Vienna is frequently listed as the most accessible city in Europe. We headed over to Austria to find out just how accessible Vienna really is.
Vienna is frequently listed as the most accessible city in Europe. We headed over to Austria to find out just how accessible Vienna really is.
There are many accessible ways that you can get from Vienna airport into the city. We had always used the cheap option of public transport to get to and from the airport whenever we travelled before Craig's accident so we wanted to continue with that and see how difficult it would be in a wheelchair. Taxis and special minibuses are also available, further information is available on the Vienna Tourist Board website.
We ended up trying out two different trains to get to and from the airport.
At the insistence of the special assistance guy at Vienna airport, we took an ÖBB (Austrian Federal Railways) train from the airport to Wien Hauptbahnhof (Vienna Central Station) in the city centre. The train took approximately half an hour and also stops at Wien Meidling station as well as other stations before the city centre. Tickets for this train cost €4.20 for both of us and we bought them from the ticket machine in the airport arrivals hall. For able-bodied travellers, this is probably the best option but we found that this was not the best option for wheelchair users. Some of the modern trains are level to the platform but the older trains have steps and wheelchair access requires a conductor operated a lift. From what we could tell the carriage with the lift seemed to be the end carriage and can be identified by the wheelchair symbol on the door. The uncertainty of whether the train will be an old train or a modern train means using this train may require either the hassle of looking for the conductor to be able to board or waiting for the next modern train.
On our return journey from Vienna back to the airport we decided to take the CAT (city airport train) which is what we had intended to do on our outward journey before the assistance person at the airport suggested otherwise. After experiencing both the ÖBB and the CAT trains we definitely recommend the CAT for wheelchair users. A City Airport Train departs every half an hour and the journey takes 16 minutes. Trains from the airport to the city leave at 09 and 39 minutes past every hour from 6:09 am to 11:39 pm. Trains from the city to the airport depart at 07 and 37 minutes past every hour from 5:37 am to 11:07 pm.
Single tickets cost €12 and return tickets cost €21 however disabled people get a 50% discount and a carer can accompany them for free so we paid €6 between us to go one way. From our experience we assume you need to go to a person rather than a ticket machine to get the disabled concession. We tried to buy our tickets from the ticket machines but the attendant saw us enter and invited us over to the desk so she could give us the discount. Claire was asked if she had any proof of carer identification to get the free accompanying ticket but the person said it was fine when we said we didn't have any. Craig didn't get asked for any identification of being disabled, presumably, the wheelchair was a sufficient giveaway.
The CAT platform could be accessed by lift and the train was level to the platform, however, there was a slight gap between the platform and the train. The attendant offered us a ramp to board but it was possible to enter without by doing a big wheelie to prevent the front casters falling down the gap. We had a freewheel attachment on the wheelchair when getting on the train but had removed it during the journey and left it off when exiting the train. It was definitely much easier to cross the gap when using the freewheel, especially because the train floor was ramped upwards from the middle of the train to the door which made wheelieing difficult. From what we could see, every carriage was wheelchair accessible as there were wheelchair symbols on all the doors. Designated wheelchair space was available and clearly marked in the carriage.
The metro system was very accessible in our experience. All the metro stations we visited had lifts and the metro was level to the platform although there was a small bump to enter the train which may cause problems depending on the size of your front castors. There was a wheelchair area on each metro carriage which was just the standing area by the door. The carriage door with a wheelchair symbol will bring you straight into this area.
Metro tickets cost €2.40 each and there was no disbaled concession from what we could see. Most of the train stations had disabled toilets although a key was needed to open them.
We didn't use the trams ourselves during our trip but from what we saw they appear to be fairly accessible although accessibility depends on the age of the tram. The more modern trams are wheelchair friendly while the older style trams have steps. A wheelchair symbol on the platform display board indicates whether next tram will be accessible. There were wheelchair symbols on the front entrances of the accessible trams so we presume wheelchair users should board at the front of the tram.
Vienna was well suited to getting around in a wheelchair. Pavements wide, smooth, had little camber and lots of low curbs. There were few completely flat curbs - the freewheel attachment easily takes them but you could use bike path crossings which have completely flat curbs. There were a few areas where the floor was cobbled. We didn't have any problems because Craig was using a freewheel wheelchair attachment but you might struggle without one.
