Ah, Paris, the City of Lights and a haven for tourists… except for disabled travelers sometimes. How can guests with disabilities visit this wonderful city with its romantic cobblestone streets, underground metro and flights of stairs everywhere without it turning into a nightmare?
Well actually, the city of Paris tried to make a lot of efforts on accessibility in recent years. Plus, here in this article, I have prepared a whole wheelchair-accessible plan for you to visit Paris !
If you arrive by plane, you need to check with the services at the airport at least 48h in advance so that the free services to accommodate your needs will be ready when you arrive. For that you can contact the Saphir service that has a dedicated number for each country. If you travel with Air France, you’ll be able to do that while checking for your flight.
If you arrive by train, from France or from a foreign country, you can check by phoning+ 33 890 640 650 (0,12€ TTC/min from a land-line + local call fees) at least 48h in advance. You’ll be able to book a companion service to escort you to and from your seat in a number of European train stations. If you arrive by Eurostar or Thalys, make sure to arrive at least 45 minutes before your train’s departure and contact the staff who will help you to board the train.
If you arrive by car, I advise you to use the motorways where you can benefit for a discounted rate charge if you travel in a class 1 vehicle (van type). To benefit from that lower rate, you must use a lane where there is a member of staff, or use the intercom to request a member of staff. At a petrol station, you’ll have reserved parking spaces, adapter shops and toilet facilities. You can even ask to be served by a petrol pump assistant.
Once you’re in Paris, you can start to enjoy your Paris experience! The promenade along the banks of the Seine is not only very romantic, it will also lead you towards some of the finest museums and monuments in Paris.
The Berges de Seine-André Gorz riverside promenade is 2.3 km long and is reserved for pedestrians, cyclists and rollerblades fans and wheelchairs alike. You can access it via the ramps in front of the Musée d’Orsay or in front of the Musée du Quai Branly- Jacques Chirac and you will have access to adapted toilet facilities.
You can start with a bit of shopping at Beaugrenelle Paris (open mon-sat 10-20h30, sun 11-19h) then head along to the Eiffel Tower! You can even have lunch up there for an amazing experience 57 meters above the ground on the first floor of the Eiffel Tower, it’s called 58 Eiffel Tower (that extra meter if the height of the kitchen stove!) Don’t forget to book online beforehand! http://www.restaurants-toureiffel.com/
After that, you can visit the Louvre Museum and say hello to the Mona Lisa, the Victory of Samothrace and the Venus de Milo. You can even do some more shopping in the fancy boutiques at the Caroussel du Louvre, just underneath the upside down Louvre pyramid.
If you’re still hungry for culture after that, you can head over to the Orsay Museum which has the big advantage of having a restaurant over there for your dinner. As it’s the former restaurant of the Hôtel d’Orsay (which used to be a train station, let’s not forget that), you’ll be dazzled by the glorious chandeliers and the gilded ceilings that are listed as a Historic Monument. The French cuisine by Yann Landureau will make you salivate but he’s also cheesy since he will sometimes cook for you original dishes linked to the museum’s current events… So be on the lookout for that on the menu!
You can start by going to the Musée du quai Branly-Jacques Chirac, a museum opened by the former French president to welcome cultures and civilisations of Africa, Asia Oceania and the Americas.
Its huge surface of 5000 square meters also welcomes you with an impressive vegetal wall by Gilles Clément and Patrick Blanc: it will give you immediate dépaysement! The restaurant Les Ombres in the gorgeous gardens of the museum will offer you a great view on the Eiffel Tower if you’re looking for a restaurant other than the Café Branly. Very stylish atmosphere indeed!
After lunch, you can head over to the great garden of the Champ de Mars where you can enjoy a stroll before going to a tour of the Seine Bateaux Mouches via the Bateaux Parisiens or the Vedettes de Paris.
You can even book a romantic dinner during your cruise on the Bateaux Mouches.
The Right Bank is all the neighborhoods north of the Seine, and also where you’ll find the Champs Elysées for all your shopping, and restaurant needs. If you want to stop for a delicious tea and signature macarons, head over to Ladurée Champs-Elysées (75 avenue des Champs-Elysées (+33 1 40 75 08 75) and say hello from us to these delightful edible oeuvres d’art!
You can head over to the Grand Palais or the Tuileries Gardens for a picnic if the weather allows it, then go to the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris and the Palais de Tokyo for a bit of contemporary art, and have lunch at Tokyo Eat, the museum restaurant to stay in the mood…
If you’re on to something a little bit special, I especially recommend you try Gamescape (17 rue de la Pierre Levée, 11th +33 1 77 12 23 62 or firstname.lastname@example.org) It’s a team game where you’re stuck in a room with your friends in a fully immersive environment and you’re trying to escape under an hour, it’s fantastic fun!
Aside from the ones I listed above, Paris has also compiled a list of websites to help you organize your trip. You can check it out at Paris info: http://www.parisinfo.com/.
They have information on everything you’ll need, from accommodation to tourist attractions, means of transportation or leisure and many other topics not covered in this article. Just tag in “disabled” and it will automatically filter the right ones for you.
If you fancy doing cultural visits in groups, head over to Escapam, where dozens of cultural and social events are organized every month (http://www.pam-info.fr, don’t forget to bring your invalidity card with you for special rates and offers). And with the website J’accède: https://www.jaccede.com/en/ you can check out in real time all accessible sites all around you.
Paris can be a great place to visit for people with disabilities. With this list in your pocket, nothing will prevent you from having a magical stay in the City of Lights!
Let me know your thoughts about this article by leaving a comment below.
Frederic Bibard is the founder of Talk in French, a company that helps french learners to practice and improve their french. Macaron addict. Jacques Audiard fan. You can contact him on Twitter and Google +