A Disabled Travel Blogger’s Favourite Accessible City Breaks
Updated: Jul 10, 2020
From Manchester to Madrid, London to Rome and more, I round up my favourite accessible cities to visit as a disabled travel blogger.
I am and always will be a small town girl at heart – I still live in the South Lakeland market town where I was born and raised. But for me, there’s nothing quite like the buzz of a big city. Endless opportunities to be entertained, amazing food inspired by all corners of the world, and most importantly for me, a cocktail bar on every corner.
As a general rule, I find that cities are more accessible to me, as a wheelchair user than small towns. But it can be daunting travelling to a big place, especially for the first time. Good quality accessibility information can be hard to find (more on that in my post about why terms like ‘fully accessible’ don’t help disabled people) and I always find it helpful to hear the experiences of other disabled people who’ve been there, done that and got the novelty souvenirs.
With that in mind, I’ve listed 6 accessible cities that I love to travel to. They’re not perfectly accessible (because nowhere is) but I hope that by sharing my love of each of these special places, and what I know about accessibility for each city, I might inspire some of my fellow disabled people to pack a bag and a sense of adventure, and enjoy all that city life has to offer.
Disclaimer: This list is entirely based on my personal experience of travelling to the cities included, as a manual wheelchair user who is able to transfer, and is not intended to be a comprehensive guide to accessibility at the locations mentioned.
UK Accessible City Breaks
I often think that Glasgow is less attractive to tourists compared to the hype of Edinburgh, but for me, Glasgow wins hands down for accessibility – steep hills do not make for a relaxing break.
Glasgow’s shopping is excellent (hello jewellery quarter!) and for nightlife, I always head to Merchant City, which is full of independent bars, restaurants, galleries and boutiques.
The hop-on, hop-off sightseeing tour buses are one of my favourite ways to see Glasgow, with ramped access and wheelchair spaces available.
Glasgow is also home to Scotland’s only hotel with a ceiling track hoist – the Crowne Plaza.
Ever since my first business trip to ‘the Big Smoke’ in 2005, I’ve been in love with London.
From people-watching on the South Bank to tours of Parliament and tennis at Wimbledon, there’s such a range of accessible activities to enjoy. One of the best access perks I’ve had was private box seating in the Noel Coward theatre, at the same price as a standard ticket.
I now travel to London monthly for work, and every time I get this brilliant feeling of empowerment having navigated the city independently. London’s buses are my accessible transport of choice (free of charge for wheelchair users).
Manchester always feels like my ‘home’ city. I’ll often pop down on the train for a day of shopping and lunching, the city centre being so compact and modern means that it’s really easy to get around with my power pack on my wheelchair.
It’s quite embarrassing how much I love Manchester’s tram network – the simple joy of a level boarding platform, being able to access public transport just like everyone else! No ramp or assistance needed.
Aside from the shops, bars and restaurants that I usually frequent, there’s so much culture to see in Manchester – accessible museums, galleries, historic buildings and quirky attractions.
European Accessible City Breaks
Often held up as one of the most accessible cities in the world, Barcelona is where I fell in love with the European city break. Accessibility here just is, nothing feels ‘special needs’ and I didn’t even do a huge amount of access research before visiting.
Just like Manchester, there’s a brilliant accessible tram network (hello, self-confessed tram geek) which we used to get to beautiful Barceloneta beach, one of the best equipped accessible beaches I’ve ever seen.
From hotels to restaurants and bars, tourist attractions and famous streets – travelling in Barcelona makes me feel just like any other traveller, who doesn’t need to worry about wheelchair access.
Madrid is a city full of special memories for me – it’s where I took part in my first ever overseas press trip, All Madrid for All. The fact that this trip was viewed as internationally significant really shows how highly Madrid’s tourist authorities regard accessibility.
The region has so much to see, do and explore, from Madrid City to Alcalá de Henares, Aranjuez and beyond.
Highlights for me included accessible, subtitled Spanish theatre, an amazing winery tour, so many interesting museums and historic buildings, and of course, the food.
Rome has my heart. If I could spend a weekend in Rome every month, I’d be unbelievably happy (and seriously overweight).
I can’t pretend that it’s the easiest city to get around as a wheelchair user, with ancient cobbled streets, but the bumpy ride is so worth it. Stunning sights around every corner, vibrant culture and magnificent food.
From the awe-inspiring Colosseum, which has lift access, to the many flat piazzas, and the immensity of Vatican City’s attractions – accessible travel in Rome definitely requires a sense of adventure and tenacity, but brave it and I’m sure you’ll fall in love just like I did.