Paris Bathroom Undercover: Find relief in the city’s ritziest hotels

The entrance to the George V in Paris. Walk on in! Photo: Alan Light
The entrance to the George V in Paris. Walk on in! Photo: Alan Light

By Bryan Pirolli in Paris—

When walking the streets of Paris, every experience seems special, from buying that perfect baguette to spotting your new favorite article of clothing in a store window. So why should something as necessary as going to the bathroom be any different? If you can drink a glass of wine in a beautiful café, you should be able to relieve yourself in style, too, without paying too much for the experience.

Bathrooms in Paris range from elegant department store spa-like treatment to “Turkish toilets” (holes in the ground) that clearly predate air fresheners. But the curious and daring traveler should have no problem entering some of Paris’s most luxurious hotels to freshen up with a touch of refinement. It just takes a bit of know-how.

Which way to the loo? Inside the George V. Photo: Holly Hayes

The challenge

Entering a hotel to use the toilet is a great way to find some of Paris’s most elegant bathrooms while avoiding the fees at stores like Printemps and the hordes of other Cheapos at Starbucks and McDonald’s.

But you can’t just enter any old hotel. Hotels with small lobbies, tiny staffs, or no bar area will most likely call you on your bluff. But the larger, more palatial hotels, equipped with various lounges and restaurants, are the perfect places for a quick and free potty break.

The perks

Quality hotel bathrooms, once inside, usually have fine smelling stalls, cloth towels, and a level of cleanliness that would make a Turkish toilet blush with embarrassment.

And above all, they’re free! The excitement of doing something that feels naughty also gives your nose-powdering an extra thrill in addition to a good story for your friends. But fear not! No laws are being broken.

The poise

It’s easier than you think. Walk into a big hotel, say hello to the doorman as if you were old friends, and beeline for the café, bar, or restaurant area. Invariably these are the areas where you’ll find a bathroom open to customers, and who’s to say you aren’t one?

Great bathrooms at the Hotel Meurice. Photo: Happy A

At the Hotel Carillon, on the Place de la Concorde, for example, walk all the way back to the bar area – don’t stop at the first restaurant area on your right. Around the corner you’ll see the bathrooms, waiting to be used.

The poised traveler will fight shame, fear, and most of all guilt to enter these bathrooms, but it’s not a crime to explore the facilities for a potential future stay, right?  Walk with confidence, don’t ask any questions, and don’t speak to anyone unnecessarily.

The names

Look for the big name 3 and 4-star hotels for the best, most easily accessible bathrooms. The Carillon, the Georges V, the Meurice – they’re all fair game.

Larger chain hotels like Novotel and Pullman will also have accessible toilets, but they’ll be less elegant. They are good to keep in mind when they are convenient, and when needing to relieve yourself is paramount to an elegant, ritzy experience.

The risk

Getting caught is a valid fear, but what concierge is going to ask to see a client’s room key before using the lobby’s bathroom? Besides, one need not stay at a hotel to consume drinks at the hotel’s bar.

The worst that could happen is an evil eye from a hotel worker on your way out – if you’re that obvious. However, your mission will be accomplished and all that they can do is say au revoir.

Also in our guide: Looking for a loo of your own? We also have recommendations for great budget hotels in Paris, all visited, inspected and reviewed by our editors. Read more in our Paris hotel guide and follow these tips for where to stay during your visit.

About the author

Bryan Pirolli
About the author: With his college diploma fresh off the press, Bryan Pirolli headed for Paris and four years later he’s still there. A journalist and a tour guide, his main M.O. is pursuing a doctorate degree in communications at the Sorbonne Nouvelle. Bryan regularly travels on a budget, experiencing the best of European culture while still trying to make rent.  So far, so good. You can follow his adventures on his blog: www.bryanpirolli.com.
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Cheapo Comments

8 Responses to “Paris Bathroom Undercover: Find relief in the city’s ritziest hotels”
  • I discovered this trick when I was traveling in South America – that I could walk into any fancy hotel and nobody would challenge me, but I never thought to use it in Paris! I had to ask another Starbucks customer for the toilet passcode on her receipt. I was not about to spend $7 for a coffee just so I could pee and thus have the same problem in another half an hour. And no, I did not feel guilty: Starbucks has gotten a lot of my money in the past.

    McDonald’s used to be the default free toilet, but the last time I was in Paris, they didn’t have any toilet paper. I knew I had to carry my own toilet paper in Bolivia, but I never thought about it in France.

  • Pete Meyers Pete Meyers says:

    @class factotum: Ah yes, the ol’ “toilet passcode”…what a pisser! :)

    @Bryan: I loved this post – Georges V, here I come.

  • Good luck trying to take a pee in the Ritz. But it is kinda fun to get thrown out of there.

  • Piper says:

    I do this at home in the States! It works in any large city, eg, Chicago, New York, etc.

  • I’ll be in Paris in a month and will use these tips. Another way to avoid detection is to pretend you don’t speak French. Since I won’t be pretending it will be easy. Toilette?
    No?
    Oui.
    Wee.
    Toilette.
    Oui!

    Hotels and nice parking garages in the US are my refuges stateside.

  • [...] Paris Bathroom Undercover: Free relief in the city’s ritziest hotels (EuroCheapo) Above free wifi and coffee, finding a bathroom is a top priority. [...]

  • shozm says:

    This is one amazing article and Pirolli is one amazing writer. His review of Hotel Stella is one of the most satisfying and elegant pieces of travel journalism I have read in a long time.

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