On public toilets and public decency in Reykjavík
We’ve all been there, running around with a wide-eyed look using all force of will to keep our bladders from bursting at the seams. Begging retail stores and restaurants to let us use their bathrooms, but their merciless minimum-wage guardians shake their heads. And even when we finally find an oasis in the desert, a suitable place to relieve ourselves it’s… it’s occupied!?
But, not to worry, for I am here to help.
As those who know me can attest, I have an incredibly weak bladder and stomach. From the humblest urinals to the grandest latrines, I, an amateur toilet enthusiast, have had to rush to them all in a fit of panic. And during my time in Reykjavík, this has not changed. Thus, I believe I have successfully collected an extensive repertoire of Icelandic restrooms. So, for your consuming pleasure (and ease of future travels), I have collated and reviewed Reykjavik’s finest water closets.
Upon arriving in the city, you will most likely encounter the famous BSÍ Bus Terminal bathrooms. Though not an impressive locale, it serves as an excellent first dip into the Icelandic bathroom experience. The gates are often barred with a turnstile with a little cutout to allow the children to freely cross. Upon entering, you can expect a service reflective of the quality of bus depots.
— 2/5 stars
Once you begin to wander deeper into the city along the streets of Laugavegur and the harbour, you may find yourself within the gilded halls of the Harpa. The lavatories here are just as immaculately crafted as the exterior of the crystalline building. One can almost see the reflection of the northern lights within the toilet bowls. The doors to the entrance are massive and towering to allow even the tallest of Icelanders to only slightly bow their head while entering. Though the rabble may gawk at the 200ISK price tag for entering the facilities, I believe the fee serves a higher purpose: to remind us that, no matter how gilded in gold, shit will stain just about anything.
— 3/5 stars
Reykjavík is a city of the arts and if you wanted to be transported to the world of a cubist painter with a kindergartener’s understanding of colour theory, you simply only need to enter the bathrooms at city hall. Looking out the ancient porthole windows that line the washroom walls, one can see the waves crashing upon Tjörnin Rocks. I know not what possessed the architect, designer and city council to decide on the garish orange and green tile scheme to adorn the walls, but it certainly stands out, giving my eyes a great deal of pain.
— 4/5 stars
Last and certainly least, we have lavatories for the truly desperate. When you find yourself at your absolute wit’s end, in the middle of the night, tortured by the fermented shark you had for dinner, there is a final option. There are… dark green tubes that dot the downtown area. You may have mistaken these for fancy postboxes or Star Trek elevators, but these Cylinders of Shame are in fact available for public use. Entering these cans inflict a terrible cost not only on a wallet but on the primordial part of your soul. To choose to be sealed away in this metal sarcophagus in a desperate attempt to relieve yourself is the act of either the mad or the hopeless. All I can do is offer a warning: if you enter these facilities, you will not come out the same.
— 5/5 stars, a life-changing experience
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