Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Our Favourite London Loos

NoCrowds has been thinking a lot lately about toilets. The topic has been on our mind since we read last month that the Mayor of Paris was taking the matter of public urination in hand (no pun intended) by inventing “le mur anti-pipi”, a special kind of wall which undulates and miraculously sends the jet of pee back in the direction of its creator. Now that is a man of action!

Here in London, we take a more considered approach with the London Assembly conducting an investigation into the alarming decline in public toilets. The 53 page document makes depressing reading. Did you know that the number of public toilets in London has decreased 40% since 1999 with each toilet now serving approximately 18,000 Londoners? The Association of Professional Tourist Guides and Guild of Registered Tourist Guides have formed an “Inconvenience Committee” to challenge the poor state of toilets in this country and the impact on the tourist industry. OK, we’re convinced. There is a real problem.

In response, we are working on a definitive guide to the best places to go to the toilet in London which we plan to complete by the 2012 Olympics, thus saving the government from total embarrassment and earning us a fortune. In the interim, here is the list of our current favourite places to go. Being former New Yorkers, we’re not big users of the public facilities, which, for the record, is a stupid prejudice since public loos in London, diminishing though they may be, are pretty nice. What we prefer, though, are pleasant, hassle-free places that we have counted on over the years. Quicker than Starbucks (always a queue) and classier than McDonalds. Here’s our list of some nice loos in London. Feel free to add your own.

Around Piccadilly/Green Park

Waterstones Piccadilly
203 -206 Piccadilly
Open 10 to 10 Monday through Saturday and 6 on Sunday

Waterstones on Piccadilly is the largest bookstore in Europe. Housed in what was once the Simpson’s Department store, toilets are amply distributed though out the building. This is a great place for a pit stop and peek at the new titles and best of all, Waterstones stays open until 10 pm.

Around Mayfair

Brook Street

Of course, all the grand London hotels have great loos but this is our favourite. A nice place for a break when Central London makes you crazy. Ladies loos conveniently located near the entrance. A great place for an expensive drink if you want to restart the whole process.

Around Oxford Street

John Lewis Department Store
Oxford Street
9:30 to 7, Thursday until 8 and Sunday 12 until 6

You gotta love a store that is still owned by its employees. This large quintessentially English retailer has plenty of loos with the quickest and easiest to be found to the rear of the building off the stairwell. Also great for home furnishings, fittings and appliances.

Around Sloane Square

Peter Jones Department Store
Sloane Square
9:30 to 7, Wednesday until 8 and Sunday 11 until 5

Call me old fashioned, but I also love the atmosphere in Peter Jones, part of the John Lewis Partnership. If you are looking for middle England, here it is in all its glory - properly dressed ladies, helpful staff and sensible products. And the loos reflect this sensibility. They are plentiful and sensible and to be found on alternating floors of the main stairwell. Take your granny. She’ll love it.

Around High Street Kensington

Whole Foods
63-97 Kensington High Street
8 to 10, Monday through Saturday and 12 to 6 on Sunday

The loos at recently opened Whole Food ( up the stairs and at the rear of the food court) have yet to be discovered by shoppers and are infinitely nicer than the ones at Marks and Spencer. Good for a break and a baguette. Stays open late and if you spend over £100 ( three or four heritage tomatoes should do the trick) the parking is free.
Photo of Marcel Duchamp's Fountain by Alfred Stieglitz, 1917


  1. This is excellent. If there is one thing more than anything else that can make for a relaxing trip, it is knowing you have easy access to clean public facilities and where to find them. I think I would rather have this information at hand than the location of the best restaurant.

  2. As a proud west ender, I had to send this along in response to your ‘best toilets in London’. Surely a more civilized use of technology for the urinating public, than the proposed wall in Paris that re-enacts the experience of ‘pissing into the wind’.

    By RAPHAEL G. SATTER, Associated Press Writer

    (AP) -- A new service promises Londoners they'll never have to spend much time looking for the loo. Westminster City Council, which covers London's bustling Oxford Street, the West End, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, on Thursday launched "SatLav" - a toilet-finding service for cell phone users.

    Tourists, theatergoers, shoppers and pub patrons in London's West End can now text the word "toilet" - and receive a text back with the address of the nearest public facility.

    The system, which covers 40 public toilets, pinpoints the caller's position by measuring the strength of the phone signal. The texts cost about 50 cents, and most of Westminster's toilets are free.

    The council said it hopes the service will stop people from urinating in alleyways, saying some 10,000 gallons of urine ends up in Westminster streets each year.

    Companies such as Vindigo Inc. in the U.S. offers similar cell phone searches but SatLav is being touted as the first text-based toilet-finder in Britain.

    "It's the first fully managed service that we're aware of," British Toilet Association director Richard Chisnell said, praising the council.

    "Thank heavens for Westminster's public toilets," he said.