The Most and Least Accessible Places in Europe 2022

Seeing as its New Years Eve and all, I thought it would be the perfect time to reflect on the most and least accessible places we’ve visited so far. We left Ireland in May and have completed 7 of our 11 month European road trip with Vanessa the Van. We’ve been to major cities, random rural towns, we’ve stayed on the sides of mountains and 5 star campsites. Its been varied to say the least!

This blog post is a short and sweet summary of the four most accessible places we’ve been to, and one of the least accessible so far. Thankfully we’ve found more good than bad! Keep reading to find out the best and worst, and you never know, you might find some travel spots for 2023!

The Most Accessible Places in Europe 2022

1. Marburg, Germany

I have never been to a place like Marburg before, and I doubt I will again! It was the most accessible and unique place I have ever been to. Their efforts towards creating an accessible city for the blind or vision impaired are admirable and have created the most wonderful environment to explore. They had;

  • Talking bus stops
  • Working audio and tactile pedestrian crossings
  • Tactile signs
  • Tactile paving everywhere
  • Tactile models of historical and cultural buildings

They have achieved so much more than just the physical environment though. The team in Marburg have created a place that feels safe, accepting and truly inclusive. There was a beautiful balance between being proud to have a VI while also feeling like it was so “normal”, that there was nothing to be proud about. Not to mention the amazing buildings, architecture and streetscapes around the city. It was such a wrench to leave here!

For a deep dive into our time in Marburg, read more here.

2. Zurich, Switzerland

The Swiss have a reputation of being very practical and efficient, and they live up to this when it comes to accessibility! Zurich was a great city to explore alone. They had tactile paving connecting pedestrian crossings, audio and tactile crossings, large format signs, tactile signs in the train stations and very flat pavements.

This place was so easy to get around that I ventured in alone to pick up my new sunglasses and found it simples! It is also a really pretty city with a gorgeous old town and plenty of yummy pretzels!

3. Utrecht, The Netherlands

Famous for its university, Utrecht was a charming city to visit. When we went to our local train station, we were met by tactile paving leading you to it from the road, and tactile signs on the handrails up to the platforms. The great accessibility continued in the central station with huge signs and more tactile paving.

However, as with all Dutch cities, there are bicycles everywhere! Every time you cross a road, you cross at least 4 lanes of traffic, 2 of which are almost completely silent! Once you get used to it, and become aware of the prevalence of bikes, it is relatively easy to get around.

4. Paris, France

I’ll be honest, this one surprised me! We took the train into Paris from our campsite and the first thing we were met by were gigantic signs pointing you towards the right platforms. I also found some very good, edged steps and audio tactile pedestrian crossings.

This was a busy spot though, with lots of people, narrow streets and traffic. If you visited in low season, it would be a great spot for an accessible few days!

The Least Accessible Place in Europe 2022

Spain (we have visited; Malaga, Oliva, Valencia, L’Estartit, Tiana, La Linea and Benalmadena)

I try not to make sweeping generalisations but so far, my experience in Spain has been less than accessible. The vast majority of pedestrian crossings don’t make a noise and do not have a tactile box. This is by design, not because they are broken. The tactile paving is scattered at best and in some places it is used as paving on hills to give more grip. I also found the above abomination of a cycle track painted right over a section of tactile paving. There are no words!

The exception to this was Gibraltar, which had good crossings with spinning cones underneath. Although, this is technically a British territory so not sure it counts as Spain? I also found a great ATM which was covered in Braille. We’re just over one month into our Spanish travels so maybe things will change as we explore more of the beautiful country. Fingers crossed!

So there you have it, the most and least accessible places we’ve come across on our travels so far. Its been a hugely mixed bag, with some great examples of how things can be done really well, and some examples of how not to do something. I hope this inspires you to travel to some interesting places and feel safe while doing so.

As always, thank you so much for reading and Happy New Year! Aoife x