Our recent wheelchair accessible London trips. We hope that sharing our experience might make it easier for others to follow because it takes a lot of time to plan wheelchair accessible trips and check accessibility beforehand
Trip 1: A day trip in September 2021: Green Park and Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, walk to Big Ben and London Eye, river cruise from Westminster Pier to Tower Bridge, Tower of London, back on the boat to Westminster Pier
That was our first wheelchair accessible trip to London, here is what we have learnt:
all black cabs have ramps and they can be hailed in the street (if taxi sign is lit, the taxi is available)
double deckers also all have ramps, the driver will just pull it out when they see you at the bus stop. There is a blue wheelchair stop button by every wheelchair space. Buses in London are free for wheelchair users
There are many wheelchair accessible underground stations in the city centre – read more about travelling by London underground here https://wheelwithus.com/travelling-by-london-underground-as-a-wheelchair-user/
Very helpful apps to use for public transport are Tfl Go app TfL Go app – Maps, routes and more to plan your journey – Transport for London and Citymapper app Citymapper – The Ultimate Transport App. Both of them can be set to step free modes. There are two types of wheelchair accessible stops – those marked with a wheelchair sign against blue background are wheelchair accessible from the train to the street. You will not need any ramps to board/leave the train at them.
The second type are marked with a wheelchair sign against the white background, which means they are accessible from the platform to the street, but do not have level access to the trains and you will need a ramp to access. You can download an underground map here: Wheelchair access & avoiding stairs – Transport for London (tfl.gov.uk)
Thames City cruises and Uber boats have got ramps and the staff are very helpful to get anyone on board, however the ramps are not very wide, so not sure if all the chairs would fit. The tickets are cheaper for wheelchair users and do not have to be booked in advance, you can buy a round trip, get off the boat to sightsee and come back at a later time. Ticket offices are located at every pier.
there are many trains that go to the city centre, best option is to book a ramp a day before via Passenger Assistance app Home – Passenger Assistance, but if you just turn up at the station the staff is happy to help and will get you on the train as long as it is not too busy (off peak times are best because of lower prices and fewer people on the platforms). Don’t worry if you need to change. Passenger Assistance staff will be waiting for you with a ramp on the platform and will escort you to the next train. If, for some reason, nobody comes and you are not able to leave the train at your stop, there is always a button to press by a wheelchair seat to speak to the driver. Or, alternatively, ask your travel companion or any other passenger to let the staff on the platform know that you need a ramp.
lots of great parks to explore in the city centre, such as Green Park, Hyde Park and many more
Our day trip plan was: Green Park and Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, walk to Big Ben and London Eye, river cruise from Westminster Pier to Tower Bridge, walk by the Tower of London, back on the boat to Westminster Pier. It was a great day.
Westminster Abbey is not fully accessible, but it is free for wheelchair users and carers and you can see a lot of it, including coronation chair
Trip 2: 4 days trip in November 2021. Tower Bridge, Westminster Pier, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, London Bridge, The Shard, Hyde Park, Natural History Museum, Science Museum, British Museum
Travelled to London by train. Assistance (ramps) booked via Passenger Assistance App Home – Passenger Assistance. It worked really well, made the booking quick and easy.
We stayed in Premier Inn in Euston, booked an accessible room online. The room did not have a wet room, if you require one you need to call/message the hotel directly.
There are two Premier Inns in the area and also Travelodge – good to know: All Premier Inns and Travelodges offer wheelchair accessible rooms which can be booked online. However, not all of them have wet rooms, so it is worth calling the hotel directly if you require it. Travelodges are also pet friendly). Great location for public transport as there is a step free access to underground trains in King’s Cross just a few minutes walk away and plenty of buses from either right next to accommodation or from nearby Russell Square.
King’s Cross St Pancras underground station
Also hailed a taxi once from Westminster (as the wheelchair battery died ) and it cost about £16. Plenty of accessible places to eat in the area, our favourite was Cafe Tropea in Russell Square, with amazing breakfasts, coffee and cakes.
Natural History Museum – very accessible, including the wildlife garden. Free entry. Cafe and disabled toilets available
Science Museum – very interesting. Free entry, located right next to the Natural History Museum
Tower Bridge – full wheelchair access to both top of the bridge and the museum downstairs.
Hyde Park – lots of accessible, even and flat paths to choose from
London Bridge – great views from the bridge and nice walk along the Thames
The views from the Shard are unforgettable. Tickets do not need to be booked in advance, but the advance tickets are cheaper. Being a wheelchair user, you skip the queue, which is usually quite long. The best time to go there is not too long before sunset, if the weather is nice you will see the views in the daylight, beautiful sunset and then great night views. Best prices are usually ten days before you visit. Carer’s ticket is free and does not need to be booked in advance.
After a visit to the Shard, we had a nice walk around the centre to see the night city views and took a bus ride to see the Harrods
British Museum – it is wheelchair accessible, but there are very heavy doors in between the rooms
Here’s how we got to those places from London Euston:
To get to Tower Bridge and The Shard from Euston, you can use King’s Cross Underground Northern Line and get off at London Bridge Station (worth walking across London Bridge, great views from there over the river). To get to Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, London Eye (Westminster Pier), use Victoria Line and get off at Green Park Station or Victoria Station.
