Of all the things I’ve had to learn since moving to London, the British word for bathroom has been the trickiest. Saying “loo” makes me feel ridiculous, but saying “toilet” feels crass. After testing out every variation imaginable, I finally embraced my Americanness and stuck with “restroom”. I steel my nerves against ridicule every time—the Brits think the word is preposterous—but it’s worth it. So why am I telling you this? Because today I’m sharing the 9 best loos in London.

Best Loos in London


9 Best Loos in London

This year is the 165-year anniversary of the first public toilets in London, which were installed by one George Jennings in the famous Crystal Palace during the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park in 1851. Visitors could pay one penny for a seat, towel, comb, and shoe shine, giving rise to the classic British expression “spend a penny” when referring to going the loo. In honor of the milestone, I’ve scoured London for the best loos, from those in restaurants to those converted into restaurants. Here’s the result:


Best Pub Loos in London


The Castle Pub

I’ll never forget my first trip to the loo at The Castle pub in Angel. What I expected to be a run-of-the-mill pub loo ended up being a veritable monopoly board in loo form. The walls were painted with all the proper colors, and the doors even had symbols to suggest which were men’s, which were women’s, and which were left to Chance (get it? get it?).

The Castle Pub Loo in London


Best Public Loos in London


South End Green

South End Green‘s public loos are some of the best examples of Victorian loos in London.

South End Green Ladies Loo in London

As with most things from that era, they’re done in fabulously over-the-top style, complete with wrought iron curlicues and checkerboard tile floors.

South End Green Public Loo in London

But even more impressive is their ability to attract celebrities who come to the gents’ to partake in activities I won’t mention here. Our dear friend George Michael, who seems to get arrested for something embarrassing every week, is just one of the many who has allegedly come here to do whatever he does to keep getting arrested. I wouldn’t be surprised if South End Green’s loos were the most chronicled public toilets in London.

South End Green Gents Loo in London


Best Restaurant Loos in London


Sketch

Back indoors, there’s no denying that Sketch has some of the best loos in London when it comes to restaurants. The stark white interior, with its egg-shaped stalls and bright colored lights, is almost as famous as the accoladed restaurant’s cuisine.

Sketch Loo in London

Nopi

But Sketch isn’t the only restaurant in London with impressive loos. Soho’s Nopi has an Alice-in-Wonderland loo with so many mirrors that it’s almost impossible to find your way out.

Loo at Nopi in London

Trust me. I got lost in there for long enough that my friends thought they would have to send a search party down for me.

Loo at Nopi in London

Franco’s

Less panic-inducing loos can be just as intriguing, though. Over in St James’s, Franco’s restaurant has some of my favorite loos in London. No, they don’t look crazy. But they’re great for a more subtle reason: the soothing sound of the Winnie the Pooh stories playing over the speakers. This makes it another place where I worry a search party is going to come after me.

Franco's Restaurant in London

Close runners up include Social Wine and Tapas, where wine instruction plays overhead, and the famous Chelsea club Maggie’s, where Margaret Thatcher’s speeches are broadcasted in the loos.

Social Wine and Tapas Restaurant in London


Best Re-Purposed Loos in London


The Attendant

While South End Green may have the best public loos in London, there are other parts of the city where decommissioned public loos have been repurposed into restaurants, cafes, and bars. They give South End Green a challenge, but in a very different way.

The Attendant Cafe in London

One such former loo is The Attendant cafe in Fitzrovia.

The Attendant Cafe in London

Not far from Oxford Circus, it has turned the former porcelain urinals into a clever take on a counter. I was skeptical before I saw it in person, but it actually looks amazing. I’m still not sure I could eat so close to a urinal, though!

The Attendant Cafe in London

Ladies and Gentlemen

Up in Kentish Town, the Ladies and Gentlemen bar is also housed in a former public loo. The elaborate historic ironwork holds up a sign alerting guests to its subterranean presence, and its “Dry January is for Quitters” message board shows the extent to which the bar has embraced its rather unconventional identity.

Ladies & Gentlemen Bar in London

Runners up for this award go to CellarDoor, a loo-turned-club off the Strand, and WC, a toilet-turned-wine bar in Clapham.

