Lisbon is a charming city: the colours, the light, the architecture and the people, a splendid mix of warmth and surprises for those who venture to visit. Why venture? Because the city is not the most accessible place in Europe for people using a wheelchair: a hilly city with often old pavements and lots of not-so-accessible public transport is not ideal.
But with a few good tips and some careful planning, we would love to suggest that it can be enjoyed and it is totally worth spending some days, to fully absorb the spirit of this very special city.
Historical centre and more !
In the lower part of town is the stunning Praça do Comércio, where you can visit the Lisboa Story Centre, an interactive exhibition that will give you a good idea of the history of the city. It is entirely accessible, has accessible toilets and there is a lift to go to the second floor to continue the visit (one person in wheelchair at the time). A detailed description of the accessibility and measurements can be found here. A free audioguide is included in the ticket price.
Nearby you will find another fun museum: the Museu da Cerveja is in the same square and has also a nice terrace where you can taste… well beer (and lots of other things too – included cod fritters). Completely wheelchair accessible also in the terrace, the museum and brewery are an interesting tour in the local production and that of other countries such as Angola, Brazil, Mozambique, Cape Verde and Saint Tomé and Prince.
Another museum to highlight is the Museu Nacional do Azulejo, dedicated to the famous painted tin-glazed ceramic tiles. It is accessible for travellers using wheelchairs (also electric), as are the garden, the restaurant and the shop and it features a permanent collection and temporary exhibitions that are really worth seeing. There are two wheelchairs available to borrow for the visit.
Fun for all the family! Voted by users of Tripadvisor as the best Oceanarium in Europe for 2018, it is also fully accessible and has content both in Portuguese and English. Full information on the accessibility features can be found here and with a higher fee (60€ per person) you can spend the night there and actually sleep with sharks !! In the same area you can try out the Nations Park Gondola Lift which has some accessible cabins and you will get a wonderful view of the Vasco da Gama bridge (6€ the round trip).
If you have a sweet tooth, then you must try pastéis de nata, and to take away any eventual senses of guilt… you can put together a visit to the stunning Belém tower (only partially accessible and there are train tracks to get there, but it is impressive also from the outside), the Jeronimos Monastery (the ground floor is accessible and well equipped with ramps) and then -at last! – stop in one to the most famous pastelerias in town.
Queue up at Pastéis de Belém and try also their other specialties. They have an entrance with a ramp and it is all located on the ground floor, wide space for moving about and toilets on the ground floor too (source, j’accede).
General Accessibility of the city
Tip: Avoid public transport and take a taxi: they are really cheap and there are a number of taxi companies that have adapted vehicles: book in advance to avoid waiting! Accessible toilets are more easy to find in museums and monument sites, as in public places there are often steps and the toilets are very small.
Lisbon is a difficult city when it comes to accessibility, especially for wheelchair travellers, mainly because it is rather hilly and the streets are not in great conditions everywhere.
Shops almost always have a step at the entrance and accessible toilets are hard to find. Add the fact that public transport is not very accessible, included the charming ancient trams that climb up the hilly parts (quite a ride, but they are tiny trams and there are steep steps to get in, so if you can do a few steps it is worth the wait – you never know when they will arrive).
All of this may discourage you to choose Lisbon as your next city trip destination, but we are going to give you some positive elements to help you choose.
Museums and heritage sites are mostly accessible and have adapted toilets, and if public transport is not accessible, however taxis are very cheap and therefore can be an ideal solution to move about. Although they are not many, there are adapted taxis, you will find some useful phone numbers in our page dedicated to accessible taxis in Lisbon (and some basic vocabulary!).
Take into account that you may have to wait a bit to get one, so if you can, it’s better to book the transferts in advance.
Not all bus and tram lines are accessible in Lisbon. One tram line only, the 15, is declared accessible and it is very practical since it is the line that brings you from the centre to the Belém Tower (and the pastry shop for the famous pasteis de nata!). Also a wide part of the metro stops are declared as accessible but this is mainly thanks to lifts that are not always working. The best strategy is to ask at the assistance of your departure station if they can check if the lifts work at your arrival station, just to be sure you don’t get stuck.
Regarding the buses, there are a number of lines that are indicated as accessible for wheelchair users, but in practice the ramps are not always working and sometimes the stop is placed in a way that the ramp cannot go out properly. Better ask the driver if he is sure that he will be able to get the ramp out at the stop you want.
Manual wheelchairs are welcome on public transport and also electric ones if they respect these sizes (electric scooters are not allowed):
- 1250 mm lenght
- 700 mm width
- 1350 mm height
- 300 kg (chair + person)
For updated information on the accessible bus lines check out the public transport website (ENG/POR)
The Metro stations that are accessible are indicated in the website of the transport company, you will find the updated map here (the website is also available in ENG and the map can be downloaded as a PDF). But the company warns people with mobility impairments to call beforehand (or ask at the station of departure) to check if the lifts are working.
The Lisbon airport is quite accessible and passengers with reduced mobility can use the assistance service, “MyWay “.
It includes mechanical mobility facilitators, as well as skilled professionals who will provide full assistance and comfort during the passage through the airport.
You must request this service from your airline or travel agent upon booking your trip, or up to 48 hours before the published time for the departure of the flight.
The research for this travel guide was carried out by our destination scout Thomas Ardui, if you have questions you can write him in French, Portuguese and English at thomas @ destinationeverywhere.eu.
The photos are by Luca Barberis.