5 Wheelchair Accessible Day Trips from Madrid
There’s so much to see in Madrid, but what happens when you’ve eaten your way through churro shops, explored the plazas, and soaked in the spectacular architecture? Given its central location in Spain, Madrid offers the perfect opportunity to take day trips. In this post, I’ll introduce you to five wheelchair accessible day trips from Madrid.
Note: The information here is based on my observation as a non-wheelchair user. If you have firsthand experience as a wheelchair user in Madrid, please let me know about your time there and your recommendations in the comments section. I appreciate it and know that our future readers will, too!
5 Best Wheelchair Accessible Day Trips from Madrid
During my three-week trip to Madrid, I took many day trips and kept an eye out for the best—and not so great—areas for wheelchair users. I’ve come up with the following wheelchair accessible day trips from Madrid, starting with the most wheelchair accessible and ending with the least accessible.
How I Ranked These Day Trips
When considering wheelchair accessible day trips from Madrid, I factored the following items into my ranking system:
- Terrain (hilly, flat, moderate)
- Presence of cobblestone (all have cobblestone, but some more than others)
- Availability of sidewalks and drop curbs
- Accessible parking near the main sites
- How explorable the city is without needing a vehicle to travel between places of interest
- Ease of public transportation to arrive at the destination from Madrid
Wheelchair Accessible Day Trips From Madrid
Now, let’s get to the fun part and talk in more detail about these wheelchair accessible day trips from Madrid.
If a day trip piques your interest, you’ll find a link to an even more detailed accessible destination guide at the end of each section.
When ranking wheelchair accessibility for these day trips, Ávila was the most obvious winner.
Ahead of its time compared to other cities in the European Union, Ávila began an overhaul to redesign their city so that it’s accessible not only for wheelchair users, but to people with a variety of needs.
Since then, Ávila has won a number of awards for its commitment to accessibility.
So, what makes Ávila such a great day trip from Madrid for wheelchair accessibility?
For starters, most areas of tourist interest are in a flat area of the city. Furthermore, many of the streets have been transformed from cobblestone to a smoother surface.
Then there’s the access to the buildings themselves. Nearly all buildings of tourist interest have been adapted with ramps and/or elevators.
Perhaps most impressive of all, though, is that Ávila has adapted a portion of its city wall to be wheelchair accessible—wheelchair users get to enjoy 100 meters of barrier-free exploration on it.
Access to the wall, along with all other sites I encountered, was free for wheelchair users. To be fair, this is the case for most sites in Spain.
In addition to making physical changes to their city, Ávila has done an excellent job of ensuring the staff in their tourist offices are well trained in everything related to wheelchair accessibility.
Far from the blank stares I so commonly get when asking wheelchair accessible questions at tourist offices, the tourism staff met my accessibility questions with as much enthusiasm and confidence as if I had asked “Where’s a good place to get lunch?”
Needless to say, I recommend Ávila without hesitation as a great wheelchair accessible day trip from Madrid.
Salamanca hasn’t gotten a list of awards for accessibility like Ávila has, so I was pleasantly surprised to see just how wheelchair accessible it was.
One of the best parts about Salamanca for wheelchair users is exploring its streets; they’re wide, mostly flat, and with a newer, smooth surface.
In fact, some formerly cobblestone streets in Salamanca were redesigned to showcase the cobblestone in squares scattered about an otherwise smooth surface.
The city has also done an excellent job of installing ramps in public areas where there are staircases.
However, the reason Salamanca didn’t make number one on this list is because it offers fewer wheelchair accessible buildings than Ávila.
The cathedral, for example, requires an able-bodied person to go up the steps and seek assistance opening an accessible door around the side of the building. There’s also the San Esteban Convent, which only offers wheelchair accessibility on the first floor.
And these are just the buildings that offer some accessibility. Many buildings in Salamanca aren’t adapted at all for wheelchair users.
Nonetheless, Salamanca is a great place for wheelchair users to explore from the outside. When you’re sightseeing, make sure to head down to the Roman Bridge, which is a pedestrian bridge that offers some of the most iconic views of Salamanca.
Another great accessible activity to do in Salamanca (and Spain as a whole) is to find a spot for a leisurely “menú” lunch.
These three-course meals include your choice of wine, beer, or water and you can easily spend 1.5 hours more since Spanish lunches are designed to be eaten slowly while you chat with your travel companions. Salamanca offers many choices for outdoor wheelchair accessible tables at restaurants that offer menús.
