Having visited London quite literally hundreds of times in recent years and being cursed with a well-documented weak bladder, I’ve often been caught short on my trips around the city. Central London is a haven of presentable and reasonably hygienic toilets and there’s absolutely no reason why you’d ever need to pay any money to spend a penny or why you’d queue impatiently at the few public toilets that are found in the main tourist areas.
I’ve been meaning to write this list for a while, so here goes: a list of free toilets in London that I turn to when I’m in need (note: some of these places would not welcome you entering their premises purely to use the toilets if they knew your true intentions).
National Gallery – many of London’s museums offer free admission and by extension free toilets. Few are as conveniently located as the National Gallery. Avoid the busy and often grimy public toilets in Trafalgar Square and walk up the grand staircase in front of you instead. The toilets here are reasonably well- maintained and rarely busy. Exit through the gift shop.
London Eye – useful if you’re caught short on the South Bank, these toilets are down in the basement of County Hall through the same entrance as the London Eye ticket office. The downside of these toilets is that they are very busy at peak times.
National Theatre, Southbank – this is my preferred option on the South Bank. Far more civilised and cleaner than the ones in County Hall, you may even be tempted by a temporary exhibition or a cake in the cafe.
Piccadilly – two good places to visit here. Closest to Piccadilly Circus is Waterstone’s bookshop, with toilets on the stairwell on each level. If you can hold out for another 5 minutes, or feel as though you might be staying awhile, stroll a little further along Piccadilly to the upmarket Fortnum and Mason for a more refined lavatory experience.
St Paul’s Cathedral – you might to have to work hard to persuade the staff to let you pray for free in London’s most famous church, but peeing for free is easy. Just enter through the side entrance that leads to the cafe and find the toilets on your left. They’re not grand and you’re unlikely to want to hang around for a cake, but free loo stops are quite hard to come by in the east of the city.
Charing Cross Hotel – I probably shouldn’t admit to this, but when I really want a top notch toilet I head to the 5 star hotel to the side of Charing Cross station. Walking in with confidence and smiling to the doorman and receptionist, I’ve yet to be stopped as I walk through into the lobby, up the stairs and to the rather pleasant loos on the first floor. They’re so clean and bright that you could bring a coffee and newspaper and make a morning of it.
Apple stores (Covent Garden and Regent Street ) – I’m no Apple fan and their conveniently-located toilets are the only reason I’ve visited these stores on so many occasions. I’m usually asked at least twice how I’m doing and always offer a more cheerful response on the way out of the store.