The historical city of Madrid does not have the best reputation when it comes to providing access for the disabled. Holidays here are full of culture and history, but they can also be dotted with snags and complications for wheelchair users. However, things are improving - slowly but surely!
Here are my tips for wheelchair-using sightseers in Madrid: what to see and what to bear in mind as you roll around the city.
- Prado Museum – The Prado Museum is one of the most important art galleries in the world. All four floors are accessible via lifts and have a smooth surface. Unfortunately, the basement level, the Tesoro del Delfin Gallery, is accessible only via a flight of steps. People with limited mobility do not need to wait in the (usually long) queue, but can purchase tickets from a separate ticket counter.
- Royal Palace of Madrid – This fascinating historical building was constructed on the site of the ruins of the Alcazar de los Austrias in the early eighteenth century. It has a breathtaking collection of paintings, tapestries, lamps, clocks and more. The large courtyard provides visitors with views over the old hunting grounds of the palace. Access to various parts of the palace is via ramp, some of which are fairly steep. Palace staff will guide wheelchair users on an alternate route to reach the State Rooms.
- Royal Botanical Gardens – The Royal Botanical Gardens are just next to the Prado Museum and are the ideal place for a picnic lunch. The gardens have three terraces arranged in different styles; a guided tour can be pre-booked. The paths are smooth and wide and concrete ramps link the different terraces of the garden. There are also three accessible bathrooms.
Though Madrid is equipped with fairly smooth pavements and ramps down to street level at crossings, the city can be very busy. The crowds, especially in summer, can make it difficult to navigate around the city.
You can try using the metro to get from A to B but be aware that roughly 50% of the metro is not accessible for those with reduced mobility. Madrid metro maps indicate clearly which stops do provide wheelchair access, so check before you plan your journey. The main bus service is wheelchair-friendly but remember, you need to flag down the bus or it won’t stop for you!
Alternatively, check out Euro Taxi, a great company to use when in Madrid if you’re disabled. Holidays allow everyone to splash out a little, so relax and treat yourself to a taxi. These roomy vehicles run 24 hours a day and come fully equipped with ramps, making your life easier.
- As not all of Madrid is up to the standard of its main attractions, accessible toilets can be hard to find. However, any large restaurants or international chains should have an accessible bathroom as they are required to provide one by international regulations.
The official Madrid tourist website has a detailed brochure that you can download with all the information needed for visitors to the city who are disabled. Holidays to Madrid will become easier and easier as the city has a real awareness of its strengths and weaknesses in providing access for wheelchair users.
Philip Scott is the owner and founder of Can be Done, a fully licensed UK tour operator specialising in disabled holidays across the world for individuals and groups who are travelling with a handicap. With over 31 years’ experience organising long and short breaks for disabled travellers, Philip has built a reputation for helping his clients select hotels and accommodation that offer high standards of accessibility to ensure that those with special needs can experience truly relaxing and carefree holidays.