Spain’s capital of Madrid offers the best of both worlds. Not only is it located in the center of the country, making it a great base for day trips, but the city itself offers days worth of activities for tourism. In this guide, we’ll show you eleven great wheelchair accessible things to do in Madrid.
General wheelchair accessibility in Madrid
Before we dive into the exciting wheelchair accessible things to do in Madrid, let’s first touch on Madrid’s overall accessibility.
Madrid is fairly well adapted for wheelchair users. All the streets we came across had sidewalks and most of them were wide, with the exception of small side streets. There were also drop down curbs at crosswalks.
A great part of Madrid is that it’s quite easy to avoid cobblestone, as many streets and sidewalks are made up of smooth stone. When we refer to “smooth stone” during this post, it’s along these lines:
Madrid isn’t an ultra hilly city, but it isn’t completely flat either. Some manual wheelchair users may need support with some of the inclines, but overall, if you stay within in the main center, the inclines aren’t too steep. There are plenty of areas that have no notable inclines at all, such as Puerta del Sol.
Wheelchair accessible things to do in Madrid
Now let’s get to the good stuff!
We had a blast exploring Madrid and hope these eleven accessible things to do helps kickstart a wonderful time for you in Spain’s capital.
1. Retiro Park
If you’re a park lover, you just may want to schedule a full day to explore Retiro Park.
Formerly the property of the Spanish Monarchy, Retiro Park offers nature trails, Spanish architecture, and ponds.
Retiro Park has varying levels of wheelchair accessibility, depending on where you’re at in the park.
The nature trails are mostly tightly packed dirt with occasional small stones embedded in the path. On the main, more open paths, there are brick sidewalks and/or wide, paved roads. The roads are only used for park and police vehicles, but pedestrians use them, too.
Below are a few examples:
You won’t encounter ultra-steep hills in Retiro Park, but you will come across some gentle- and in some cases long- inclines.
The occasional area has steps, so you’d need to look for a nearby path to take you around them. However, if you stick to the main parts of the park, you won’t have to worry about stairs.
When you’re at Retiro Park, make sure to stop by Retiro Pond since it’s one of the liveliest areas of the park. Here, you’ll find snack vendors, street performers, and rowboats. A couple of the rowboats are wheelchair accessible, so don’t miss the chance to get out on the water and hang with the ducks!
2. Puerta del Sol
Madrid has a lot of plazas, but the Puerta del Sol is unique because of its asymmetrical shape. Instead of the usual square plaza, Puerta del Sol has the shape of the sun rising (or setting) with a crescent connected by a straight line.
Due to its shape, there are a variety of streets jutting out from it- eight, in fact! One of those, the Calle del Arenal, will take you to our beloved Chocolatería San Ginés, which we’ll talk about shortly.
We recommend visiting Puerta del Sol at least twice. One time, go in the morning. This way, you’ll have most of the plaza to yourself, offering the opportunity to take better photos and admire the old Spanish architecture.
The second time, visit in the afternoon or evening. During these hours, Puerta del Sol comes alive with vendors and street performers.
When you’re at Puerta del Sol, make sure to visit the Oso y Madroño. This is a famous statue of a bear hugging a Strawberry Tree (a European shrub that produces edible fruit, but not the fruit we know as “strawberry”). The Oso y Madroño is a symbol of Madrid and is on Madrid’s coat of arms.
Puerta del Sol offers excellent wheelchair accessibility. The plaza is flat with a smooth stone surface. There’s also a Puerta del Sol metro stop which offers an elevator on either side of the plaza for easy access to the metro.
3. Gran Vía
Running between Calle de Alcalá and Plaza de España, the grandiose buildings on Gran Vía are a must-see during your time in Madrid. In fact, Gran Vía reminded us a bit of New York City, with its (relatively) tall buildings and flashy large screens.
Nonetheless, the beautiful old architecture of the buildings on Gran Vía is unmistakably and wonderfully European.
The sidewalks on Gran Vía are wheelchair accessible. They’re spacious with flat surfaces and drop-down curbs at all intersections. Some portions of the Gran Vía have mild inclines, but most manual wheelchair users should be able to manage without assistance.
However, as is the case with much of Madrid, many of the restaurants and shops along the Gran Vía are accessible by a step. Because much of Gran Vía is on a gentle incline, the entrances tend to be a single, sloped step that is a few inches high in its narrowest area.
Should you visit Gran Vía?
Yes, most definitely.
Should you be prepared to see cool restaurants/shops/theaters that are inaccessible?
Most definitely, too.
4. Indulge in Churros
Madrid is known for its churros, but the most famous churro place in the city- and we’d go out on a limb to say in all of Spain- is Chocolatería San Ginés.
