Everything You Need to Know About Public Toilets In London (& find one ASAP)

Desperate for the loo in London? Public toilets in London are notoriously hard to find. 

But don’t dehydrate yourself because of the lack of restrooms in London.

Here’s my ultimate guide to finding bathrooms in London, as well as what to call them, how to ask for them, and what happened to all those public toilets that used to be an integral part of the Capital.  

Ready? Let’s find the loo. 

The image is a vibrant, illustrative guide titled "where to find toilets in London," set against a blue background with dynamic white and dark blue lines radiating outward. It features a graphic of a toilet with a Union Jack design on the lid, surrounded by twinkling stars, suggesting a focus on British public amenities. The title and subtitle are in bold, playful pink font, adding to the fun and informative nature of the visual.

5 Ways to Find A Public Toilet In London 

If you’re out and about and desperate for the toilet, here’s how to find one.

1. ⭐️ Use a Map or App for Restrooms in London ⭐️ (easiest way)

The image is an informative display of smartphone applications and a map for locating public toilets in London. At the top, the phrase "toilet apps + maps" is highlighted in bold white letters against a blue background. Below, a snippet of the Great British Toilet Map shows various locations marked with pink pins across a section of central London. The bottom of the image features icons and names of three apps designed to help find toilets: "Flush," "Toilets4London," and "Toiletfinder." The color scheme of the image is a mix of blue and pink, with a friendly and approachable design.

There are a ton of easy to use apps to find restrooms in London.

These are my favorites. If you’re preparing for a trip, make sure to download one of these apps to be prepared for roaming Central London.

For more of the best apps you need for London, read my full guide here.

2. Go Inside A Free Museum or Public Space To Use A Public Toilet In London 

The image is a visual guide to public spaces in London, segmented into three categories. On the left, there's a photo of the British Museum, a neoclassical structure known for its vast collection. The center of the image features a bustling scene inside a curved, glass-roofed rail station, indicative of London's extensive train network. On the right, there's a photo of a multi-tiered library with wooden arches and book-filled shelves, highlighting the city's rich literary resources. Above these images, the words "public spaces" are written in large, bold pink letters, and each category is labeled: Museums, Rail Stations, and Libraries.
  • London has over 55 free museums all over the city where you can pop to the loo for free!
  • National Rail stations have public toilets in London (some of these will cost 50p or £1 to use, and you’ll need a coin). 
  • Libraries have free public toilets in London, from the iconic British Library near King’s Cross St. Pancras to smaller local libraries dotted all over the city.

3. Use Public Toilets In London At Businesses 

You can often find toilets inside larger businesses like department stores or high street shops (think H&M, Primark, etc). 

Large chain restaurants like McDonald’s, Pret a Manger, Costa, Starbucks, etc. will usually have customer or free toilets.

If you need to purchase something, it’s a small price to pay for a clean restroom in London. Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do.  

4. Go Further Away From Touristy Areas To Find Public Toilets In London 

In very touristy areas like Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square, public toilets (or businesses willing to let you use their toilets) are hard to find. 

Businesses in very crowded areas are usually strict on toilet usage and sometimes don’t even allow customers to use the facilities.

Walk a few blocks away from these area to find coffee shops or pubs that will be more willing to let you use the facilities. Just a few blocks walk in London can make all the difference!

5. Just Ask! Or Buy Something 

If you’re polite, you can always ask at a business or restaurant to use their toilets. 

Pubs are often a good option for this and don’t often say no. Simply approach the bartender and be polite and concise. If they ask you to purchase something, buy a bag of crisps (potato chips) as it’s usually the cheapest thing.

Coffee shops are another good option. You may have to buy something to get the door code, but they are usually clean and well maintained.

6. Last Resort: Use a Public Toilet in London…if You Can Find One 

The image presents two different public toilet signs in London, emphasizing their importance as a last resort. The left side shows a traditional black and white sign with icons for men and women and the text 'WC toilet' illuminated on it. On the right, there is a modern public restroom facility with clear gender and accessibility signage displayed above a black entrance. The phrase "last resort" is playfully emphasized in large pink letters at the top, and a caution symbol appears in the top right corner, while the bottom section is labeled "Public Toilets" in a subdued blue.

London’s public toilets are disappearing, and the ones you can find aren’t exactly a pleasure to use. 

You may see a public toilet while out and about, and if you’re desperate for the loo, they will suffice (easier for men than women). Sometimes these charge £0.50 and you’ll need a 50p coin.

I would not use these to change a baby’s nappy, and would only use them in a pinch. They smell, they’re dirty, and are often used for…non-toilet needs. 