Ladies & Gentlemen Bar in London

Restaurant Story

Restaurant Story by Tower Bridge is another former loo, although one more modern and spacious than many of the others. Above ground, it has a bright, light interior and award-winning cuisine. I had lunch there a while back without even realizing the space used to be used for something else.

Restaurant Story in London

Another example of this phenomenon can be found in Brooksby’s Walk restaurant in Homerton, which is also housed in a former public loo.

Restaurant Story in London


Best Hotel Loos in London


Claridge’s

Moving on from outdoor loos and over to more luxurious ones, the best loo in a London hotel is in Claridge’s. Steeped in history, the elegant ladies’ room not only has vanity areas with chairs and mirrors, but also a coat check and attendant. Every time I step inside, I feel like I’m back in Victorian England, which is fitting given that the first public loos hail from that period.

Loo at Claridge's in London

So there you have the 9 best loos in London. Or should I say restrooms…

41 Comments on Lady’s 9 Best Loos in London

  1. Lisa
    January 14, 2016 at 8:44 am (11 months ago)

    Ah I knew Sketch would have to be on there! Great other choices though.

    Reply
  2. The slow pace
    January 14, 2016 at 9:02 am (11 months ago)

    I love this article!!! I’ve only been to the loos at the Claridge and while loved them,I felt a little out of place at the same time. So fancy! I’m with you regarding the Attendant Cafe… I’m not sure I would be very happy eating at a urinal!

    Reply
  3. Angie Silver
    January 14, 2016 at 9:56 am (11 months ago)

    Those loos at sketch are just fantastic! NOPI though is downright confusing!

    Reply
    • A Lady in London
      January 14, 2016 at 2:52 pm (11 months ago)

      Yeah! You’ll have to check them out sometime!

      Reply
  4. The Purley Girly
    January 14, 2016 at 10:08 am (11 months ago)

    My friend’s Mum has a rating system for toilets! So she will love this post so much. I’m off to Sketch this weekend for afternoon tea, so I will have to check out the pods, and report back to her. 🙂

    I think hotel loos are always so lovely. The ones in The Savoy got a 10 on the rating scale apparently. Ha ha.

    Reply
    • A Lady in London
      January 14, 2016 at 2:52 pm (11 months ago)

      Nice! I hope you enjoy the ones at Sketch!

      Reply
  5. Frankie Winter
    January 14, 2016 at 12:44 pm (11 months ago)

    “Loo” is the kind of word my mum uses, so I just can’t. I’ve clearly watched too much American TV because sometimes I say “bathroom” and this leads to people gleefully asking me how my bath was. I know too many annoying people 😉

    Reply
  6. jaklien
    January 14, 2016 at 1:09 pm (11 months ago)

    haha, how useful! I have my fav loos for when I am out and about, but they’re not as pretty as these. 🙂

    Reply
  7. Shikha (whywasteannualleave)
    January 14, 2016 at 8:16 pm (11 months ago)

    Haha! Never thought I’d be so interested in a post about loos – it really is a silly word! I’ve been to a few of these places including Sketch but not been to the loo at any of these places – obviously don’t drink enough water!

    Reply
  8. Suze
    January 14, 2016 at 11:05 pm (11 months ago)

    The Attendant looks amazing, I hope they gave it a good scrub before opening 😉

    Suze

    Reply
  9. Allyson
    January 15, 2016 at 7:22 am (11 months ago)

    I was hoping Claridge’s would be on your list! I was so blown away by their restroom (yes, I’m an American) that I just had to take a picture in the stall. Then I was confused when the attendant had started the sink water for me. So fancy!

    Reply
  10. Carol Ann Nicholls
    January 15, 2016 at 2:43 pm (11 months ago)

    Love this post! Had to skip quickly by the urinals though as even the thought gave me the heebeegeebees.

    Reply
  11. Heather @ Ferreting Out the Fun
    January 15, 2016 at 3:28 pm (11 months ago)

    I’ve actually embraced “toilet” since moving to Europe. I’ve found that many people don’t understand me when I ask for the restroom and agree with the Brits that “bathroom” is kind of a ridiculous word. My Latvian teacher told me that she used to be a tour guide and was bewildered the first time an American tourist asked her if they could stop at a bathroom. She wondered why the tourist hadn’t taken a bath at the hotel that morning. LOL!

