contrast the morning’s sights with the citadels, cobblestone streets and royal palaces of Buda. You'll then be treated to a cruise on the Danube itself, taking in the views from the water, before heading to lunch at a local restaurant.

Linger as long as you can then return to the station and board the VSOE once again for the journey into Romania. By now you’re practiced at the routine and can slip easily into life onboard, pausing in the bar car for perfectly prepared pre-dinner cocktails before taking your seat in the restaurant, safe in the knowledge your attentive steward will prepare your cabin.

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner included

Chain Bridge, Budapest

The Chain Bridge in Budapest

Fisherman's Bastion, Budapest

Budapest's Fisherman's Bastion

Dining with Venice Simplon-Orient-Express

Fine dining on board the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express

Day 5

Revolutions and revelations in Bucharest

In the morning the self-same steward will bring you breakfast in your cabin and explain where you are; the peaks outside your window are the Bucegi Mountains and your next stop is Sinaia. Disembark among the pines just like the very first Orient Express passengers and marvel at the turrets, neoclassical statues and sculpted gardens of Peles Castle – the summer retreat of Romania’s first king is a fairy-tale vision.

Back on board, you'll settle into your cabin again as the train makes its way to Bucharest. Your base here is the grand JW Marriott (or similar), which sits just opposite Bucharest's icon – the monolithic Palace of Parliament. Step out of the hotel to explore with a local guide and uncover the striking modernist monuments, spectacular buildings and historic ghosts that haunt the city. Then, end your day in the company of your fellow guests with an included gourmet dinner at an exclusive city venue.

Summer in Bucharest, Romania

Summer in Bucharest

Day 6

A journey through Bulgaria

We’ll take you back to the station where the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express awaits you for the journey south. Leave your cabin door open to glimpse views of the Danube out of each side of the train or to catch up with fellow passengers. Swap stories of your time in Bucharest over lunch before the train pauses in the Bulgarian countryside for you to stretch your legs. Your last evening on board ought to be the perfect excuse to push the boat out.

Spoil yourself with signature cocktails in the bar car and make the most of the fine dining available, made unforgettable by the sumptuous surroundings of the Lalique glass- and wood-panelled dining cars as well as the quality of the food, miraculously conjured up in the tiny galley kitchen. Incredible memories are made of such things.

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner included

Venice Simplon-Orient-Express

Breakfast served to your cabin on board the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express

Venice Simplon-Orient-Express

Steaming through Romania

Day 7

Istanbul – gateway to the Orient

Pull back the curtains to look out onto the Thracian Plain before you cross into Turkey. After a morning at leisure and a long lunch you’ll begin the approach to Istanbul, with spectacular views over the Sea of Marmara. You’d be forgiven for feeling a little blue as you disembark from the train. 

A private driver will whisk you to your luxury hotel, in the beating heart of Istanbul’s captivating Old Town, an iconic building has stood the test of time since 1895. Settle in and savour a crafted cocktail in the sophisticated setting of the Library Bar, before immersing yourselves amidst the sights, sounds and scents of Istanbul, just steps away from Blue Mosque, and Grand Bazaar, then return to relax and revive in your sanctuary.

Stay: Sanasaryan Han, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Istanbul

Breakfast & Lunch included

Days 8 – 9

Byzantine treasures and grand bazaars of Istanbul

Today, delve deeper into the city’s past and travel back to the Byzantine Empire, with first a visit to the Molla Zeyrek Mosque, originally a Byzantine monastery. Visit Vefa Bozacisi, a historical boza shop established in 1876, try the fermented drink dating back to the 4th century. In the afternoon explore Pera, one of Istanbul's iconic central neighbourhoods. In the 1900s, home to foreign traders and diplomats, today, this chic part of Istanbul is a mixture of many boutiques, cozy cafés, old churches, synagogues, and impressive old mansions. 

Conclude your day at the Grand Bazaar, pass the well-worn tourist areas and into the hidden scene of some of the greatest artisans in Turkey. From carpet weavers and metalsmiths, to jewellery designers and pottery painters, you’ll meet the people carrying on Turkey’s ancient handcrafting traditions. As an added bonus you’ll also get access to some of the rooftop viewing points that can only be accessed by those in the know. 

Next day explore the eateries in local markets on both the European and Asian sides of the Bosphorus. From the European side’s Karaköy and the Asian side’s Kadıköy, Stroll through the atmospheric mariner market streets, then eat your way through neighbourhood markets, sampling dishes such as Mersin’s tantuni, Gaziantep’s lahmacun and the ıslama köfte of Adapazarı. Continue on toward the culinary hotspot of Moda to taste desserts from the Black Sea region.

Stay: Sanasaryan Han, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Istanbul

Breakfast included

Grand Bazaar, Istanbul

Istanbul's famous Grand Bazaar

Blue Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey

Views from the Bosphorus, where east meets west

Day 10

Depart for home

Finally, after a leisurely breakfast we’ll lay on a private driver to return you to the airport.

Breakfast included

About the itinerary

"Sumptuously opulent and a rich history proving its worth, I have hand-picked this journey because it epitomises exclusive travel. Step back in time – with champagne in hand of course – by travelling on this height-of-luxury train that took its maiden journey in 1883 on this very same route. "

Andy Austen

Destination Specialist

Pricing information

Guide price from £19,525 pp incl. flights

May 2024 from: £19,525 pp
Aug 2024 from: £21,130 pp

2024 departure dates

  • 31 May 2024 (Paris - Istanbul) / 07 June (Istanbul - Paris)
  • 23 Aug 2024 (Paris - Istanbul) / 30 August (Istanbul - Paris)


  • Eurostar London St Pancras station to Paris Gare du Nord station
  • 1 night in Paris on a BB basis
  • Venice-Simplon-Orient-Express Paris to Istanbul including 3 nights onboard, plus 1 night hotel accommodation in Budapest and Bucharest on a HB basis
  • Guided city tour, river cruise & lunch in Budapest
  • Guided city tour of Bucharest & private group dinner at an exclusive venue
  • Guided tour of Peles Castle in Romania 
  • 3 nights in Istanbul on a B&B basis
  • Transfers in Istanbul
  • Full-day city excursion Historical Buildings of Two Civilizations plus a Grand Bazaar Rooftop Private visit
  • Istanbul Culinary Walk: Two Markets & Two Continents
  • Flight from Istanbul to London