In Europe, traveling by train is a way of life. Hopping on a high-speed train to get from one major city to the next, or from one country to the next, is a daily occurrence for travelers and commuters alike. Rail passengers appreciate the conveniences- the outlets, Wi-Fi Internet connections where available, the comfortable seats and the large picture windows; however, most board the train for the destination, not the ride. Did you know there is another option for train travel in Europe, though? One that makes the journey itself just as amazing as the stops and final destinations? Insert Europe’s luxury train lines.
Following routes all throughout the continent, European luxury trains are a wonderful way to travel in style. Many people have heard of the Venice Simplon-Orient Express - some because of the book or movie “Murder on the Orient Express” - but there is actually a multitude of railways to choose between. From the Belmond Royal Scotsman in Scotland to Spain’s El Transcantábrico, the routes are vast. Learn about four of Europe’s famed luxury train rides to find out which is right for your travel desires.
The Venice Simplon-Orient Express
Traveling to cities such as London, Paris, Berlin, Venice, Vienna, Prague and Budapest, this luxury train has been serving passengers since 1883. The train features authentic sleeper cars from the 1920s and 1930s that exude Art Deco charm and surround passengers in luxury, from the elegant fabric choices to the antique fixtures and rich mahogany wood. All of the onboard food is prepared by a trained chef, and service stewards ensure your journey is comfortable. This truly is one of the most authentic examples of old-world luxury train travel in Europe.
- Dining Cars: Étoile du Nord, L’Oriental, and Côte d’Azur
- Social Carriages:
- Bar - Complete with plush seating, a champagne bar, and a baby grand piano.
- Lounge - The perfect place to socialize with fellow travelers.
- Sleeper Cabins:
- Single - Ideal for one guest and features a sumptuous couch bed.
- Twin - Also called a Double, these cabins feature upper, and lower berth beds and a tucked away private sink.
- Cabin Suites - Combining two interconnecting Twin cabins, these give passengers upper and lower berth beds, as well as a private lounge car with a plush couch. Alternatively, each cabin can be set up with a lower berth bed.
- Grand Suite - New for 2018, there are three Grand Suites available on each Venice Simplon-Orient Express train journey. These feature full bedrooms, private restrooms and sinks and in-room lounge and dining areas.
- Travel Tip: Business-casual dress is required during the day, and dinner is a black-tie affair.
Belmond Royal Scotsman
Get acquainted with the epic beauty of Scotland, from the Highlands to castles, the coastline and beyond, aboard one of Europe’s most luxurious trains. A maximum of 40 passengers is allowed on each tour, making each journey just as intimate as the next. Though the train has only been in service since 1985, its stunning mahogany-clad cars and rich fabrics give the train an Edwardian air of sophistication. With personalized service from the 12 attendants on the train, luxury travelers could not ask for more.
- Dining Car: There is one onboard dining car, in which the chef serves freshly prepared homages to local cuisine.
- Social Carriages:
- Observation Car - This car is complete with comfortable social seating, fabulous views, 30 types of complimentary Scotch whisky to enjoy and an open-air observation deck to catch a glimpse of the passing scenery.
- Spa Car - Enjoy spa services while on the rails in the Bamford Haybarn. The specialists here offer various massage techniques, facials, reflexology, manicures and pedicures and more.
- Sleeper Cabins: While the Venice Simplon-Orient Express uses bunk-style beds, all of the cabins on this train feature lower berth-only beds, as well as en-suite bathrooms. Room options include:
- Single - The smallest of the rooms, single rooms offer one single bed and a writing desk.
- Twin - Featuring two single beds and a long wardrobe, Twin Cabins are ideal for two travelers.
- Double - Two travelers are comfortable in a Double Cabin, which is equipped with a double bed and a long wardrobe.
- Interconnecting Suite - Perfect for a group of four passengers, these suites feature connected Double and Twin rooms, a larger en-suite bathroom, and two long wardrobes.
