The Most Accessible Countries in Europe
For disabled people, traveling can be tricky. That’s why UpCounsel have created this guide to the most accessible destinations in Europe.6 min read
Planning for a holiday in Europe can be a serious hassle. From saving up all those pennies, to booking the perfect hotel, and the dreaded mad dash back to your house when you realize you've left your passports on the coffee table (don’t worry, we’ve all done it!)—the to-do list is seemingly endless.
If you’re one of the 15% of the population with a disability, unfortunately, you’re going to have even more on your plate. Whether you’re an intrepid explorer looking to see all the amazing sights your chosen destination has to offer, or you're simply hoping to chill out with a coffee in a cosy café, finding wheelchair-friendly holidays in Europe will be at the forefront of your mind.
Thankfully, UpCounsel has you covered with our list of the most accessible European countries. We hope your dream destination makes the cut!
How Destinations Perform in Disabled Access Categories
Disability looks different for everyone, which means that accessible holidays do too! While some people may have mobility issues and will need to ensure they can rely on accessible transport to get from place to place, others may be more concerned with making sure they won’t struggle to find disabled toilets. That’s why we have five different categories for disabled access.
If you want to forget your troubles and get happy on your next holiday, safe in the knowledge that transport won't be an issue, it’s your lucky day! Frequently voted as one of the happiest countries in the world, Denmark comes out on top for transport, with a fabulous score of 8.8! This is followed by the UK (8.7), Spain (8.6), Turkey (8.6) and Switzerland (8.3).
Let’s not be coy, some people with disabilities need to use the toilet more often or more urgently than able-bodied people—and that’s okay! It just means that having accessible toilets is going to be super important. If this is something at the forefront of your mind, the UK, Ireland, Norway, Spain and France will be good places to consider, as they all score between seven and eight for this category.
Pubs and Bars
For some people, sampling the local beers, wines and liquors is all part of the holiday fun! If you’re looking to enjoy a drink or two while on your European adventure, you’ll want to consider Italy (6.6), the UK (6.5), Ireland (6.5), France (6.4) or Spain (6.5). Salute!
If watching the world go by while sipping an espresso is your idea of relaxation, you can do so with a backdrop of the likes of the Colosseum or Big Ben. In first place for accessible cafés is Italy, with a score of 5.5, followed by Ireland (5.2), the UK (4.7), France (4) and Spain (3.9).
No holiday is complete without enjoying some of the authentic local food, which means finding accessible restaurants is going to be key. If you’re looking forward to feasting on some delicious pizza and pasta dishes, you’ll be pleased to know that Italy reigns victorious yet again, with a score of 6.3. This is followed by The Netherlands (6.1), France (5.3), Spain (5.2) and Ireland (5).
The Top 10 Most Accessible European Destinations
Coming right at the top of our list is a place fit for a Queen. That’s right, our top accessible holiday destination is the UK. With an overall accessibility score of 7.3 out of 10, the UK is the place to be if you’re looking for accessible restaurants, venues, transport, and disabled toilets. Shame about that drizzly weather though!
We’re sailing over to the Mediterranean next, where we’ll be arriving on the glistening shores of country number two, Spain. Coming in just a sliver behind the UK, Spain’s overall accessibility score is 7.1.
If you’re looking forward to chilling out (or warming up!) on one of the country’s iconic beaches, you’ll be pleased to know that Spain even has an array of accessible beaches to choose from, making this one of the most wheelchair-friendly holidays in Europe.
Just making it into the top three with a score of 6.8, is the birthplace of pretty much everyone’s favourite food—pizza. Yep, it’s Italy!
If you’re going to spend your holiday in Italy taking in its incredible history, exploring the likes of the Colosseum and the Pantheon, you’ll be pleased to know that the majority of the country’s transport is accessible.
If chowing down on some of the best food the world has to offer is more your kind of thing, you can expect to be greeted by a wealth of accessible cafés and restaurants.
At number four, we’re heading to the land of saints and scholars. If you’re looking to immerse yourself in a place steeped in culture, that offers beautiful landscapes and fascinating history, you certainly won’t be disappointed by taking a trip to Ireland. Nor will you find yourself disappointed by the lack of accessibility, as Ireland boasts a very solid accessibility score of 6.6.
Coming in fifth place is the home of top-of-the-range watches and delicious chocolate, we are of course talking about Switzerland!
With an accessibility score of 6.4, Switzerland really shines when it comes to accessible transport, for which it scores 8.3. However, it’s a little lacking in the accessible cafés department, with a score of 3.4.
In joint sixth place we have France, with a très bien score of 6.1. With relatively high scores for each category, France’s restaurants fare particularly well, with over half of them being wheelchair accessible. Good news for anyone looking forward to enjoying some world class cuisine—bon appétit!
Achieving the same score as France, Denmark swoops in with an equally impressive 6.1. If you’re off to the land of Vikings and fairytales, you’ll be pleased to know that their transport is super accessible, boasting a score of 8.8 for this category. This means getting from A to B should be a piece of cake (or Danish pastry!).
Home of port wine and an indomitable football team, coming in at number eight with a score of 6 is Portugal. Bordering Spain, this bucket-list destination is known for its great weather, historical architecture and golden beaches.
Though Portugal scores pretty highly in most categories, they don’t score very well in the disabled toilets category, with an accessibility score of 5.7. So if your disability means you have to frequently dash off to the toilet, be sure to plan your days carefully.
9. The Netherlands
Known for its tulip fields, cycling routes and windmills, The Netherlands is the place to go for those wanting to surround themselves with picturesque landscapes. With a fairly middling accessibility score of 5.9, you can expect pretty good accessibility when it comes to pubs, bars and restaurants, but finding accessible transport and disabled toilets may prove a little trickier.
Straddling the border of Europe and Asia, the transcontinental country of Turkey just makes it into our top 10, with a score of 5.8.
With a very good accessible transport score of 8.6, you should have no trouble getting around, meaning you’ll be able to explore the likes of the stunning Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque. However, Turkey does score particularly poorly when it comes to accessible cafés, with a score of just 3.4. So if you’re looking to sip on some Turkish tea while you’re out and about, it may take some extra planning!
The Least Accessible Holidays in Europe
While some countries can hold their heads high knowing that they’re amongst the most wheelchair-friendly holiday destinations in Europe, there are some places that are much tricker for a disabled person to get around.
Though Romania has some stunning locations to offer, such as the wooden churches of Maramures or the Danube Delta, unfortunately, this is the least accessible holiday destination in Europe. With an overall accessibility score of just 2.7, sadly, you may have to strike Romania off your list of possibilities if you have access needs.
In fact, the lowest three scores for accessibility are Eastern European, with Slovakia scoring 3.4, and Hungary scoring 3.8. Just above these are Greece (4.5) and Belgium (4.9).
Whichever country you have your heart set on, planning ahead for your holiday is a good way to ensure you have the best possible time. The days of having to miss out on travel due to a disability are coming to an end!
We’d recommend researching the facilities at your chosen hotel, as well as giving the airline a call to see what they can do to help you ensure you get safely on the plane. There are also plenty of travel agencies out there that offer tailor-made holidays for those with disabilities, providing things like mobility equipment, specialized hotel rooms and even carers.
So, as long as you choose the right travel agency and plan ahead, there’s no need for your disability to get in the way of having the kind of holiday that’s going to make your Instagram followers jealous!