An accessible guide to Paris

As much as helping you to find accessible holiday accommodation is our primary aim here at Accomable, we know that's just one part of the whole trip. We want to bring you more information about what's great, good, and not so easy about some of the destinations available on Accomable. This week Alex introduces us to the fabulous city of Paris, welcome Alex. . .

Paris is the city of lights, and is a place with lots of history. I visited Paris in May 2015 for a week and I found it to be an eye-opening experience.

Where I stayed

I stayed at the Park and Suites Grande Bibliotheque (now under new branding), in a self–catering one-bedroom apartment with a spacious lounge/kitchen area. The lounge area had a fold-out sofa/bed and there was a small balcony with a nice view of the next-door office block. The kitchen area had an oven, microwave, fridge and cupboards complete with cooking utensils. The en-suite bathroom had a bit of a bump on the floor around the shower which made it difficult to roll a shower chair over, but it was a decent size room.

The bedroom had two single beds in it, but they were too low so the carers had to bend over too much. The roof leaked for most of the week and nobody came to fix it. Plus the hotel was supposed to be four stars, but it was nothing special. I would give it two or three stars at most. It was in a decent location though, with a supermarket and some nice restaurants on the same street. The best bit was the Metro station on the same road which was handy for getting around.
this hotel is not listed on www.accomable.com

Getting around

I primarily used the Metro for travelling around Paris. However, out of 14 Metro lines, only one had level access and lifts throughout, and that is the newest one, Line 14. However, sometimes the lifts were out of order when I needed them. So, check whether they are working before you get there. Conveniently, there was a Metro station located on the same road as our hotel which happened to be on Line 14.

I didn’t use any of the buses or trams myself so I can’t comment from experience, but I have read that they are accessible with electric ramps. We used wheelchair accessible taxis on a few occasions which were fine, although more expensive than buses and trains. We did have to get the hotel staff to order the taxis for us because of the language barrier.

The sights

The Eiffel Tower - the iconic Eiffel Tower is even more impressive up close than in pictures. There were thousands of tourists swarming all over the place and the queue to get in was daunting. Luckily, a member of staff ushered us straight to the front of the queue which was a relief! Disabled people get a discounted fee of €4, whereas normally it’s €11. For “safety reasons” wheelchair users are only allowed to go up to the second floor, not to the top, which may be a relief or a disappointment depending on how you feel about heights.

Nevertheless, the view from the second floor is spectacular especially on a sunny day. The barrier around the outside of viewing platform was just below my eye height so my view was relatively unobstructed.

The Eiffel Tower

The variety of views at the Eiffel Tower

The nearest train station to the Eiffel Tower, as I found out the hard way, is not wheelchair accessible. When I arrived there on the train I found there was no lift to street level. So my two carers and my brother had to lift my manual chair up two flights of steps, which is definitely not recommended! In hindsight the bus would have been a better way to go!

Notre Dame Cathedral - situated on the Ile de la cité in the middle of the River Seine,the Notre Dame Cathedral is architecturally stunning. Paths around Notre Dame are relatively flat, however the area in front of the Cathedral has lots of cobblestones.

The main entrance to the Cathedral is not accessible but a side entrance is. Inside the cathedral is mostly flat. To get to the back of the Cathedral you have to go up a few steps, but there was a very impressive stairlift for wheelchairs. At first glance the stairs look perfectly normal but at the push of a button they flatten out into a lift. I was not expecting to see such a high-tech bit of kit in such an old building!

Palace of Versailles - the majestic Palace of Versailles is the largest Royal Palace in Europe. We took the train 20 km from Paris to Versailles. We then walked relatively easily 2 km through the town to get to the Palace. There are a large number of cobblestones around the outside of the Palace which made for a bumpy ride. Inside the accessibility is good with lifts going up to the second floor and most of the rooms are large, very grand and spacious.

Palace of Versailles

Alex at the Palace of Versailles

The biggest problem is fighting the hordes of tourists for a clear view as it does get very busy at the best of times. Luckily in most of the rooms the ceiling is just as impressive as the furniture or the walls, and at least we get an unrestricted view of that!

The gardens are just as impressive as the Palace and cover 800 ha. The best way to get around is using golf buggies, and luckily they had a wheelchair accessible one. We hired it for an hour, for a discount price, and cruised around the gardens in style!
Palace of Versailles gardens

The buggy in the gardens of the Palace of Versailles

Sacre Coeur - this is a grand Roman Catholic Church sat on the top of Montmartre hill, the highest point in the city. The area is probably one of the least accessible as there are cobblestones everywhere. We had to get a taxi to drop us off outside the church as the hill was too steep to walk up. There are some stunning views of the city to be had from this area, and the Sacre Coeur itself is very impressive to look at. So it’s worth braving the cobblestones and making the trip here. The church is accessible through a back entrance where a lift will take you up inside.

Sacre Coeur

Sacre Coeur

The Montmartre area has lots of little cafes and souvenir shops so it’s a nice place to sit and relax on a sunny day. Watch out for the street artists though, they may try to rip you off if you let them draw you a picture.

Conclusion

Overall I thought wheelchair access in Paris was quite poor in general. The Metro is basically inaccessible to wheelchair users apart from line 14. There are lots of cobblestones, and old buildings. Saying that it’s possible to see most of the top attractions fairly painlessly, and if you get a hotel in the city centre you won’t have to travel very far. It has lots of interesting things to see and parts of the city are very picturesque.

Excellent, thanks for such a detailed account of your experience in Paris Alex! If you're planning a trip to Paris, we have some great accommodation options for you:

To keep up to date with our news and goings-on you can follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, or read more of our blog posts here.