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Discover more in Barcelona

A city of architectural twists and turns, high and lows and spikes and spirals - that is surprisingly accessible and accommodating, Barcelona awaits you.

Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, is the second-largest city in Spain and is renowned for its arts and culture, healthy Mediterranean food and diet, beautiful weather, and architectural masterpieces. Since hosting the Paralympics in 1992, the city has focused on improving accessibility in every way, making it one of the most accessible travel destinations in the world. 

Barcelona is my home, and I’ve returned after studying, working, and travelling abroad. I’m Joan Pahisa, and I’m a one-metre tall wheelchair user. I’m passionate about accessible travel, and I love welcoming people to my city and showing them around. It’s a wonderful city that has a little bit of everything. Here’s my guide to discovering accessible adventures in Barcelona.

Getting around

The good news is that 90 percent of the subway stations in Barcelona are wheelchair accessible, which makes getting around quite easy. Here’s a tip from a local: if you’re on wheels, make sure you board in the first car, otherwise you may find a step when you’re disembarking at your destination.

The bus system and the tramway are also wheelchair accessible. Make sure you avoid local trains though (lines beginning with “R”), as many are not accessible. 

Most of the network has Navilens signage, which gives information on directions, bus and subway stops for people with visual impairments. 

If public transport isn’t your preferred way to get around, you can book accessible taxis through the FREENOW app

Sign indicating accessibility on a train platform in Barcelona
Most of the subway stations in Barcelona are wheelchair accessible.

Shop and eat

Street accessibility in Barcelona is top-notch, with great level curb cuts and tactile pavement throughout the city. In most tourist areas, streets are flat, with a mild downhill slope towards the sea. 

Most restaurant and shop entrances are wheelchair accessible, too. Barriers and steps are the exception, rather than the rule. 

If you want to be sure of access to bathroom facilities, head for newer and bigger restaurants, shopping malls, and big-brand shops.

A table with many plates of Spanish tapas and glasses of Sangria
Indulge in tapas meals at one of Barcelona’s many accessible restaurants.

Where to stay

You can find accessible hotels in Barcelona to suit every budget. For mid-range accommodation, I recommend ILUNION Hotels, a specialised chain that hires staff who live with disabilities. Their first-hand lived experience means they really ‘get it’. Service dogs are also most welcome at hotels around the city.

By the beach

For those who enjoy being by the sea, a stroll along Barcelona’s beach-front is a heavenly way to start your holiday. From the W Hotel in Barceloneta to the Forum area, it’s fully wheelable with an excellent flat pavement.

Beach accessibility is quite good, too. There are wooden boardwalks to access most beaches and, during the summer season, there is an assistance service that will help you get into the water for a refreshing dip. Find out more on the Barcelona website.

Must-see attractions

Now that we’ve covered the basics, the following is what you need to see and do while you’re in Barcelona.

Sagrada Familia: This still-unfinished cathedral is one of the most popular works of renowned master architect Gaudi. His design was inspired by the shapes of nature, and its forest-like columns, colourful stained glass windows, and airy towers are truly unique. Admission is free for people with disabilities, plus a companion if you book in advance online.

Exterior view of Sagrada Familia on a clear day
Sagrada Familia is a must-see architectural icon in Barcelona.

At Sagrada Familia, you’ll find many places to stop and rest, quiet areas, ramps, and elevators. Sign language interpreters (International Sign Language) are available, and there are audio-guides that can be paired with hearing aids; pick these up from staff at the accessible entrance. Only the towers of Sagrada Familia are inaccessible for wheelchair users, as there are spiral stairs on the way down. If you are blind or have a vision impairment, I recommend booking a guided tour (which will cost about 4€). Staff will guide you to touchable 3D models, and explain the visual effects of the architecture.

Park Güell: Travelling outside the city centre, you’ll find Park Güell, with stunning views of the city and more of Gaudi’s structures. There are accessible trails for wheelchair users, but it’s best to have someone with you to assist, or a mobility aid that can handle steep and uneven slopes. Buses 24 or V19 will get you to the accessible entrance, on the east side of the park.

La Pedrera & Casa Batlló: On Barcelona’s most famous boulevard, Passeig de Gracia, you’ll find many beautiful modernist buildings, including La Pedrera and Casa Batlló. The interiors are wheelchair accessible (though, unfortunately, the La Pedrera rooftop is not). Inside, you’ll enjoy the unique architecture from a different perspective, and get a feel for the lifestyles of the early 20th century bourgeois. 

The Gothic Quarter: Down Passeig de Gracia, and across Barcelona’s central square Plaça Catalunya, you’ll find the Gothic Quarter. This old town is full of romanesque and gothic-style churches, and charming squares such as Plaça del Rei and Plaça Reial. Don’t worry about cobblestone paths, as there are only a few and they’re easy to avoid if you wish. Get lost among the streets and take it all in!

The Gothic Quarter in Barcelona with a wide flat area and palm trees
It’s easy to walk or wheel around the flat Gothic Quarter in Barcelona.

Gracia District: If you’re keen to get off the beaten path and you have some time, I highly recommend the Gracia District. These pedestrian streets open into lively squares (Diamant, Virreina, Revolució, Sol, Vila de Gracia, and more). It’s the perfect place to taste local tapas, and to try out orxata at an ice-cream shop – it’s a drink made of nuts, served only in summer.

This story first appeared in Travel Without Limits. You can subscribe to the magazine here.

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