Vienna has two electric scooter rental schemes - like city bikes but for scooters. We found a voucher code for the Lime electric scooter scheme and tried it out. We thought the scooter was good for companions walking with wheelchair users to be able to keep up on the downhills. You're probably not supposed to but we also managed to tow the wheelchair using the scooter.
Here's a code for a free ride if you want to try it:
Roll/Walk in Shower
Toilet With Grab Rails
We stayed at Ibis Styles Wien Messe Prater Hotel which we booked on Booking.com. We asked for an accessible room in the special requests box on the booking form and the hotel replied within minutes to say they had an accessible room available for us.
The hotel was easily accessible via a level entrance with wide automatic doors that lead straight into the reception area. The reception area was not ideal as it was a little cramped for manoeuvring a wheelchair and the reception desk was higher than comfortable for a wheelchair user but it was perfectly workable. All floors were accessible from the reception area by two lifts.
The disabled room we stayed in had an extra wide doorway with a key card lock. The room itself had enough room to be able to manoeuvre the wheelchair around. However, there was limited space next to the bed so we had to push the bed to one side to make enough space for the wheelchair alongside it for transferring into bed. There was no hoist in the room.
The bathroom was one of the most accessible bathrooms we've experienced so far. The whole room was a wet room with a roll/walk in shower. There was a handrail on both walls surrounding the shower and a stool in the shower, this was not ideal for balancing without the use of core muscles as the rail made it difficult to lean against the wall but it was just about manageable. The toilet had a back rest and good hand rails on either side which made it easy to use without a toilet chair. There was plenty of space under the sink to be able to pull up underneath in the wheelchair and the mirror above the sink was tilting which was nice as we could adjust it to suit both our needs (wheelchair user and able body). The bathroom door was wide and the towel hooks situated on it were low down which was nice as Craig could reach them easily but also inconvenient as it meant there was less space for the towels to hang without dragging on the floor. The bathroom bin was not very disability friendly as it was very small and foot pedal operated.
Check out our guide to booking accessible accomodation for advice on how to find accessible places to stay.
There are plenty of cultural attractions in Vienna. Vienna is known for its imperial palaces and musical heritage. If you are into museums you have plenty to choose from. Even if, like us, the idea of museums, opera and classical music doesn't float your boat, there's still plenty to do in Vienna. Here are some of the attractions we enjoyed:
Schönbrunn Palace is one of the biggest attractions in Vienna.
You do have to pay to go inside the palace, we weren't bothered about going inside so we just explored the gardens which you can enter free of charge. If you do want to go inside a disabled persons discount is available and a companion can accompany you free of charge. The Palace has extensive grounds, the extent of how much is open depends on the type of year you visit but you could end up spending an entire day here. We visited right at the end of the winter season so many attractions such as the maze which we wanted to go in were still closed. You can enter the many separate attractions within the grounds of Schönbrunn Palace with single tickets or you can get combined tickets for multiple attractions. More information about tickets and prices can be found on the palace website.
There are a number of disabled toilets within the grounds of the palace, however, you need a euro toilet key to use them. If you don't have a key you can use the one by the ticket desk.
We explored the grounds and then headed up to the Gloriette (the building on top of the hill). From there you can enjoy great views of the city. The path up to the Gloriette is smooth but steep. You may find it difficult to push up without any assistance, we struggled a little with the both of us pushing at once (Craig on the wheels and Claire pushing the wheelchair from behind). If you don't fancy climbing the hill, instead of using the main entrance to the palace there is an alternative level route you can take to the Gloriette which connects to Hohenbergstraße to the east.
There is a café inside the Gloriette so you can reward yourself to a cake and a drink after slogging up the hill. The café has no obvious wheelchair access, the main entrance involves going up a set of stairs, but if you go round the back you can get in through an accessible entrance.
The Haus der Musik (house of music) is a music and sound museum. The museum is very interactive and we enjoyed it even though museums aren't usually our thing. The museum was fairly accessible for wheelchair users but there were a few exhibits that were not accessible such as a piano staircase. Some exhibits were too high to reach from a wheelchair. There was lift access to all levels of the museum. The lift was a little strange, you could take the lift up to any floor but if you wanted to go down it would only take you all the way down to the ground floor. There is a disabled toilet but you must ask at the ticket desk to get it unlocked. There is a disabled ticket price concession, I guess this makes up somewhat for not all exhibits being accessible. For us, the discount was around €4 but you can find up to date information on ticket prices on the .