- Travel Tip: Formal dress is required for dinner. Elegant dresses or pantsuits for the ladies, and tuxedos or kilts for the gentlemen. Traditional kilts are available for rental.
Golden Eagle Danube Express
Another rail line on par with the fame of the Venice Simplon-Orient Express, this Golden Eagle train follows pathways through both Eastern and Western Europe. Travelers find themselves on fabulous routes through countries like Italy, Serbia, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Slovenia, Austria, Germany, and Poland. A maximum of 56 guests travel aboard the train at each time, and the list of included amenities, from bathrobes to toiletries, make this train more like a luxury hotel on wheels.
- Dining Cars: Guests choose from two, each of which offers seating for 42 at two- and four-person tables.
- Lounge Car: An intimate car with space for 28 guests, the Bar Lounge Car features daytime pianist entertainment, comfortable seating, and a bar.
- Sleeper Cabins:
- Heritage - A daytime couch converts to upper- and lower-berth beds for two guests in this class. Cabins include outlets, air conditioning, and private wash basins.
- Deluxe - Perfect for two travelers, Deluxe Cabins offer much more space, two lower-berth single beds, and private en-suite bathrooms.
- Superior Deluxe - Limited to four per journey, these feature U.K. king-size beds, Wi-Fi Internet where available, private dining and lounging space and high-end en-suite bathrooms.
- Travel Tip: Make your way to the Bar Lounge Car at non-peak times to get a seat. All drinks, except select premium wines, are included in the price of the fare. In addition to being a hub for socialization, there are also speakers, entertainers, and lessons here on select tours.
- Dining Car: None- most of the meals on this train are eaten at restaurants along the route.
- Social Carriages:
- Two Salon Cars - Ideal for sightseeing and socializing, these cars are the heart of the train. In addition to providing plush seating and large windows, the train’s breakfast buffets are set up here.
- Bar Car - Grab a drink with your fellow travelers in this lounge area.
- Pub Car - This car is the place to be for fun and includes music and a dance floor.
- Sleeper Cars: Unlike many luxury trains, each route aboard this train only includes one sleeper class option. No matter which guests choose, they enjoy luxuries such as double beds, minibars and private en-suite bathrooms with hydro-massage showers.
- Clasico - Passengers of this route enjoy space for two in a sumptuous double bed, though some cabins include pull-down upper-berth bunks for a third guest, as well. In-room climate controls, carpeted floors and a writing desk add to the comfort of the ride.
- Gran Lujo - Offering 129 square feet of space, riders bunking in Gran Lujo rooms enjoy couches, flat-screen TVs, Wi-Fi Internet at select stations and a private computer for onboard use.
- Travel Tip: Travelers on this train disembark daily to get in touch with the region, and this is mostly accomplished through food. All meals and coordinating wines are included in the fare; however, drinks onboard the train outside of meals are not.
While the Venice Simplon-Orient Express recalls the romance of yesteryear while traveling through Europe, this narrow-gauge train offers a more modern form of luxury. Rail cruises on this route take a maximum of 52 passengers through the lush landscape of northern Spain. Along the way, the train pulls off the tracks at night so that passengers can rest in their rich wood-clad, comfortable Sleeper Cabins without disturbance - a true luxury in and of itself. Guests have the option of two routes on this train, the Gran Lujo, and the Clasico; the route chosen determines what the onboard sleeping accommodations look like, as each uses its own cars.
Europe’s luxury train offerings are vast and diverse. While the Venice Simplon-Orient Express serves as a prime example of high-end train travel, there are an array of choices with routes to suit any taste. Looking for even more options? Check out the Al Andalus in Spain, the Belmond British Pullman traveling through the United Kingdom or the Belmond Grand Hibernian that journeys through the emerald countryside of Ireland. Moreover, when you are ready to book your rail tour, we are here to help. Contact Vacations By Rail today.