A Glamorous Train Tour Across Europe: The Legendary Orient Express Is Chugging Back

The glamorous Orient Express, that luxurious and iconic train that has become an object of myth and legend thanks, among others, to Agatha Christie’s novel and subsequent cinematographic versions, including Kenneth Brannagh’s most recent one, is making a come back in all its former glamour.

Nostalgically remembered as the most elegant and costly way of traveling across Europe in times long past, the Orient Express will be taking passengers to relive the legendary journey.

Again, a show of luxury travel

The new version of the train, set to start in 2025, is owned by the Orient Express brand which in turn belongs to the French Accor hospitality group and will operate 17 carefully restored original carriages that were discovered in Poland in 2015.

The Orient Express started its journey from Paris to Istanbul in 1883 and its opulence and comfort radically changed the concept of luxury travel. The train went off the rails in 1977.

The mythic train has “a complex history,” according to Travel and Leisure. “The first Orient Express route was inaugurated in 1883, connecting Paris and Istanbul (then Constantinople) via trains and ferries. From that point forward, a number of operators have used the Orient Express name, traveling on a variety of routes that crisscross Europe.”

The end of the most famous train in the world

The itineraries of the most famous train in the world included, according to Vanity Fair France, first connections between Paris and Vienna, then Venice and Istanbul. After that, it threaded its way from Budapest to Bucharest via Belgrade, Amsterdam, Cologne, Sofia, Central Europe. “For a time, it was even possible to reach Baghdad, Jerusalem and Tehran by train thanks to the sister company, the Taurus Express.”

Despite attempts at modernization in the 1950s, the difficulties to move around a Europe cut in two by the iron curtain, the administrative problems to cross from one country to another, the slowness of trains compared with the evolving air traveling, put an end to the Orient Express at the Gare de Lyon in Paris in 1977 after a failed attempt to relaunch the Paris-Istanbul and Paris-Athens lines.

The renaissance

The renaissance of the legendary train is in the hands of French architect Maxime d’Angeac who is refurbishing and updating the carriages, dating from the 1920s and 1930s, to their original luxury.

The dining car will have a classic art deco look “with mirrored ceilings, marquetry panels, and decor motifs nodding to 20th-century illustrator Suzanne Lalique’s tapestries,” Travel and Leisure explains.

“The suites are a touch more contemporary — still in a vintage brown-and-jewel color palette, they play with quirky geometry, from the square panels and circular perspective-shifting mirrors adorning the walls to the abstract comet pattern on the carpet.”

The master piece is the presidential suite, which takes an entire car measuring 592-square-feet. Keeping many of the original restored features, it has a private entrance and the interiors decorated with Lalique panels and custom furnishing.

The opulent suite has a spacious bedroom, a bathroom, a gas fireplace, a living room, a secondary sleeping car and an office, all dedicated to “pleasure, escape, and reflection,” according to a statement released by Accor.

The Orient Express, being manufactured near Grenoble and in the north of France, will accommodate around 60 passengers in its 17 cars. It will have one departure per week from the Gare de l’Est in Paris, and for journeys of two nights minimum.

Other initiatives by the Accor group will be part of the Orient Express project including two hotels in Rome and Venice to open in 2024, and a third in Saudi Arabia.

Before its official re-launch, the Orient Express is making a a virtual appearance through an immersive exhibition at the Design Miami fair in Miami Beach from November 30 to December 4.

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