A Wheelchair User’s Guide to Lisbon, Portugal
Tiled buildings, Nata pastries, trams, and narrow streets come to mind when people think of Lisbon. Although the historical district of Lisbon wasn’t originally designed with wheelchair users in mind, there are a number of accessible things to do. We’ve put together this guide to help you plan your accessible trip to Lisbon.
Wheelchair Accessible Public Transportation in Lisbon
There are a number of modes of transportation in Lisbon. Unfortunately, not all are accessible, or fully accessible.
Let’s start with fully accessible.
The buses have an accessible entry on the backmost door. There’s a button on the bus to open the door, and then you can manually pull down the ramp from there. That being said, the issue with buses is that the area where you’re dropped off may not be in an accessible friendly area. Therefore, make sure to notify your guide of where you need to get off so that he/she can stop in an accessible area.
Now let’s talk about the tram. The old trams that you see in most photos of Lisbon have steps to get into. However, there are modern trams as well, and these modern trams are all accessible. Like the bus, they have a button to open the door where a ramp is located.
And finally, there’s the metro. The metro is only partially accessible, as only certain stops have an accessible entry/exit.
Wheelchair Accessible Restrooms in Lisbon
We found that free, wheelchair accessible restrooms in Lisbon are few and far between. Below are some accessible restrooms we came across.
- Time Out Market
- Lisboa Story Centre* (located on the Praça do Comércio)
- Pastéis de Belém (located in Belém)
*Indicates that an entrance fee is required.
Wheelchair Accessible Private Transportation in Lisbon
Adapted and Senior Tours Portugal offers private wheelchair accessible transfers in Lisbon, and Portugal as a whole. Whether you’re looking for an airport transfer or a multi-day tour, they’ll be able to arrange an accessible van for your needs.
Wheelchair Accessible Things to do in Lisbon
Steep hills and narrow sidewalks aside, there are still a number of wheelchair accessible things you can do in Lisbon as a wheelchair user. We’ve put together a list of thirteen wheelchair-friendly activities to get you out exploring.
1. Praça do Comércio
Of all the places to visit in Lisbon, Praça do Comércio is one of the most popular and wheelchair accessible. This is Lisbon’s main plaza and will quite possibly be one of the largest plazas you’ve ever seen.
Wide and flat, you’ll be able to meander all around the plaza, watching performers scattered about and restaurants that line three of the sides. Make sure to visit the Lisboa Story Centre, an accessible museum that will introduce you to the history of the city.
The fourth side of the plaza faces the river. A crosswalk will take you to the river’s edge where you can enjoy views of Lisbon’s “Golden Gate” bridge.
2. Augusta Street
Complementing Praça do Comércio’s accessibility, Augusta Street is a pedestrian boulevard that runs from Praça do Comércio to Rossio Square.
This wide street is made of special cobblestone unique to Portugal. Tiny, compact, and with a smooth surface, Portuguese cobblestone is a wheelchair user’s paradise. Bet you never thought you’d see those words written in the same sentence!
Portuguese cobblestone makes up nearly every plaza and sidewalk on the streets of Lisbon. Therefore, what makes Lisbon inaccessible are the hills and narrow sidewalks. But we digress.
Augusta Street is packed with shops, cafes, outdoor restaurants, and performers. It’s the hot spot to be, especially in the afternoons and evenings…you can’t tell from my photos, though, since I took them early in the morning.
Travel Tip: When on Augusta Street, make a stop at Casa Portuguesa do Pastel de Bacalhau. They sell codfish cakes filled with Portuguese cheese. Pair it with their wine and you’ve got a super filling snack.
3. Time Out Market
The Time Out Market is a gastronomy lover’s paradise and is one of our favorite wheelchair accessible things to do in Lisbon. This indoor, stylish market has a plethora of local and international dishes to choose from along with plenty of beer and wine.
In fact, dishes at the Time Out Market undergo a rigorous screening process by a group of gastronomy specialists before they’re approved to be sold.
The Time Out Market is on the ground floor and has a number of low, wooden tables that are easy to roll up to. Aisles are wide, making it easy to navigate the market.
Time Out gets especially crowded in the late afternoons and evenings, so if you want to avoid the possibility of having to wait for a table, aim to visit earlier in the day.
Prices at the market are on the higher side for Portugal standards but on par with most other Western European countries. There is also a local produce market attached to Time Out. That portion of the market is referred to as the Mercado da Ribeira, although you’ll also hear this name used with the Time Out Market.
