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Spread over 14 islands where Lake Mälaren meets the Baltic Sea, Stockholm is one of Europe’s most beautiful cities. Sweden’s capital is home to a Medieval old town, charming harbour and a vast array of museums. For those with limited mobility, make the most of it with Culture Trip’s practical guide to visiting the city.
From the popular ABBA The Museum to the stately Royal Palace, Stockholm is filled with things to see, do and taste, making it an ideal city break. It is also one of the easiest places to visit for those with limited mobility, thanks to a 1998 city council initiative that aimed to make Stockholm the world’s most accessible capital city. Since then, many buildings have been adapted, public transport has been improved, and it is far easier to check accessibility information online before a trip than for most other cities. For those with reduced mobility, here’s everything you need to know about the Swedish capital.
Public transport in Stockholm is extremely accessible for all, and staff are usually very willing to assist when needed. The transport system SL has produced its own accessibility booklet to help travellers get around the city. SL has also issued a guarantee that if there is any problem with any of the accessibility features, passengers with disabilities will receive help to continue their journey. It also has a 24/7 accessibility phone (+46 20 120 20 22) and text (+46 70 256 46 81) hotline with specially trained staff who can answer questions or book assistance for your entire journey.
On the metro, commuter trains, light railway and tram stations, the trains and platforms are at the same level at nearly all stations. However, do note that a ramp is needed to board commuter trains due to the gap between the platform and the train. For travellers with reduced hearing, the metro uses a female voice to announce trains heading north, and a male voice to announce trains heading south.
All buses have level floor access and ramps if needed, with automatic service announcements at stops and stations. There is also a button for audio information about the next bus. Use the button by the middle door to alert the driver when you are boarding.
The crew members are happy to help on commuter ferries, and the Djurgården Ferry on line 82 has wide and stable gangways. Accessibility varies between different commuter ferries, so check before travelling. If the water level is low, the slope between the dock and boat can be steep, so extra caution should be taken.
Stockholm’s tourist attractions, palaces and gardens are easy to explore with limited mobility. Although the city comprises 14 islands, it is easy to get around with efficient public transport, extensive dropped kerbs, pedestrian crossings and generally smooth pavements. The cobblestoned old town of Gamla Stan is the only area wheelchair users may find difficult. To check the accessibility of restaurants before you travel, consult the online database Tillgänglighetsdatabasen, while cinemas, museums and theatres can all be checked at a glance on the Stockholm Museums website.
Museums have excellent accessibility throughout the city. ABBA The Museum is fully wheelchair accessible, with elevators for those with limited mobility, and gives free access to caregivers and attendants. The world’s oldest open-air museum at Skansen is also wheelchair accessible, with accessible toilets, lifts and door sensors. It offers visitors free wheelchairs at all entrances but advises guests with disabilities to use the Hazelius entrance and the funicular railway for free. The maritime museum Vasa is equally accessible, offering accessible toilets, door sensors, lifts and free admission to companions. Its restaurant is also accessible, and there are wheelchairs available to borrow from the information desk.
The Royal Palace offers several accessible toilets, free entry for attendants of those with disabilities and a lift to most areas open to the public. Be aware that there is no lift to Gustav III’s Museum of Antiquities or the Royal Chapel, which both have stairs to enter.
To see the city from above, the staggering SkyView takes visitors to the top of the world’s largest spherical building, the famous Ericsson Globe. John Morris, a wheelchair user and founder of accessible travel website www.wheelchairtravel.org, reviewed the attraction on his site: “I’d recommend wheelchair users get on first, as the space inside is limited and you’ll want to get a spot next to the glass. The boarding area and pathway are completely level and barrier-free, making it easy to roll into and out of the capsule.”
The Medieval town of Gamla Stan is Stockholm’s most beautiful area. Home to the Nobel Prize Museum and Stockholm Cathedral, this historic town also has lively cafés, buzzing bars and tiny shops in golden-hued buildings. It is also the most difficult area in the city to access with limited mobility due to some hills, narrow alleyways and several cobblestone streets. However, it is possible to experience this part of the city by sticking to the flatter, smoother streets by the edges of the town near the waterfront.
Cory Lee, a wheelchair user and founder of accessible travel site Curb Free with Cory Lee, wrote on his website: “With its Medieval beauty, Gamla Stan is a must when in the city. But if you’re a wheelchair user, be prepared for some bumps along the way. Since this area is so old, accessibility was not a forethought when it was built. Many (or I should say most) of the shops and restaurants have at least one step to get inside, and there is some cobblestone.”
Keep up the ABBA theme after you’ve visited the city’s museum by staying at The Rival. ABBA member Benny Andersson owns this chic boutique hotel in the trendy Mariatorget. With colourful, glamorous interiors and friendly staff, the hotel has excellent accessibility features, clearly listed on its website. The hotel prides itself on going the extra mile for guests who need more help. On the disabled access review site Euan’s Guide, Tina Hodgkinson wrote: “This is an accessible hotel that ticks all the boxes and shows that accessibility can be fun, fabulous as well as practical.”
Scandic No 53
In the centre of Stockholm close to the Old Town and central station, this three-star hotel is a great no-fuss option. The hotel offers free Wi-Fi, a sunlit courtyard and a convenient shop in reception selling everything from light meals to toothpaste. Good accessibility features, including measurements, are clearly listed on its website. For those with disabilities, it has 19 rooms on offer, complete with wide corridors to public areas and staff trained to help when needed.
The city is aiming to become cash-free, so always carry a debit or credit card, even to pay for smaller items such as a coffee or bus ticket. Elena Siré, a certified expert of accessibility in buildings, has written a book on accessible sights in Stockholm named Kulturpromenader För Personer Med Funktionshinder, or Cultural Walking Tours for Disabled People (1998). It is a useful guide to read before visiting Sweden’s capital. Find it in Swedish and English on her website.