Visiting Lisbon had been on my must-visit list for years. I had always wanted to explore the colourful city. But despite this, I assumed the iconic steep hills and old historic streets would lack accessibility and make it a difficult city to enjoy as a wheelchair user. After spending a total of six days in Portugal, I’m happy to share that it is possible and there are many wheelchair accessible things to do in Lisbon.
Tourism for All Portugal
We visited Portugal as part of an accessible travel bloggers trip provided by Tourism for All and Turismo de Portugal. Tourism for All is an accessible tour operator offering a range of services including holiday packages, transport, equipment rental and personal assistants to help with providing care and support. These services are reasonably priced, and each member of the Tourism for All team is friendly and professional. We had two drivers for the entire trip who were also trained personal assistants who were able to provide support if needed.
I was absolutely delighted to be invited on this trip and even more so when I found out who I would be exploring Portugal with. The group was made up of my friend and King of accessible travel John Morris of WheelchairTravel.Org, the lovely Sanna Kalmari from Finland who writes Palmuasema blog, Blandine who lives in Belgium and writes over at Mille découvertes sur 4 roulettes, Jay from London who blogs at Jay on life and Annemarie (The Sitting Chef) who is a plant-based nutrition specialist from the Netherlands.
A Wheelchair User’s Guide to Lisbon
If you are looking for an accessible hotel in Lisbon or wheelchair accessible things to do, then you may find my travel guide helpful including where I stayed and what I was able to see and do during my six-day visit to Lisbon.
Wheelchair Accessible Hotel in Lisbon
Our wheelchair accessible hotel in Lisbon was Vila Gale Opera Hotel. We stayed here for the first two nights and the last night of the trip after returning from two nights in Batahla, Central Portugal. This four-star hotel is connected to the convention centre and is located near Jeronimos Monastery.
There are ten accessible rooms with wheelchair access throughout the hotel including the swimming pool and a hoist for transferring in and out of the pool is available. Just speak to the hotel beforehand and they can hire it for your stay.
You can read the full hotel review and see more photos here: https://www.simplyemma.co.uk/vila-gale-opera-wheelchair-accessible-hotel-in-lisbon-portugal/
Wheelchair Accessible Things to Do in Lisbon Portugal
1. Old town, Alfama district
The first thing we did was tour the old town area of Lisbon in the historic Alfama district. As we drove through the colourful city streets to the old town, we could already see the beauty of Lisbon. Our fantastic tour guide, Pedro led us through cobblestoned lanes and past colourful cafes, The National Pantheon and Lisbon’s Cathedral as the sunset.
There are cobblestones and sloped paths throughout the old town. Tourism For All staff carried portable ramps to assist with getting up/down kerbs throughout the town. It is manageable in a power wheelchair or mobility scooter, but it may be more challenging for manual wheelchair users.
2. Lisbon Story Centre
Located in Praça do Comércio, the Lisbon Story Centre is a great attraction to visit to learn all about the past of Portugal’s capital including the devastating earthquake that ravaged the city in 1755. We were each given an audio headset and toured the museum individually for the 60-minute tour.
Lisbon Story Centre has wheelchair access throughout the museum. I didn’t experience any problems and was able to move around easily. There is an accessible toilet but I didn’t manage to get a photo.
3. Downtown Lisbon
Once our tour of the Lisbon Story Centre ended we had a little free time to roll around downtown. The sun was out so it was nice to be outside to explore and admire the beautiful buildings, restaurants and shops as we made our way down R. Augusta.
4. Palácio Nacional da Ajuda
You will find this spectacular Palace and former home of the Royals located on a hilltop in Ajuda, overlooking the centre of Lisbon and the Tagus River. The lavish interior and furnishings are very impressive. We learned all about the country’s history and at the end of the Ajuda National Palace tour, our group were treated to the taste of the famous Belém custard tart.
