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Step onboard the world's most luxurious train — suits and gowns are mandatory and a $26,000 suite comes with unlimited champagne

Left: a navy blue train in motion in front of a mountain range. Right: A wooden, windowed door to a room with blue carpets and seats.
The Venice Simplon-Orient Express is one of the world's most luxurious trains.Joey Hadden/Business Insider
  • The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express is a luxury overnight train comprised of historic carriages.

  • The high-end sleeper train has three restaurants, a bar car, and a gift shop.

  • Take a tour to go inside one of the world's most luxurious trains.

Welcome aboard the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, a luxurious, overnight Belmond train.

Going inside is likely to conjure up a feeling from a bygone era when rail service was the epitome of European glamour. And that's no coincidence.

Each train car is a restored vintage carriage from the original Orient Express, which marked "the golden age of travel," inspiring glamorous passengers, from artists to actors, according to pamphlets provided to passengers today by Belmond.

The iconic Orient Express transported the rich and royal from 1883 to 1977, and was the first transcontinental express train in Europe, according to Britannica.

During that time, the fleet, which was more like a five-star hotel than a locomotive, delighted passengers with luxurious interiors and routes spanning the European continent, Smithsonian Magazine reported. It consisted of sleeping quarters, fine dining cars, and salons, according to Britannica.

Today, the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express has the same restored, legendary cars, from high-end restaurants to lavish cabins and suites, and operates 60 routes through 17 European cities, from London to Istanbul, according to the company's website.

Business Insider recently boarded the luxury train for a one-night trip from Paris to Venice, Italy. Here's a closer look inside.

Boarding the Venice-Simplon Orient Express feels like stepping back in time.

Left: An open door to a nave blu train. Right: : A wooden, windowed door to a room with blue carpets and seats.
A peak inside the Venice Simplon-Orient Express.Joey Hadden/Business Insider

As soon as guests enter the Venice Simplon-Orient Express train, they're greeted with luxury details that pay homage to the roaring 1920s.

Glossy, windowed, wooden doors with gold hardware frame each car, and velvet curtains drape the train's corridors between carriages.

Each car is numbered with art deco-style text etched into the glass window. And in each accommodation, a welcome box contains information about the history of each car, from when they were built to what specific routes they once served.

The original 70-to-100-year-old, polished, wood paneling has been restored to maintain a vintage feel, according to information in the welcome packet.

The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express has up to 16 cars.

On a wood floor, a white map of Italy behind a white pamphlet showing the train's layout.
Handouts from the Venice Simplon-Orient Express showcase the train's layout and routes.Joey Hadden/Business Insider

While the exact number of cars on a Venice Simplon-Orient Express journey depends on the route, a representative of Belmond told BI that the train can have as many as 16 cars, and typically, all routes have the same number of sleeping carriages and communal cars.

The train BI boarded had nine sleeping carriages, five of which housed twin accommodations, and four sleeper cars that were devoted to suites, including two grand suite cars.

There are also up to three cars for employee quarters, according to the Belmond representative. These cars are accessible for guests as walkways to get around the train.

In the middle of the train on BI's route were communal carriages including three restaurants, a bar, and a boutique. In these areas, a dress code bans jeans, sneakers, shorts, and t-shirts at all times.

In daylight hours, "smart attire," like a blazer, for example, is required. At night, the train requests that passengers wear formal evening attire.

The luxury train has three dining cars, and each has a different feel. "Étoile du Nord" showcases wooden marquetry.

A dining table with a lamp on it on a luxury train
A set table inside the train's "Étoile du Nord" restaurant. Joey Hadden/Business Insider

Fine dining is the standard on the Venice Simplon-Orient Express.

The ride includes three restaurant meals per day so that guests have the opportunity to dine in every car: lunch and dinner on day one, and another lunch on day two following breakfast in bed, a cabin steward told Business Insider.

Each of the three restaurant carriages serves the same, pre-fixed, three-course menus with additional á la carte dishes, and all have velvet seating, white tablecloths, and golden lamps.

But each dining car has a unique color palette and style of art.

For example, one restaurant, "Étoile du Nord," has green accents and detailed wooden marquetry that set the car apart from the other restaurants onboard.

Another dining car, "L'Oriental" features decorated, black lacquer panels and a warmer color palette.

Inside a train dining car with velvet, beige seats, a warm-colored carpet, and tables with white cloths, dishes, and silverware
"L'Oriental" set up for lunch service on the Venice Simplon-Orient Express.Joey Hadden/Business Insider

Originally known as "Voiture Chinoise," the "L'Oriental" dining car is 97 years old and has 30 seats, according to the train's fact sheet.

