Loo, john, commode, porcelain god, toilet — whatever you call it, we all need one at some point during our travels. So, why not make it an interesting stop along the way? These 10 public toilets are not only quite clean, they’re also cool.
Graben Toilets, Vienna, Austria
It may feel like you’re entering a subway station when you head toward these underground toilets along the Graben (one of Vienna’s most famous streets), but these loos are actually lovely. Vienna didn’t always have the best track record when it came to public bathroom options, but a proposal from Wilhelm Beetz helped change that in the late 19th century. In these bathrooms, which are near Kohlmarkt, you’ll be treated not only to attractive toilets but also to brass fixtures, marble walls and wood paneling, as well as some cool tile work. The men’s side features waterless urinals — Beetz’s brainchild.
Mount McKinley Toilet, Alaska, United States
This “potty” takes the word public to a new level. Perched 14,200 feet up on Alaska’s Mount McKinley, this john stands on its own surrounded by nothing more than three wooden slabs and plenty of ice and snow. Hiking to this toilet won’t be easy, and there’s still more than 6,000 feet to go from here to reach McKinley’s summit. Once you arrive, you’ll be in for a bathroom break that will make you say ‘brrrr,’ after all, this loo is largely open to the elements. But the novelty of the experience, and the view of Mt. Foraker you’ll be treated to, will do their best to help you forget about the wind and sub-zero temperatures.
Hundertwasser Public Toilets, Kawakawa, New Zealand
Some visitors stop at the Hundertwasser toilets not to pee, but just to take pictures. Located along State Highway 1 in the rural area of Kawakawa on the North Island, these public toilets were designed by late artist-architect Frederick Hundertwasser. Built in the late 1990s, these bathrooms feature bricks from a former Bank of New Zealand building, a living tree, tile mosaics, curvy columns and walls embedded with glass bottles. The facility, which is topped off with a grass roof, is a can’t-miss collage of colors and interesting materials. Hundertwasser died a few years after the bathroom was completed, making this his final project and only piece of work in the Southern Hemisphere.
Pop-Up Toilets, Europe
When you gotta go, you gotta go — and some European cities are taking this sense of urgency seriously. Places like London and Amsterdam are curbing public urination with a futuristic solution — toilets that emerge from the ground during the nighttime hours then retract and disappear during the day. A company called Urilift is producing these cylindrical lavatories that look like something out of “The Jetsons.” They’ve started with walk-in urinals and have now moved on to pop-up loos with doors for the ladies. Other types of portable urinals have also been popping up across Europe for more than a decade.
Daimaru Department Store, Tokyo, Japan
From the folks who brought us Toto, one of the world’s high-end toilet brands, come the commodes of the Daimaru Department Store. The public bathrooms here are outfitted with — you guessed it — Toto toilets. The shopping destination has 13 floors, each of which has its own bathroom designed to match the floor’s atmosphere. These aren’t your standard toilets, though. They have everything from heated seats to sound effects (to mask typical bathroom noises), and they feature a self-cleaning mechanism, complete with temperature-controlled water.
Public Bathroom, Chongqing, China
Widely known as the largest public restroom in the world, this facility in Chongqing is impressive in numbers alone: four stories of about 1,000 toilets spread across more than 32,000 square feet. Now, that’s a big bathroom. But the intrigue doesn’t stop there — the toilets here range in design from curvy women to open crocodile mouths. The bathroom even features one group of open-air stalls and entertainment options such as calming music and TV shows.
Glass Bathrooms at Downtown Square, Sulphur Springs, Texas, United States
Who knew you could pee and people watch at the same time? In 2012, Sulphur Springs introduced a pair of glass bathrooms in its downtown square. From the outside, these restrooms appear to be a mirrored cube, but step inside and you’ll discover these walls are made of a one-way glass that allows those on the inside to look out, giving you the feeling you’re popping a squat in front of anyone and everyone who passes by. But don’t worry, all those people strolling down the street can’t see you pee. The walls work, in part, through an imbalance of light — the light outside must be brighter than it is inside, so LED lights have been set up outside to keep the magic alive at night. The toilets came as part of a general revamp of Sulphur Springs’ downtown area and they were inspired by an installation in Switzerland by artist Monica Bonivicini.
Chung Yo Department Store Bathrooms, Taichung City, Taiwan
The toilets themselves may not be the main draw of these 15 elaborate themed bathrooms at the upscale Chung Yo department store in Taiwan. We’re talking a Coca-Cola bathroom, a “Wizard of Oz” bathroom, a secret-garden-themed restroom and a “Finding Nemo” loo. But the bathroom that really gets people talking is a men’s room that is much more than just a place to go. This bar-bathroom combo (yep, you read that right) features refrigerators stocked with Heineken for those who’d like to take a leak and a swig of beer at the same time. Cheers!
Rothesay’s Victorian Toilets, Isle of Bute, Scotland
The men’s restroom on Rothesay Pier was commissioned by Rothesay Harbour Trust in 1899. Retaining its Victorian-era charm, the bathroom is covered in elaborate ceramic tile work and features white enamel urinals topped with marble — 14 of them line the walls and six more act as a centerpiece of sorts — circling a stand in the middle of the room. The crest of the Royal Burgh of Rothesay sits at the restroom entrance. Much of the equipment, which originally came from Twyfords Ltd. Glasgow, is still here. The lavatory was restored in the 1990s and, at that time, showers, women’s toilets, as well as facilities that cater to children and people with disabilities were added.
Urquiza Public Toilets, Rosario, Argentina
Situated within Urquiza, a public park in Rosario, these toilets are part of a multi-use facility featuring a sitting area and playground. The toilets, which rest underneath a busy street, are reached by ramp or staircase. You could say this is another well placed washroom — it’s an extension of the Espacio Once bar, making it a one-stop-shop for both beverages and bathroom breaks. Sustainability was a key factor in the creation of these toilets, which were designed by architect Diego Jobell. The bathrooms feature a green, grass-covered roof, cement surfaces that are easy to wash and galvanized sheet iron stall doors to deter vandals.
Main image: Eli Duke