There is good wheelchair access in and around the Palácio Nacional da Ajuda. Access into the building was via a ramp and then a lift which was small so myself and the other wheelchair users in our group had to remove the wheelchair footplates to fit inside.
We also had the opportunity to ride the Royal elevator fitted with red velvet seating inside. This lift required staff assistance. The accessible toilet had grab bars around the toilet and was spacious enough to fit my wheelchair and companion.
5. Saint Jerome Monastery
Saint Jerome Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site is located in the parish of Belém and a short walk from the Belém Tower. Saint Jerome Monastery, also known as Jerónimos Monastery is a popular tourist attraction in Lisbon and the large crowds outside were a testament to this. Once inside we could admire the beauty of the stained glass and stone moulding walls while our tour guide explained the history.
There is a side entrance with a portable ramp that provides wheelchair access to the Saint Jerome Monastery. We were able to roll easily inside.
6. National Tile Museum
One of the many beautiful things about Portugal is the amazing tiles decorating the buildings and walls across the country. It’s difficult not to stop and appreciate the decorative details. So a trip to The National Tile Museum in Lisbon is recommended to learn about the history of tiles and see them up close.
Unfortunately, our schedule was a little behind so we weren’t able to tour the museum as planned but we did manage to decorate our very own tile. We were each given a blank tile to put our own unique design on.
I reckon we made a pretty good job all things considered. I picked a bird design while Allan went for a geometric pattern and John painted the EU flag. Mine is proudly displayed on my desk at home.
The National Tile Museum has an accessible entrance and access throughout with ramps in place. There is also an accessible toilet, but unfortunately, I did not get a photo of it.
7. Royal Palace of Queluz
The Royal Palace of Queluz is located in Queluz, Sintra. It was the official royal residence for Queen D. Maria I and her husband Dom Pedro in the 18th century. It is an impressive and beautiful building so it’s understandable why it is often referred to as the Portuguese Versailles. The Palace was restored after a fire destroyed a large portion of the interior in 1934.
Be sure to visit the Palace Gardens which are stunning. I wish we had more time to wander around the gardens.
There are cobblestones around the entrance to the palace. Once inside the tour takes place on the ground floor. Wheelchairs are available if required and a motorised wheelchair attachment is also available which can be used around the palace gardens. Staff have undergone Portuguese Sign Language training.
8. Banksy: Genius or Vandal exhibition
On our last day in Lisbon, we managed to make a quick visit to the Banksy: Genius or Vandal exhibition before heading to the airport. It was being hosted in the Cordoaria Nacional, the former naval rope-making factory in Belém, a short walk and roll from our hotel Vila Gale Opera. The exhibition took us on a journey throughout Banksy’s years of creating controversial and iconic statement artworks.
Getting to the exhibition was a little tricky as the paths leading from our hotel to the Cordoaria Nacional were not in the best condition. Metal poles in the pavements restricted wheelchair access.
The building itself had a wheelchair accessible entrance. Inside the building was almost completely dark with black walls and floor – this was for display purposes but may not have been suitable to anyone with a visual impairment.
The accessible toilet was located outside in a separate building. At the time, it was being used for the storage of cleaning equipment and a large storage box. The toilet seat was completely broken off which made it unsafe to use. We reported this to the staff but unfortunately, they didn’t seem interested.
9. Admire the view from the Riverfront
After leaving the Banksy exhibition we still had some time before having to make our way back to the hotel to leave for the airport. So we took a stroll along towards the Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology.
We crossed over a bridge to the riverfront of Belém’s historic district which took us onto the roof of the museum. From here we were able to enjoy the view across the Tagus River, 25 April Bridge and the Sanctuary of Christ the King. It felt nice to soak up the last bit of Portuguese sun.
10. Jardim de São Pedro de Alcântara viewpoint
We couldn’t leave Lisbon without getting that iconic shot of the city landscape from The São Pedro de Alcântara viewpoint. The lovely Tourism For All staff very kindly offered to escort Allan and me here before taking us to the airport.
