What Makes a Restroom the Best, Anyway?

Today I learned the “Canada’s Best Restroom Award” is a thing. This boggled me at first. I mean, of all of the things to vote for … Restrooms? Really?

But then I thought about it and realized that my knee-jerk reaction doesn’t make much sense. I mean, restrooms are essential, but that doesn’t mean they have to be utilitarian. Why not reward businesses that turn them into a part of the overall customer experience?

I also realized how hypocritical it would be of me to mock, considering how much attention I’ve paid to restrooms over the years. I never go anywhere these days without taking a photo of at least one restroom.

It started around 20 years ago, back in the days of film, not digital, so I was very sparing with my photos. I have a grand total of 14 pics from a weekend jaunt to Toronto with my two oldest friends, and one of them is of the restroom at the Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto.

There have been rather a lot of others over the years. From something simple in a Montreal hotel:

To this affectionately dubbed “Boom-Chick-a-Wah-Wah Room” in a hotel in Hamburg’s Reeperbahn neighbourhood:

To the ladies room in a restaurant in Rome that came complete with disco ball and ABBA‘s “Dancing Queen” playing on a continuous loop. (Sadly, no, I do not have video. But you can click here for added effect.)

I’ve done a little bit of band promotion/light vandalism with a strategically placed Mad Robots sticker in a club bathroom in Quebec City:

And I’ve noted different building techniques around the world, like how Finnish showers have no bases, and you have to squeegee the water covering the bathroom floor post-shower down the drain.

Plus I’ve made note of how not to build a shower, like this one in Berchtesgaden, that not only flooded the entire bathroom, but half the hotel room as well.

Although it’s not always about quality. Sometimes it’s quantity, like the apartment in a converted palace in Siena I once stayed in. Plain as they were, three bathrooms for only two people seemed somehow more decadent than one fancy shared one.

Then there are the restroom-adjacent things, like this Water Closet Pass from my first trip to Wacken Open Air. (As it saved me from having to use the port-a-potties, it may just be the best 10 euros I ever spent.)

Sorry for the poor focus. Beer may have been involved.

Of course, by my next visit, such passes were a thing of the past, as the festival made all access free in an attempt to get people to stop peeing wherever they happened to be standing.

Sometimes the path leading to the restroom is the highlight, like this stairwell in Edinburgh’s St. Bernard’s Bar:

Although when it comes to the path leading to the restroom, for a beer lover like me, it’s hard to beat when it doubles as keg storage, like at this random Toronto pub:

And then there are places like Banshee Labyrinth in Edinburgh, where it’s the policy, not the restroom itself, that’s the star:

But for my money, nobody does a restroom like Dublin’s pubs. Like O’Neill’s:

And Roe & Co:

And The Oak:

Although being there in November, it would have been nicer had they been heated.

All of this has led me to try my own hand at restroom design. Going for a high end hotel vibe, I tore out the original, dingy, dated one from the ’70s in my house and replaced it with this:

Although I did do a practice run, putting an industrial themed restroom/laundry room from scratch in the basement, first.


Be right back. I’ve gotta go vote for The Bicycle Thief for Canada’s Best Restroom.

6 Thoughts

  1. The Library of Congress had a beautiful washroom: marble everywhere; brass fixtures. I wish I’d taken a picture. And the Bay in downtown Winnipeg, mezzanine level, had a massive washroom that was a throwback in time. It had an area with counters, stools, and lit mirrors so ladies could redo their makeup. A threeway mirror to check one’s outfit. And a couch, presumably for fainting on. The toilets were tucked away discretely at the back. By our era it was pretty run down but you could feel the history of it. Most it’s blocked off now, if it’s even open anymore.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, you like, started the post with it. I forgot! I was so excited when it came up in my work news feed today I couldn’t wait to post.


    1. I was so very confused yesterday when I saw this comment, because your previous comment about the competition got flagged as spam. I didn’t notice it until today. It all makes much more sense now. 🙂


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