Travel Tip: Don’t go to the Time Out Market without buying a Nata pastry from Manteigaria. This cafe is so popular that there’s almost always a line.
4. St. George’s Castle
We’ve got two perfectly accessible sites under our belt. Now, in more typical Lisbon fashion, let’s talk about St. George’s Castle, which is somewhat accessible.
When you’re exploring Lisbon, St. George’s Castle is the unmistakeable stone structure on top of the hill. Between cobblestone, narrow roads, and a steep incline, it would be a challenge to climb the hill with a chair- and for most, only a power chair at that.
Therefore, we recommend having someone drop you off at the entrance. That way, you’ll only have to go up a short incline to get to the entrance gate.
The ticket counter is located to the right of the entrance. The main line for the ticket counter has stairs. However, there’s a ramp on the left-hand side you can use, thus skipping the need to wait in the oftentimes long line.
People with disabilities receive a 1.5 Euro discount on their ticket and a companion can enter with them for free.
Upon entering the grounds of the castle, you’ll be met with huge slabs of cobblestone. Once you cross over to the viewing area, the stone gets better, although far from perfect. In addition to exploring the grounds around the castle, the ground floor of the castle, which leads to an outdoor courtyard, is accessible.
There’s also a wheelchair accessible cafe in the lookout area where you can enjoy a stunning view of Lisbon while sipping on coffee.
5. Graça Church Viewpoint
Lisbon is a city of hills, so we’re going to stick to the view theme for the next three points.
The Graça Church viewpoint offers views competitive with St. George’s Castle. Plus, it’s free and requires less effort. One of the reasons that the views from Graça Church are so great is because they include the castle, which is just one hill over.
Just as with St. George’s Castle, the easiest way to arrive to Graça Church is by vehicle. You can be dropped off right at the viewpoint, which is usually a pretty quiet area. From there, a smooth, flat surface makes exploring the length of the viewpoint easy. There’s also an accessible outdoor cafe.
Travel Tip: From Graça Church, head to the front of the church and down the main road. A flat surface runs between cobblestone sides, making street geared towards locals a great option to explore by wheelchair.
6. Santa Justa Elevator
Built in 1902, the historic Santa Justa Elevator is yet another option for getting great views of Lisbon.
The elevator is the easiest place to get views since you can easily get there without a vehicle, as it’s located on a street branching off from Augusta Street.
The downside to the Santa Justa Elevator is that lines get long, particularly during the summer, since it’s a single elevator that runs. The line winds around to steps, so people with disabilities are allowed to cut to the front.
Only the middle viewing deck is accessible. From there, you’ll be able to get great views just above the rooftops of buildings.
The upper deck involves stairs to get to, meaning that you’ll need to go back down the elevator, as the Largo do Comino entrance that many people use to get to the Bairro Alto district isn’t accessible.
7. Miradouro das Portas do Sol
This is the last viewpoint we’ll talk about here, but not because it should be at the bottom of your viewpoint totem pole. In fact, Miradouro das Portas do Sol is one of the most popular viewpoints in Lisbon.
This viewpoint is entirely free to visit and has a platform that juts out over house rooftops overlooking the Alfama district.
While the Miradouro das Portas do Sol itself is fully accessible, getting to it can prove to be tricky. The reason being is that the lookout point is on a narrow street where trams and cars drive past. We recommend visiting in the morning when there’s less traffic.
There’s a viewpoint beside Miradouro das Portas do Sol called Miradouro de Santa Luiza. This viewpoint is smaller and charming, being in the backyard of a small church. The downside is that an ultra-narrow sidewalk connects the two viewpoints. Therefore, you’d likely need to be dropped off at each viewpoint separately.
If you want to visit one viewpoint but are on the fence about which to choose, we recommend Miradouro das Portas do Sol. It offers more space to be dropped off at and a greater amount of space to explore.
8. Drive around Alfama
By visiting either of the viewpoints in point #7, you’ll have seen Alfama from above. Alfama is a stunning district and is one of the oldest parts of Lisbon.
However, there really isn’t anything about Alfama that’s wheelchair-friendly.
“Narrow sidewalks” take on a whole new meaning in Lisbon, but especially in Alfama. The sidewalks are so narrow that in many areas, even able-bodied people have to walk with one foot in the road.
Sidewalks aside, the steep hills in Alfama make it only possible for power wheelchair users to manage, in parts of sidewalks that happen to be wide enough.
Long story short, we absolutely recommend that you visit Alfama, but by vehicle.
