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Train travel across Europe: a guide to the continent’s best independent train and small-group travel

Each week, our holiday hero Neil Simpson takes an in-depth look at a brilliant holiday topic, doing all the work so you don’t have to. This week: Train travel through Europe.

Nervous about crowded airports and planes? Then try the train for your next vacation.

Specialist tour companies are busy booking a mix of small group and independent train journeys to the most colorful corners of Europe, with travelers enjoying ample space on board and the chance to stretch their legs with a ride to the buffet trolley.

A flight-free trip to the Netherlands in April organized by Railtrail Tours includes a visit to the Keukenhof bulb fields

A flight-free trip to the Netherlands in April organized by Railtrail Tours includes a visit to the Keukenhof bulb fields

The Railtrail journey begins in style with a drink at the Art Deco Searcy restaurant (pictured) in London's St Pancras Station

The Railtrail journey begins in style with a drink at the Art Deco Searcy restaurant (pictured) in London's St Pancras Station

The Railtrail journey begins in style with a drink at the Art Deco Searcy restaurant (pictured) in London’s St Pancras Station

Amsterdam is scheduled for a fully guided, flight-free trip to the Netherlands in April. It includes a perfectly timed visit to Keukenhof’s bulb fields, where 1,000 varieties of tulips, crocuses and daffodils will be in bloom.

The five night break begins in style with a drink at the Art Deco Searcy restaurant in London’s St Pancras Station. It also includes historic steam train journeys, a canal cruise in Amsterdam and a visit to the home of Delft Blue pottery. From £1,209pp (railtrail.co.uk).

The South of France and Van Gogh’s Sunflowers await independent rail travelers on a self-guided train journey with tickets, accommodation and a full itinerary organized by Inn Travel.

With tickets, accommodation and a full itinerary organized by Inn Travel, passengers leave London on the Eurostar (pictured in Ashford, Kent) to Paris Gare du Nord

With tickets, accommodation and a full itinerary organized by Inn Travel, passengers leave London on the Eurostar (pictured in Ashford, Kent) to Paris Gare du Nord

With tickets, accommodation and a full itinerary organized by Inn Travel, passengers leave London on the Eurostar (pictured in Ashford, Kent) to Paris Gare du Nord

Once in the French capital, the tour from Inntravel will board a TGV train to travel south.  Pictured is a TGV in Moisenay, just outside Paris

Once in the French capital, the tour from Inntravel will board a TGV train to travel south.  Pictured is a TGV in Moisenay, just outside Paris

Once in the French capital, the tour from Inntravel will board a TGV train to travel south. Pictured is a TGV in Moisenay, just outside Paris

Inntravel's train journey focuses on the Roman temples, arenas and aqueducts of southern France.  Pictured is the Pont du Gard . region

Inntravel's train journey focuses on the Roman temples, arenas and aqueducts of southern France.  Pictured is the Pont du Gard . region

Inntravel’s train journey focuses on the Roman temples, arenas and aqueducts of southern France. Pictured is the Pont du Gard . region

A historical place in Nmes.  Along with Narbonne and Arles, the French city is on the route of the train journey from Inntravel

A historical place in Nmes.  Along with Narbonne and Arles, the French city is on the route of the train journey from Inntravel

A historical place in Nmes. Along with Narbonne and Arles, the French city is on the route of the train journey from Inntravel

High life: An Italian blockbuster route from Tailor Made Rail sees travelers traveling through the Swiss Alps on the panoramic Bernina Express train (pictured)

High life: An Italian blockbuster route from Tailor Made Rail sees travelers traveling through the Swiss Alps on the panoramic Bernina Express train (pictured)

High life: An Italian blockbuster route from Tailor Made Rail sees travelers traveling through the Swiss Alps on the panoramic Bernina Express train (pictured)

Pictured is the Bernina Express crossing a spectacular viaduct as it passes through the Swiss Alps

Pictured is the Bernina Express crossing a spectacular viaduct as it passes through the Swiss Alps

Pictured is the Bernina Express crossing a spectacular viaduct as it passes through the Swiss Alps

After leaving London on Eurostar, travelers in Paris board a TGV train to spend time in Narbonne, Nimes and Arles, where Van Gogh painted some of his most famous works.

The six-night trip also focuses on the region’s Roman temples, arenas, and aqueducts. From £975pp (inntravel.co.uk).

Another tailor-made tour operator, Tailor Made Rail, can build train journeys to cities from Scandinavia to Greece. Trips can be upgraded to First Class and include sleeping cars on night trains.

On an Italian blockbuster route, travelers travel through France and stay in a hotel in Chur, in the Swiss Alps. From there you will pass through St Moritz on the panoramic Bernina Express train before heading to the shores of Lake Como where guests are taken to their hotel by boat.

The seven-night Lake Como Via The Bernina Express itinerary is from £899 pp (tailormaderail.com).

Barcelona and the sunny cities of Seville and Madrid are within easy reach on a luxury, fully independent train journey organized by Great Rail Journeys. After departing London on Eurostar to Paris Gare du Nord, a nine-night journey includes a private transfer to Paris Gare de Lyon for the fast train to Spain.

Another private transfer takes you from Barcelona station to your hotel, where you will be met the next morning by a private, English-speaking driver for a tour of the city.

Transfers, train tickets and city tours are arranged in Madrid and Seville. From € 1,695 pp

Tailor Made Rail's journey takes travelers to the shores of Lake Como, pictured, where guests are taken to their hotel by boat

Tailor Made Rail's journey takes travelers to the shores of Lake Como, pictured, where guests are taken to their hotel by boat

Tailor Made Rail’s journey takes travelers to the shores of Lake Como, pictured, where guests are taken to their hotel by boat

Barcelona and the sunny cities of Seville (pictured) and Madrid are within easy reach on a luxury, fully independent train journey organized by Great Rail Journeys

Barcelona and the sunny cities of Seville (pictured) and Madrid are within easy reach on a luxury, fully independent train journey organized by Great Rail Journeys

Barcelona and the sunny cities of Seville (pictured) and Madrid are within easy reach on a luxury, fully independent train journey organized by Great Rail Journeys

In Barcelona, ​​pictured, tour-goers with Great Rail Journeys will be met by a private, English-speaking driver for a city tour

In Barcelona, ​​pictured, tour-goers with Great Rail Journeys will be met by a private, English-speaking driver for a city tour

In Barcelona, ​​pictured, tour-goers with Great Rail Journeys will be met by a private, English-speaking driver for a city tour

The company also offers dozens of small-group tours if you prefer to travel with others. The Nine Day Highlights Of Tuscany tour includes Florence, Pisa, San Gimignano, Siena and the Chianti region. From £1,595 pp (greatrail.com).

To prove that distance is no problem on trains, Responsible Travel can arrange tickets throughout Europe to Split in Croatia. The six-night trip has overnight stays in Munich and Zagreb, and you can return by train or plane. From £950pp (responsibletravel.com).

Prefer to plan your own tour? There is advice, timetables and assistance with making reservations on seat61.com, thetrainline.com and raileurope.com.

Great Rail Journeys offers a Nine Day Highlights Of Tuscany tour, stopping in Florence, Pisa, San Gimignano (pictured), Siena and the Chianti region

Great Rail Journeys offers a Nine Day Highlights Of Tuscany tour, stopping in Florence, Pisa, San Gimignano (pictured), Siena and the Chianti region

Great Rail Journeys offers a Nine Day Highlights Of Tuscany tour, stopping in Florence, Pisa, San Gimignano (pictured), Siena and the Chianti region

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