On the fast track to Europe’s hotspots: A guide to the best independent train trips to the most colourful corners of the continent

  • Amsterdam is on the itinerary of a fully-escorted, flight-free trip to the Netherlands in April with Railtrail
  • Tailor Made Rail can build train tours to cities from Scandinavia to Greece with First Class upgrades
  • Barcelona, Seville and Madrid are in reach on a fully independent train trip organised by Great Rail Journeys  

Every week, our Holiday Hero Neil Simpson takes an in-depth look at a brilliant holiday topic, doing all the legwork so you don’t have to. This week: Train trips across Europe.

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

Specialist tour companies are busy booking a mix of small-group tours and independent train trips to the most colourful corners of Europe, with travellers enjoying plenty of room on board and the chance to stretch their legs with a trip to the buffet car.

A flight-free trip to the Netherlands in April arranged by Railtrail Tours includes a visit to the bulbfields of Keukenhof 

The Railtrail trip starts in style with refreshments at Art Deco Searcy’s restaurant (pictured) in London’s St Pancras Station

Amsterdam is on the itinerary of a fully escorted, flight-free trip to the Netherlands in April. It includes a perfectly timed visit to the bulbfields of Keukenhof, where 1,000 varieties of tulips, crocuses and daffodils will be in bloom.

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

The South of France and the sunflowers of Van Gogh await independent rail travellers on a self-guided train trip with tickets, accommodation and a full itinerary organised by Inn Travel.

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

Once they arrive in the French capital, Inntravel’s tour boards a TGV train to travel down to the south. Pictured is a TGV in Moisenay, just outside Paris

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

A historic site in Nimes. Along with Narbonne and Arles, the French city features on the itinerary of Inntravel’s rail tour

High life: One blockbuster Italian itinerary from Tailor Made Rail sees travellers pass through the Swiss Alps on the panoramic Bernina Express train (pictured) 

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

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

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

Another bespoke travel organiser, Tailor Made Rail, can build train tours to cities from Scandinavia to Greece. Journeys can be upgraded to First Class and include sleeping cars on night trains.

One blockbuster Italian itinerary sees travellers cross France and stay in a hotel in Chur, in the Swiss Alps. From there you pass 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 £899pp (tailormaderail.com).

Barcelona and the sunny cities of Seville and Madrid are in reach on a luxurious, fully independent train trip organised by Great Rail Journeys. After leaving London on Eurostar to Paris Gare du Nord, a nine-night itinerary 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 next morning by a private, English-speaking driver for a city tour.

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

Tailor Made Rail’s journey brings travellers 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 in reach on a luxurious, fully independent train trip organised 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

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

Proving that distance is no object on trains, Responsible Travel can arrange tickets right across Europe to Split in Croatia. The six-night journey has overnight stops in Munich and Zagreb and you can return by train or air. From £950pp (responsibletravel.com).

Prefer to plan your own tour? There’s advice, timetables and help making reservations at seat61.com, thetrainline.com and raileurope.com.

Great Rail Journeys offers a nine-night Highlights Of Tuscany tour, which stops off at Florence, Pisa, San Gimignano (pictured), Siena and the Chianti region

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