Need a Washroom Break? How to Find a Toilet in Amsterdam

Travel Tips, What's New — By Anna Bandurska on November 3, 2010 at 5:56 pm

We’ve all been there: running around a foreign city, taking in the sights, standing in the middle of a busy intersection realizing you have to go to the bathroom and have left the clean museum toilets behind…

Luckily, finding a washroom in Amsterdam is easy.  Considering a lot of bars and cafes charge their guests to use their bathroom (a fact that is annoying if you’re a paying customer), this system has its benefits.  The city center is full of cafes and bars, and you can always walk in to one and ask the bartender how much it would cost to use their “toilets”.  Usually it costs about 50 Cents and you will get a key or directions to a relatively clean and fully operational washroom.

The Dutch word for washroom is “Toiletten” which literally translates to “toilets”, so keep an eye out for the “Toiletten” signs.  Referring to a washroom as “toilets” also eliminates needless repetition; for some reason the Dutch get frequently confused by the words “washroom” or “bathroom”, and it’s the magic “T” word that gets results.

For the boys, the city has set up “Pissoirs” (green, cylindrical cage like structures) all over the city.  This was in response to the crisis (and odour) that arose from men relieving themselves against historical buildings in very narrow, cobble stoned streets.  These Pissoirs are meant to encourage men to relieve themselves in one location, instead of on the walls of the Oude Kerk.  Pissoirs can be found in the city’s main tourist hot spots (including the Red Light District, Leidseplein, Bloemenmarkt, along the Amstel and in Rembrandtplein).  On weekends, to cope with the higher concentration of bar hoppers, the city also puts up temporary Pissoirs.  These are grey and made of plastic, and offer even less privacy than their permanent counterparts – yet still manage to be popular with the Dutch and those who are sufficiently intoxicated.

As for the ladies, where are their street toilets?  Even though Amsterdam is known for sexual liberation and equality, unfortunately the city failed to provide a similar service for women.  In the 1960s the city agreed that women deserved street toilets too, and set up toilet booths all over the city (like permanent porta-potties).  Unfortunately, these were used by junkies as drug dens more than by women as toilets, and so were eventually eliminated.

If you are a lady in need of a washroom break (or a gentleman who can’t handle the smell of a Pissoir), you can always visit a bar or cafe as mentioned before.  Alternatively, the conveniently located Pathe in Muntplein is a modern movie theater with excellent bathrooms which you can enter for free.  They’re located upstairs on your right, just before the ticket check point.

The Pissoir, Amsterdam's street toilet for men.