London by night
Accessibility United Kingdom

Wheelchair travel in London: Westminster, Soho, Covent Garden and the Lion King

on
21 April 2019

Westminster and the Parliament

To end our travel in London, we decided to start this last day with a classic: Westminster and the Elizabeth tower, more famously known as the Big Ben clock tower. We crossed the Westminster Bridge to get a nice view on both. Unfortunately,  the tower is under renovation at the moment until at least 2021 so it is not as impressive. The famous Westminster abbey was close to public also that day so we decided to go the House of Parliament instead. The main hall interior is simpler than the richly decorated outside, but the really cool thing is that we could attend a session of the House of Lords. No picture were allowed during the session, but it is a gorgeous place to see. The gilded royal throne and red leather seats contrast with the dark wood engraved panel on the wall, and above them rise colourful stained windows. Honestly, I tough for a second that I was transported into a Harry Potter book. We stayed for about half an hour, hearing Lords discussing local politics then headed to our next destination.

Westminster Big Ben London

Westminster and Big Ben.

Accessibility:

  • The office is located near the old palace yard . From there, a ramp goes down to the central court and to the main Hall. 
  • Once inside, a staff member took us to the House of Lords . We had to use private elevator so it was sort of a VIP quick tour, I enjoyed it! 
  • Once at the room, Franck and I got separated, as normal visitors have to go onto the balcony and there is no elevator. As for me, I was at the same level as the Lords, so I had a more direct and different point of view. We got escorted also on our way out. The staff was again very friendly, which made this visit a real pleasure.

Churchill’s War Rooms

After a short break eating delicious pies in a local pub, we decided to visit to the Churchill’s war rooms. It is a museum located right inside the bunker that Winston Churchill was using during world war II. It is not just a simple bunker, but rather a full complex, hosting many rooms for different purposes: communication, strategy planning, chambers… The highlight of the visit is a spacious interactive room called the Churchill museum. Going through the former Prime Minister life, I learnt more about the man and how he went from a soldier to become the famous figure. It is more interesting that what it sounds, and we spent over a hour and a half there.

churchill's war rooms London

Churchill’s war rooms, London.

Accessibility:

  • Everything is wheelchair friendly, and there is an elevator to go into the bunker.
  • The rooms and corridors can be quite narrow sometimes, which makes wheelchair handling not always easy, but there is definitively enough room for a wheelchair.
  • You can have a concession fare at the entrance, but the accompanying person will pay full price.

Soho and Covent Garden

After being locked inside the bunker, we decided to have some fresh air. So we went to stroll around Soho and Covent Garden. Soho used to be a district known for its nightlife and adult industry. It is now much quieter, although still very vibrant at night. Chinatown is right next to it, and it’s always a neighbourhood I try to visit when I can find one. Everything is light once the sun is set, and it was a perfect place to practice my night photography skills.

Covent garden is more upclass, especially around the Apple Market. You’ll find all the luxury brand around here, so I did not like it as much, even if the actual Market building is a very nice to see. And it’s car free, so it is an easy place to stroll.

Soho london night

Soho by night

There is a wonderful spot located between Soho and Covent garden that I would like to share with you. A small place hidden between small streets: Neal’s Yard Square. With its colourful round benches, vegetation all around, vintages light bulbs, tiny bricks shops, it’s just so cute! We stayed seated here for some time, just watching passer-by. As stores started to close, it was time for us to move on to our last destination our this trip: The Lyceum Theatre.

Accessibility:

  • Both districts are easy to roll around.
  • Some streets are car free, and curb cuts are generous. However, around the Covent garden apple market, there are some easy and flat cobblestones.
  • As for Neal’s Yard, some shops circling the square are not accessible.

The Lion King Musical

This 3 days city trip ended with one of my biggest child dream comes true: to see the Lion King musical! It was fantastic! The cast, the music, the choreography, the scenery and all were perfect. As soon at the first notes of the opening song could be heard, I had goosebumps all over. Even the theatre itself, tracing back to 1765, is a piece of art. And to add icing on the cake, the whole place is wheelchair friendly. I would say that my expectations were high for this, but the experience was far above them. At the end, while going back to the hotel, I was humming the song and my head was full of vivid images of the show. Definitely worth it!

