Tourism Abroad - Disabled Accessibility

Lisbon, Portugal - September 2014

The Airline and the Airport

Heathrow Terminal 1 is all fully accessible and we boarded Air Portugal via a walkway. On arrival at Lisbon Portela Airport, my communicator guide and I disembarked the plane by steps and onto a bus to the terminal. Spacious disabled toilets, lifts and escalators are all in place throughout the airport, escalators had green lights in between steps. All the staff in the airport spoke English, and helped direct us to the bus. Journey time to the hotel was around twenty minutes on the bus which can be accessed by a wheelchair using a ramp.

At the Hotel

The Corinthia Hotel is a luxurious five star hotel, comprising 518 rooms, only one of which is adapted for wheelchair users. It does not have a wet room but has lots of grab rails. Unfortunately, this hotel was not designed to be wheelchair accessible. There was a revolving door to enter which was big enough for a wheelchair, and there were two other doors on the side of the revolving door which the concierge was usually on hand to open for us.

Staff saw me approaching with my symbol cane and directed us to a colleague who was checking people in at a desk where we could sit down. We were offered a glass of complimentary port whilst checking in and we were upgraded to an Executive Suite which was very spacious. Special assistance was offered during our stay. There are four lifts taking guest to all of the twenty four floors.

There is a spa and an indoor pool located on the second floor, however the pool is not accessible as there are four steps up to the sunbed area. The spa, where guests can enjoy a relaxing massage for a fee is accessible if the person is able to get out of their wheelchair independently. The Corinthia Hotel was not designed to be accessible when it was built.

Getting Around

Buses, trams, trains and the metro (underground) all accommodate Lisbon’s infrastructure. With the metro being the quickest form of transportation, it was my chosen way of getting around. Though not all stations are accessible, the ones that are have the disability symbol next to them on the map. All stations on the

Red Line (São Sebastião to the airport) are all fully accessible. For more information on the accessibility of Lisbon’s Metro, please visit the website:

The hotel was located a short few minutes’ walk from Jardim Zoologico station, on the other side of the road. This was a large station (train and underground) with escalators and steps to get to the platforms. However, with no lifts this station was not accessible for wheelchair users. It was six metro stops into the heart of the city which took about fifteen minutes.

In the city centre, Restauradores metro station has lifts for wheelchair users with one wide ticket barrier, but this was broken on our first trip, and could only be used in one direction.

There are lots of cobbled streets in Lisbon which are often uneven and not well maintained. The pavements can be narrow also which made it difficult to get around.



The first attraction on the list was Sintra, a town 18 miles north-west of Lisbon about forty minutes train journey. There were ramps inside the train which were for wheelchair users; otherwise the step up to the train was very high. On arrival in Sintra, there was a bus to the main tourist attractions; the bus had a yellow ramp which could be folded out for wheelchairs. The bus was quite busy but people got up to offer me a seat and some even helped me disembark.

Castle: the main ticket office on arrival had five steps to get into but there is another ticket office located just inside the castle grounds. The castle is 400 metres away from the main road and the path does not have any steps but it is uneven and quite cobbled. Disabled tickets were not advertised but when my communicator guide asked, I got a disabled ticket for half price and a free carer ticket. I was asked to provide some proof of disability.

Sintra Castle was built in the 8th century and is not easily accessible. Most of the castle itself is up a lot of steps which are high, uneven and worn. I was helped going up and down the main steps by some other tourists but did not see all of the castle as there were too many steps.

Palace: A short bus journey from the castle to the palace (both of which are high up on a hill). Disabled ticket was again half price with a free carer ticket. We had to pay to use a small shuttle bus to get from the main entrance to the palace which was further up the hill (6 Euros for the return journey). This was a small bus but it had a lift at the back to enable wheelchair users to get on and off.

The palace is partially accessible, there is a lift to get to the restaurant and café and there is also a disabled toilet. However, the inside of the palace building was only accessible via some steps. The map of the palace park shows routes which are accessible for those with disabilities and where there are particularly steep areas, although most of the park is on an incline.

