This detailed analysis of wheelchair accessibility at Sainte-Chapelle and Notre Dame was from Summer 2022.
After our flight landed in the morning, we took a taxi to our hotel and dropped off our bags. We knew to push through the tiredness to help fight jetlag, so we decided to explore a shorter itinerary for the afternoon. Our explorations included:
- Walking through Palais-Royal Garden and by the Louvre, and then eating lunch at Kong
- Exploring La Samaritaine
- Paying respects to Notre Dame
- Being wonderstruck by the stained glass windows of Sainte-Chapelle
- Tuileries Tunnel
Tip: We were going to stop at the Musee d’Orsay for dinner on our way back to the hotel, but my scooter batteries started to die on the way there. We tried to make it back to the hotel, but were too far away–my batteries lasted just enough to get me to a cafe past the Louvre. My wife had to taxi back to the hotel to get the scooter charging cable, and I slowly sipped on some sparkling water and chips at the cafe–it had a rare table by an outlet, and so I had to save the space so I could charge. Her taxi trip took a few hours due to traffic (to the point I was monitoring her location to ensure she was safe), but she eventually returned and we were able to eat dinner while we charged my batteries. Our “short” afternoon became a long day because of the batteries. All that drama could have been avoided if I had just brought my battery charger with me–I had thought the batteries would be fine because we were going only a few miles, but I had not accounted for the drain on the batteries from the frigid flight (and what ultimately turned out to be a bad battery). And Paris is hard on the batteries–we only went 5-6 miles, but it was over rocky terrain and up/down hills. LESSON LEARNED–ALWAYS BRING A SCOOTER CHARGER!
Wheelchair Accessibility at Kong Restaurant
A friend had recommended that we take in Kong for our first lunch, both for its scenic beauty as well as its food. The restaurant had a bar/reception area that was wheelchair accessible via an elevator, and then that same elevator took us up one more level to the main dining area. There is also a winding staircase up to the main dining room, but the elevator route was equally gorgeous and did not feel like a concession or a side door. The tables were accessible, the staff willing to help, and the food was delicious. Great way to start the vacation.
Note: Le Fumoir was our favorite restaurant on our prior trip. It is right next to the Louvre, has great food, and is a fun place to people watch. They were closed for vacation, which is awesome for them but sad that we missed them. Next time!
Wheelchair Accessibility at La Samaritaine
La Samaritaine was just past Kong, and was a fun stop to explore–it was unscheduled, but worth the time. The architecture was gorgeous (typical Paris), and the shops had fun displays–there was even a fun Veuve Clicquot champagne center kiosk. There was also a wheelchair accessible public bathroom on the bottom floor.
Wheelchair Accessibility at Notre Dame
We next crossed the Seine and walked to Notre Dame. We were there a few months after the roof burned down, so it was interesting to see the construction progress–never the same as before, great progress is being made. The route there was bumpy with cobblestones and bricks, as well as large puddles to avoid. There were a lot of crowds, including some “impromptu” musical performers who tried to get the crowd to sing/clap along with them. These performers may (or maybe not) have been working with pickpockets–seemingly random distractions are often met to distract while others try to pickpocket. The police also gathered around the ruckus, further giving credence to the possibility of pickpockets. In any event, we had our valuables stowed as Notre Dame is a known target for pickpockets anyway.
Wheelchair Accessibility at Sainte-Chapelle
Sainte-Chapelle is free to people with disabilities and one companion. We are supposed to be required to show proof of disability via a government card, but I was rarely asked to do so. But I typically bring my handicap parking placard or my national parks lifetime pass to help show disability in case I am questioned. These do not always work, but worth a shot–and the price of admission is well worth it regardless. Note that you must order a ticket and reserve a time slot online before entering–for free tickets, you can select “free entry” and just reserve the time slot.
We had a hard time finding the wheelchair accessible entrance. The primary entrance was not wheelchair accessible, and the workers told us to go to the guard post entrance at Rue de Lutece and Blvd. du Palais. The guards were nice (albeit slightly intimidating–they were fully armed and wearing body armor), but told us to go back to the other entrance. We explained we had been sent over to them, and they let us in after doing a bag search. We then walked through the parking lot to the internal courtyard entrance to the underground chapel.
I was able to access the lower chapel directly, and then a worker took us through a back route in the surrounding government building to an elevator (and through a construction zone) to reach the primary chapel. They let us explore on our own in the chapel, and then were available to escort us back out when we were done–there was no pressure to hurry. The back tour was fun, and the chapel does not disappoint. It is amazing.
Wheelchair Accessibility around Tuileries Tunnel
We walked along the Seine River back toward the Louvre. The going was fine at first, but then turned to cobblestone…and then to large ruts that had upheaved the cobblestone. It was becoming treacherous and we tried to go up a hill that was even more treacherous.
So we had to backtrack quite a bit, and eventually took refuge in the Tuileries Tunnel. This tunnel is a closed roadway that is now only a bike and pedestrian path. In Summer 2022 (and into 2023-24), ten artists were commissioned to create 40-meter frescoes on the tunnel walls. It was beautiful and fun to experience such public art. But I caution that it is a long tunnel to which you must commit–you just have to keep moving through all 800 meters of it (~.5 mile).