The Orient Express. Artisan of Travel since 1883

The Orient Express was a long-distance passenger train service created in 1883 by the Belgian company Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits (CIWL) that operated until 2009.

The train traveled the length of continental Europe and into western Asia, with terminal stations in Paris and London in the northwest and Athens or Istanbul in the southeast.

Lake view from the Orient Express

The route and rolling stock of the Orient Express changed many times. Several routes in the past concurrently used the Orient Express name, or slight variations. Although the original Orient Express was simply a normal international railway service, the name became synonymous with intrigue and luxury rail travel. The two city names most prominently served and associated with the Orient Express are Paris and Istanbul, the original endpoints of the timetabled service. The Orient Express was a showcase of luxury and comfort at a time when travelling was still rough and dangerous.

In 1977, the Orient Express stopped serving Istanbul. Its immediate successor, a through overnight service from Paris to Bucharest, was later cut back in 1991 to Budapest, and in 2001 was again shortened to Vienna, before departing for the last time from Paris on Friday 8 June 2007. After this, the route, still called the "Orient Express", was shortened to start from Strasbourg instead, occasioned by the inauguration of the LGV Est which afforded much shorter travel times from Paris to Strasbourg. The new curtailed service left Strasbourg at 22:20 daily, shortly after the arrival of a TGV from Paris, and was attached at Karlsruhe to the overnight sleeper service from Amsterdam to Vienna.

On 14 December 2009, the Orient Express ceased to operate and the route disappeared from European railway timetables, reportedly a "victim of high-speed trains and cut-rate airlines". Since 13 December 2021, an OBB Nightjet again runs three times per week on the Paris-Vienna route, although not branded as Orient Express. The Venice-Simplon Orient Express train, a private venture by Belmond using original CIWL carriages from the 1920s and 1930s, continues to run to and from various destinations in Europe, including the original route from Paris to Istanbul.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.


1867, when it all began

After a heartbreak, young Belgian engineer Georges Nagelmackers fled to the United States. There, he discovered railroads with the world's first sleeping cars. Back in Europe, he realized his life's work: launching luxurious trains that would lead to the Gates of the Orient.

1876, the CIWL is born

Behind the acronym was a company driven by audacity, the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits (The International Sleeping Car company) These trains became known for their luxurious decorations, unparalleled comfort, unprecedented services on board, plus travel agencies and workshops throughout Europe.

1883: the inaugural journey


On October 4th, 1883, the most fascinating train in the world left Paris for Constantinople and embarked with forty passengers on board. The round trip lasted 7 days. With this one trip, the geography of Europe was turned upside down, and the notion of long-distance travel was completely redefined.

1894: the opening of the first hotels

Georges Nagelmackers founded the Compagnie Internationale des Grands Hôtels. From Paris to Peking, from Istanbul to Cairo, as the Orient-Express traveled through different countries and opened sumptuous palace hotels along the way, extending the experience of a train journey into a fullly modern, luxurious travel experience.

1919: the new Simplon-Orient-Express route

Orient-Express unveiled the midnight blue cars of the first Simplon-Orient-Express train. For the first time ever, Paris connected Istanbul via Milan and Venice, and crossed the Simplon tunnel. This technological feat opened a new route through the Alps.

1926 – 1929: the birth of a unique style

Designed by decorator Rene Prou and master glassmaker Rene Lalique, the new Pullman lounge cars inspired a new art of living on board. These masterpieces of refinement and luxury in Art Deco style embodied the excellence of French travel.

1934: Murder on the Orient Express

On January 1st, Murder on the Orient Express was published. This mystery novel written by the star of suspense, Agatha Christie, quickly gained a cult following, inspiring numerous film adaptations and feeding the imaginations of travelers for nearly a century.

1977: the ultimate journey

On May 20th, the Orient-Express made its last direct trip between Paris and Istanbul. The development of the air travel market at the end of the 20th century was a blow to the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits, who was forced to sell some of its cars at auction. 

2016: a new identity

Orient Express unveiled its new identity at the International Contemporary Art Fair (FIAC) with premiere collection of travel objects.

Six emblematic pieces were inspired by the history of the legendary company and added an artistic layer to a contemporary art of living.

No Comments Yet.

Leave a comment