    Reply
    • A Lady in London
      January 16, 2016 at 12:38 am (11 months ago)

      Haha, that’s funny! I don’t think I will ever be able to use the word “toilet” in polite company, but maybe someday I will be able to say “loo” without feeling too ridiculous!

      Reply
  12. Pauline Wiles
    January 15, 2016 at 3:44 pm (11 months ago)

    Such a funny post. I’m not wild about eating in a former public convenience either, but I do love that word “curlicue”.
    Also, not in London, but the Tickell Arms near Cambridge plays Blackadder in their (very nice) loos. I have no idea why, but I like it.

    Reply
    • A Lady in London
      January 16, 2016 at 12:38 am (11 months ago)

      That’s great! I like the idea of hearing Blackadder in the loo!

      Reply
  13. Keith Povall
    January 17, 2016 at 9:47 am (11 months ago)

    Not that I’m a frequenter of public toilets, but probably the nicest I ever used was in a bar called PG Kings by the Empire State building in New York. They were pink and white marble and I was told by the manager that they had once been installed in the Waldorf Astoria.

    Reply
  14. Kerri
    January 17, 2016 at 10:53 am (11 months ago)

    If there’s one thing I miss about the UK, it’s being able to find public toilets so easily. Belgium has a serious lack of public toilets, as does NYC which I found out the Christmas time!

    Reply
    • A Lady in London
      January 17, 2016 at 2:44 pm (11 months ago)

      Yeah, London has an amazing number of them!

      Reply
    • Kerri
      January 20, 2016 at 2:19 pm (11 months ago)

      Most impressed that there’s another weirdly spelled Kerri here, having just posted my reply and thought – I didn’t write that! Two if us! in one comment section …

      Reply
  15. Kerri
    January 20, 2016 at 2:18 pm (11 months ago)

    Ha ha ha! I know what you mean about the word ‘loo’ but in reverse – I was just in the States over Christmas and asked a waitress for directions to the loo, please. She was most confused! I remembered the word ‘restroom’ and all was serene … I had no idea that loo didn’t transfer across the pond …

    Reply
    • A Lady in London
      January 21, 2016 at 6:40 am (11 months ago)

      Wow, that’s funny! I kind of thought most Americans would know that Brits use the word “loo”, but I guess not!

      Reply
  16. isa
    January 23, 2016 at 3:24 am (11 months ago)

    Awesome. I like london. a blend of art and effectiveness

    Reply
  17. Adnan Kundi
    January 23, 2016 at 8:09 am (11 months ago)

    Loo, Toilet, Restroom, any word is acceptable for me. But, the first time i heard the word Restroom, i thought people go in small isolated rooms to sit and relax and maybe read the newspaper. Turns out that that’s exactly what they do, but with an extra deal with it! You know what i mean. Never knew Restroom was an American word. Nice to learn something new 🙂

    Reply
  18. Ruth McAllister
    February 8, 2016 at 11:31 am (10 months ago)

    Brilliant – smiling all the way through as I read this – gonna share on Twitter right now!

    Reply
  19. Nancy
    February 11, 2016 at 4:15 pm (10 months ago)

    Hello; I’m a bit late to the conversation.
    When I lived in London I was advised, very nicely, by another expat, that the word “toilet” is not used in polite company. Like you, I was not comfortable using the word “loo.” We discovered that by asking for “the ladies'” or “the gents,'” everyone knew what we were talking about, and everyone saved face. Try it out sometime.
    I was given a list (this was pre-Internet days) of public loos that were suitable for breastfeeding. That list was like The Holy Grail for us new mothers.
    Thank you for this most interesting post. It was really fun to read. Regarding The Attendant? Nope. Never. Not ever.

    Reply
    • A Lady in London
      February 11, 2016 at 4:27 pm (10 months ago)

      Thanks for the tips, Nancy! Sounds like you got some good advice when you lived here!

      Reply

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