Bruges Disabled Access Review
By John Sage
Bruges Disabled Access – The Golden Age of Bruges lasted from the 12th to 15th centuries and produced a magnificent city for disabled tourists to visit. Bruges has changed very little over the centuries which produces both good and bad news for Bruges wheelchair visitors.
The entire city is completely flat and few automobiles are found in the central tourist area of town. While virtually the entire town is covered in cobblestones, the good news is that these are mild cobblestones and consequently they are more of a nuisance than a barrier.
Bruges Disabled Access – Best Aspects
Small city size – Bruges is small enough that you can walk across the entire Bruges city centre without much difficulty (other than the cobblestones). It’s 3 km (2 miles) from north to south and 2.5 km (1.5 miles) from east to west. The map on the right shows the 1.5 km (1 mile) route from the train station to Markt Square in the middle of town.
Flat inside the outer canal – The historical city of Bruges is ringed by a small canal, and virtually the entire interior is flat (typical Bruges street shown in the image below on the right). There are a few exceptions with some slight inclines over the bridges with the steepest incline located at the bridge that goes into the Beginhof (shown in the image below on the right). There are no hills anywhere inside the historic centre.
Bridges with no steps – The bridges over the canals in Bruges are not like the accessible bridges in Venice, almost all of which have steps to get over them. The Bruges bridges are also used by cars and consequently they don’t have any steps on them. Most of them are nearly completely flat. An example is shown on the right.
Accessible train if advanced notice – Bruges is easy to reach by train from Brussels or other nearby cities. Disabled travelers, including wheelchair users, will have no problem taking the train as long as they provide advanced notice that they need a wheelchair accessible seat and assistance getting on and off the train. The picture on the right shows John Sage getting onto the train at the Bruges train station.
Bruges Disabled Access – Most Challenging Aspects
Cobblestones – The biggest challenge that wheelchair users will encounter in Bruges is the cobblestones that cover virtually the entire city. At least 95% of the streets are cobblestone. Fortunately, the cobblestones have a 4 star smoothness rating and won’t present major problems for wheelchair users other than a bumpy ride. They are not nearly as severe as the cobblestones in central Rome or many medieval city centers.
Little accessible public transportation – Bruges is small enough that all visitors get around by walking or rolling between tourist sights. There is no metro or tram and the bus really only connects the train station and Markt Square (shown in the image on the right). You won’t be able to use public transportation to get around Bruges.
WC accessible boats – A canal boat ride is one of the top experiences in Bruges, but unfortunately none of the boats are truly wheelchair accessible. Tourists using wheelchairs will need to transfer into the boat and leave their wheelchair on the dock. There is not enough room on the boat to stay in a wheelchair. The boat floats low in the water and wheelchair users will need to transfer down into the boat. Only some of the docks have ramps to get down to the dock.
The Belfry in Bruges – The 86 meter tall bell tower overlooks the Markt Square and can be seen from all over town (shown on the right). The only way to see the view from the top is to climb up the narrow, steep staircase which has 366 steps. There is no elevator to reach the top.
Few taxis – As mentioned previously, Bruges is a pedestrian town. Consequently, you are far more likely to see a horse-drawn carriage than a taxi in the centre of town. Unlike Brussels, you won’t be able to hail a taxi while you’re in Bruges.
WC accessible taxi from Ghent – If you need a van taxi with a wheelchair ramp to drive you around Bruges, you’ll need to call and have one drive over from the city of Ghent. Consequently, it’s quite expensive to arrange for a wheelchair accessible taxi in Bruges.
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