Staff and guest outside the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express (VSOE) train
Dining car through the window of the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express (VSOE) train
Preparing meals in the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express (VSOE) train
Waiter in the dining car of the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express (VSOE) train
Guests reading in the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express (VSOE) train
Lucy eating lunch on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express (VSOE) train
World’s Top 25 Trains > Venice Simplon-Orient-Express (VSOE)

Venice Simplon-Orient-Express (VSOE)

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The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express (VSOE) is the world’s most authentic luxury train. Made famous in the Agatha Christie story, the train’s 1920s-vintage Art Deco cars, sparkling in their navy and gold livery and snowy white roof, take your breath away. The journey between Paris and Istanbul is legendary — and perfect for special occasion celebrations.

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The train’s mystique is such that its image is constantly in demand to portray elegance, beauty, sophistication and romance. Watch this video to see its stylized image, as seen through the eyes of French perfume and beauty product icon Chanel (wait for it; you may see another ad first).

The VSOE can accommodate up to 108 passengers, but on special journeys, the train’s capacity is reduced to roughly 100 guests.

NEW for 2023! 8 new Suites have been added to the train. These beautiful cabins feature ensuite bathroom and shower, small sitting area, and fixed double or twin beds (made up into banquette seating during the day). Suites offer a perfect half step between Historic Twins and Grand Suites.

In 2018, the train added purpose-built, luxurious Grand Suites to its consist, and they are truly spectacular.

Special Report: IRT’s Rachel Hardy was among the first to see the newly unveiled Grand Suites, and she was impressed.  See her report on the Grand Suites here.

And read Ms. Hardy’s report of her full journey on the Venice Simplon-Orient-ExpressPart 1 & Part 2


There are three gorgeous dining cars: one, “Étoile du Nord,” mainly with marquetry; another, “L’Oriental,” with Chinese lacquered walls with bright animals; and a third, “Côte d’Azur,” with Lalique crystal insets.

The management of the dining cars is superb. For starters, a maitre d’ visits you during the day before meals to reserve your table. He rotates travelers among the three diners; you can request dining for two or four at your preferred seating time.

The dining experience is five-star both in food quality/variety and service. One of the reasons is that people are not all seated at the exact same time. Instead, seatings are staggered. This allows the staff to properly welcome and serve each diner.

Note: The “Côte d’Azur” dining car also includes a 20-seat champagne bar in one corner. Vintages include Taittinger, Laurent Perrier Rosé and Louis Roederer Cristal. And, if you’re traveling southbound, consider indulging in a VSOE Celebration Breakfast, which includes a tempting selection of fresh breads, smoked salmon, eggs, truffles and caviar. You can book on board.


The lounge car is decorated in the Art Nouveau style. Fresh flowers adorn the tables, and a pianist entertains in the evening. It’s a perfect place to read Le Monde by day, enjoy cocktails before dinner and a nightcap after dinner; perhaps you’ll decide, like one traveler did on our trip to Istanbul, to dance the Charleston in her period dress. The lounge car can get very crowded, too, but the staggered dining helps with this issue.

IRT Insights

For discriminating travelers, we recommend booking either the Grand Suite or the Suite. This gives travelers much more room for spreading out. Historic Twin cabins are small. Single travelers should book early to avoid a supplement on this train.

Dressing up is part of this experience, and tuxedos (at the least, dark suit and tie) and cocktail dresses are the norm for dinner.

There’s something about traveling on such historic cars. One of our favorites: Sleeping Car 3309 was part of the 1929 service which was stuck in a snow drift 60 miles outside Istanbul for 10 days. Passengers and staff survived only with the assistance of nearby Turkish villagers.

For many, this is a special occasion train — to celebrate retirement, anniversaries and big birthdays.  Read travel notes by Society owners Owen & Eleanor Hardy, who celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express journey from Venice-Paris-London

Final note: Even on a luxury train, space is tight. One plus: the VSOE includes a baggage car, where you can store extra luggage (although don’t count on having access to it while on board). For the longer Istanbul journeys, several cabins are left empty for luggage storage.

Begin Your Journey

Talk to an expert about journeys on this train.