The first public toilets in Paris were quite a novelty when they were opened at the Tuileries Gardens in the 1700s. The good news concerning public toilets is that you can STILL find public toilets, not only in the Tuileries Gardens but most major gardens including the Luxembourg Gardens.
The fact that the City of Paris employs full-time attendants really helps to keep these places tidy. Naturally, that tidiness doesn’t come for free, so you’ll be expected to contribute with a 40 or 50 centimes fee. In some cases (such as the Gare St. Lazare, attendants will hand you a token to use for passing through turnstiles to the facilities. In other cases, they’ll have a tray set on a table where you are expected to place your coins before using the facilities.
In addition to staffed restrooms, you’ll note on a number of boulevards the automated free-standing toilets (which look like kiosks minus the newspapers. These are free-of-charge toilets. The idea is not to stay here any longer than ten minutes are you will be on view by all the world. It took me a long time to brave one of these contraptions, but they’re not too bad if you’re desperate. My advice would be to opt for the park toilets (or also Les Invalides is another well maintained locale).
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Department store toilets such as Printemps, Galeries Lafayette, or FNAC are all well- maintained (and free) but just remember you may have to hike up several sets of escalators to find them!
When you ask to use toilets, you always ask for them in the plural form:
‘Ou sont les toilettes?’
Don’t ask my why it’s in plural. It just is. Even if you only need one.
Two websites that are handy for finding public toilets in Paris are this list of general places to look (like fast food restaurants), and this website which tracks user-submitted entries for public bathrooms all over the world. Here’s the list of places which have entries in France – you’ll need to choose which arrondissement you’re looking for to get the specific listings for Paris.
>> Get more Paris travel tips from a local before you go!