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Ideas & Inspiration Luxury Hotel Trains in Europe

Luxury Hotel Trains in Europe

An introduction to the gorgeous trains which marry the service offered to first class passengers in the heyday of 1930s glamour, with today's scenic rail routes of Europe.

| Last Updated: about 1 month ago

Regular contemporary European sleeper trains tend towards the functional rather than the lxurious.
On a few such services, including the Caledonian Sleeper it's possible to have a meal in a restaurant car prior to retiring for the night in a double or single bed - but the Euronight and Nightjet trains which dominate current overnight travel on continental Europe, don't convey restaurant cars.

However, for those which appreciate the finer things in life and have the means to enjoy them, there remain multiple examples of mobile luxury hotels, on which a la carte fine dining experiences, can be accessed multiple times per day from a lushly appointed cabin or suite.
With reams of immaculately presented staff on hand to ensure that nothing occurs to hinder a moment's enjoyment.

Fine dining experiences on board trains can also be enjoyed on the likes on The Belmond Pullman in Britain and when travelling in Excellence Class on The Glacier Express in Switzerland, but this is a guide to Europe's luxury sleeper trains.
Which also allow those on board to awake in a new wonderful destination on each day of travel.

The Royal Scotsman

Once the urban mass of 'the Central Belt', with Edinburgh at its eastern end and Glasgow at its westerm, is left behind, pretty much any rail journey in Scotland is a ride through glorious scenery.
However, making the most of these opportunities on the regular services, requires a multi-train itinerary with a Spirit of Scotland Pass, or multiple day trips from one location, such as Edinburgh, Glasgow or Stirling
Also it's perhaps inevitable that ScotRail deploys some its most basic trains on the lesser travelled railways to the likes of Mallaig, The Kyle of Lochalsh and Thurso.

So the gorgeously appointed carriages used on the Royal Scotsman provide a travel experience that's a world away from taking the regular trains in Scotland.
The only common thread being the awe inspiring scenery that the train passes through - and the multiple routes and itineraries followed by the Royal Scotsman, enable travellers to select the highlights of greatest appeal to them.

Aside from the plethora of staff on hand to attend to the needs of each passenger, the other major benefit of travelling by the Royal Scotsman are its on board bedrooms and suites.
So travelling by it avoids the need to change trains and make transfers to hotels.

Image by Peter Moore and downloaded from Wikicommons.

The Venice - Simplon Orient Express

The Orient Express used to be one of Europe's regular sleeper train services but it unfortunately ceased operations in 2009 after more than 100 years.
Despite that, it’s still well-known in popular culture and many people are fascinated with it.

The Orient Express may not exist in its original form anymore, but the closest thing to an authentic journey, which First Class travellers would have experienced in the train's 1920s heyday, is the Venice-Simplon Orient Express, which has many of the aspects that once allowed VIPs to travel in the height of luxury.

The reason why so many people want to travel on this route derive from both its iconic nature and notoriety in popular culture.
One of the best-known mystery novels of all time is Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, which was the tenth outing of the legendary detective Hercule Poirot.
The 1934 offering has been adapted at various times over the years, with numerous films on both television and the big screen, the most recent of these was released in 2017 and directed by Kenneth Branagh.

There have even been various games that have helped other people discover the Orient Express.
For instance, in 2006, Microsoft Windows released an Agatha Christie: Murder on the Orient Express adventure game.
There’s even an online slot with the same title, found at Rainbow Riches Casino. The site is one of the best online UK casino sites for real-money gaming, and experts recommend it for its 30 free spins bonus. Games like Murder on the Orient Express are popular thanks to their recognisability and keep players coming back for more.

What Do You Need to Know Before Travelling?

For anyone who’s discovered the Orient Express in popular culture, it’s tempting to book a holiday and see what all the fuss is about.
The real-world experience lives up to what’s been shown in the mainstream, and train lovers should definitely try it at least once.

Once per year The Venice-Simplon Express follows the one time classic route to Istanbul on a five night odyssey which travels through Budapest and Transylvania.
Other travel options include spending one or two nights travelling from the likes of Amsterdam, Brussels and Paris to Prague, Vienna and multiple destinations in Italy including the 'classic route' to and from Venice.
New for 2024 will be bookings which include Premier Class travel on a Eurostar between London and Paris and journeys by the Venice-Simplon Orient Express on from Paris to a variety of destinations.

There’s a level of lavish elegance here that you wouldn’t find on many other trains around the world, with a focus on incredibly detailed cabin design with sumptuous furnishings.
Along with all that, you can enjoy fine dining from some of the world’s best chefs.
As you sit and indulge in the incredible cuisine, you can soak up some of the amazing scenery.
The train allows you to see everything from picturesque villages to sprawling mountain ranges.

Along with all these onboard delights, the original Orient Express was renowned for the service that travellers were treated to.
The staff are abundant, but you’ll notice that they have a knack for remaining discreet until you need them, personalised concierge services are also available.
The butlers are so highly skilled at their jobs that they will sometimes even anticipate your preferences and prepare accordingly.
There are also plenty of stops along the way, allowing for new cultural experiences in diverse locations.
Before setting off, it’s a great idea to read the itinerary so you have an idea about the varied landmarks and towns that you’ll visit.

Image by Patrick Janicek and downloaded from Wikicommons.

