Athenian Toilets: What to Expect When You “Gotta Go.”

Travel Tips — By Paige Moore on November 11, 2010 at 1:02 pm

As it goes with most everything in Athens, the quality of toilets can run from looking like something that belongs in the archaeological museum to a sleek, streamlined contraption with lights and buttons, so complex you suspect it might score higher than you on an IQ test. Rest at peace knowing that the city has long done away with the dreaded “hole-and-footrests” bathrooms that are not very thoughtful toward the needs of a lady, who are likely far more interested in premeditating the Athenian toilet situation than their more mannish traveling companions.

IQ Toilets

Round and round she goes; this toilet is cleaning itself.

  • Usually found in: high level restaurants, super trendy cafes, expensive hotels.
  • These have usually eliminated the need for flushing with your hand by either a button on the ground that you press with your foot or a sensor that flushes automatically as you exit the stall. Some of them even clean themselves after each “sitter.”

Archaic Toilets

Roman Era Plumbing.

  • Usually found in: old tavernas, simple hotels, bohemian bars or nightclubs in retrofitted factories and/or houses.
  • These might have the flusher on top of the tank or a raised tank with a spring-loaded flusher which you press up. On occasion you find a pull chain.

Warning: many times these toilets have removed the seats to discourage sitting. I suppose it’s more sanitary. They are rarely equipped for those with disabilities (i.e no bars or support.)

Keep in mind that in the old neighborhoods of Athens as well as the islands, even tossing toilet paper in these commodes will clog the Roman-era plumbing. (kidding) but seriously, make use of the lidded trash cans next to the toilet or you might incur the wrath of Poseidon.

How to ask: Where is the toilet? Poo einai ee tualetta; If you’re wondering, “Poo” means “where” but it should help you remember the phrase for this particular need…

What they might answer: “Pano” which means “up”  and “Kato” means “down.” Look for a magic staircase that leads to your throne.
Aristera (a-ree-ster-AH’) On the left.
Dexia (thex-ee-AH’) On the right.

Surprisingly most of the public toilets in Athens are free and technically no one can forbid you from using their bathroom, but still it is polite if you’re just dashing into a business or cafe to make a small purchase of a water or coffee as a form of gratitude.

Businesses with the best toilets

Regal Cafe
the New Acropolis Museum
The Acropolis
Venizelos International Airport

Worst Toilets
The Panathenaic Stadium. ~While newly implemented for the 2004 Olympics, these have been reported to have broken sinks without running water and unless there is a gypsy selling kleenex outside the ladies are doomed to be without paper.

Dionysus Theater
McDonald’s of Syntagma

Interesting Athens Toilet Fact:

The Hotel Grande Bretagne , at its beginning in 1874, had two bathrooms for eighty guestrooms.

Images by Paige Moore, Alun Salt (depicting toilets in the Roman Agora) and Eszter

Tags: Athens, Athens Toilets, Bathrooms, Greece, Plumbing