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April 19, 2024

Venice Simplon-Orient-Express Presents One-of-a-kind Sleeper

Working with photographer JR, the L’Observatoire carriage is the first to be designed by an artist.

By Ellys Woodhouse

The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express may have taken its first trip to the Italian city all the way back in May 1982, but at this year’s Venice Art Biennale, the iconic train is looking very different.  

Belmond has debuted L’Observatoire, an exclusive sleeper carriage for the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, with interiors conceptualized and designed by world-acclaimed artist JR. The private carriage is the first to be entirely designed by an artist and when it joins the rake in 2025 it will be the most spacious accommodation type onboard the luxury train.

[See also: Veuve Clicquot and Belmond Unveil Luxury Train Journeys]

JR Belmond
The exclusive carriage is available for preview at this year’s Venice Art Biennale / ©JR

Much of the details around the L’Observatoire’s interiors are being kept under wraps for now – except for attendees at Art Biennale, who can sneak an exclusive peak until April 22 (more details at the end). We do know that the two-person carriage includes a bedroom, an ensuite bathroom, a lounge area, library, and a secret tearoom. Adding to the mystery, JR has featured hidden clues and secret details layered between the evocative spaces of L’Observatoire, providing guests with an immersive experience in motion as they crisscross Europe.

We also know that L’Observatoire will be able to book online from summer 2024 for journeys from March 2025. As is to be expected with Belmond, amenities will be nothing short of luxurious, including 24-hour butler service, private transfers provided, private in-cabin dining, among other “surprises from JR” and “secret special touches”.

[See also: The World’s Most Glamorous Train Journeys]

L'Observatoire interiors
JR in L’Observatoire, with a sneak view from the corridor / ©JR

The partnership plays into the train’s long history of working with globally acclaimed designers and artists. When its 17 carriages were built during the 1920s and 1930s, it worked with some of the most acclaimed exponents of the Art Deco movement on design details that even today remain its signature style. Such as commissioning René Prou and René Lalique who designed the iconic ‘tulip lamp’ and the glass paneling of the Côte d’Azur restaurant car, respectively. 

Now almost a century later, the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express has chosen leading artist JR to infuse new life into one of its original carriages. The French photographer and artist has a reputation for transforming the world’s most famous buildings and landmarks through his large-scale installations, now JR is transforming the legendary locomotive with the restoration of L’Observatoire interiors

JR artist studio
Artist JR in his studio in Paris, looking at L’Observatoire drawings / ©JR

“With L’Observatoire, people can enter my imaginary world,” said JR, explaining that his vision was to create the carriage as somewhere where “guests have little places to daydream”.

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“Guests can now stay in an artist’s private space while being in the most iconic train in the world – experiencing this creative crossroads for the duration of a journey is very special and hasn’t been seen in this way before.”

From April 17–19, L’Observatoire will be on display at Fondamenta Vendramin (Hotel Cipriani, A Belmond Hotel, Venice).

From April 20–22, L’Observatoire will be on display at Riva Dei Sette Martiri.

[See also: The Best Luxury River Cruises]

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