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, with main terminal stations in Paris in the northwest and Istanbul in the southeast, and branches extending service to Athens, Brussels, and London. In this article we visit the Orient Express Station in Istanbul.

About the Orient Express Station in Istanbul

If you arrive to the Orient Express Station in Istanbul, you can instantly travel back in time to life in 19th-century Istanbul, amazing experience. In 1883 the era of great international express trains began with the Orient Express from Paris to Constantinople (Istanbul).

Sirkeci Station was Istanbul’s historic terminus for trains from Europe, designed by Prussian architect August Jasmund and inaugurated on February 11th, 1888 during the reign of Sultan Abdülhamid II. Though officially named Istanbul Gar, everyone knows it as Sirkeci to differentiate it from Haydarpaşa Gar (1908), the newer terminus on the Asian shore of the Bosphorus.

Sirkeci is where the famed Orient Express ended its run from Paris, at this 19th-century Orientalist station near Seraglio Point beneath the walls of Topkapı Palace, right next to Eminönü, its ferry docks, and Galata Bridge.

The route of the Orient Express

The route of the Orient Express changed many times in Europe. Influenced by wars, interests and many matters. 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.

See hereby the historic routes of the Orient Express – the cross denotes the Simplon tunnel – source: Wikipedia

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. 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“.

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.

Orient Express Restaurant

I’m one of those lucky ones who had the chance to celebrate a birthday in this restaurant. So we can talk from first hand about this experience too. Overall it’s lovely & we would highly recommend it. I believe for a real traveller it’s no need to mention the additional value that this place represents. The history, the charm, the glamour, the fame, the book, the vivid early years of the 20th century…

So to be able to go and enjoy a dinner at such a location is overall priceless. Their menu is nice, representing local dishes and delights, the service is extraordinary, how they treat you is immediately taking you back with one century in time. The atmosphere is elegant with a lot of photographs and old posters about the Orient Express and important figures who were related to it.

Orient Express Café

We can also find a little café next to the restaurant – just right at the entrance of the building. Simple, no glamour, with little seats and tables to wait for your train among locals with a hot tea.

Murder on the Orient Express

The glamour and rich history of the Orient Express has frequently lent itself to the plot of books and films and as the subject of television documentaries. Murder on the Orient Express (1934), one of the most famous works by Agatha Christie, takes place on the Simplon Orient Express. The story brings us back to 1930s, when Orient Express is stopped by heavy snowfall. A murder is discovered, and Poirot’s trip home to London from the Middle East is interrupted to solve the case. The opening chapters of the novel take place primarily in Istanbul. The rest of the novel takes place in Yugoslavia, with the train trapped between Vinkovci and Brod.

Enjoy our discounts in Istanbul

Useful information about the Orient Express Station in Istanbul

Where to find the Orient Express Station in Istanbul?

The Orient Express Station in Istanbul we can find at Sirkeci railway station, listed on maps as Istanbul Railway Station. It is as well the main railway terminal in Istanbul, Turkey.

Is it free to visit the Orient Express Station in Istanbul?

Yes, it is completely free to visit the station. The only place you cannot visit is the arrival hall, that they use for special events and performances.

When is the best time to visit the Orient Express Station in Istanbul?

Since the Sirkeci station is being used as normal railway station – basically any part of the day you can go. But it’s worth to visit with daylight to see the most of the old brick walls and windows around.

Best experiences in Istanbul

Istanbul has everything a visitor needs to have a great experience. Its natural beauty draws visitors from around the world- along with its numerous important sites and cultural heritage. As far as things to do in the place go, there are plenty of activities available for visitors.

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