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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.