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Readers Respond: Your Recommended London Toilets

Responses: 45

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Clerkenwell Green, Farringdon Road

North from Farringdon station via a diversionary pint of St Peter's ale from Suffolk at the tiny but phenomenal Jerusalem Tavern in Britton Street or perhaps an amazingly inexpensive cuppa and roll at Scotti's caff right on the Green. These original London Caffs are becoming very rare now, so go there while you can. Stroll round to the north, past the great church, along the old Clerkenwell village street, past the foodie entrance to the Clerkenwell Workshops and turn left into the far entrance, down the old warehouse corridor, veer round to the left for a doorway leading to the toilets of good quality. Cafe is expensive but very good food. The whole area is getting trendy but there are still some historical and original corners, odd shops and pubs.
—Guest Ian

Holborn and Kingsway

Conway Hall – enter from the north-east corner of Red Lion Square for ethical toilets. Well hidden, yet conveniently close to Holborn station. Through the Hall's doors, go straight along the corridor past the desks, picking up a list of lectures and concerts on the way, and there's a small stairway lurking on the right towards the far exit. The gents' loo is up on the first floor. Occasionally there's a second-hand book sale to add to the excitement. Escape via the door at the end of the corridor opening into Theobalds Road, right next to a very handy bus stop.
—Guest Ian

Piccadilly

Waterstones bookshop, in the preserved 1936 Art Deco Simpsons menswear shop with curved windows. On the south side of Piccadilly, not far down, east from the Circus and a station exit. Go in and head for the stairs half way down the shop, on the right. Toilet doors on stair landings. Busy but quite good. Cafe and travel agent in basement. Architecture a delight. Coffee and cakes of the usual franchise with ridiculous prices yet their 'service' is usually exquisitely slow and useless.
—Guest Ian

Liverpool Street and Spitalfields

Bishopsgate Institute. Cross Bishopsgate from Liverpool Street mainline concourse. To discover the way through the station, go past the inaccessible toilets and head for the platform 18 end of the concourse and find the subway in the far right corner of station. Turn right (north) when you get up to the pavement. If the subway is closed, go up the escalator and walk to the left (north) up Bishopsgate, past the traffic lights and cross the road. Proceed towards the weird-looking Art Nouveau frontage pinnacles for your socialist or humanist toilet and a good library with current magazines such as the Economist and New Scientist freely available for a quiet read (The front entrance is closed for refurbishment until 2011, so go around to the entrance in Brushfield Street, on the north side). Lists of courses and lectures at the door. The new toilet here is excellent. Quiet, non-smelly, clean, spacious with excellent facilities. Spitalfield market is just up the road from here. Antiques on Thursdays. Some books, old postcards.
—Guest Ian

St Paul's Cathedral

Yes, you are allowed to wee for free in St Paul's, so long as you do so in the toilet in the crypt cafe area. Expensive cafe and only very moderate quality toilet but it is in a barren area and is hard to miss if you are navigating from the city or east Strand areas. In fact it must be the most dominant loo sign in the whole of London, as it has a huge dome and is on the top of a hill. Enter the crypt by going around to the north side of the church, near its west end and descend into the bowels. Keep going through the eating area, veering left to proceed east along the crypt. Toilets on your left. You can avoid the huge prices by picnic-ing here. Except when it's full of incredibly noisy schoolkids. That is, all schoolkids are incredibly noisy. Especially in St Paul's crypt. If you retreat from the crypt and head over the church yard through Temple Bar and then turn immediately right you will find a public toilet next to the gateway. I have yet to sample this.
—Guest Ian

Southwark: London Bridge, etc

Southwark Cathedral tea room, courtyard entrance is next to Montague Close and quickly reached from the SW side of the bridge approach by descending Nancy's Steps, next to an arch in the original part of the old Rennie London bridge and immortalised in Oliver Twist and which didn't get taken to Lake Havasu (yes, we kept part of this real antique for ourselves.) See http://www.fidnet.com/~dap1955/dickens/london_bridge.html From the mainline station you can navigate into Montague Close through this arch. Continue a little way along the tiny street and go left into the tea room courtyard next to the Cathedral. Turn left through the cafe's courtyard door, head for the right-hand door and down the steps to the good quality toilet. If the cafe is closed you will have to wade through tourists to find a pub loo along the waterfront to the west. The Anchor is big enough for you not to be noticed. Pepys watched the Great Fire from there and now you can pretend to put out the flames. Dr Johnson opined here too, as it was owned by his brewing friends the Thrales. In fact, stay for a pint, and then you can use the toilet again. Then you can walk across the ex-wobbly Millennium Bridge to St Paul's. Or go along to Blackfriars station and visit the Black Friar pub to see the most amazing pub interior in London, then up Ludgate Hill to wee in St Paul's.
—Guest Ian

Waterloo and South Bank

National Film Theatre foyer. Go to the glass door entrance adjacent to the riverside walk near the steps on the east side of the south end of the bridge (have you still got your compass?) Follow signs to the warm and good quality toilet at ground level. Good cuppa at counter nearby. Plenty of second-hand paperback books on stalls under the bridge outside. Waterloo station is a labyrinthine search from here – test your navigational skills and then go on to search for Lower Marsh with its second-hand and Ian Allen bookshops. Well done if you make it. There's also a strange cafe there with motor scooters in it.
—Guest Ian

Embankment and Strand

Embankment and Strand east of Waterloo Bridge Somerset House. There are various cafes in this collection of collections, with toilets nearby. From the riverside there is, or was, a handy toilet just next to the Gilbert Collection shop inside the Embankment entrance of Somerset House. Since the Gilbert's closure I shall have to renew acquaintance with this Thames-side de-watering spot. Otherwise it's a search elsewhere in Somerset House complex or even a cross-legged hop over Waterloo Bridge to the South Bank.
—Guest Ian

