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This opulent train journey takes you across four European countries in a week

istanbul view, turkey
A legendary train journey from Istanbul to ParisAyhan Altun - Getty Images

Rail journeys are bucket list experiences in themselves, but travellers wishing to take their holiday to the next level can book the train holiday to end all train holidays in 2023.

The week-long journey takes you across four European countries, exploring some of the most beautiful cities, in the height of luxury on the legendary Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, A Belmond Train.

The ultra-luxe train is scheduled to take the longest of all its itineraries on a six-night trip-of-a-lifetime, departing from spice-scented Istanbul all the way to Paris on a city-hopping journey that's equal parts romantic and glamorous.

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During the summer rail journey, the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express' 1920s and 1930s carriages will not only take passengers on routes through Europe but back in time to the golden age of train travel.

venice simplon orient express
Belmond

As the train eases away from Istanbul to weave through the glorious Romanian countryside, guests will spend their first night on the train in the famously decadent sleeper cabins after a lavish dinner. The first stop is Bucharest, where you'll be swept away to a private venue for an unforgettable evening of music in the Romanian capital. A night here is spent in a luxury hotel while the train waits patiently at the station.

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Back onboard, the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express climbs slowly to the mountain town of Sinaia to visit a beautiful Romanian castle before it continues its journey to Hungary, bound for Queen of the Danube, beautiful Budapest.

venice simplon orient express
Belmond

There's time to explore this sparkling city before the train departs on a journey through Switzerland via sensational storybook scenery on the way to France. There's a champagne moment in Épernay, the birthplace of the famous fizz before the train concludes its remarkable journey in Paris.

The pace of the journey from Istanbul to Paris makes it an utterly decadent and slow way to travel. It's that perfect blend of gazing out of a train window to watch ever-changing scenery in a plush armchair with a drink in hand and disembarking to explore cities.

istanbul view, turkey
Belmond

It's not just the route the train takes via some of Europe's most romantic cities that makes this the ultimate trip. The plush interiors, attentive service, and the fine champagnes all play a part in giving the train that je ne sais quoi. Its romantic ambience has also made the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express a favourite location for proposals, with around 30 couples getting engaged on the train every year and plenty more celebrating milestone anniversaries on this once-in-a-lifetime holiday. If you're celebrating a big anniversary or are looking for a trip like no other for two, this unforgettable rail journey could be for you.

venice simplon orient express
Belmond

From the gleam of the blue-and-gold carriages to the twinkle of the stewards' buttons, this is true luxury travel for those who value the opportunity to savour the journey as much as the destinations en route.

The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express is the kind of train where you dress for dinner, taking a seat in swish surroundings for leisurely four-course meals. The evenings don’t end after coffee — the famous Bar Car 3674 is where guests gather for drinks (perhaps unsurprisingly, the Agatha Christie is the most popular cocktail choice) and meet other passengers around the baby grand, with the festivities only ending when the last guest retreats to their cabin.

venice simplon orient express
Belmond

The incredible journey from Istanbul to Paris is one for those who are able to splurge as it will set you back £20,400 for a Historic Cabin and more for a suite. Attracting holidaymakers who are feeling flush — or those who have saved for a once-in-a-lifetime luxury adventure — the journey is extravagant from start to finish.

As well as business class flights to Istanbul and Business Premier Eurostar seats on the Eurostar from Paris to London, you also get picked up from your house and taken to the airport.

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Not quite ready to fork out £20,400 on a holiday? You can sample the luxury of Belmond’s trains on a UK day trip instead. Good Housekeeping's exclusive day out with Joanna Lumley includes a journey on sister train to the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, the British Pullman, A Belmond Train.

You'll board a splendid art deco carriage for a trip to a vineyard in Kent, with a three-course brunch on the way and a four-course dinner on the return journey, complete with wine and champagne.

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