The Naschmarkt is a large food market in Vienna. The market is made up of three long rows of stalls. The paths between the stalls were narrow but accessible. There were various stalls selling mostly cheeses, sausages etc as well as some restaurants and cafes. We did find that a lot of the stalls were selling very similar if not the same products so once you have walked about halfway down you have seen pretty much everything.
There are a few buildings in Vienna with a rather unique style. We found it fun to explore the city looking for them. Some interesting buildings include Kunst Haus Wien and Hundertwasser House.
Restaurants were probably the thing that we had the most trouble with regarding wheelchair accessibility whilst we were in Vienna. While most of the attractions in Vienna have made a conscious effort to be accessible for disabled people, not all restaurants have followed suit. A lot of the buildings in the city centre are old and have steps leading in and out. Some of the restaurants in these buildings have made adaptations to make them more accessible but not all have. Although not all restaurants were accessible, there were enough to give you choice over where to eat. These are the eateries we recommend:
This wasn't the best restaurant accessibility wise. Saying that the food and price made up for it enough that we'd go there again and recommend it to other wheelchair users. There was a ramp at the entrance but it was short and steep with a heavy door right after. This is alright if you have someone with you to help push you up the ramp or open the door for you but it would be difficult to get in on your own. This is an order and pay at the counter type eatery and the low counter was at a good height for wheelchair users. The tables were too high to reach comfortably from a wheelchair but food comes in a take-out box so you can take elsewhere. If you're tall like Craig you can stretch and make do. The food was very good - it was a bit of a mix of traditional Austrian food and street food. We had a hard time choosing what to have because everything sounded good. In the end, we went with recommendations from the waitress. We had a twist on wiener schnitzel with a very nice potato salad and pork with dumplings and sauerkraut. The menu changes every week, you can find this weeks menu on their website. There were some vegetarian dishes. Prices were very reasonable; every dish was less than €10.
The hard rock cafe is not accessible on first glance as it has steps at the entrance however they actually have a wheelchair ramp that they will bring out for you. There is a lift inside so the upper floors are also accessible. Tables are a good height to wheel right under. The food was good and portions were very generous, we ordered a burger and ribs and halved them between us. Most main dishes were in the €15 to €25 range. We thought that was a bit on the pricey side compared to what you would expect for that style of food. Yet going to the hard rock café is a bit of an experience in itself. You can find the menu and book a table on their website.
The Gloriette Café is situated within the grounds of Schönbrunn Palace. There is a disabled entrance into the café, though it is not obvious as you must go round the back to get in. Inside the café was very accessible, tables were a good height to wheel under. There are no toilets in the café but there are some dotted around the grounds of the palace if you have the euro key. We tried a piece of Sachertorte, a Viennese speciality, here. Sachertorte is a type of chocolate cake filled with apricot jam and covered with a chocolate icing.
The Naschmarkt is a good place to go if you're looking for more snacky foods or for food souvenirs. It is a large food market selling mostly things such as cheeses and sausages. There were also some restaurants and cafes within the market. The market consists of three long rows of stalls, the paths between them were narrow but accessible. You can find information about opening times on the website.
Most shops, restaurants and attractions were easily wheelchair accessible however there were some that had a step or two at the entrance. If you find this is the case for somewhere you want to enter it's worth asking if they have a ramp they could bring out. Most people we met were very friendly and were more than willing to get a ramp out for us or do what they could to accommodate us when possible. As a generalisation we found that people tended to be more accepting of us as a wheelchair user than we tend to experience in the UK.
You can download a list of accessible restaurants from Vienna's tourist board website.
As with most of Europe, the currency used in Vienna is Euros. Card payments are widely accepted across the city, in fact, I'm not sure we used cash at all. We found Vienna to be relatively expensive compared to neighbouring capitals such as Budapest, Bratislava and Prague but it was not out of line with other major western European cities.
German is the main language spoken in Vienna, a lot of people also speak very good English.
Vienna runs on Central European Time or Central European Summer Time depending on the time of year.
There were plenty of disabled toilets, however, many of them required a Euro toilet key to open them. This key is also used widely in Germany and Switzerland. We didn't have this key and struggled to find toilets in some places but depending on where you are you might be able to find an attendant to open it for you. We found that the toilets we did use were generally of a high standard.