We loved the panoramic views over the capital and we were able to see the Barrio Alto district, Alfama and Lisbon Castle. It’s a nice area with flower beds, a fountain and seating so it would be a lovely spot to stop for a drink and enjoy the surroundings.
Where to eat in Lisbon
There are many restaurants in Lisbon for you to choose from whether you want traditional Portuguese food or something a little different. Our meals were already planned around our schedule with Tourism For All, so we didn’t personally choose where we wanted to eat.
Unfortunately, this meant that vegan options were very limited for me, my partner and two other group members which I will discuss more below. If we revisited Lisbon we would hit up some of the cool plant-based restaurants the city has to offer. The following restaurants are where we dined in Lisbon.
Falstaff is set in our hotel (Vila Gale Opera) and was where we ate breakfast each morning as well as both lunch and dinner on two occasions. The hotel buffet service provided a range of options and the friendly staff were very helpful and accommodating as they advised what the vegetarian/vegan options were.
To be honest, the waiter was either a mind reader or could sense we were looking for the veggie options as he very kindly approached us and pointed out where to find them. The restaurant also offers an à la carte service.
We ate at Páteo Alfama on our first night in Lisbon after a tour of the old town area. This traditional Portuguese restaurant is very popular (it was completely booked out the night we ate there). During our meal, we were entertained by Fado performers which was incredibly unique as this was our first experience of Fado.
Something we quickly learned from our first evening in Lisbon was the lack of vegetarian/vegan options in the restaurants we visited. Our meal at Páteo Alfama was soup for the starter, which was lovely and then vegetables chopped through boiled rice.
Páteo Alfama restaurant has wheelchair access and a lift to the restaurant. The lift was only able to accommodate one wheelchair user and one companion due to size restrictions. The pathway to the accessible toilet was tight and located where the Fado performers got dressed and there was a clothes rack inside the toilet.
Espaço Espelho d’Água
We had lunch at Espaço Espelho d’Água, a contemporary restaurant located in Belem on the Tagus River. We sat inside for our meal but there are outdoor dining options with stunning views across the Tagus River and 25 April Bridge.
Espaço Espelho d’Água also has a shop and art gallery which adds to your visit. Outside an enclosed section of the water was filled with plastic caps for an art exhibition. It looked very effective and was to represent the plastic pollution in our oceans.
The food at Espaço Espelho d’Água is a fusion of West and East flavours. We had the one and only vegan option which included a starter of fruit salad, tagliatelle for the main and fruit for dessert.
Espaço Espelho d’Água has a level access entrance and throughout the inside and outside of the restaurant. An accessible toilet with fixed and pull-down grab bars next to the toilet and space to manoeuvre my wheelchair.
How to get around Lisbon in a wheelchair
Since this was a group trip provided by Tourism For All, all our airport transfers and transport for getting around Lisbon were provided by them too. This meant we always had our own private transport to take us around Lisbon and to each visitor attraction. It was also beneficial if anyone in the group wanted to return to the hotel at any point.
However, if you prefer to get a proper feel for a city by walking around when exploring and going between visitor attractions then this option may not be for you. But it does make planning easier and saves worrying about the accessibility of public transport.
Tourism For All has a range of vehicles from eight-seater Mercedes Benz sprinter vans to coaches which are all fully wheelchair accessible, comfortable and spacious. You can find out more about the vehicles used for Tourism For All’s transport service.
So that was the first instalment of our Portugal trip and all of the wheelchair accessible things to do in Lisbon based on our itinerary. Tourism For All is a fantastic tour operator to explore Portugal with. They supported and guided us from beginning to end, giving us a great first taste of the city. This has given us the confidence to wander around and explore at our own pace if we return to Lisbon in the future.
The second part of the Portugal trip travelling to Batalha is coming soon.
Disclaimer: Press trip included flights, accommodation and meals provided by Tourism For All in return for my participation. No obligation to write about my experience, but as always, my reviews are 100% honest.