Paris can wait: how we dodged the summer crowds by Interrailing to Europe’s smaller towns

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We took our teenage sons on quieter tracks – to Utrecht rather than Amsterdam, Baden-Baden not Berlin – and enjoyed a less frantic rail tour of Europe

We were sitting enjoying a quiet beer at a bar in Ghent when I realised we’d made the right decision. Ghent was humming but not heaving, cheerful but not chaotic. It was the first night of our three-week Interrail trip with our 18- and 16-year-old sons. Now, after a long train journey, the calm ambience of the medieval Belgian city left us feeling relaxed rather than exhausted.

An Interrail ticket opens up 33 European countries by rail and many people seize the opportunity to visit capital cities on their bucket list. A typical itinerary takes in big hitters like Paris, Prague, Rome and Madrid. We decided to do things a little differently.

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