From Iceland — Searching For The Best Public Bathroom

Searching For The Best Public Bathroom

Published July 28, 2014

The Daytime Edition

Searching For The Best Public Bathroom
Photo by
Magnús Andersen

The Daytime Edition

Something that always seems to be missing in reviews of restaurants, bars, cafés and whatnot, is the bathroom. Perhaps it is a taboo subject? But when you think about it, the flowery potpourri smell in the bathroom might make up for a mediocre cup of coffee or a semi-flat beer and stumbling upon a clogged toilet could make you forget about all the great food and service you just got. What good is a good soup if your dining experience is shadowed by a dirty bathroom?

When writing these reviews, I went to some of Reykjavík’s most popular cafés to check out their bathroom facilities: Did they have soap and toilet paper? Was the number of the toilets sufficient considering the place’s size and popularity? Was it clean and did it smell nice? Note: The bathrooms were visited sometime during the day between 12:00 and 18:00 and the reviews reflect on the bathroom’s situation as it was when visited.

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Café Babalú
Skólavörðustígur 22


Babalú has an upstairs and downstairs bathroom. The upstairs one was nice and cosy—so cosy that I actually wouldn’t have minded working there on my computer instead of from my seat in the actual sitting area. They even had a table in front of the toilet, which seemed perfect for a laptop. The downstairs bathroom was also great. It has an ‘80s feel to it and the walls are adorned by characters from Star Wars (which is clever, although slightly uncomfortable as they watch you pee).

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Vesturgata 3


Stofan has recently reopened where an antique store called Fríða Frænka once stood. The café has retained its cosy, low-key, ‘50s living room atmosphere. It features a few bathrooms upstairs and downstairs, which are all in keeping with this theme. Unfortunately, the upstairs stalls are quite small and the doors open in, which makes it difficult to get in and out. The bins could probably have been changed a couple hours before I visited. However, they made up for this sloppiness with vanilla scented candles. The downstairs bathrooms are more spacious, and one is wheelchair accessible. It’s of little use though, as you have to go down a flight of stairs to get to it.

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Bankastræti 12


This is the kind of coffeehouse you go to for food, music and atmosphere, but you try not to order too many drinks so that you can avoid using their awful excuse for bathrooms. After waiting in line for way too long, it was my turn to relieve myself of that wonderful Swiss Mocha I had ordered two hours earlier. I found it surprising, and newsworthy enough to write here, that the soap dispenser wasn’t empty! I don’t remember that ever being the case. However, that didn’t make up for the waiting, the stink of urine mixed with cigarette smoke, the extremely small space and the lack of toilet paper. The men’s bathroom was only slightly better since there was no line for it. A festival porta-potty after a three-day festival is probably cleaner and more appealing.

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Austurstræti 20


The bathrooms at Hressingarskálinn, or Hressó, as the natives call it, are located around the corner from the bar. At first sight these bathrooms didn’t look too nice. There was toilet paper on the wet, icky floor and the walls were dirty and sticky, even. The bigger of the two was spacious enough to be identified as an accessible toilet, which should of course be in every coffeehouse. The toilet itself was very clean, and it didn’t smell bad (but note that the regulars never sit near the toilets as the place tends to stink up if anyone drops a number two).

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Laugavegur 21

This bathroom was squeaky clean, cleaner than any other public bathroom I’ve seen and probably cleaner than some hospitals. They even had a changing table accessible to both women and men, which is rarely the case (mostly changing tables can be found in the women’s bathroom). The only downside is that the bathrooms are on the second floor with no wheelchair access. Nonetheless, this place gets a full house.