Don’t believe us?
Head inside and you’ll find photos of famous people fighting for space on the walls. Chocolatería San Ginés has been around since 1894, so it’s had a fair amount of time to wrack up fame and celebs.
The three magic words
You just need to know three words to order at Chocolatería San Ginés- chocolate con churros.
Order this dish anywhere else in Spain and you’ll be greeted with hot chocolate and some churros on a plate. But at Chocolatería San Ginés, the hot chocolate has a thicker consistency, similar to pudding before it’s fully set. You’ll also be greeted with a gigantic plate of churros, especially if there’s more than one of you. Yum!
Chocolatería San Ginés is open 24/7 and is packed at nearly all hours of the day and night. And we should know- we’ve gotten churros con chocolate from Chocolatería San Ginés an off-the-hand amount of times.
Travel Tip: Two types of churros are offered at Chocolatería San Ginés. The traditional churro and a larger, more “airy” churro called “porra“. Try both!
In the most basic sense, Chocolatería San Ginés is wheelchair accessible. There are small tables outside the restaurant that you can roll up to. It won’t be long before a waiter at the well-staffed restaurant comes over to take your order.
Those who are able-bodied are supposed to order at the indoor counter first, regardless of where they sit. However, your waiter will be able to help you with ordering and payment if you sit outside.
Getting inside Chocolatería San Ginés requires going over an approximately 1-inch ledge. From there, you can place an order and pay, then get in line to be ushered to a table.
Only the first floor of Chocolatería San Ginés is wheelchair accessible. Tables are packed close together, so be ready to listen in on your fellow churro eating neighbors’ conversations and have your conversations listened to, as well.
Despite the small space and ledge at the entrance, we highly recommend eating inside Chocolatería San Ginés. It’s fun looking at the celeb photos. Plus, being in the crowded restaurant will give you the classic Chocolatería San Ginés experience.
We could turn our love for Chocolatería San Ginés into a blog post of its own, but since Madrid has so many other wheelchair accessible things to offer, let’s move on with our now salivating mouths.
5. Royal Palace
The detailed architecture, size of the building, and space around the Royal Palace is captivating.
Did we mention space?
The plaza and streets around the Royal Palace are nothing short of a wheelchair user’s dream. Smooth stone surfaces and wide, open spaces make navigating around the outside of the Royal Palace a breeze.
You can also tour inside the palace. Entrance to the Royal Palace in Madrid is free for wheelchair users and one companion.
Travel Tip: If you don’t enter the Royal Palace, there are three gates along the front of the palace that will allow you to avoid the lower concrete wall so that you can wheel up for great viewing and photo taking.
Hours of operation vary at the Royal Palace depending on the time of year, if you’ll be visiting on a holiday, and whether or not they’re hosting a special event. You can view the typical hours of operation here.
6. Plaza Mayor
Plaza Mayor, along with Puerta del Sol, is one of the most popular plazas in Madrid.
Don’t get us wrong, we love Puerta del Sol and it’s centralness in Madrid, but the painted red, perfectly symmetrical buildings that line Plaza Mayor are jaw-dropping.
Unfortunately, Plaza Mayor isn’t as comfortable for wheelchair users as Puerta del Sol due to cobblestone brick. However, if you stick to the edges by the restaurants, you can wheel around Plaza Mayor without touching the brick.
Speaking of restaurants, Plaza Mayor is packed with them. Indoor and outdoor seating is available, both of which are accessible at many restaurants.
7. Mercado de San Miguel
Madrid has a lot of awesome markets, but the indoor Mercado de San Miguel by far takes the cake for being the tourist magnet of markets.
For starters, it’s located near the Plaza Mayor. Then there’s the elegance of the building itself. Sculpted metal beams with floor to ceiling glass windows will delight even those who aren’t architecture buffs. Finally, and most importantly, is the food.
Mercado de San Miguel was designed for the gastronomy lover. Stunning displays of mouthwatering food will surround you. Prices are a bit steep, but well worth it for the flavors and experience, in our opinion.
Mercado de San Miguel has numerous entrances, but only one is wheelchair accessible. When facing the front of the market, the wheelchair accessible entrance is located around the corner to the right. It has sliding glass doors.
While Mercado de San Miguel is accessible in terms of being located on a single ground floor without any steps inside the building, the counters for many of the food stands and all of the seating is out of reach for wheelchair users.
Psst…Looking for other wheelchair accessible market options in Madrid? Check out our post on the best markets in Madrid.
8. El Rastro
El Rastro is an outdoor flea market that’s held every Sunday.
Popular with locals and tourists alike, El Rastro offers everything from brand new, quality clothing to antiques to handmade crafts to gimmicky souvenirs and cheap clothes.
