Where Does the Orient Express Route Begin and End?

The Orient Express route is synonymous with decadence, luxury, and legend. So enamoring in its beauty and opulence, it caught the eye of such writers like Agatha Christie and Graham Greene, whose literary works made the iconic train world-famous. The novel “Murder On the Orient Express” was adapted into a film, most recently in 2017, one-hundred and thirty-four years after its maiden voyage.

The original Orient Express began in Paris, France, and ended in Constantinople, Istanbul. However, other iterations of the Orient Express and sister trains ran alongside it for a handful of years. One of which took a much different route than the original, beginning and ending in other cities.

Seven of its cars from the 1920s have been classified as historical monuments, acting as an Art Deco time capsule for prolific designers and decorators. With that rich history comes many changes throughout the century-plus lifespan of the original Orient Express route. Let’s look at a historical timeline of the Orient Express and find out where this moving palace began and ended.

orient express
Hugh Llewelyn

The Original Orient Express

The Orient Express was created by a Belgian Businessman named Georges Nagelmackers and was the first transcontinental express that covered 1,700 miles between Paris, France, and Constantinople, Istanbul. The original Orient Express was inaugurated in 1883 and ran the same route, stopping in places like Milan, Venice, and Belgrade for 80 years (1883-1977).

The route did take a brief sabbatical during World War I (1914), resuming in 1919, and World War II (1939), continuing service in 1945. Not all of the journey of the initial passage of the Orient Express was on the train, as tracks were still developing. From Paris to the Bulgarian port Varna, passengers would deboard the train and charter a steamship across the Black Sea to Constantinople. By 1889, only six years after that first trip, the steamship was abandoned, and the entirety of the trip was done on the rails.

The original Orient Express route made seven stops, including departure and arrival points. The following is a list of the cities the luxury train stopped in:

  • Paris
  • Strasbourg
  • Munich
  • Vienna
  • Budapest
  • Bucharest
  • Istanbul

During its run, the Orient Express revision of its route and a rename of sorts; though its starting and ending destinations, Paris and Istanbul remained the same.

orient express route
Antony Guppy

The Simplon— Orient Express

The Simplon—Orient Express came into service in 1919 after resuming service a year after the end of World War I. The name came with the somewhat modified route going South toward the Simplon Pass in Switzerland. It offered the same extravagance and first-class experience as the original, just on a different route.

The Simplon—Orient Express ran from 1919 to 1939, taking a sabbatical during World War II and picking back up again from 1945 to 1962. After 1962, a slower train took over, the Direct Orient Express. Many believed it would be the end of the Orient Express altogether, but the Direct Orient Express remained as such until its retirement in 1977.

The Simplon—Orient Express also made seven stops, including departure and arrival points. The following is a list of the cities the renamed luxury train stopped in:

  • Paris
  • Lausanne
  • Milan
  • Venice
  • Belgrade
  • Sofia
  • Istanbul

A sister train would later take over the original route of the Orient Express in 1982. However, a lesser-known Orient Express train and route ran simultaneously with the Simplon—Orient Express.

orient express

Alberg Orient Express

The Alberg Orient Express follows a route between the original Orient Express and the Simplon—Orient Express, making more stops than either. Though not widely known, it too offered the grandeur and superior experience of its predecessors. It ran alongside the Simplon from 1930-1939 and then 1945-1962, making it the shortest running of the original trains at just 32 years.

The Alberg Orient Express made ten stops, including its departure and arrival points. This route started in London and ended in either Bucharest or Athens, quite different from the Simplon—Orient Express. The following is a list of the cities the Alberg Orient Express stopped in:

  • London
  • Calais
  • Paris
  • Zurich
  • Innsbruck
  • Vienna
  • Budapest
  • Bucharest Or…
  • Belgrade
  • Athens

The different views and more extensive journey offered passengers a different perspective of Europe, crossing over various countries with changing climates.

The Venice Simplon Orient Express

After the retirement of the original Orient Express and all sister trains, like the Alberg Orient Express, there was no expectation of a resurgence of the original route. The retirement of the original Orient Express came with a decline in ridership over decades, but legends never truly die. In 1982, an American, James Sherwood, began the Venice Simplon Orient Express creating several routes running from London and Venice.

The name is also a nod to the Southern route toward the Simplon Pass in Switzerland. It is the only train still running on the original route to this day. The new Venice Simplon Orient Express with at least 39 routes. Here is a list of some of the routes offered:

  • Budapest to London
  • Berlin to London
  • London to Verona
  • London to Venice
  • Paris to Verona
  • Paris to Venice
  • Prague to London
  • Verona to Paris
  • Verona to London
  • Venice to Vienna
  • Venice to Prague
  • Venice to Paris
  • Venice to London

The Venice Simplon Orient Express prices start at around $2,800 and go up from there. Trips vary from 1 night up to 5 nights with various options for accommodations, but all to the standards of the original’s luxury.

original orient express

What You Could Expect From the Original Orient Express

Since the original Orient Express went through a few iterations and ultimately ended in 1977, it may be hard to imagine what that original train would have been like for the lucky passengers able to afford to ride. It’s said that it was a preferred mode of transport for diplomats, royalty, and the elite of European society.