Lion King Musical London

So happy to see the Lion King Musical in London!

Accessibility:

  • They are wheelchair friendly seats ans spots, which comes at a reduce rate (for us, 40% off the regular price).
  • To get the special rate, you’ll need to make a booking via telephone. They will send you a confirmation email, and you just need to show up on the day of the musical to collect your ticket.
  • You will go through a smaller entrance, on the left of the main one. The accessible seats are located of the ground floor, so getting to them is easy.

Travelling in London with a wheelchair

  • Accessible transports

    • How to go from the Airport to London City?
      First, you need to take the shuttle between the airport terminal and the airport train station. This shuttle is fully wheelchair accessible and there is no gap.
      Then, you can take the Thameslink train from the airport train station to London. To do so, you can go to the assistance “desk” at your arrival but I would recommend to book your assistance 24H before. You will find all the information to book it on the Thameslink website.
    • Wheelchair accessible taxis
      Great news: All the famous black taxis are wheelchair accessible thanks to a ramp. No need to book one if you’re in London centre : just hail one! If you want more information: look at this very detailed article on WheelchairTravel.org.
    • Public transportation: buses and subway 
      If you are planning a journey in London, the best tool to do so is Plan a Journey from Transport For London. But I can already tell you that the buses are wheelchair accessible thanks to a ramp. On the contrary, the London Underground is not very wheelchair friendly. Many stations are not accessible and the the “step-free guide” is quite difficult to understand. I would recommend to use the Plan a Journey tool or to go around only by buses.  You can pay public transport by contactless card, oyster card or cash. If you have a contactless card with no charge (or a low one) for international currency, I highly recommend it. It is very practical: just badge in each time to ride any transport and badge out at the end of your journey (only badge in for trams and buses). Oyster is also a good option otherwise, but you should definitely avoid cash, as most buses will not accept it for example. You can check the “contactless guide” for more information.
  • Accessible accommodations

    • During my travel, I stayed at The Mad Hatter Hotel, 3-7 Stamford Street. This hotel, located near the Tate museum, was originally a hat factory and shop. The entrance is accessible via a ramp. This way you can reach the reception desk which is unfortunately too high. After that you can use the elevator to reach the room.
      The bedroom is spacious enough to roll around. The bed might be to high for some people to transfer from their wheelchairs.
      There is an adapted bathroom with a toilet seat equipped with 2 grab bars. There is no shower but the bathtub is equipped with a bathtub board seat and a grab bar. It suits my needs but it will not fit everybody needs. One other detail: the mirror is a bit too far away.
    • If you are looking for a fully barrier free hotel, Marie (another French wheelchair blogger) tested and approved the Easy Hotel Old Street – Barbican, 80 Old street.
Mad Hatter Hotel London wheelchair accessible room

The Mad Hatter Hotel bathroom.

  • Wheelchair accessible restaurants

    • Tandoor Chop House, 8 Adelaide street. This Indian restaurant is wheelchair accessible. However, some tables are booth-tables so I would advice you to book in advance and let them know about your needs. Toilets are not accessible.

    • Menya Ramen house,  29 Museum Street. A perfect place to eat yummy and cheap ramen just near the British museum. It is accessible but very narrow so only the tables close to the entrance are suitable for a wheelchair user. 

    • The old shades, 37 Whitehall. This accessible British pub is a minutes walking away from Westminster Abbey so you can enjoy a typical pie after your visit! There is an adapted toilet but unfortunately it seems that it is also used as a cupboard. The staff is friendly, don’t hesitate to ask them to move things away.
    • Borough Market, 8 Southwark St. My favorite place to eat in London! You will find food from all over the world for quite a reasonable price.
  • Other tips

    • The London Tower is not wheelchair accessible. This is the reason why we didn’t visited. Plus, it is quite expensive. But if you are in this area you can visit the oldest church in London, the “All hallows by the Tower”, if your wheelchair is not too big. Indeed there is a ramp to access the church inside but it is quite tricky as there is a very tight u-turn corner to handle which is not manageable in every wheelchair.
    • Generally, it is easy to roll in London in a wheelchair. Almost all sidewalks have curb cuts and are wide enough.

If you want to know more about wheelchair-friendly places my other articles about my wheelchair travel in London.

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