Info for the Venice-Simplon Orient Express

The Golden Eagle Danube Express

Not all of the routes take by The Golden Eagle Danube Express follow the course of the second-longest European river, but the name of the train is suggestive, because it is the hotel train which enables exploration of south-eastern Europe.
In addition to the sumptuous on board experience, a key benefit of taking The Golden Eagle Danube Express on its Balkan Experience itinerary is that this route through The Balkans to Istanbul by regular trains is currently compromised.
Also the Balkan Experience routing of Venice - Trieste - Ljubljana - Sarajevo - Mostar - Dubrovnik - Belgrade - Skopje - Thessaloniki - Sofia - Plovdiv – Istanbul enables journeys on many of Europe's most scenic railways by daylight, without the need to change trains.

Though this train also follows other routes, so there are a variety of itineraries to be experienced.
The Grand Alpine Express itinerary by this train, takes in Budapest – Vienna - the Semmering Pass - Lake Achen - Innsbruck – Zurich – the St Gotthard Pass - Lake Como – Milan – Verona - Trieste – Lake Bled – Ljubljana – Venice.

The Hotel Trains of Spain

Rail travel in Spain is dominated by its high speed train network, but the country's dramatic landscape is best appreciated by taking its slower routes.
Railways have to twist and bend when following coastlines, gorges and valleys and in both the north and south of Spain, so these hotel trains take full advantage of these scenic routes and the historic towns that they serve.

The Transcantábrico Gran Lujo

The majority of visitors to Spain flock to its Costas on the Mediterranean, but one of the most dramatic coastlines in Europe is where the Atlantic Ocean crashes into northern Spain.
The steep sided coves, estuaries and nooks which nature has contrived to carve into the rocky coastline, made access by road tricky and a full sized railway would have required a huge amount of engineering for bridges and tunnels.
So the solution which railway pioneers embarked upon in the 19th century was a narrow gauge railway, similar to those which ascend to mountain summits.
Ultimately a network of such lines was constructed across the full length of Spain's Atlantic Coast from the French border at Hendaia across to Ferrol of the north-west corner of Spain.

These railways, built to provide a lifeline for the local communities they serve, are fabulously scenic by default, so since 1982 their tourist appeal has been wonderfully exploited by the provision of the Transcantábrico Gran Lujo train.
It follows a San Sebastian – Carranza – Santander – Cabezon de la Sal – Llanes - Oviedo – Luarca– Viveiro – Ferrol - Santiago di Compestela route.
Aside from ability to sleep on the train in luxury bedrooms, which avoids the needs to make transfers to and from overnight accommodation, the other plus of travelling by the Transcantábrico is that travelling along its route by the regular trains is much more awkward.
On much of the route the local trains are infrequent and because it's a network of lines, a San Sebastian to Ferrol rail journey otherwise requires connections in Bilbao, Santander and Oviedo.

The Costa Verde Express

The popularity of the Transcantábrico Gran Lujo train train and its route across Spain's Atlantic Coast has led to the launch of the Costa Verde Express.

It follows a Bilbao – Santander – Cabezon de la Sal – Llanes - Oviedo – Luarca– Viveiro – Ferrol - Santiago di Compestela route.route, so a holiday by it is one night shorter than a holiday on The Transcantábrico.
Though as can be seen, it follows the same route, minus the section between San Sebastian and Bilbao and also offers a luxury on board experience.

The Tren Al Ándalus

The cities of Cordoba, Granada, Malaga and Seville are linked by high speed trains rushing along purpose-built railways, but the aptly named 'classic' lines used by regular trains haven't been abandoned.
They still wind across the rugged sun-baked landscapes of Andalusia and these dramatic routes are followed by the Tren Al Ándalus.
On board the luxurious hotel train after dinner, you can enjoy an evening of leisure.
Every night, there are live performances or dancing on board. You can also choose to have a more quiet drink in another one of the lounge cars, go for a walk around town or return to the privacy of your room.

The other highlights of the Tren Al Ándalus experience are the stunning locations to which the train conveys its travellers, as it follows a Seville – Jerez – Ronda – Cordoba - Linares-Baeza – Granada – Malaga route.
During the stop at Linares-Baeza, an excursion is arranged to the UNESCO recognised towns of Úbeda and Baeza.

Image by CFA1877 and downloaded from Wikcommons.

The Orient Express: La Dolce Vita

Until 2005 the regular night train service, the Venice-Simplon Orient Express conveyed passengers between Paris and Venice / Venezia via Milano, but it never ventured further south into Italy.
Though the 'romance' of The Orient Express associations led to the name of the luxury travel brand, operated by Accor who also manage the likes of The Savoy and Soffitel hotels being used for this train.
The second part of the name is to do with the only luxury hotel train operating solely within Italy, so this La Dolce Vita service is the luxury hotel train to take when travelling to destinations such as Roma and Sicily.

Le Grand Tour

This magnificent train which offers luxury accommodation in 18 butler served cabins, has been restored by the company which operates the most popular theme park in France.

Hence a six day itinerary which includes free entry into the park.
The route taken is Paris - Reims - Beaune - Avignon - Carcassonne - Pau - Arrachon - La Rochelle - Puy De Fou - Paris

So this is the hotel train to experience for those who want to undertake a tour around the best of France.

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Simon Harper

I wanted to share my passion for train travel and explain how anyone can take the fantastic journeys I have taken.


This is one of more than 100 train travel guides available on ShowMeTheJourney, which will make it easier to take the train journeys you want or need to make. As always, all images were captured on trips taken by ShowMeTheJourney.


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