If you could have ridden the Orient Express, you could expect all the trappings of luxurious living. Soft Spanish leather chairs, velvet drapes, oriental rugs, gleaming mahogany paneling on the walls, ornate decor, and fine cuisine. Beds with silk sheets that rivaled hotels of its time. Live musicians serenaded you as you passed from car to car.

The original train consisted of two baggage cars, four sleeping cars with a differing number of beds, and a restaurant car. Meals on board consisted of oysters, caviar, soups, pasta, fillet of beef with ‘château’ potatoes, ‘chaud-froid’ of game animals, chicken ‘à la chasseur,’ and a buffet of desserts including chocolate pudding. There were compartments for smoking and ladies’ drawing rooms.

You could expect a total travel time of a little over 80 hours from Paris to Istanbul. Three and half days would be nothing on this moving luxury hotel with all the creature comforts any passenger could need, plus sensational views.

What Can You Expect From the Modern Venice Simplon Orient Express?

We have made leaps and bounds in technological advancement since 1883, allowing this current iteration of the Orient Express to be a modern phenomenon in luxury travel. Since the Venice Simplon Orient Express began in 1982, it has taken note of the original design of the Orient Express; 17 of the 18 cars are authentic and restored from the 1920s, the Golden Age of travel.

Suppose you jump aboard the Venice Simplon Orient Express today; you can expect Art Deco decor with polished dark cherry woods, antique fixtures, and ornate upholstery to transport you into a different era.

There are eighteen carriages, including baggage cars, cabins and suites, and restaurant and bar cars. You lounge on your plush grand suite couch while taking in the sites and sipping on a beverage from your private bar, or go and enjoy a first-class cuisine experience with fine china and crystal glasses.

Helpful train attendants will usher you to your accommodations decked out in full 1920s conductor regalia. You’ll have a dedicated steward service to attend to your every need, a continental breakfast, and a four-course dinner with a seasonal table d’hôte menu including a cheeseboard and chutney, biscuits, coffee, and petits fours—the full experience in a time capsule of history.

FAQ and Traveling Tips for the Venice Simplon Orient Express

How Expensive is the Venice Simplon Orient Express?

If you’re looking for a way to travel that gets you from point A to point B so you can spend the majority of your time and money roaming around Europe, then the Venice Simplon Orient Express may not be for you. This private luxury train is the experience of a lifetime and comes with the expected price tag.

The ticket cost is dependent on the length of travel and the accommodations you choose. You can opt for a twin cabin, cabin suite, or grand suite and travel anywhere between one to five nights. The starting price is around $3,000 and can go as high as $9,000.

What is the Attire for the Venice Simplon Orient Express?

The Venice Simplon Express is not a traveling experience that will ask you to tone down your attire. Think red carpet event; you can go as extravagant as your budget will allow. There are expectations when it comes to dining in the restaurant car. The only article of clothing that is forbidden at any time is jeans.

Formal evening attire, like a black-tie, is expected when dining on the train. Smart daywear is appropriate during the day for breakfast and when roaming around the train for drinks, and a jacket/tie or suitable equivalent is appropriate for lunch.

Are Pets and Children Allowed on Board the Venice Simplon Orient Express?

Vacations are enjoyed by individuals and families alike. No one wants to miss out on this once-in-a-lifetime experience, but it’s important to ensure that all family members are permitted to be on board.

Children are permitted to board the Venice Simplon Orient Express. In fact, infants under the age of two can travel for free. Parents will have to be responsible for the infant’s sleeping accommodations, and a bassinet would be suitable for the tight space.

Parents must also provide food for the infant. Due to the capacity limitations on board a train, pets are unfortunately not permitted aboard the Venice Simplon Orient Express. Pets require movement, and there isn’t enough space on the train to accommodate exercise or the pet’s other needs.

Does the Venice Simplon Orient Express Accommodate Dietary Restrictions?

Each person is on their health journey and may have unique needs for their diets. It’s important to ensure that any hotel, train, plane, or boat you go to can cater to your dietary needs. A train that only makes brief stops and extended travel over several days could be quite detrimental, especially if the dietary restrictions include food allergies.

The Venice Simplon Orient Express dining staff will do their very best to accommodate dietary restrictions with the ingredients they have on board, whether vegan, vegetarian or other detailed requests made at the time of booking.

However, the train is not equipped to provide meals requiring strict religious observance in preparation.

How Much Luggage Can You Bring Aboard the Venice Simplon Orient Express?

Whether you are traveling over one night or several, everyone has their preferences regarding the number of luggage they bring on a trip. There is a limited capacity with a train that dictates certain restrictions to the amount of luggage permitted aboard.

You can bring one hand luggage of items that should be kept on your person at all times, similar to a purse or small bag/briefcase, one carry-on luggage that will be delivered to your room, and one sturdy luggage that will be stored in the baggage car for the entirety of the trip.

There is no laundry service or iron on board the train, so be mindful when packing. Guests are encouraged to bring garment bags for certain clothing items.


Whether you are a curious historian or considering riding the rails on the modern Orient Express, now you know everything there is to know about the life of luxury of the famous train in the world and those that were lucky enough to experience it.


Lifelong Rail Enthusiast and Owner of Worldwide Rails

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