Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Best free bathrooms in Madrid

I did warn that I would be random...

Thought of this the other day after stopping in at my favorite free restroom/bathroom/loo/aseo/servicio in Madrid. Being an avid walker, I've maintained a mental list over the years of the best places to stop in Madrid when nature calls. Of course, you can always pop into a bar or cafe, but I always feel a bit guilty about just using the loo without getting something to drink. And some bartenders aren't very gracious about people coming in just to use the restroom, particularly in the more tourist-y parts of Madrid -- you'll even see some places with signs on the door saying that the servicios are only for clients.

Fortunately, my favorite "free" bathrooms in Madrid are all in tourist-y areas. And here they are:

1. In my opinion, the best free loos in Madrid are at the Palace Hotel (formally called the Westin Palace). The Palace is located on Plaza de las Cortes. You can get there by walking down C/San Jeronimo from Sol or walking up Plaza de las Cortes from Paseo del Prado (near the Neptuno fountain). Sometimes I worry that they'll stop me at the door, since I'm usually not dressed nearly as well as the clients. But so far, I've only been stopped once, and that was in the days leading up to to Principe Felipe's wedding, when access to the hotel was limited. Just walk in like you know where you're going, and nobody asks you anything. Even if they do ask what you're doing there, you can say that you're going to have a coffee or take a look at la Cupula (which is where you'd have the coffee -- and it's worth a look). There are two sets of bathrooms -- the easiest to find are closer to the main lobby. Walk through the lobby, up the short flight of stairs, and look for a shoe-shine station on the right. The bathrooms are just left of the shoe-shine area. By the way, if you do decide to have a coffee while you're there, be prepared to shell out more than 7 euros for a coffee -- though it will be served on a silver tray and be accompanied by chocolate truffles and small pastries. Yum.

2. If you're spending the day shopping in Sol/Callao/Gran Via (though I can't imagine why anybody would want to do their shopping there), you can usually find clean bathrooms in El Corte Ingles. The best ones, in my opinion, are in the El Corte Ingles located closest to metro Callao (next to the FNAC store). I can't remember which floor number exactly -- somewhere around 4 or 5 -- but it's the floor with the bedding, towels, etc. Hardly anyone uses these servicios, so they're usually quite clean. If you go to the El Corte Ingles in Sol (the one that sells CDs, electronics, etc.), go to the top floor for the cleanest loos.

3. If you're in the MalasaƱa area, chances are you're hitting the bars or restaurants. But if you're just out for a stroll and in need of a free and clean place to relieve yourself, there are two decent places. First off, you can try Moore's (right across from the Tribunal metro). It's usually pretty busy, so nobody really notices if you go in and slip downstairs to use the toilet. (The same probably goes for the other Irish pubs in the area, such as Triskel or Molly Malone's, but I've never tried.) It's not the cleanest restroom in the world (it's in a bar, after all), but it's not bad as far as bar toilets go... Another option is to go to the VIPS on Calle Fuencarral. It's really difficult to find the restroom -- you have to wind your way through the restaurant in the back -- but it's there. Just keep asking, and you'll find it.

4. In an absolute worst-case scenario, you can use the loos at any McDonald's in Madrid. Unlike many of the other fast-food restaurants (e.g., Burger King, Starbucks) that require you to get a key or code, McDonald's seems to keep their restrooms unlocked. The good news is that you know you can find a free bathroom, if necessary, in Plaza de Castilla, Nuevos Ministerios, Gran Via, Atocha, Sol, and wherever else they have McDonald's. The bad news is that everyone else knows this, and the state of the bathrooms is at times pretty miserable...

So there you have it, a random but hopefully useful post for those of you who, like me, spend hours away from home but don't want to be obligated to buy food or drinks just to use the loo...

4 comments:

Troy said...

I know that Singapore's tourist offices give out maps with the cleanest toilets in town. Perhaps you can approach Botox-Aguirre with your idea?

Not such a bad idea really, Corte Ingles and McDonalds might even sponsor you!

Good luck in your next adventure.

eslhell said...

Haha... Thanks, Troy!

And good luck with your house and all. I'll be following your blog to keep up on life in Spain.

ErnieLG said...

i find 100 montaditos to be a surprisingly fresh experience. and pretty much every american chain store in general at least HAS a bathroom. do not tell me that your bar doesn't have a bathroom. i know it does. god, i hate those people. just let me pee.

oh, and you forgot the universal spanish toilet: the street.

eslhell said...

Yeah, but the "universal Spanish toilet" may not be so accessible to the ladies...!