While many of us would love to travel the world, it’s not always easy for those with limited mobility and rely on assistance from others.
Accessible travel is a hotly debated subject, but many European cities are yet to transform their destination and make it accessible to all.
With that in mind, alpharooms have studied the attractions – including the landmarks and museums – public transport and hotels in the most visited European cities to rank the most accessible cities in Europe.
Dublin is the most accessible city
According to our study of landmarks, museums and public transport, Dublin takes first place for accessibility.
While Dublin may be a city boasting historical landmarks, the city has taken strides to ensure accessibility for all. Dublin scored an accessibility average of 286 points* (based on the scores of 1-25 for their attractions and public transport) with the Guinness Storehouse – the most popular tourist destination – and St Patrick’s Cathedral offering assistance for all disabilities throughout.
Dublin is, traditionally, a cobbled city, but there have been a number of small touches to ensure accessibility is easier. For instance, the Luas – Dublin’s tram system – is fully accessible, with all trams and stations providing wheelchair access. The same can also be said for the extensive bus network, with plans to make it 100% accessible in the future.
The city has been noted for its efforts in the past, with Dublin Airport winning the inaugural Accessible Airport Award at ACI Europe’s Best Airports Awards, in 2016.
Most accessible tourist attractions
Alpharooms has studied the top 15 attractions for each European city, analysing their wheelchair accessibility, whether assistance is available at the attraction, onsite parking, descriptive tours and adapted toilets to score each city.
The research found that the likes of London’s Buckingham Palace, The Guinness Storehouse in Dublin and the Louvre Museum in Paris are some of the most accessible attractions in Europe.
London and Dublin lead the way for accessible attractions
As mentioned above, overall access – based on the ease of access for most visited attractions, restaurants and public transport – in Dublin trumps all other European cities, according to our research.
However, the UK capital, London, does take the coveted top spot for the number of accessible landmarks and museums, with Dublin coming in a close second. The likes of Buckingham Palace and Tower of London, surprisingly, are the most accessible attractions within the city. London scored an average of 319 points* for accessibility for attractions, compared to Dublin’s 286*. However, London lost points when it came to public transport.
Vienna, in particular, also has much to offer travellers with limited mobility. Many of the iconic attractions have been refurbished to ensure they are totally accessible – such as The Hofburg and Schonbrunn Palace and Gardens, dating back to the 1400s and 1700s respectively. Similarly, 95% of Vienna’s metro system is step-free, with assistance available for anyone with reduced mobility.
Prague comes in last place for accessible attractions
It’s bad news for those that are travelling to Prague. Alpharooms discovered that the iconic landmarks and museums in Prague are the least accessible of the most visited cities in Europe. Many attractions do not offer wheelchair access and all but one did not have onsite parking or nearby for disabled visitors.
Most accessible public transport
In terms of public transport, Dublin, Vienna and Barcelona top the leaderboard. The Dublin Luas system is completely accessible for all users. Unfortunately, however, the British capital, London, ranked second to last for public transport – surprising due to the number of accessible attractions within the city.
Every year, more than 1.3 billion passengers ride one of London’s most recognisable icons. However, as one of the oldest metro stations in the world, it’s also one of the most inaccessible. While TFL have stated they are looking to update the network, it won’t be anytime soon for the 1.2 million people in wheelchairs, living in the city.
Vienna and Barcelona round up the top three for public transport
While the Paris Metro is yet to reach the standards of Dublin’s Luas transport system, Vienna and Barcelona have both been paving the way for many other European destinations – coming in at number two and three respectively.
Vienna has regularly been lauded for its accessibility, with 95% of the U-bahn and S-bahn stations completely accessible. It’s little wonder that Vienna has made its way into the top 10 most visited cities of the past year.
Barcelona places third in overall accessibility for public transport, with 91% of metro stations available to use for all passengers. Unfortunately, however, the accessibility of Barcelona’s attractions are second worst, only to Prague. The historical landmarks, such as La Sagrada Familia and Parc Guell, are yet to be updated.
Paris scrapes the bottom for accessible public transport
Paris is a notable destination that has not prioritised accessibility as much as other European cities. France’s capital city comes in last place for accessible public transport, with only 22% of stations (65 out of 302) completely accessible to all.
Despite this, the Paris Metro should be one of the easiest European metro stations to upgrade according to developers. The metro stations are, on average, around six metres underground – compared to the likes of London, which is 25 metres underground.
London might be the most visited European city of the past year (according to Euromonitor International), but the accessibility of the underground and overground is yet to match up to its status. London, surprisingly, placed second to last for accessible public transport – narrowly beating Paris Metro.
Alpharooms has discovered that only 29% of the London Underground stations offer step-free access for users, with only 52% of stations also accessible on the London Overground. In comparison, Dublin’s extensive Luas tram system is completely accessible.
Most accessible hotels
Alpharooms has also studied the top five hotels within each city, based on Tripadvisor, and discovered that London and Dublin again, rank high for accessibility. Berlin is also an addition to the top three.
London, Berlin, Milan and Dublin lead the way for accessible hotels
When analysing the top five hotels in each European city, alpharooms discovered that both London , Berlin and Dublin top the leaderboard for accessible hotels. London comes in first with 28% of hotel rooms in the top five hotels (according to Tripadvisor) completely accessible for all, with Berlin second (27%), Milan third (19%) and Dublin fourth with 11%.
Both Vienna and Barcelona offer a number of accessible rooms (10% respectively), paired alongside their public transport systems that are some of the best in Europe.
However, according to our research, some of the cities that offer the greatest transport and attractions, do not boast accessible beaches.
Poland offers the most accessible beaches
Surprisingly, Poland offers more completely accessible beaches in Europe than anywhere else. There are 20 beaches in the country that offer access to the beach and water for people in wheelchairs, as well as access to the water for those that are visually impaired.
Second in line for the title of most accessible beaches is Spain, offering 12 sandy shores that are completely accessible to all users. Spain also boasts some of the greatest public transport for those requiring assistance, with Barcelona rounding up our top three for accessibility on the metro.
Italy places third for the most accessible beaches, with 11 available for those that have limited mobility and are visually impaired.
The UK, however, lags behind its European cousins, only providing four beaches that are totally accessible, located in the South: Porthtowan, Sandy Bay, Bournemouth, Southbourne Beach and Margate Main Sands.
Unfortunately, there is quite a long way to go for many European cities, but with accessibility such a hotly-debated topic, we could be seeing a change in attitudes in the very near future.
For those who are looking to book a holiday abroad, read our guides on what to consider before looking into accessible travel.
We studied the most visited attractions in each city, scoring them from 1-5 on:
- If the venue is wheelchair accessible
- Assistance (staff guide) available
- Adapted toilets
- Descriptive tours
- Disabled parking at the venue
We then scored each attraction based on the points above. We also analysed the transport and ranked the cities on the number of stations and the percentage that offer step free access. Additionally, we contacted the five best rated hotels in each city – according to Tripadvisor – and ranked them on the percentage of adapted rooms available.