Know What To Call Bathrooms In England 

Now that you know how to find bathrooms in London, what do you call them?

If you’re American like me, you might ask for “the bathroom” or “the restroom”. “Toilet” for Americans and other nationalities often means the porcelain itself, and not the room it’s in. It’s the opposite here!

In the UK, a “bathroom” means somewhere where you bathe (like a shower or bath). The word “restroom” just isn’t used here, and “toilet” means where you use the toilet.

Although the English will know what you mean if you ask for “the bathroom” or “the restroom”  in your American accent, you may want to adopt one of the more correct terms for restrooms in London. 

But…there are a LOT of terms for the bathroom in England and in London. Some are considered polite, and some are considered impolite. 

Let’s go over the most common. 

Most Polite Terms for the Bathroom in England 

The image is an educational piece contrasting the different terminologies used for 'bathroom' in the UK. On the left, there's a photo of a freestanding bathtub in a clean, bright bathroom, with a pink arrow pointing to it and a red cross symbol indicating the word 'Bathroom' is not commonly used. On the right, a public restroom with multiple stalls is shown, with a pink arrow pointing towards it and a green check mark listing the preferred British terms: 'Loo,' 'Lavatory,' 'Toilet,' 'Gents,' 'WC,' and 'Ladies.' The title "what to call the 'bathroom' in the UK" is written in bold, decorative pink letters at the top.
  • Loo: A very common, informal term for toilet or bathroom. You might say “Could I use your loo?” or “Just popping to the loo.” This is socially acceptable in any situation. 
  • Toilet: This is the standard term, but in some cultures, ‘toilet’ refers specifically to the fixture itself rather than the room. “Toilet” can sometimes seem low-class or crass, so use “loo” in situations where you don’t know where you stand. 
  • WC (Water Closet): This term is used on signs and in formal settings. It might be unfamiliar to those from countries where this term is not used. You could say “Could you direct me to the WC please?” 
  • Lavatory: A formal term for toilet, often used in public buildings and transportation like trains and planes. This is socially acceptable in any situation. “Lav” is more informal.
  • Public Conveniences: A formal, somewhat outdated term for public toilets. People normally don’t use this phrase aloud, but you may see it on signs. 
  • Gents/Ladies: Often used to indicate the gender of the public toilet. A man might say “could you direct me to the Gents” and a woman might say “could you show me to the Ladies.”
  • Powder Room: A more old-fashioned and less common term, used for a women’s toilet in a public place. This is appropriate for a lady in a more formal setting. 
  • The Facilities: A very polite but indirect way of referring to toilets. This is a common way to ask for the toilet without saying “toilet,” but is not considered very formal, either. 

If you’re not sure what to say, just use “toilet” or “loo,” and you’ll be fine!

Slang Terms for the Toilet (Sometimes Impolite) 

  • Privy: An old-fashioned term, but still used by some Londoners and English people. This is a “low-class” way to ask for the loo. 
  • Karzi or Karzy: A slang term for the toilet, likely brought back from the British Army from India. This can also mean “brothel,” so use it carefully or not at all.
  • Bog: A crass term for the loo, from the age of outhouses and….actual bogs where people would do their business. 
  • Dunny: This is actually an Australian term for the toilet, but in the UK it means a woman’s private parts, so don’t use this term in England! 
  • Waterworks: Informal slang terms for the restroom and considered “low-class.”

Slang Terms for Using the Toilet in London and the UK 

The image features a list of British slang terms for using the restroom, categorized by social acceptability. On the left, there is a photograph of a portable blue toilet, and on the right, the terms are divided with a green checkmark indicating socially acceptable phrases like "Spend a penny" and "Need the small room." Below this, a red cross marks less appropriate slang terms such as "Have a slash," "Wizz," "Piss," "Wee," "Need the John," and "Piddle." The title "slang terms" is displayed in large, bold pink letters against a blue background at the top.

Here’s some things you might hear in England while out and about, and they all mean the same thing: to use the toilet.

Some are more vulgar to English ears (“have a slash”), and some are more polite but still not ideal for use with strangers (“spend a penny”). 

Be careful if you decide to adopt one of these UK phrases, because no matter your intent, people may take offense.

  • ✅ “Need to spend a penny” (usually fine, if a bit “low-class”)
  • ✅ “Need the small room” or “visit the smallest room in the house”
  • ❌ “Have a slash” 
  • ❌ “Have a wee” or “need a wee”
  • ❌ “Point Percy at the porcelain” 
  • ❌ “Piddle” or “Jimmy’s Riddle” (Cockney rhyming slang for piddle)
  • ❌ “Going for a piss,” “going for a wizz,” or “going for a slash”
  • ❌ “Need the John” 

It’s generally good practice as a tourist to simply use “loo” or “toilet” instead of trying to use these distinctly British phrases.

