Best cities for wheelchair users and people with reduced mobility

Travelling with a disability can sometimes be challenging but many of the world’s the top travel spots have been working for years to improve accessibility for holidaymakers.

From easier to use hotels to better public transport and improved access to attractions, there are some brilliant cities around the world for travellers with a disability. Take a look at Ask Granny’s top five:

Paris

Paris is a stunning city with great architecture, museums and public spaces. It’s also very accessible for wheelchair users and people with mobility issues. The main art galleries and museums such as the Louvre, the Pompidou Centre, Musee d’Orsay and Musee du Quai Branly all provide great disabled access including lifts, disabled toilets and wheelchair hire. The Eiffel Tower offers preferential queuing for disabled visitors and lift access up to the second floor where you can make use of the shops and restaurants. A separate lift will also take you to the Jules Verne Restaurant. Do make sure to book well in advance if you’d like to eat here!

French Tourisme & Handicap

When out and about, look for the French Tourisme & Handicap label which signifies that a certain standard of accessibility is available in the attractions that display it. It covers physical, visual, hearing impairment and mental disabilities. Paris’s tourism website provides a great deal of help for visiting the city with a disability. It is recommended that you take documentation which proves your disability as it could give you and your fellow traveller free or reduced entry to any attractions. A lot of museums will also lend you a wheelchair and most will have some form of audio visual aids.

Barcelona

Another beautiful city with impressive disabled access is Barcelona, one of the most disabled friendly cities in Europe. Public transport is very accessible. Over 85% of metro stations have lifts and a raised section at one end of the platform that allows level access to the train. All buses in Barcelona are fully accessible with aa automatic ramp and space dedicated for wheelchair use.

Like Paris, Barcelona has many tourist attractions including museums and galleries and most are easily accessible for wheelchair users. One of best accessible museums is the Fundacio Miro where disabled visitors get reduced entry. The Fundacio Miro is in the Parc de Montjuic which doesn’t pose any problems for access.

The Barcelona beach promenade is also very accessible for wheelchair users. The beaches in Barcelona extend from La Barceloneta for miles and miles to the northeast.  A wheelchair accessible promenade makes for a scenic and easy way to see the beaches.  The beaches have a lively, buzzing scene in the summer months and there are several accessible boardwalks extending to the ocean.  You can also stop at some accessible restaurants along the way. This is particularly lovely to do at sunset.

Berlin

Berlin is an easy city to enjoy for wheelchair users and those with walking difficulties. Several of the major tourist attractions and clustered together in East Berlin. While are there plenty of hotels in West Berlin, it’s perhaps better to book a hotel on the other side of the city for ease. The tourist attractions in the former East Berlin include the Reichstag, the Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie, the Berlin TV Tower, the Topography of Terror, Unter den Linden, and Museum Island.

As the name suggests, Museum Island in Berlin has multiple museums close together, making easy for Berlin wheelchair travellers to visit them in a single day.  The Pergamon Museum, the Neues Museum, and the German History Museum (located just across the Spree River) are all fantastic museums and each deserves a couple of hours on your itinerary.

Milan

One the world’s top cities, Milan is a lovely holiday destination full of brilliant attractions including the incredible Duomo cathedral.  The city was named the winner of the 2016 EU Access City Awards thanks to fantastic work being done by the city to be inclusive as possible by making improvements to public transport, sensitively altering architectural landmarks and adding multi-sensory experiences to museums.

There are also many hotels to stay in that offer accessible facilities and bespoke bedrooms. You can find a helpful list here.

Copenhagen

Denmark’s capital, Copenhagen, has developed into a great city for travelling with a disability after investing in facilities in many of the city’s attractions, hotels and services for the past decade.

The city is packed with an extraordinary collection of antique attractions, from the two oldest amusement parks in the world, Tivoli (which inspired Walt Disney to build Disneyland) and Bakken, to the oldest functioning observatory in Europe, The Round Tower, a marvellous 17th century building and a must for stargazers. These attractions, and many more are access friendly as is the metro system and plenty of Copenhagen’s hotels – you can find a list here.

Tips for travelling with a disability

  1. If you are flying, contact your airline in advance and make sure they are aware of any mobility requirements
  2. Do some research and plan ahead as most barriers that still exist can be overcome
  3. The ‘wheelchair friendly’ claim can vary in some destinations. When booking your hotel check that there are shower stalls and elevators
  4. Carry contact details for your doctor and a letter explaining your condition, special needs, and other pertinent information
  5. If you require medication, make your carry enough for your trip and spare just in case. Ask your doctor for a letter explaining what your medication is for
  6. Familiarize yourself with the public-transport system in relation to your hotel; you don’t want to have to order a cab to get to the metro station
  7. Take out travel insurance and ensure that you declare your conditions and that the insurer can cover you
  8. There may be local disability groups in your destination, get in touch with them in advance and ask if they have any travel guides or access to special services or discounts
  9. Take a bus tour around your city to get your bearings
  10. Many car-rental agencies in Europe offer modified vehicles, make sure you book in advance if you need one