Travelling abroad with mobility issues can be a challenge. But selecting a city break is all about what you can do rather than what you can not.
A trip to a European city combines good weather, culture, dining and history. Many of the cities in Europe are steeped in history. While winding alleys, cobbled roads and historical buildings are beautiful, they are not always very friendly to those who are less mobile.
Capital cities in Europe have become increasingly accessible in recent years. Poland’s capital, Warsaw, has recently been named the European Commission’s 2020 Access City award winner. Previous winners among Europe’s capitals have included Berlin and Milan.
But you don’t need to stick to the seats of government to enjoy a city break in Europe. There are lots of other cities throughout the continent that are wheelchair-friendly.
The cities in the Catalonia region of Spain are some of the most accessible in the country and Barcelona is one of Europe’s most wheelchair-friendly.
The city on the Spanish northeastern coast has a fantastic public transport system with all buses accessible to wheelchairs and most of Barcelona’s metro stations have ramps and elevators.
The city centre boasts a host of accessible hotels with modern buildings offering flat access entrances and rooms with disabled adaptations including walk-in showers.
Though Barcelona is surrounded by hills and mountains, the city centre is pretty flat and easy to get around for those with mobility issues.
The capital of Catalonia even has a wheelchair-friendly beach with accessible walkways, adapted changing facilities and lifeguards trained to provide assistance to support wheelchair users to get into the sea.
Gibraltar is hilly, no doubt. But the British territory has a fleet of accessible taxis which you can hire for a tour of the three miles long by two miles wide colony. You can even take one to the top of the Rock of Gibraltar to see the famous Barbary Macaque apes.
Casement Square and Main Street are very flat and offer lots of great, accessible food and shopping. No trip to Gibraltar would be complete without crossing the airport runway – the only one in the world to be bisected by a highway – which can be done in a wheelchair.
The capital of the state of Saxony was practically levelled during the Allied bombing raids of 1945 but Dresden’s centre has been rebuilt in such a way as to keep its historical essence.
Dresden is a beautiful city on the banks of the River Elbe and has gained accolades for its interactive maps and tour guides which detail wheelchair-friendly paths and trails and accessible toilets.
Notable attractions include the Factory of the Volkswagen which is fully accessible to disabled visitors and the stunning Dresden Palace which has separate wheelchair entrances and disabled restrooms.
Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Generally, The Netherlands is considered a very accessible country for wheelchair users. Rotterdam was devastated during World War II but rising from the ashes was a city filled with contemporary architecture which means it’s a great place for wheelchair users to visit.
Some of the must-see accessible attractions include the Markthal food square, Koopgoot shopping centre, the Nature History Museum and the Dutch Photography Museum. You can also take a cruise of Rotterdam Harbour in an accessible boat.
Città Vecchia (Old City), Ortygia, Italy
Outside of Milan, Italy isn’t considered the most accessible of countries for people with disabilities. But the Mediterranean island of Sicily is on the must-visit list of destinations for many thanks to its wealth of history and some of the most incredible coastlines in the world.
The small island of Ortygia is a better choice than many of the more famous alternatives in Sicily. Ortygia is very flat, can be reached from the mainland by road, and its attractions can easily fill in a couple of days.
The historical centre of the city of Syracuse, Ortygia contains many historical landmarks including the Cathedral of Syracuse, which has a wheelchair accessible entrance, and the Piazza Duomo, considered one of the most beautiful squares in Italy.
The 2014 winner of the EU Access City Awards is Sweden’s stunning second city. Gothenburg’s “City for Everyone” development scheme has meant all public spaces are fully accessible and the introduction of a team of travel guides in the city who can assist those with accessibility needs.
The major attractions of Gothenburg are more accessible than in most European cities. The city’s 3,000 public buildings and outdoor areas are regularly inspected to ensure they make the grade for disabled visitors. Gothenburg has a range of modern accessible hotels, restaurants and bars.