El Rastro is not a food market, but nearby restaurants take advantage of the extra people traffic so there’s no shortage of places to grab a bite to eat. You’ll likely need outdoor seating, though, since most restaurants have a step to get into.
El Rastro Market offers good wheelchair accessibility in the sense that the market runs down a temporarily closed road, so the terrain is mostly pavement. However, it’s on a rather long, gently sloping hill.
Alternatively, you can stick around Plaza de Cascorro, which is in a flat area and is where the core of the market starts from.
Psst…interested in learning about Madrid’s market scene? Check out my guide on the best markets in Madrid, which includes notes on wheelchair accessibility.
9. Prado Museum
The Prado Museum is a national art museum and one of the most famous museums in Madrid.
The building and grounds alone are impressive, running along much of the street it’s named after, the Paseo del Prado.
When you arrive to the Prado Museum and are facing the front of the building, the ticket office and accessible entrance are around the left side.
The sidewalk in front of the museum has large, uneven stone. Once you get around to the backside where the ticket office and entrance is, the surface becomes smooth.
Entrance to the Prado Museum is free for wheelchair users.
The inside of the Prado Museum is wheelchair accessible, with the exception of areas around the Villanueva building. There are also accessible restrooms and a restaurant.
If you’re an art buff, you can easily spend a half day or longer exploring this beautiful museum.
10. Reina Sofía Museum
While we’re on the topic of museums, it wouldn’t be right to include the Prado Museum without also talking about the Reina Sofía Museum. And, it just so happens that these two museums are less than a half-mile apart, making it easy to roll between the two, thanks to wide sidewalks and drop curbs.
The Reina Sofía Museum specializes in 20th-century art.
Unlike the Prado Museum, the Reina Sofía Museum can be an intimidating sight for wheelchair users, if you come at it from the wrong angle. Stairs surround the museum and plaza it’s located in. Two beautiful glass elevators frame the entrance door, without any seeming way to access them.
Fear not, wheelchair users.
When facing the front of the Reina Sofía Museum, the accessible path leading to the museum is located at the front, right side of the building. Once you get up to the entrance, you’ll realize that those beautiful elevators will be for your use inside the building.
As is the case with most sites in Madrid, the Reina Sofía Museum offers wheelchair users free entrance. There are also accessible restrooms.
The Reina Sofía Museum is almost entirely wheelchair accessible, although some areas require modifying the route. You can view detailed information about these route modifications here.
11. View from Círculo de Bellas Artes
The Círculo de Bellas Artes is one of the great wheelchair accessible things to do in Madrid if you’re looking to get views of the city.
Located at the base of the Gran Vía on the Retiro Park end, the Círculo de Bellas Artes is an art gallery in a beautiful historic building. The view of Madrid from its rooftop terrace is stunning, and they allow visitors to enter just to see it.
When facing the front of the building, the terrace entrance for Círculo de Bellas Artes is around the left hand side. Stairs lead up to the main lobby, but a stair lift is available for wheelchair users.
Once in the lobby, you’ll need to pay a fee to go up to the terrace. During our February 2020 visit, the fee was 5 Euros.
Then, you’ll take the spacious elevator up to the 7th floor.
Most of the terrace is accessible, with good space between the tables and perimeter for getting different viewpoints.
Unfortunately, the outdoor tables are too high for wheelchair users. However, there are lower tables in an enclosed portion of the bar area, if you’re wanting to grab a drink and snack. Just keep in mind that going in this area requires passing over a ledge of a couple of inches.
Wheelchair accessible hotels in Madrid
Need accommodation in Madrid? Great, because we’ve put together a list of accessible hotels in Madrid.
Without further ado, head over to our guide on wheelchair accessible hotels in Madrid.
Madrid deserves its position as one of the top cities in western Europe. Offering incredible architecture, delicious food, and many wheelchair accessible things to do, instead of checking Madrid off our bucket list, we’re keeping it on there with hopes of returning.
If you have questions about wheelchair accessibility in Madrid, send us a comment and we’ll do our best to help. If you’ve already visited Madrid as a wheelchair user, we’d love to hear about your favorite accessible places and any tips you have.
P.S.- Once you’ve gotten your fill of Madrid, consider taking one of these five incredible accessible day trips from Madrid.
P.P.S.- Will you be visiting Seville? If so, check out our post on wheelchair accessibility in Seville.
Laura has been wandering the globe for over a decade. She’s an early bird and backpacker at heart and can often be spotted with a dog or ten that she’s befriended along the way. Much of the content Laura writes on A Piece of Travel includes details on wheelchair accessibility, with the support of her brother-in-law and sister. You can learn about their accessibility endeavors here.