Can you still ride the Orient Express?
The Orient Express is by far the most famous train in the world. Used as a backdrop for many a novel, most notably ‘Murder On The Orient Express’ it’s no wonder so many dream of travelling onboard one of the most luxurious trains in the world in the same 1920’s opulent fashion.
We are often asked about the Orient Express, including how much does it cost to go on the Orient Express among other things, but does the Orient Express still operate and can you still ride the Orient Express?
This is actually a very tricky question, as while there is a simple answer, it is far more complex than one may first realise. You see, the Orient Express wasn’t the only train of its type, it had sister trains in the same style running different routes, making the question a little difficult to answer.
That said, let’s get to our answer…
Does The Orient Express Still Run?
In short - No. The original Orient Express as depicted in novels and films is no longer in service. Therefore it is not possible to ride the Orient Express.
The Orient Express was officially retired from service in 1977 after running for almost 100 years. After various route alterations and periods where it would not run at all, the most famous train in the world officially stopped running permanently.
Originally called ‘Express d'Orient’ in 1883, the train was officially renamed ‘Orient Express’ in 1891. The original route ran from Paris Gare de l’Est to Giurgiu in Romania via Munich and Vienna.
As previously mentioned however, the answer is more complex than it may first seem. While it is not possible to ride the original Orient Express, it is possible to ride the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express.
Ride The Orient Express (In a sense)
It is still possible to Ride the Orient Express in one form or another. While the original train may no longer be in service, it wasn’t the only train of its type in service and it is still possible to ride a train of a similar style.
The 1930’s, otherwise known as the ‘Golden Age of Travel’ was when the Orient Express services were at their most popular. Very few people know that there were actually three parallel Orient Express trains running during this time.
The ‘original’ Orient Express gets all of the fame and glory due to the novels and films it has been portrayed in, but it’ two sister trains were equally as impressive and simply took a different route.
The three Orient Express trains
- The Orient Express
- The Simplon Orient Express
- The Arlberg Orient Express
The Orient Express
The most famous train in the world. A wide range of routes were available, however the most notable Orient Express route was from Paris to Stasbourg, to Munich, to Vienna, to Budapest to Bucharest to Istanbul.
Simplon Orient Express
As the name suggests, this train departed from Paris and headed south through the Simplon Tunnel and on to Milan, Venice, Belgrade, Sofia and arriving at Istanbul
The Arlberg Express
Another Orient Express style train that took passengers from London to Paris, Zurich, Innsbruck, Vienna and Budapest and then on to either Bucharest or Belgrade before arriving in Athens.
While the Orient Express and the Arlberg Express are no longer running, the Simplon Orient Express is still in service today…
The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express
The closest possible way to travelling onboard the original Orient Express, the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express is now one of the most luxurious trains in the world still running today and taking passengers all over Europe. Including following the same famous Paris to Istanbul route.
Consisting of two of the original Orient Express Wagons-Lits carriages and renamed the ‘Venice Simplon Orient Express’, this 17-carriage luxury train was brought back to life and has been running since 1982.
The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express is a beautifully restored train made up of original, authentic carriages from the 1920’s. The most notable carriage is Bar Car ‘3674’, a beautifully lavish carriage with an Art-Deco design, eye-catching fabrics and polished brass detailing.
Passengers are given the choice of three cabin types: Twin Cabin, Cabin Suite and the famous Grand Suites. Consisting of six unique, exceptionally large cabins, each with their own en-suite; these can only be described as five-star hotel rooms on wheels.
Other Orient Express Style Trains Still Operating
If a sleeper journey across Europe seems a little out of reach, then consider an Orient Express Style Day Trip. With hundreds of journeys available across the UK throughout the year, experiencing what life was like during the Golden Age of Travel is more attainable than ever. Journeys are taken onboard trains of the same 1920s and 1930s era and reflect a similar style.
With journeys starting from as little as £200 per person, you will be treated to a day you’ll never forget with steward service, exquisite cuisine prepared fresh onboard and all of the charm and opulence of an authentic and fully restored 1920’s or 1930’s luxury train.
The British Pullman
Sister train to the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, the British Pullman is a beautifully restored luxury day train from the 1920’s. Offering the same lavish style as the VSOE, the British Pullman swaps dining cars and cabins for carriages with tables.
Departing exclusively from London Victoria, the British Pullman embarks on either a dining style journey or a day trip with excursion. Dining journeys take passengers on a scenic round-trip while freshly-prepared cuisine is served onboard. Excursions take passengers to a city, house or landmark of interest for some leisure time with a dinner onboard the return journey.
The most notable journeys are the Golden Age of Travel, a 5-course lunch with a scenic round-trip and the Murder Mystery Lunch. This journey takes passengers into a murder mystery novel where they have to solve who committed the crime, in between enjoying a five-course lunch of course.
The Northern Belle
Unrelated to the Orient Express, the Northern Belle is still a notable train. Built in the 1930’s, it was used to travel royalty across the UK for various notable occasions. Passengers can feel like royalty themselves with a wide selection of day trips across the UK.
Departing from stations across the Midlands and Northern England, the Northern Belle is a beautiful train with plenty of opulence and style. Each carriage is unique in décor while the stewards complete the overall experience of a luxury train journey.
The Northern Belle also offers a Murder Mystery lunch as well as an Afternoon Tea. One of the most popular journeys by far is the Settle & Carlisle Steam Special otherwise known as the ‘Lakes & Dales’ journey. This takes passengers on a journey to Carlisle, hauled by the Princess Elizabeth locomotive, a special steam engine and only one of two remaining in service.
Conclusion: Does The Orient Express Still Operate?
While it’s not possible to ride the original Orient Express as depicted in films and novels, it is still possible to experience what life was like onboard. It may not be the exact same train in the sense, but it is possible to ride the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, a train of the same style, class and that ran at the same time.
With two carriages from the original Orient Express, the VSOE is still very much an authentic train with carriages from the 1920’s that have all been beautifully restored. Plus with routes very much like that of the original, this is as close as one could get to riding the original Orient Express.
If riding on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express is too far out of reach, then there are alternatives. Trains of a similar style can be savoured for a day trip to get a taste of what life was like onboard. With so many 1920’s and 1930’s luxury trains running with many day trip and sleeper journey options, it’s easier than ever before to live out your dream.
Experience luxury train travel
If reading about the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express and other luxury trains has inspired you, we’re here to help you find your perfect journey. We are the luxury train journey specialist offering hundreds of journeys all over the world for all kinds of budgets.
Whether you want to sample a luxury train journey in the form of an Orient Express Style Day Trip or if you’d like to see the world in style onboard the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, we are here to assist.
Our concierge service comes as standard, meaning we’re here to help in any way you need. Any journey can be booked with a 25% deposit and we’re always pleased to offer discounts for bookings of four or more people.
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