Paris oozes sophistication, romance, and a je ne se quois (elusive quality) that intrigues travellers from around the world. Lured to the city for a taste of French culture, fashion, and history, I found that a week of Parisian life was not nearly enough.
Paris boasts some of the world’s most famous monuments and attractions, including the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, and the Louvre. It’s easy to fill an itinerary with visits to the city’s many landmarks, but it’s equally wonderful to meander the City Of Lights’ laneways and grand boulevards. Make sure you allow time to stop at a cafe. Savour a coffee and croissant while indulging in the fabulous people-watching Paris offers. For me, an ideal week in Paris combines both iconic attractions and relaxed enjoyment.
Tour de Paris
Paris caters well to visitors with a disability. While the Paris Metro is not wheelchair accessible, the buses and RER do provide good access.
Most of the major tourist attractions have accessible entrances and some offer people with a disability discounted or free entry (proof of disability may be required). It’s usually best to arrive at opening time to avoid the crowds, and pre-book your tickets wherever possible.
The Arc de Triomphe was built in 1806 on the orders of Napoleon I. In more recent years, the monument’s accessibility has been upgraded to include access via a ramp and lift to the museum. The outdoor terrace offers superb views across the city. Bookings are essential to avoid disappointment.
The Louvre provides some of the most comprehensive accessible and inclusive services in Paris. Free entry is offered to visitors with a disability and one companion (documentation is required). If you’d prefer some guidance for your visit, stop in at the Help Desk and ask for a staff member who can escort you. Visitors with sensory needs can collect a sensory bag from the Help Desk. It has noise-cancelling headphones, and other items to make a visit to the Louvre more comfortable. Details of more services available at the Louvre for guests with disabilities can be found on their website.
Galeries Lafayette is an upmarket and architecturally stunning shopping mall in the heart of Paris. This century-old department store is worth a visit at any time of year for its incredible steel-frame art nouveau glass dome. At Christmas time, though, the decorated windows and in-store Christmas tree are a particularly wondrous sight to behold. The store has a free rooftop viewing area, accessible via lift. It’s a bit of a tourist magnet at sunset, so get there early.
We didn’t receive an invitation to Paris Fashion Week, and our travel budget didn’t extend to shopping at Dior, but we did find that for a small entry fee (approx. $20 per person at time of writing) we could get front-row viewing of a divine collection of Dior’s splendid creations This is the equivalent of the Louvre for fashionistas.
Galerie Dior opened in 2022. Over three levels and 13 rooms, visitors get to experience the career and fashion of Christian Dior. Information boards are provided in both English and French, and will take you on a fashionable journey through history. Gowns, handbags, and perfumes are all presented in stunning displays.
La Galerie Dior is accessible, but due to the architecture of the building, some circulation areas have limited space (80cm width, 130cm length). A wheelchair is available by reservation from reception.
We waited over an hour to enter the exhibition, as all pre-purchased tickets had sold out prior to our arrival in Paris. I recommend booking well in advance via their website to avoid the queue.
Leaving your mark
We visited the Louvre and Musee D’orsay to see others’ artworks, but when it came to leaving our own mark on the Paris art scene, we chose a graffiti workshop.
With a group of travellers all interested in the art of graffiti, we soon learnt that using a spray can to create art is no easy task! Controlling the can, getting a smooth line, and blending colours is difficult. This experience gave us a much greater appreciation of the street art we often admire, in Paris and at home.
We left the workshop on a high – I’m not sure if that’s because we learnt a new skill, or if it was the fumes (something to be mindful of when booking).
Wheelchair users could be accommodated in the workshop we attended, but all participants needed to have good fine motor skills to hold down the spray can nozzle for an extended period. Prior to booking, I suggest emailing to ensure your needs can be accommodated.
Accessibility in Paris made easy
The Paris Tourist Office has produced a detailed accessibility guide to the city, which includes information for a range of disabilities. It’s a fantastic resource, and a good place to start planning your own trip to the City of Light. Get the guide here.
This story first appeared in Travel Without Limits magazine. You can subscribe here.