Society for Accessible Travel & Hospitality Logo

Koblenz, Germany


 Koblenz, Germany

Where 2000 years of history meets Universal Design and Inclusive Tourism

Koblenz is a beautiful city located on the confluence of the Rhine and Mosel rivers. It is one of the most beautiful and oldest cities in Germany. The city is dominated by the Ehrenbrietstein Fortress, situated high on the hill overlooking the city and the two rivers. With well over 2000 years of history the city epitomizes the rich romantic culture of the Rhine River. In 2002 the 65 kilometre stretch between the old town of Koblenz and the towns of Rudesheim and Bingham were added to the list of UNESCO world heritage sites.

In 2011 Koblenz hosted the Federal Horticultural show know as BUGA, and this is the catalyst for our story of how accessibility can be seamlessly  incorporated into even the most historic sites and cities. The Federal Horticultural show was a major tourism event for the region with over 2 million people attending the event.

We visited in May 2011 and began our tour at the main site in the grounds of the Ehrenbrietstein Fortress. The first thing that struck us was the layout of the exhibition grounds and the perfectly level paved pathways leading throughout. The flowers were in magnificent bloom which every display close to the edge of the network of pathways allowing close up views for wheelchair users. All of the green houses were level with the ground and all had paved floors for easy access and mobility.

At the edge of the cliff had been constructed a new observation tower. It had been made from sustainably sourced wood and featured a fully ramped path to the top of the tower in a striking design. In the true spirit of Universal Design the ramp was incorporated into the architecture not added as an afterthought. The strikingly modern design contrasted well with the old town below and the remains of the medieval fortress.


From the fortress we dropped back over the river in to the town via cable car. The cable car had been built for the BUGA. It featured fully roll in gondolas and easy access wide turntables to accommodate wheelchair visitors. The descent down the cliff face over the Rhine to the old town and lower half of the exhibition area was spectacular.



The cable car lower station is in the heart of the old town. Accessibility has been improved throughout the old town district but it has been done in keeping with the style of the era and the heritage value of the site.

The ramp below into the church yard and garden is an example of a ramp made to blend in the the old architecture.


Where constraints existed, as within the church itself, mobile lifts were installed to facilitate complete access.



Throughout the old town centre new wayfaring signs have been installed clearly showing the accessible routes within the town and the accessible facilities. The signage has been designed to blend in with the other signage and symbols. Another good example of the difference between being accessible and inclusive.




Outside the BUGA area, the old city is still surprising accessible. It is largely flat and the streets are wide. Many of the old cobblestones have been replaced with new flat paving and where the cobblestones remain, along the river walk they are good condition and smooth. The old town square id a large flat and open area giving great access to the shops and cafes.





 Koblenz is a perfect example of what can be done with the clever application of Universal Design principles that encourage visitors with a disability to visit and enjoy a site or destination. Inclusive Tourism is about  making travelers with a disability as welcome as any other traveler. Physical access is only one part of that equation. Koblenz did that and more by the application of Universal Design to everything it did for the BUGA. The design of access, the way finding, the observation tower and the flower display design all created a seamless integration for people of all abilities. As I have said before true inclusion should just blend in.

Article and photos supplied by


Bill Forrester



0417 690 533