Wheelchair Accessible Paris Museums 2001
By Beth Aigner © 2001

Beth Aigner and her husband, Robert, flew from New York City to Paris in November 2000. While their visit was brief, they  relished every moment of their art-filled holiday.

Both the Louvre and the Musée d'Orsay museums of Paris demand a lot of energy from any disabled visitor—they are so large and so filled with such dazzling art that they deserve far more time than the one day each that Robert and I could devote to them.

During the winter months, while the weather is crisp, a wheelchair user can roll freely through the museums minus the summParis posterer crowds. That was our primary reason for visiting Paris in November. Yes, it was cold. Yes, it was rainy, but it was such a luxury to avoid struggling to view an art piece that is usually surrounded by mobs of (all too tall) people throughout the summer.

Robert  and I had only a three-day weekend away from New York, so we decided to make our short jaunt a museum adventure. 

The Louvre was the first on our itinerary, and it is so immense that I think anyone (even able-bodied folks) could make good use of a wheelchair there. The jewel in France’s crown, the Louvre was once a palace for kings, but in 1793 it was designated a museum, and art lovers have never stopped coming to enjoy its many treasures.

The disabled entrance is through the glass pyramid in the Louvre’s courtyard. Once inside, we tried to purchase admission tickets but were informed that disabled people and companions enter free. We were then escorted to a large, round, open-topped elevator.  Our escort opened the high-tech, gleaming metal device and I rolled aboard. The lift was large enough to carry Robert and I, along with our escort and a woman pushing  her baby stroller. The escort pressed a button, and we smoothly descended from the pyramid to the museum’s main lobby—a spacious marble salon with ample natural lighting that filtered through the glass pyramid above. Once in the lobby, we picked up an access brochure showing the museum layout and headed for a handy indoor café to have a coffee and croissant as we examined the map.

Since we had only one day for the Louvre, we had to choose which of its three wings to explore-- the Richelieu, Sully, or Denon. Each has three floors, and the wings are so large that an entire day could easily be spent in each one.

We chose to visit the Denon Wing because it provides many of the famous masterpieces the Louvre is best known for. Egyptian antiquities, Greek and Roman sculptures, and, of course, Italian Renaissance masterpieces are all well represented there. Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa—which we found impossible to view on a summer visit, along with several of Da Vinci’s equally gorgeous pieces, Virgin of the Rocks, and The Virgin and Child with St. Anne, were blissfully uncrowded.

The Denon Wing is also home to the Crown Jewels of France in the Galerie d'Apollon, Among the famous sculptures there are Greece’s Winged Victory of Samothrace and the Venus de Milo Just visiting the Denon Wing alone involved a great deal of rolling and elevator use. There is so much there that it is easy to get lost, but museum guards were always available to help us locate the appropriate elevator or find the nearest accessible bathroom. I just mentioned a few of the many masterpieces in the Louvre (there are 6000 paintings alone), but every visitor will surely choose his/her own favorite.

Don’t miss the wonderful bookstore/gift shop at the Louvre—the perfect place to pick up posters, postcards, etc. of the famous pieces. And, again, in winter time wheelchair users will have incredibly easy rolling. Visit the Louvre’s web site at http://www.louvre.fr/louvrea.htm

The next day, it was raining, so we took a cab to the Musée d'Orsay, home of the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists. Situated on the banks of the Seine, the museum was converted from a turn-of-the-century train station to display art from the second half of the 19th century.

The Musée d'Orsay is devoted to artistic works of the western world from 1848 to 1914. This is where visitors can wonder through salon after salon of Van Goghs, Monets, Renoirs, Degas, Cézanne, Gauguin, etc.

Once again, we were surprised that we were not charged admission. Moments later, I rolled into the main entrance, a magnificent marble hall with a massive glass ceiling. The natural lighting there accentuated the many pieces of art and sculpture throughout the hall, and while it rained outside, we cozily enjoyed the many masterpieces at our leisure.

The Musée d'Orsay has several levels, and each is easily reached with an accessible elevator. Galleries on the ground floor are located on both sides of the enormous marble entrance hall. Visitors on the intermediate level can look down on the main entrance hall. The intermediate level and top floor also have many galleries to roll through. An accessible bathroom is located on the ground floor near the museum bookstore.

The bookstore has a lovely array of books, cards, posters and gifts. Truly a perfect Christmas shopping place. There was easy rolling between aisles. If you have a favorite Monet or Van Gogh poster in mind, then chances are you’ll find it here.

You need not worry about going hungry at the Musée d'Orsay either. Try the upper-level cafe with its mammoth wall clock for a delicious selection of lunches.

The Musée d'Orsay is closed on Mondays. It is located at 1 rue de la Légion d'Honneur  

For more information, click here for  their web site:  Musee D'Orsay 

Click here for Disabled Info

We stayed at the Novotel Paris Les Halles, 8, place Marguerite de Navarre in the 1sarrondissmont, which is on the right bank and a short distance from the Louvre and Notre Dame Cathedral. Our double adapted wheelchair room was about 1100 francs per night.
Tel : 33+ 1 42 21 31 31
Fax : 33+ 1 40 26 05 79

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