I struggled most with where to rank Aranjuez on this list. After much debate, it landed at number three since its most popular place of touristic interest, the Royal Palace of Aranjuez, offers good wheelchair accessibility.
Let’s talk about the palace.
The Royal Palace of Aranjuez has been in use since the early 1500s by a number of Spanish royals. The first floor has ramps to offer full exploration for wheelchair users and there’s an elevator leading to the second floor.
The second floor of the Palace of Aranjuez is the prettiest part about it, so make sure to ask one of the employees to unlock the elevator for you.
As for general wheelchair accessibility in the town of Aranjuez, the terrain is mostly flat. Drop curbs were in most places. However, in some cases, the curbs didn’t drop all the way or at all.
Overall, Aranjuez felt a little more modern than the other destinations discussed here. And thus, it’s relatively wheelchair-friendly.
When you think of Ávila, the word “Segovia” may pop into your mind, and for good reason—tour companies commonly run Ávila and Segovia excursions as a day trip from Madrid.
I’m going to be completely honest here—purely in terms of sightseeing, I preferred Segovia.
However, getting to the sites within Segovia is more difficult for wheelchair users than Ávila, but it’s not impossible.
Segovia is a city that has many cobblestone streets and narrow alleyways. It’s pretty to look at when sitting in one spot, but it’s definitely not a breeze for wheelchair users to navigate.
The biggest draw to Segovia is its aqueduct. The most impressive portion of the aqueduct is located in Azoguejo Plaza and, if you have a driver, they can easily drop you off beside it.
From there, if you choose, you can head up a rather steep incline along the aqueduct where you can get higher views of both the aqueduct and plaza.
Then, from Azoguejo Plaza, I recommend rolling down the pedestrian street which will take you to the Segovia Cathedral and Plaza Mayor. The Segovia Cathedral has a barrier-free entrance and is free for wheelchair users to enter.
Plaza Mayor is Segovia’s main square. It’s a fun place to people watch, grab a coffee or lunch at the outdoor tables, and admire some of Segovia’s best architecture (aside from the aqueduct, of course!).
Following this route will allow you to see the most iconic sites in Segovia, although there are plenty of more if you have the time.
Oh, Toledo. It’s arguably the most popular day trip from Madrid. Unfortunately, it also unquestionably deserves the last place in this list of wheelchair accessible day trips from Madrid.
There are two factors that make Toledo so difficult for wheelchair users—inclines and cobblestone covering nearly every inch of the historical center.
Let’s talk about those inclines.
Toledo is a city built on a hill, with many of its most iconic sites being at the very top of the hill. Even for power wheelchair users, going up the hill would be difficult since sidewalks are narrow, and even non-existent, in some areas.
Since the train station is at the bottom of the hill, I recommend driving to Toledo. When you arrive, start your visit with a stop at Toledo’s two bridges—the Alcantara Bridge and San Martín Bridge.
There’s an awesome accessible hike you can do connecting a portion or both of these bridges. You’ll find a detailed explanation about how to do this hike in the Toledo link at the bottom of this section.
Based on my observation, the Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes offers some of the best indoor exploration and independence for wheelchair users, thanks to an elevator at the main entrance. The cathedral is also accessible.
Although Toledo is the least wheelchair accessible place to visit as a day trip from Madrid, there’s no doubt about it—it’s beautiful if you want to give it a go. The mountains surrounding the town create an almost fairytale-like setting.
In fact, even if you only go to Toledo to do the hike and enjoy the views of the city from across the river, it’ll likely feel worth it.
Madrid offers a variety of wheelchair accessible day trips to suit different interests and abilities. Whether you’re wanting to visit the top of a city wall, go inside a palace, get out in nature for a hike, or enjoy a multi-course traditional Spanish meal, these day trips are a great place to start.
If you end up taking one of these day trips (or another one not mentioned here), I’d love to hear from you in the comments section. Your experience, recommendations, and advice will be so appreciated by me, and I’m sure our future readers as well who are researching accessibility in these destinations.
Happy Madrid day tripping!
P.S.- Since you’ll be spending time in Madrid, don’t miss our guide on Accessibility in Madrid.
Laura’s love for traveling started with a trip to Jamaica. Since then, she’s spent over five years living in Latin America and four years wandering the globe. 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.