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World’s Greatest Hotels: The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express

The next in our series on iconic hotels around the world is the luxurious Venice Simplon-Orient-Express.

Long before Agatha Christie posed a murder mystery in a snow-jammed Orient Express train, the Wagons-Lits Carriages were the most comfortable way to travel between Europe’s glittering capital cities. Istanbul then, as it is today, was the exotic gateway to the Orient. 

Today, Belmond owns and runs the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, a service of original 1920s carriages that came together in the 1980s. The VenicetoLondon route in the exquisitely decorated dining and sleeping carriages is among the most popular.

After Paris, the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express stops at the French coast, where passengers board a luxury bus to take the journey through the Channel to Folkestone in the United Kingdom.

Here, on board the Belmond British Pullman train, also operated by Belmond, the journey terminates at London’s Victoria station. 

There are faster and less costly ways to travel between Venice and London, but none more storied or romantic.

Hospitality Imbued With Elegance

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The beautiful scenery of the Italian Dolomites aside, there are few hospitality experiences as imbued with elegance as this one, and, now with three Grand Suites, each with their own sitting room and en suite bathroom, none more luxurious. 

To dine on fine French cuisine in a carriage decorated by René Lalique, or the exquisite marquetry and decoration inside the sleeper car, is a dream for people with a passion for Art Deco and a desire for the elegance of a bygone era. 

Service from your gold-buttoned, white-gloved steward will be understated and charming. He will convert your Pullman cabin from a two-seater bench into double-decker beds with the finest linens. 

As the first train to have soap on board, the Venice Simplon Orient-Express has long been a placeholder for luxury travel.  

Cosy Cabins and Classic Vintage Style

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Unless you are in one of the Grand Suites, named after the capitals Paris, Venice and Istanbul, with en suite facilities, you will share a toilet with other cabins in your carriage. Next year, three more Grand Suites will be added to the rake. 

As most cabins are cosy, you will be best prepared if you pack your dinner suit and gown, and another less formal outfit into a small carry-on and store the remainder of your luggage until you reach your destination.

Luxurious robes and slippers are provided in the wardrobe and there isn’t room for much else.

Each cabin has a classic, vintage-style table lamp, and there are beautiful art deco lights and a mirror inside the basin cupboard. As with all Belmond properties, bathroom amenities will be the finest available. 

Add A Little Mystery

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The Côte d’Azur carriage with its Lalique glass was built in 1929, and has been restored into one of two dining cars on the train.

The other, Étoile du Nord, is a 1926built English carriage while, LOrientale, originally built as a Pullman kitchen car, was updated with black lacquer panels when refitted for the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express.

Carriage 3674, decorated in blue and gold, is the bar car where, over cocktails, you will be entertained by a pianist. 

For an added mystery, you can purchase a special copy of Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express from the train’s boutique. 

Words by Brian Berkman

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