The Mystical Orient Express
There have been many versions of the Orient Express train in both real life and fiction. They all took different routes, and each has its own gems. This trip is based on original journey of the Orient Express from 1883-1914 and on the currently available train connections making the journey from London to Istanbul.
Although you may feel like you walked into a famous mystery novel, Murder on the Orient Express, take the mystery (but not the magic) out of your trip with the help of this guide and a handy Interrail Global Pass!
Price Range: $$$
Recommended Days: 14-18
Riding Hours: Approx. 50 hr
Distance: 3725 km
Once the heart of the British Empire, centuries of history stand close together in London. 15th-century pubs sit next door to 19th-century shops. Cuisine, entertainment, museums, parks—London Town has it all. Bonus: the London Tube can take you anywhere in the city. There is plenty to discover on these winding streets!
If you like museums, London is packed with good ones. Check out the National Portrait Gallery for art across the centuries or the British National Museum for artifacts from Great Britain and beyond. More interested in shopping? Stroll down Oxford Street for 1.5 miles of beauty, tech, and clothing stores. Stop in at the 300-year-old Twinings Tea Shop on the Strand and buy some authentic English Breakfast tea for the road.
Keep with the train theme for dinner and dine at The Star Tavern where the Great Train Robbery was planned and where wealthy stars mingled with mobsters and thieves. You can also sample some of London’s famously delicious Indian cuisine at Gymkhana.
London St Pancras → Paris Nord | Duration: 2:22 h | Transfers: 0 | Transport: Train
This trip is an engineering feat! You’ll spend around 30 minutes of your ride underwater as the Eurostar cruises through the aptly named Chunnel (Channel-Tunnel) beneath the English Channel. Buy these tickets on Omio.
City of Love, City of Lights—Paris is known for its beauty and romance. Made up of 20 distinct neighborhoods, or arrondissements, there are both grand gardens and rustic cobblestone streets to explore. Fill up on French food, wine, and as much dramatic history as anyone could desire!
If you’re an art lover, the Louvre is an essential stop. Or are you a fan of the macabre? Find a bit of quiet, and a whole lot of cats, at Montmartre Cemetery in the 18th arrondissement. This 17th-century graveyard is home to crumbling mausoleums and several Parisian artists.
Getting hungry? Grab a bite at Roger La Grenouille, where frogs accent every detail from the walls to the dishes. Frog burger, anyone? Wash it all down with a wine tasting within city limits at Le Caves Du Louvre.
Paris Est → Muenchen Hbf (Münich Main Station) | Duration: 5:50 h | Transfers: 0-1 | Transport: Train
With multiple connections throughout the day, hop aboard and transfer (a short 8 min) at Stuttgart to head to your next destination, Munich. There is one direct train a day however it leaves Paris Est at 3:36pm arrives in Munich at 9:36 pm*. As for scenery along the way, before crossing over into Germany, peek out the window; you might catch a glimpse of an ancient ruin in the North Vosges Regional National Preserve.
*Please check online for train updates and exact current train times. Buy these tickets on Omio.
There is no doubt that Germany loves beer, but really… Munich loves beer! They started brewing centuries ago and show no signs of slowing. Munich is also known for its art quarter, so grab a beer and get ready to peruse some beautiful artwork.
View a wide array of art in The Kunstareal, the art quarter of the city. Then, get a snapshot of history and walk the golden cobblestones of Viscardigasse or stroll around the boutiques and shops.
If you’re looking for the full beer and heritage experience, plan your trip for the fall and celebrate Oktoberfest with a tankard—or three! No matter what time of year, you can get a taste of the German festival at Hofbräuhaus, a beer hall in the Altstadt.
Muenchen Hbf → Budapest Keleti | Duration: 6:56 h | Transfers: 0 | Transport: Train
Budapest may have crossed your radar a couple of times and for good reason. This city is a great stop on your route to Istanbul where you’ll be able to relax, have fun, and learn some history along the way.
Iconic buildings and architecture to see are the Parliament Building, the Buda Castle, the Chain Bridge, and the Fisherman’s Bastion. If you’re looking for some more great views over the Danube, we recommend hiking to the Citadella on Gellért Hill and treating yourself to a relaxing afternoon in one of Budapest’s famous thermal bathhouses.
The Gellért Baths are near the Citadella or head to Szechenyi or Lukacs Bathhouses, either for a relaxing time, a time to contemplate over a game of chess poolside or a time to rave (check particular bathhouses for current rave/party schedules).
Budapest Keleti → Gara Bucureşti Nord | Duration: 15:54-16:23 h | Transfers: 0 | Transport: Night Train
There are three daily connections to Bucharest on a night train, leaving in the afternoon or evening and arriving in Romania’s capital the following day. This saves you a night in a hotel and definitely worth experiencing. Book these tickets on ACP Rail, as they are not available on Omio.
Bucharest, the capital of Romania, also nicknamed Little Paris, tops our list of one of the coolest underrated capitals of Europe. With plenty to do and see, enough coffee and cocktails to drink, Bucharest will leave you wanting more.
Bucharest hosts one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world and you’ll have to take a peek in Cărtureşti Carusel for yourself. Bucharest’s Palace of the Parliament building is very large and considered the heaviest in the world, take a tour of that or pop into the Kitch Museum to get a better understanding of tacky or enjoy the Museum of Maps. Another worthwhile museum is the Muzeul Micul Paris (Little Paris Museum) which highlights the influences that France had on Romania.
Wander in the beautiful courtyards and parks that the city has to offer, like Parcul Izvor or Cismigiu Gardens, before hopping on the Bosphor Express, also known as the Trans-Balkan Express.
Gara Bucureşti Nord → Halkali Istanbul | Duration: 19:20 h | Transfers: 0 | Transport: Night Train
Important: These tickets can only be bought at the train station and the Bosphor Express service only runs during the summer.
So if traveling during this time, from Bucharest, take the Bosphor Express train which leaves daily at 11am and arrives in the outskirts of Istanbul (Hakali) 19 hours later at 6am. Depending on where you are staying, get off at Hakali and hop on a bus at the Istanbul Küçükçekmece Halkalı Marmaray bus station (across the street) where it will take around 45 minutes to reach Istanbul Fatih Akbiyik bus station which is roughly in the center of the city.
If traveling outside of the summer season: Take a train from Bucharest (Bucuresti Nord) to Dimitrovgrad, Bulgaria to then transfer to the Sofia-Istanbul overnight sleeper and follow the instructions above when arriving at Hakali station in Istanbul. Enquire about tickets and timetables at the train station.
A truly ancient city, Istanbul has been ruled by Greeks, Romans, Ottomans, and more over its long lifetime, and the culture and architecture show it. This vibrant city has something interesting to view on every corner.
With its needle-like towers and incredible mosaic work, the Blue Mosque is popular with both tourists and locals alike. To cover more ground, take a Bosphorus Ferry Trip to see the impressive cityscape from the Black Sea.
There are many bazaars in the city, but the Grand Bazaar is a fascinating place to shop. Wander the stalls to your heart’s content, then take a break from the noisy city in a serene tea garden. Yildiz Park Kir Kahvesi overlooks a still lake and offers coffee, tea, and full meals for hungrier guests.
*Disclaimer: Due to the fluidity of transportation schedules, the information seen on RailwayHero may not be up to date at the time of readíng. Always double-check with the operator for the latest information.