The Most Interesting Former Public Toilets in London 

When London began doing away with public toilets, those unique spaces were often revamped into interesting business. 

This image showcases a collage related to converted public toilets in London with a vibrant aesthetic. On the left, there's a photo of 'The Attendant' coffee shop in Fitzrovia, converted from an ornate Victorian-era public toilet, recognized by its distinctive black metalwork and signage. The right side of the image contains a list of other notable London loo conversions, such as WC (Clapham + Bloomsbury), Chiringuito, The High Cross, and Cellar Door, alongside a close-up of a faded 'GENTLEMEN' sign from a traditional public toilet. The text "cool loos" is prominently displayed in large pink letters at the top.
  • The Attendant in Fitzrovia is a converted Victorian men’s loo, where you can sip your coffee at an old urinal (it’s clean, I promise!). 
  • Cellar Door is an entertainment venue in a former lavatory in Covent Garden (and has pretty cool loos inside today with auto-frost toilet doors!). 
  • WC in Clapham (my favorite converted loo in London) is a lovely wine & charcuterie bar in a former “water closet” underneath Clapham Common tube station. The ambiance here is lovely! 
  • WC Bloomsbury is another of the same restaurant, but in a converted toilet in Central London. 
  • Bermondsey Arts Club is a former “public conveniences” station turned cool arts and entertainment venue, plus membership club. 
  • Ladies & Gents was a former public lav in Kentish Town, though this bar has closed. Anxiously awaiting what will pop up next in this unique location. 
  • Chiringuito in Bethnal Green is a converted public toilet in Museum Gardens, but this one is above ground and even has a rooftop bar! 
  • The High Cross in Tottenham is another example of an above-ground lav turned pub. 

Get to Know the Loos of London 

Are you a toilet or sanitation enthusiast? The history of London is chock-full of interesting sewer stories, and you can learn them all by taking the one-of-a-kind Loo Tours London. 

This walking tour is completely unique and lets you see the dark (and smelly) side of London history. 

Finding Bathrooms in London: Final Tips

Many tourists are terrified of not having a toilet close at hand, and I totally understand. You’re in an unfamiliar place, you might be afraid to approach strangers to ask, and when you need to go you need to go.

Keep in mind that London is full of tourists all the time, and they all need to use the toilet! Just don’t start looking for a loo before it’s too late and you’ll be absolutely fine.

If traveling London with kids, make sure they use the toilet when you’re near one so you’re not caught out.

If worst comes to worst, you can absolutely purchase something at a coffee shop or chain restaurant to use the toilet. It might cost you £3 for a snack, but to use a clean toilet is priceless.

More on Visiting London: 

The Best Oyster Card Tourist Options to Save Money 

31 London Tourist Mistakes & How to Avoid Them 

The Best Navigation App for London to Download Now

Ultimate Attraction Map of London: See it All, Efficiently! 

What NOT to do in London: The Truth About these 15 Tiring Tourist Traps 

Is Tipping in the UK Expected? A Super Simple Guide

Masterlist: 201+ London Instagram Captions for the Perfect Post 

The Perfect Ladies Day Out in London: 3 Itineraries for Every Budget

Public Toilet London FAQ

Are public toilets in London free?

Some are and some aren’t. If they charge per use, you may need a 50p coin. Some larger public toilets (such as in National Rail stations) may take contactless cards.

How do I ask for the restroom in London?

Simply say “can I use your toilet” or “can I use your loo?” “Bathroom” and “restroom” are words not commonly used in the UK, so you’re better off using “loo” or “toilet.”

Do London tube stations have toilets?

Some do, and they are free to use. However, not many tube stations have toilets. Use the TFL Toilet Map to find out which stations have toilets.

Do shops have to let you use the toilet in the UK?

Unless a shop is a restaurant with a certain capacity, they do not have to let you use the toilets. You may have to purchase something in order to use the facilities.

Why don’t they say bathrooms in London?

Traditionally, a “bathroom” in the UK is a room with a bathtub. It was only relatively recently in the breadth of English history that toilets were brought indoors, so a bathroom in the past was simply that – a room with a bathtub.

Are restrooms in London clean?

Some are and some aren’t. If you’re worried about cleanliness, using toilets in privately maintained areas (like shops, businesses, and museums) are a better bet than public toilets.

Is there a public toilet London map?

Yes! Use The Great British Toilet Map to find toilets near you in London and all over the UK.

You can also use apps like Flush or Toilets4London to find facilities near you.

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