“The Train now departing Platform 1 is a timeless classic”. I’m not sure that this the exact station announcement whenever the Al Andalus Train leaves one of its iconic cities on its seven-day journey, but if not, it should be!
Article by Giles Brown
Although perhaps not as well-known as the Orient Express, the Al Andalus rivals it in terms of late 19th century splendour. You could argue that the Spanish train offers more in terms of gastronomy, entertainment, and excursions.
The British Royal Family originally commissioned the train in the 1920s. The monarchy needed something suitably stylish to transport them from Calais to the popular Côte d’Azur resorts, evoking Belle Epoque style – think Moulin Rouge on wheels – the carriages were the ultimate in luxury and spacious elegance, a true palace on wheels.
While the modern monarchy no longer indulges in such unabashed opulence, the 21st century traveller can now experience the best that Andalucía has to offer on a luxury tour.
The train itself is the longest on the Spanish rail network. At 450 meters in length, it is the horizontal equivalent to a 150-storey skyscraper. The train comprises of two restaurants cars, a kitchen carriage, a bar carriage, a lounge carriage, seven sleeper carriages, crew quarters and a generator carriage. It can accommodate 74 guests in seamless style.
There are two classes of accommodation – The Grand Class Room features two single beds as well as a wardrobe, safe, luggage compartment, minibar, air conditioning and a private bathroom with hairdryer, shower and welcome amenities. During the day, the Grand Class Room becomes a private living room. The beds fold to become armchairs where you can enjoy in the privacy of the great views through the large windows.
The Deluxe Suites have been carefully designed to accommodate a large double bed while facilities include a spacious private bathroom with hydro massage shower, steam sauna, hairdryer and a welcome amenities set, in addition to wardrobes, luggage compartment, safe, minibar and individually regulated air conditioning. All of them combine glamour with maximum comfort and feature 24-hour room service.
The social hubs of the train are the restaurant and bar carriages. The bar carriage, Giralda, and the lounge and games carriage Medina Azahara, are stunning examples of the vintage charm of the 20’s, but also complete with the latest technology.
As you might expect, gastronomy plays a key role and is designed to satisfy the most demanding palettes. The dishes featuring first-rate ingredients are prepared by leading chefs, showcase traditional products, whether served on board the train or at carefully chosen restaurants. As you would expect, they are paired with the finest wines.
Breakfast is served daily in the Alhambra and Gibralfaro restaurants, both a la carte and buffet, with full waiter service. The breakfast buffet is a magnificent way to start the day and prepare you for the experiences ahead. The Medina Azahara is also the venue for music and dance performances during the tour, as well as being a superb place to sit back with a cocktail and watch the stunning landscapes of southern Spain pass by.
The Al Andalus experience is not just about the train, however. A luxury coach accompanies the route and effortlessly transports guests to the several excursions – many with local guides- and restaurant visits.
The experience starts in Seville, meeting at the famous Alfonso XIII hotel before enjoying a guided tour of the city, including the Cathedral, the Giralda, the Alcazar (a wonderful set of palaces with spectacular gardens), and a stroll through the alleys of Santa Cruz Quarter, where the Jewish community once settled.
That evening guests settle into their cabins (after a welcome champagne) as the train heads towards Jerez. Dinner on board while the rolling countryside passes by is the quintessential Al Andalus experience.
The second day includes a luxury bus visit to a bodega to discover the secrets of sherry making in Jerez, as well as a performance by the world-famous dancing horses. Lunch in Sanlúcar de Barrameda, gives guests the opportunity to enjoy the natural beauty of the Doñana nature reserve.
The rest of the itinerary of the trip showcases the very best that Andalucía has to offer, from well-known cities such as Cordoba, capital of the Caliphate of Al-Andalus from whence the train takes its name and site of the impressive World Heritage site, the Mosque of Cordoba. There are also visits to Cadiz and Granada, home to the Alhambra, another World Heritage Site, where guests can tour the beautiful palaces and gardens of this Nasrid fortress that once was the abode of sultans and kings. Ronda, which boasts the oldest bullring in Spain as well as the dizzyingly impressive Tajo gorge, is also a stop as well as the less well-known but equally historical towns of Ubeda and Baeza.
The Al Andalus Train combines seven days of luxurious travel and cultural discovery with superb gastronomy. While there is no specified dress code, you would feel a little out of place in this traveling Belle Époque masterpiece in casual outfits. Personally, I would be inclined to look out an ensemble influenced by the period – Think ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ with an Andalusian flavour!
With trains running May through October, now is the time to book your experience!
Learn more and purchase tickets directly from Renfe here.