Beautiful, lively, and steeped in old-world culture and new-world nightlife, our week in Barcelona did not disappoint. From Gaudi’s no-straight-lines architecture in Segrada Familia to the religious significance of Montserrat and the Black Madonna, to the winding Medieval buildings and pathways of the Gothic quarter, the history and architecture of Barcelona are truly impressive. Heaping plates of seafood paella, adorable cafes tucked into cute little niches, and Tapas and Taverns on virtually every street corner, ensure there is ample sustenance to enjoy.
As a person with limited mobility and accessibility issues, I was expecting Barcelona to be difficult to navigate because it is an old city. To my surprise, however, Barcelona with limited mobility is quite easy to navigate and enjoy. Almost all locations we visited have accessibility accommodations, making it truly enjoyable to take in all that the beautiful city of Barcelona has to offer.
- Barcelona’s curbs are all slanted ramps and very easy to navigate, I ran into very few places where there wasn’t an easy path to cross a street for people with limited mobility, scooters, or strollers.
- Taxis are plentiful (we visited in the Fall) and very easy to get in and out of, many even have a ramp so the steps to get into each vehicle are minimal. Fares were usually 5 euros from the Ramblas district to anywhere, so they are quite affordable for getting around the City with limited mobility.
- The locals and guides are fairly comfortable accommodating people who have limited mobility. Not all experiences were perfect but as a general rule, we found Barcelonians to be welcoming and tolerant of my limited mobility needs.
- Several sidewalks around the City, such as Ramblas, are smooth and easy to walk on, which is surprising for an old European city. The Gothic quarter has uneven, cobbled walkways, but even those are better than what you experience in cities like London and Greece.
- The beach is flat! The 2-mile long beachfront in Barceloneta was man-made using sand from Egypt to support the 1992 Olympics, and the folks who built it did a great job thinking about those of us with accessibility issues and a disdain for stairways and uneven surfaces. There are long sloping ramps to get easily to the beach and once there, it is flat so easier than most beaches to walk on to get to several beautiful beachside bars and restaurants and to enjoy the Mediterranean Sea.
While I did not try it, June 1 – mid-September from 11:00 am – 4:00 pm, Barceloneta beach has an area for disabled persons that includes a bathing support service. This service is intended for persons with disabilities and reduced mobility, and its purpose is to help them in and out of the water so they can enjoy bathing in the sea, using, if necessary, an amphibious chair. (Travel hint: always double-check if it is in operation, as it is common for places and services in Barcelona to be closed at varying times.)
- The Museum of Barcelona History (Museu D’Historia De Barcelona, or MUHBA) gets an A+ for having small chairs that you can carry with you from room to room to sit on while you look at the exhibits! Their elevators are also well maintained and a good size.
Missed the Mark:
- As with almost any location, we did run into a few places that advertised they had lifts for people with limited mobility and strollers, only to find out their lifts were broken (this is one of my biggest pet peeves!).
- Park Guell is tough for those with mobility issues. We had to climb an extremely steep hill to get to the entrance. Within the park, there are paths to avoid steps, but it is really designed for the able-bodied stair lover.
- At Monserrat, to actually touch the Black Madonna, there are several stairs. There are railings and they do have a lift for wheelchair users that gains entrance to the same level as the Black Madonna, but there are about 6-8 steps to get to the actual exhibit that are not accessible for those in wheelchairs, or if you absolutely cannot climb stairs.
What to know before you go:
- If traveling in the Fall and Spring, pack in layers. It is a true metropolitan culture where it is cool in the morning, warm during the day, and cool at night.
- Wear comfortable shoes! While the walking can be shortened with taxi rides, you will likely still do a fair amount of it, and virtually everyone wears shoes for comfort, like sneakers with dresses
- Men need to wear pants in the evenings; it is frowned upon and even forbidden in night clubs to wear shorts.
- Barcelona has FreeNow, which is an app that helps you call taxis, it works extremely well if you are having difficulty flagging down a taxi when you need one.
- Bring a water bottle – there are a lot of fountains for filling water bottles to stay hydrated.
Barcelona speaks Catalan, not Spanish.
Barcelonians are committed to improving sustainability and eco-friendly practices in Barcelona. For example, taxis are primarily electric cars! Mostly you’ll encounter Toyota Priuses, but you’ll spot a Tesla occasionally as well.
Street sweepers are constantly cleaning the streets, and they even wash them each evening. Watch out for them because they drive everywhere – including sidewalks and pathways!
When Barcelona hosted the 1992 Olympics, they made major strides towards a more accessible destination. Read more.
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