Covent Garden Market area and mid-Strand

The public loo by the front of St Paul's church on the west side of the market square, behind where jugglers are juggling. It is open 24 hours. Previously I have sampled a public toilet in the alleyway alongside the transport museum - fairly grotty though. Forget trying the loo inside the Museum as it's through the cafe barrier at the top of the bookshop. Nearer Leicester Square, before 6pm any day or 7.30 some days, go to Stanford's travel bookshop, west from Covent Garden station along Long Acre or, before you struggle through the whole of the damn crowd to the station; go some way along Floral street and look out for glass doors into the bookstore's coffee shop, with a lift just a little way in. Can't remember which floor the toilet is on, or what it's like, or even if it still exists. You can buy a map of Venice here but despite the handy canals it doesn't show where the nearest loo is. You might find maps with London toilets on them. Plenty here for the travel reader and map-lover. It is very easy to stay long enough to visit the loo yet again.
—Guest Ian

Leicester Square / Trafalgar Square

Leicester Square, Trafalgar Square, Embankment and Charing Cross stations: The True Centre of London, where relief awaits in at least three convenient spots: the National Gallery's modern Sainsbury Wing by the NW corner of Trafalgar Square – go through baggage check and down just one flight of stairs to the quiet, good quality toilet. Just around the NE corner is the National Portrait gallery if you are caught short nearer Leicester square, a quick whizz into the main entrance, pop down the stairs in front of you, veer right to the toilet. Can be crowded. Or venture across the road and up the steps of St Martin's-in-the-Fields church – this is where my grandad's grandad got married on 3rd February 1835 and you can have a historic pee in memory, so go through the big door and immediately turn down the ancient stairs (if these stairs are closed go to the right of the church and enter into the strange new circular cupola) to descend to the crypt. Go through the cafe to the crypt's far south side (have you still got your compass with you?) for the large and and reasonable quality toilet. And it's open till quite late. Large cafe has wholesome school meals popular with theatre-goers; push in at the far end of the queue if you just want a cuppa. Beautiful peace and music upstairs. Book at the desk under the cupola (or online) for great classical and jazz evening performances.
—Guest Ian

North Bloomsbury, Gower Street, Euston

Euston and Euston Square stations The Wellcome Collection is in a large building on the north side of the dual-carriageway Euston Road and east of Euston Square tube station, and west of Euston mainline rail and bus station which is over on the north side of the road. Go to the more easterly entrance, in the older-looking bit, stop to show your rucksack at security, then up the steps and straight ahead and round to the right before the cloakroom to the very good toilet. Then back to the excellent bookshop and maybe expensive tea and cakes. Exhibitions include gruesome bits, so visit the loo first.
—Guest Ian

British Museum

Tottenham Court Road to Museum Street and Bloomsbury area In this otherwise barren area, run up the steps into the main entrance and fast straight ahead until you bounce into the circular wall of the former reading room, under the amazing geodesic glass roof. No time to stare upwards, go either left or right, round the circle, until you quickly come to a hole in the wall, where you enter and descend to large and good quality toilets. Ahhhh, at last... The Rosetta Stone is nearby, so you can read all about it, three times. There's also a back way into the Museum where you can get very confused by the floor levels and stairs in your haste.
—Guest Ian

Tottenham Court Road and TCR station

Tottenham Court Road and TCR station; Charing Cross Road north end Foyles bookshop, Charing Cross Road West side, three minutes' walk south of TCR station. If you're some way off, look for Centre Point tower - it is above TCR station and is a useful landmark when calculating how far you've got to walk before relief. Two toilets in this large bookstore, but go for the 3/F (or is it 2/F?) to the far west end of the shop where a quiet, clean but small loo awaits readers who have spent too long browsing. The other toilet is next to the 1/F cafe and it's 'for cafe users only'... but the cafe is expensive and I was browsing for far too long, so I sampled it: disabled standard, not too bad. Foyles usually have the book I am looking for, very comprehensive, and the staff tend to be able to answer questions, in contrast with those in most other large bookstores here.
—Guest Ian

West End Shopping 2

Further west along Oxford Street, Marylebone Make for the Wallace Collection to sample an award-winning toilet open until 5 every day. Go north from Oxford Street along Duke Street (not far from Bond Street station) or east from Baker Street, or west from Marylebone Street and look for Manchester Square: the splendid Wallace building is on the north side. Up the steps, into the door, veer left to the back court and take stairs down to the Porphyry Court. Individual cubicles with full facilities. Stay a few hours (in the collection, if not the toilet). If shopping, use the larger department stores along Oxford Street, notably Debenhams, Peter Jones, House of Frazer and Selfridges. M&S round in Edgware Road has a small and crowded loo, avoid unless desperate. What I now need is a toilet right near Daunt's travel bookshop in Marylebone High Street (west side), a compelling Edwardian galleried bookshop and thus a delight to spend hours browsing till you are really busting.
—Guest Ian

West End Shopping 1

Regent Street, north west Soho, Oxford Circus station and the BBC Liberty & Co. store on the east side of Regent Street a couple of minutes' walk south from Oxford Circus, go to the 3/F by lift from the far corner at the east end of the store up to haberdashery. Orange flavour soap. Quiet, warm, good quality. From the Carpet Dept look up to the fabulous Art Deco across the top of the black building opposite on the corner of Argyll Place and Gt Marlborough Street. Go the the toilet first, though. A cuppa with naughty cakes in cafe opposite the exit along Gt Marlborough Street.
—Guest Ian

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