Who needs a five star hotel when you have the Orient Express?
Some 140 years after the train’s first journey – it made its debut on October 2, 1883 – Accor has announced the opening of a new luxury hotel inside the original locomotive. The “dream on wheels” will consist of 17 cars that were part of the Orient-Express Nostalgie-Istanbul (the name of the train has changed depending on the route). Dating back to the 1920s and 1930s, the convoy has been meticulously restored and today includes 12 sleeping cars, a restaurant and a caboose.
The French hotel group commissioned Parisian architect Maxime D’Angeac to create a contemporary new look for the rolling hotel that still reflects the train’s historic past. The result is a classic Art Deco interior that seamlessly blends the two worlds of modern luxury and old-world travel. Charming original elements, such as woodwork, etched wall patterns, and Lalique panels, play against chic new furnishings. As for accommodation, the century-old sleeper only has suites, each with a sumptuous bathroom.
“The revival of the Orient Express is a technological challenge, meeting scientific, artistic and technical criteria, where the whole project has been conceived as a work of art,” D’Angeac said in a statement. “From the mechanics stamped with the signature of the Orient Express to the innovative concept of the suites, an exact science of detail will allow travelers to rediscover the great splendor of the Orient Express.”
The project took years to mature. The original cars were discovered in 2015 by industrial history researcher Arthur Mettetal, who sought to uncover what was left of the Orient-Express. The famous railway company closed in 1977 and was briefly resurrected in the 1980s before disappearing almost entirely. As a result, many cars left the grid. Mettetal found Nostalgia-Istanbul on the border between Belarus and Poland. After two years of negotiations between Accor and the owner of the train, the wagons were finally taken back to France for renovation.
“Entrusted to the best craftsmen and decorators specializing in their unique trades, this embassy of French luxury will reveal an ensemble of absolute refinement, faithful to the art of tailoring,” adds D’Angeac. “It will be an incomparable train travel experience, imagined through a contemporary vision of comfort and extreme luxury.
The railway icon is set to enter service in Paris in 2024. Although routes have not yet been confirmed, it is likely that the train will take some of its famous routes across Europe. Tickets will go on sale in 2023. If that seems too far away, however, the Orient Express La Dolce Vita (also run by Accor) is set to make its first trip through Italy in 2023.