The restaurant's unique details include beige seats with a hint of green, and red, green, and beige geometric carpeting.

Between each window, the wall's black, lacquer panels feature abstract, thin-lined illustrations guests can gaze at between courses.

"Côte d'Azur" has a rich, dark blue color scheme with glass carvings on the windows.

Inside a train dining car with velvet, blue seats, and tables with white cloths, dishes, and silverware
Inside the train's "Côte d'Azur" dining car.Joey Hadden/Business Insider

"Cote d'Azur," the third restaurant, was built in 1929, according to the Belmond fact sheet.

Inside is a rich, dark blue color palette — similar to the exterior of the train. On the windows are intricate glass carvings reminiscent of Roman sculptures like Michaelango's famous and iconic David.

On one end of the "Côte d'Azur" car is a high-end gift shop selling lavish accessories and knick-knacks.

Side-by-side photos of a train boutique with dark walls, a gold lamp, and ties and scarves on display
Products for sale in the train's boutique.Joey Hadden/Business Insider

From 8 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., passengers can shop in a small boutique for high-end jewelry from Lalique Jewels, plus scarves, ties, and souvenirs like pens, key chains, branded teddy bears, nutcrackers, and decorative plates.

A Belmond representative told BI that guests can have items charged to their room or pay separately. The train staff also offers to mail purchased items to passengers' homes if they prefer to travel light, according to the same source.

The bar car has a similar color scheme to "Côte d'Azur" with the addition of gold accents.

Inside a luxury train's bar car with navy blue seating and curtains
The bar car onboard the Venice Simplon-Orient Express.Joey Hadden/Business Insider

Built in France in 1931, the bar car is a social carriage with cozy seats, ottomans, and small tables, as well as a piano in the back next to the bar itself.

The bar is open all day and serves alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages as well as espresso drinks.

In the daylight hours, the car is mostly quiet, save for one or two groups of people chatting at the tables. But the bar car comes to life at night with live music reminiscent of the early 20th century as guests dress up in suits, ties, and evening gowns.

Sleeping carriages are lined with historic cabins and suites.

The inside of a train with wooden interiors shows a narrow corridor and a train cabin with wood finishings and a plush red and blue couch.
A carriage of historic cabin accommodations on the Venice Simplon-Orient Express.Joey Hadden/Business Insider

The Venice Simplon-Orient Express sleeps as many as 108 guests, with up to two passengers per room.

Nine cars hold a total of 40 twin-sized cabins, two cars hold six suites, and two other cars have six grand suites.

The cheapest tier of accommodation is the twin-sized historic cabin, which has a starting rate of $4,500 per person — or $9,000 per room for solo travelers — according to the company's website.

Inside the 36-square-foot space, the extravagantly furnished and decorated cabins have a couch, a pullout table, and a vanity with a wash basin.

At night, stewards transform the couch into two twin-sized bunks.

There is no ensuite toilet or shower in this type of room.

Two sleeping cars hold suites.

A luxurious train cabin with wooden walls and a fancy double bed with a decorative headboard
Inside a suite on the Venice Simplon-Orient Express train.Joey Hadden/Business Insider

The sleeper train has two higher tiers of accommodation as well — suites and grand suites.

Each has its own unique decor inspired by the art deco style of the early 20th century and landscapes seen from the train, according to the company's website.

For a starting rate of $13,000 per room — according to the company's website — suites are 71 square feet and include a couch that transforms into either a two twin-sized or one double bed, an en-suite, and a marble bathroom with a rainfall shower head.

Grand suites are the most luxurious accommodations onboard.

Inside a wood-walled train suite with white and navy blue furnishings, including a seat on the left, a couch on the right, and a bed in the back center.
Inside a grand suite onboard the Venice Simplon-Orient Express.Joey Hadden/Business Insider

The grand suites are even more luxurious, ranging from 115 to 120 square feet.

Starting at $26,000 per room, these accommodations include all the features of a standard suite as well as a dining area, unlimited champagne, and around-the-clock butler service, according to the same source.

The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express is truly one-of-a-kind.

A navy blue train with gold trimmings stopped at a platform with mountains in the background
The Venice-Simplon Orient Express train stopped at a platform in Switzerland.Joey Hadden/Business Insider

With legendary roots, restored iconic carriages, and thoughtful interior design, the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express gives guests a once-in-a-lifetime journey through the history of luxury train travel.

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