The famous #28 tram runs through this district. Although the tram is inaccessible, a great option is to follow the tracks in a car so that you can enjoy the full #28 tram route. In fact, the tram #28 runs so frequently that chances are high that you’ll be behind a tram on its route.
9. Visit Belém
Belém is a district located west of the historic district of Lisbon. The easiest way to arrive to Belém is by tram. Since most of the Belém trams are the modern version, they’re accessible.
Located on the Tagus River, Belém is known for the Belém Tower (only accessible from the outside), a number of museums, and a large, riverfront boardwalk.
Visiting Antiga Confeitaria de Belém is a tourist must-do when in Belém. There’s a flat entry in the cafeteria section of the store, which leads to an accessible restroom and the main foyer area.
You could easily spend a half-day or more wandering around Belém. With wide sidewalks, flat streets, and pretty, tiled architecture, this is one of the most wheelchair accessible areas of Lisbon.
10. Stroll along the river
Lisbon is beautiful. Seeing the Tagus River from the viewpoints we mentioned above makes the scenery all the more attractive. However, being up close to the river was not our favorite activity.
The river is brown, has a less than appealing smell at times, and an industrialized feel to it.
So then, why are we including a visit to the Tagus River on this list?
Partly, because it’s so close to the Praça do Comércio that it would be silly not to take a peek. The other part is because near the Praça do Comércio, there are some fun rock art formations. Oftentimes, there’s also a sand sculptor creating sand art in real-time.
The boulevard along the river is flat and with Portuguese cobblestone, making this a good wheelchair accessible place to visit in Lisbon.
If you love aquatic life, you’ll love Lisbon’s oceanarium. In fact, the Lisbon Oceanarium is the largest oceanarium in Europe.
Massive viewing windows will make you feel that you’re swimming with the fish, sharks, and Puffins, among others. They do an excellent job of offering educational material in the form of written displays, videos, and interactive sections.
A downside to the oceanarium is that it’s so popular that it can get really crowded, particularly during the summer. We recommend purchasing your ticket in advance so that you don’t spend your precious holiday time waiting in line.
The oceanarium is fully accessible with ramps and elevators around the property, where needed. There are two parking areas, Oceanário Park and Doca Park, both with accessible parking spaces.
12. Nata your way through Lisbon
We made up this “Nata” verb, but really, Nata is so delicious that it deserves to be a verb.
So, what is Nata?
It’s a to-die-for custard pastry with a flakey shell. Nata is the national dessert of Portugal, and as such, you’ll see it everywhere.
No two Nata are quite alike that we tasted, although all were good. We recommend Nata-hopping your way through Lisbon to try to find your favorite Nata pastry shop.
As we mentioned earlier, trying Nata at Manteigaria at the Time Out Market is a must. We found their Nata to have the strongest cinnamon flavor of the ones we tried.
We’d love to hear from you in the comments section when you find your favorite Nata pastry shop!
13. Seek out street art
Lisbon is known for clever street art. You’ll find colorful masterpieces scattered throughout the city- gigantic murals on the sides of buildings, paintings on the walls of restaurants and cafes, and on abandoned buildings.
Since, as you know by now, Lisbon is filled with narrow sidewalks and steep hills, exploring its street art scene is most accessible by vehicle.
The photo above shows a man holding a sign that reads “Illegal art, why?” It’s hard to tell from the photo, but the fox is built out of old pieces of plastic.
Wheelchair Accessible Lisbon Resources
The Câmara Municipal de Lisboa put together an Accessible Tourism Guide. The 100 page document is impressive, as it’s uncommon for a city’s tourism office to publish anything geared towards people with disabilities, let alone something of such length.
That being said, we found the guide to be rather optimistic about their interpretation of accessibility. Accessible restrooms, in particular, stood out to us. They show accessible restrooms in far more places than what our experience was and left out a wonderfully accessible restroom at the Time Out Market.
Nonetheless, the Accessible Tourism Guide will no doubt help to give you ideas of activities, parks, restaurants, etc. to visit during your time in Lisbon.
Lisbon is the kind of city that will make you want to plan your next trip there even before you leave. We hope that this guide has helped you plan your accessible holiday in Lisbon.
If you have questions about wheelchair accessible travel in Lisbon, leave a comment below and we’ll be happy to help. Alternatively, if you have experience traveling to Lisbon as a wheelchair user, we’d love to hear about your experience and tips.
P.S.- Visiting Sintra? Don’t miss our post on A Wheelchair User’s Guide to Sintra.
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.