Are there very many public restrooms in London? This might seem like an odd question but when I went to Paris in April I was surprised at the lack of bathroom facilities in the City of Light. Crazy but true, we spent $11euros one day for a cup of tea and a cafe creme in a cafe just so we could use their bathroom. Turned out it was probably the most expensive cafe in that neighborhood but when you gotta go, you gotta go!
Don't know how reliable it is (looks like it stopped being updated in 2011) but there is the Toilet Map site. It does include facilities that charge.
Nero and every other coffee chain has ungated bathrooms.
Westminster Abbey does now have a restroom - it's by the tea shop.
Tower of London-had to pay. Our tour director told us-museums, resturants and also fast food places on the high way.
Costa certainly have a code for their loo - it is usually 1357. Also - "toilet" is bad enough, but "restroom" or "bathroom" are just awful. What do you mean? We all piss and shit so stop trying to make it sound nice. Lavatory and loo are the only sensible words to use. "Facilities" - what?
We usually relied on McDonald's and Burger King- we were stopping to get something to drink anyway. Also made a point to use the facilities at any 'sites' we visited. Larger (read more expensive) hotels usually have VERY NICE restrooms in the lobby area. One other thing you may notice the 'lack' of is drinking fountains. I drink LOTS of water and usually get a sip at any fountain I pass. NOT in Europe. Buy a bottle and keep it with you to sip on throughout the day.
Paris is the worst as far as this goes. The whole reason I visited the Carnavelet Museum as to use the bathroom, and then the one near the entrance was being cleaned so I had to make it all the way to the other end of the place to get to a tiny, hard-to-find bathroom. I liked the museum, though!
Carnavalet Museum was wonderful! I loved it. Paris does have lots of those nice outdoor water fountains so I didn't have a problem finding drinking water. But the bathroom situation is horrible! And I take blood pressure meds that make me need to go more! I ended up taking my BP meds every other day while in Paris which helped.
Unfortunately it's not true that most coffee chains have bathrooms that are free to access. Most need a code that you obtain at the counter and they expect you to make a purchase. Pubs normally have signs saying toilets are for the use of patrons only. Major stations will have toilets but they'll also charge you at least 20p. Major department stores are probably your best bet. 'Spending a penny', to quote an old English euphemism, has never been so expensive! Alan
Live and learn. I keep Nero in business and have never come across a code. Nor in the odd darned Starbucks.
It took me forever (25 years of marriage and 4 trips to Europe) to get my husband, who also takes BP meds, to use the toilet whenever one is available. No matter where we were, he had a stubborn tendency to not do that and then need to pee 10 minutes later, often requiring a search for facilities under extreme duress. On our European trips, he finally got it. When you think about it, we don't have many public restrooms that you'd want to use in the US either.
Lo, I agree. "Go whenever you can" is one of my two big rules of travel, along with "never assume anything is true without checking first."
When in London, don't ask for the "bathroom." Also, don't ask anyone where they are from, especially if that is based on your detecting an unfamiliar accent. For some reason the folks there are offended more than usual by these questions.
A lot of Museums in London are free or buy city or national trust pass...the facilities are usually much cleaner and these places generally have decent cafes. And you get to see stuff. Churches sometimes have a tea room.
Christina's comment reminds me of an overheard conversation: Teacher leading a Winchester field trip, addressing her class of children who appeared to be about eight years old, "What's our rule about loos?" Answering chorus: " if you see it, use it."
We had few problems in finding toilets, as they say over there, on our April-May trip this year. Major tourist sites are well equipped, except for Westminster Abbey. There is a restroom by the restaurant all right, but technically it is for restaurant patrons only .. which is why the gift shop won't tell you about it (or at least that is what I was told). Still, you can use it if you know it's there. There are portable toilets with long lines outside, about half way through the Abbey (a little nicer than what you find at a construction site as I recall), but with all the barriers constraining your path and overzealous docents, you may have trouble getting back under the rope to resume your tour. For a tourist site that is so eager to take your $27 to get in, they really are not user friendly when it comes to the toilets. I think the Churchill Museum was also somewhat under resourced with respect to toilet facilities, but less so. O.k. rant over, other than that we had no trouble in London and one of us is somewhat challenged in that area. I also drink a lot of water and always carry a 1L water bottle in my backpack.
Cynthia, those kids have the right idea. As for the Abbey, I guess strategically, I would not go there after tea, especially if you drink as much tea as I do! If you are near Trafalgar Square and need facilities, the St. Martin's in the Fields Crypt Cafe is a good place to stop for a bit of tea and a bathroom. The latter is probably for Crypt patrons, but the place is big enough that I don't think anyone would notice someone popping in just to use the loo.
Thanks for all the ideas, comments & suggestions. Can't wait for our trip. Excited to see London for the first time & experience the wonder of Paris again, this time with my husband. :)
I believe Canada House is currently closed for renovation.
Oh, well, Michael, my next trip is to Paris in the spring so I'll check out the facilities at Maison du Quebec. OMG, is there still a Maison du Quebec, she asks.
Museums! Most museums in London are free and they have toilets. In Trafalgar Square you are close to the National Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery, the Crypt restaurant in St Martins in the Field church... Also The food chains Pret and EAT usually have public toilets as well.
When in London, as a Canadian I like to give my business to Canada House on Trafalgar Square. (My tax dollars at work) If you ask nicely I feel sure Americans would be permitted entry. The toilets are quite nice.
I am also a firm believer in the "see it, use it" practice. When in need, I have never been turned away at a 5-star hotel - even in jeans, t-shirt and a backpack. Usually it's worth it to go in just to see the lobby and the toilets are always the best.
Just returned 9 days ago from 17 days in the UK (London, Bath, Oxford, York, and Edinburgh).
We were pleasantly surprised how easy it was to find restrooms, in comparison to the rest of Europe. I believe I only had to pay 3 times, in train stations and a museum, and those required 20 pence, exact change. We mostly used pubs and restaurants. The "Toilettes" were usually toward the back, then often up or down 2 or 3 flights of stairs, but there was usually a sign visible from the main part of the room. A few times I asked, but usually I just walked back and found it. No one seemed to mind, even on the few occasions when we were not actual customers.
Ditto Nancy; pubs, restaurants, and Starbucks (which seemed to be on every street corner in London)
St. Paul's Cathedral has a restroom in the crypt near the cafe across from the gift shop. You can use it for free if you enter through the back/side door facing the gardens. If you come through the front doors of the church you have to pay the admission charge. Many other places have them for free too - we were just there for three weeks and never had an issue finding relief!