The British Museum is within walking distance. To get to Natural History Museum and Science Museum, you can use Bus from Russell Square. There are also direct buses to Trafalgar Square, Piccalilli Circus, Paddington Station and many more. Buses are free for wheelchair users, ramps are taken out by the drivers when they see a wheelchair user at the stop, there is a special wheelchair button to signal when you want to get off.
Trip 3: A 5 days trip in December 2022: London International Horse Show in ExCel Arena, Jurrasic World Exhibition in Excel Arena, Cable Car, O2 Arena, Greenwich Peninsula, Royal Observatory and Planetarium in Greenwich, Uber Boat on the Thames, The Shard, Winter Wonderland including Magical Ice Kingdom in Hyde Park
London International Horse Show
We had a really good time at London International Horse Show which took place in London ExCel mid December. We booked a wheelchair ticket online, automatically got a free companion’s ticket. Wheelchair ramp was located right at the front, so could see really well. The atmosphere was really good. ExCel is easily accessible by tube, both DLR and Elizabeth line are wheelchair friendly. We bought tickets for one afternoon and one evening show and we saw horse jumping, dressage, freestyle dressage, Le Regiment de Cavalerie and two dog agility shows. Disabled toilet was located in the corridor opposite the wheelchair entrance to the arena.
At the time, there was a fantastic exhibition in ExCel called Jurrasic World. Great experience for all ages, might be a bit scary for some little ones.
London cable car over the Thames
Great wheelchair accessibility in cable car in London, between ExCel and O2 Arena (Greenwich Peninsula). They stop the cabin to allow easy entry and exit for wheelchair users. The seats can also be raised. Easy wheelchair access by DLR (overground train, get off at Royal Victoria stop). Single ticket costs £5, the trip one way lasts a few minutes. You can pay contactless at the gates or by Oyster card. Carer’s ticket available for free in the ticket office. The Greenwich stop is just a few minutes walk from O2, full of shops and restaurants. There is also Cineworld.
We had a great accessible room in London Travelodge Docklands Central (room number 1015). The room was spacious, bed just the right height for us for transfers. With big wet room. Great breakfast. The room was located on the 10th floor, had a huge window and the view was amazing, especially at sunrise. A few minutes walk to step free DLR overground tube, with easy access to ExCel, cable car, O2 Arena and Greenwich one way and Tower Bridge the other way. DLR has also good connection with Elizabeth Line.
The last part of our trip. The plan of the day, if anyone would like to follow, was: cable car ride to O2 arena (we were staying in Travelodge Docklands Central not far from the cable car), lunch at O2 (many restaurants and cafes to choose from), bus from outside the arena to Greenwich (about 20 minutes), Royal Observatory Museum, Planetarium, Uber boat from the Greenwich Pier to London Bridge (about 25 – 30 minutes), the Shard, back to Travelodge by bus.
Royal Observatory Museum was wheelchair accessible, but to go into the main building, you needed to use a lift (the power chair could only just fit) and ring the bell for somebody to come and open the door. The staff was very friendly and helpful. The main road to the museum is very steep. There is an alternative route round the hill, a bit longer, but a lot better. The most interesting part for us was the Planetarium, a building right next to it. We watched a really good live show called “The sky tonight”. Free carer’s ticket. Wheelchair space was located at the back of the room, from which there was the best view. Shows need to be booked in advance, you can book a wheelchair ticket online Royal Observatory | Royal Museums Greenwich (rmg.co.uk) There was also a really nice view over London from the hill.
Uber boat was partially accessible, there was no problem to get on board, but there was quite a big door threshold to get into the indoor seating area (where a cafe and toilets were located). Ramp at London Bridge pier was a bit steeper than other piers we went past, but no problem in the power chair. The Shard is fully wheelchair accessible and you skip the queue. Tickets booked online in advance are a few pounds cheaper than at the ticket desk.
Hyde Park Winter Wonderland and Magical Ice Kingdom
Even though it was rainy on the day of our visit and there were loads of people as it was on Sunday, it was still a really good experience. We skipped an hour long queue, cafes were accessible, there were many disabled toilets on site. Unfortunately we didn’t ask about accessibility of the ride, read on the website that the ice skating rink is wheelchair accessible. Our favourite place was Magical Ice Kingdom – ice sculptures. If you want to avoid crowds, probably best go on a week day. Needs to be booked in advance. It’s usually open until the very beginning of January. Free carer’s tickets available.
Useful tips for travelling to London as a wheelchair user
- choose accommodation located close to step free underground lines and stations, for example Elizabeth Line, overground DLR line or step free stations like King’s Cross St Pancras, Green Park or London Bridge. Check on the map or Transport for London website which stops are step free from the train to the street (marked with a wheelchair sign against the blue background). It will make moving around the city a lot quicker and easier.
- plan your sightseeing along the accessible transport routes
- if you use power chair, make sure your battery is fully charged or take the charger with you if possible. There are always long distances to cover even if you are only planning a visit to one place (long distances to lifts etc)
- avoid weekends and school holidays if you can especially if you don’t like crowds. You will also get better deals on accommodation
- visit London in autumn or winter if you enjoy city night views but do not like or are not able to stay up late
- don’t forget the river Thames (city cruises, uber boats) is a great, fast way to travel between many places in London, for example betweeen Westminster Pier and Tower Bridge or Greenwich. You can book a return trip and do some sightseeing between the two journeys.