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Caffé Mezzo
Lækjargata 2a

I had high hopes for these bathrooms because you have to ask for a key to access them. However, the key was for a door that leads you into a room with a few stalls, opposed to direct access to one bathroom. This meant that people were queuing up when they didn’t have to, out of fear of walking in on someone’s private moment. Apart from the fact that there was a lot of water on the floor, the bathroom seemed fairly neat. I thought I could safely sit down on the toilet, but I was in for a rude surprise, as my thighs were met by a disgusting, wet sensation. When I went to wash my hands in the sink located in the stall, I discovered why the floor was wet. The water pressure was way too high. The water went all over the toilet and my pants. I looked like I had peed myself, but at least I knew I hadn’t sat in piss.

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Te Og Kaffi
Laugavegur 24


I received a key to toilet number seven, which was one of only two toilets that I could see. I was greeted be a lovely, fruity smell. There was a chart on a shelf indicating when the toilet had last been cleaned. It had not been cleaned today, even though it was only one hour until closing time. I could also see that they had neglected to “clean the walls with all-purpose cleaner” for quite some time. But aside from that and one paper towel on the floor, the bathroom was pretty much spotless. It’s a shame that it’s not wheelchair accessible. However, they get an extra point for offering not only soap but also anti-bacterial spray.

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Bunk Bar
Laugavegur 28


Bunk Bar has a few bathrooms. I couldn’t find the light switch in the first one I tried (I even tried waving my hands about in case it had motion detectors), so I tried the next one over. That one was freezing cold. There was an open window that seemed to be placed directly beside the smoking area so not only was it cold, but it also smelled bad. The floor was in dire need of cleaning and so was everything else in there. You could easily see the yellow spots all over the bottom of the toilet seat, indicating it hadn’t been properly cleaned for days. The only reason this place is not getting a stinky review is that they did have soap and toilet paper and access for wheelchairs (if those who need it ever manage to turn on the lights). When you choose a seat in the coffee house, don’t sit close to the toilets, in case someone has to go number two.

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Kex Hostel
Skúlagata 28


The bathrooms at KEX were very neat and clean when I visited. They smelled nice and had everything needed to do one’s business. Plus, the walls are filled with pages of old books, providing lots of reading material for Icelandic speaking people. There were hooks to hang your coat and bag, which must be especially handy for tourists, who tend to have a lot of stuff with them.

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Tíu Dropar
Laugavegur 27


Tíu dropar is so crowded with old-timey decorations that you get the feeling that you are drinking coffee at a folk museum. It would have been a wonderful opportunity to have old-fashioned bathroom decorations as well, but instead the bathroom just looked old. The dirt seemed to be old too. The walls needed cleaning, if not painting. It was very unappealing, but at least the toilet and the sink were clean. They also get an extra point for having a changing room for infants (even though the icon for it was gender specific).

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Loft Hostel
Bankastræti 7a©MA-toilets-loft-hostel-3740

The bathroom at Loft Hostel was awfully uninviting. Their cleaning chart indicated that they hadn’t cleaned since the day before and it was almost 6 o’clock. But the room itself wasn’t that dirty, it needed some tidying up. They had plenty of toilet paper. The room was accessible for wheelchairs, which is nice. The hand soap came from the lovely organic eco-village called Sólheimar.

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Bankastræti 8


To get to the bathrooms, you have to go behind the counter, up a narrow staircase where you repeatedly peek into “staff only” rooms before finally stumbling upon the room that you were looking for. Some might find it unprofessional to have customers walking past stuff laying around, but others might find it homey, as if you were visiting a friend, who feels comfortable enough to have you in their home when everything’s a mess. Nothing was lacking inside the bathroom and I could see that they had just cleaned it. However, I wouldn’t recommend it for people who have difficulty using stairs.

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C is for Cookie
Týsgata 8


The bathroom is painted a beautiful red colour and features a simplistic painting and a cute mirror on the wall. The place was clean (not counting the small piece of toilet paper on the floor, which is commonly found in public bathrooms right before closing time). All of the necessities were there along with a changing table. I sat for hours next to the bathroom door and never noticed a line or bad smell wafting my way. The most defining feature would have to be the stuffed animal rats in the window that appear to be the café’s mascots.

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