Castelo de Sao Jorge

This is one of Lisbon’s top attractions and with it being a Saturday there was quite a queue for the tickets. Tickets were half price for disabled, but I had to pay full price for my communicator guide. The castle grounds are cobbled and very uneven. Most of the attraction can be accessed without steps but if in a wheelchair, you would need someone with a strong back to push you.

The main castle building has walls around it which you can walk on. These can only be accessed via a large set of steps and there are small sets of steps along the castle walkway. A good feature about the castle is there is a disabled toilet on site.

The walk down from the castle to the cathedral along the main road was very steep and cobbled. However, some streets had handrails to make it easier. An alternative could have been taking a bus down.

Lisbon Cathedral

There are two sets of steps (six and eight steps) to get into the Cathedral which do not have handrails, so this attraction is not accessible. It is free to enter the main cathedral but there is a small charge to go into certain parts, including the Treasury although this is up a steep narrow staircase so I opted not to do this.

Belem Tower

My communicator guide and I took a taxi to this attraction which took around ten minutes from the hotel (a good suggestion by the concierge), rather than use the metro then change onto a train.

Belem Tower is a World Heritage site and unfortunately it is inaccessible to wheelchair users. There are two steps just inside of the door to get to the main battalion that is on the ground floor. To get to the lower battalion there is a difficult staircase with no handrail so I did not go down there. To go up to the first floor, there are steps but with a handrail on one side. To go up to the second section, there is a small staircase but with no hand rail. To go up to the second floor, there is a narrow stone spiral staircase with no handrail so I did not attempt to go up.

Henry the Navigator Monument

Opposite the monastery there is a tower to commemorate Henry the Navigator. Although this was constructed fairly recently, there is a set of steps to go up to the reception which does not have a handrail. At the top of the tower there is a view of the coast line.

The lift to go up however does not go all the way to the top and then you have to go up forty two steps. We did not attempt to go up as this is clearly not accessible.

Jerónimos Monastery

This attraction is around fifteen minutes’ walk from Belem Tower although there are plenty of taxis available at either location. The monastery is on the other side of a very busy main road with no traffic lights or stops in the road. You have to cross using an underground walkway which only has steps and no lift. The walkway itself is also very dark.

There was a very long queue to get into both the church and the monastery. There wasn’t anything advertised for disabilities but we asked someone who took us straight to the front of the queue using the pre-paid ticket section. We were both allowed to enter free of charge. The staff were very friendly and helpful, clearing people out of the way so that we could get past.

There are three steps to get into the church which is then flat inside, but there is a ramp to get into the monastery. There is a disabled toilet in the monastery but you need a key for it. To get up to the second floor of the monastery, there was a flight of steps so that part was not accessible but there is not a lot more to see on the second floor than on the ground floor.

Eating Out

O Bacalhoerio (Rua dos Sapateiros 218, 1100 Lisboa)

This restaurant was recommended as a Top 10 restaurant in the DK ‘Top Ten Lisbon’ guidebook. It is a very small restaurant with only a handful of tables that got busy very quickly. The tables were quite close together but there was good lighting making it easy to see and the menu was available in English. The food was good, and at a very decent price.

Destino (Rua das Portas de Santo Antao, 78 – 80, 1150, 269 Lisboa)

This restaurant is located in the heart of the city and is the closest you can get to Lisbon’s fine dining. The choice is plentiful and the waiters are so friendly; my communicator guide and I ate here twice. This restaurant doesn’t have the facilities for wheelchair users. However, as both evenings were rather warm, we ate outside which seemed fairly accessible.

Back at the Airport

On our return to Lisbon Portela Airport, my communicator guide and I were told that our seats were two rows apart. I felt this was wrong due to health and safety reasons but staff at check in said we could change them at the gate. The departures area is all fully accessible and at the gate we were successful and got adjoining seats. From the gate, there was a lift and escalator down to the ground then onto a bus to the plane, with steps to enter the Air Portugal flight home.


Lisbon is an exciting destination to visit full of great history and friendly people. I saw deaf and blind people, and even a few wheelchair users in various places. However, the city is not all fully accessible; the pavements can be better maintained with better access to cafes and restaurants.